Eagles, performing at MGM Grand Garden, outlast peers with timeless sound

“Heartache Tonight”? A classic. “I Want You Tonight” by Pablo Cruise, from the same October of 1979? Not so much.

No one expected the Eagles’ reunion to last longer than their original run, and the Eagles themselves might be surprised their songs outlasted their own bitter feuds.

But here they come again, to the MGM Grand Garden for two nonconsecutive dates — Saturday and Nov. 19 — which are a road-trip mecca for fans this time, not part of a national tour. They continue a “farewell” tour that began in 1994 and preserve a fragile truce among Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmidt between their own solo projects.

Veteran music journalist Ben Fong-Torres — whose years with Rolling Stone made him part of the movie “Almost Famous” — was commissioned to do a new 40th-anniversary coffee-table book, “The Eagles: Taking It to the Limit.”

“It’s very clear that I admire the fact that their songs, although I don’t think they intended them to be timeless, turned out to be exactly that,” Fong-Torres says.

“A lot of bands that played rock, or country-rock or R&B-infected rock, had a few good songs and had a good run. The Eagles somehow were able to come up with songs and produce them and perform them in a way that they really do last.”

To illustrate that point, let’s intersperse Fong-Torres’ thoughts on the band with a few Eagles songs taken back to the year of their birth, to see how they held up to other hits of their day.

■ ■ ■

Year: 1972

Song: “Take It Easy”

Other Hits That Became Classics: “Morning Has Broken,” Cat Stevens; “Lean On Me,” Bill Withers.

Other Hits That Didn’t: “Motorcycle Mama,” Sailcat; “Down by the Lazy River,” The Osmonds.

“Among all the classic rock and classic hits and oldies stations that play their music, it’s not just one or two songs, which is so often the case with certain bands. It’s any of a dozen songs that might pop up,” Fong-Torres says of the band’s catalog that built from this breakout, California country-fried hit.

■ ■ ■

Year: 1974

Song: “The Best of My Love”

Other Hits That Became Classics: “Mandy,” Barry Manilow; “Big Yellow Taxi,” Joni Mitchell.

Other Hits That Didn’t: “Seasons in the Sun,” Terry Jacks; “The Streak,” Ray Stevens.

“Without having thought of it, they were ahead of their time,” Fong-Torres says of “light rock stations” in varying formats (classic hits, adult hits, etc.) that kept this power ballad ageless.

“There are office workers, secretaries, mailroom people who were 21 to 25 years old and had these stations on and they started hearing this music. They grew into Eagles fans and explored and bought these greatest hits packages.”

■ ■ ■

Year: 1977

Song: “Hotel California”

Other Hits That Became Classics: “Stayin’ Alive,” Bee Gees; “We Will Rock You,” Queen.

Other Hits That Didn’t: “Tie Your Mother Down,” Queen; “Ain’t Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman),” Joe Tex.

“Whenever they put out a collection of greatest hits, even though you’ve seen the damn things over and over again, for some reason millions of people go out and buy them. There’s something going on there. There’s a connection to the music, even though that music was created largely 30 and 40 years ago.”

■ ■ ■

Year: 1977 (the year so nice to the Eagles, we had to use it twice)

Song: “Life in the Fast Lane”

Other Hits That Became Classics: “Brick House,” Commodores; “Sir Duke,” Stevie Wonder.

Other Hits That Didn’t: “Da Doo Ron Ron,” Shaun Cassidy; “Don’t Give Up on Us,” David Soul.

Fong-Torres begins his book with a 1978 softball grudge match between the Eagles and the Rolling Stone staff. “They really, really had it out for rock critics and journalists. My point throughout the book is that was really unnecessary. They were just being overly sensitive and paranoid.”

His introduction then cuts to 2005, interviewing Henley on a stationary bike. “It was clear that health was a chief concern of theirs, and they talked very openly about contrasting their behavior and lifestyles today to the way it was back in the ’70s,” Fong-Torres recalls.

“Although they’re not necessarily proud of the way they behaved, they don’t necessarily apologize for it. That’s the way it was in the fast lane. Now they’re much more cautious, much more diligent, much more watchful over their own bodies.”

■ ■ ■

Year: 1979

The Song: “The Long Run”

Other Hits That Became Classics: “I Will Survive,” Gloria Gaynor; “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” Michael Jackson.

Other Hits That Didn’t: “Cruel to be Kind,” Nick Lowe; “I Was Made for Lovin’ You,” Kiss.

“You can go the distance, we’ll find out,” Henley sang in this single that came not long before the band called it quits for the next decade. At least they had a sense of humor about the reunion 14 years later, calling it “Hell Freezes Over.”

“I think it’s generally civil, but wary,” Fong-Torres says of the band’s current status. “They can’t really exist together for long stretches of time. They’re smart about it and take these breaks because they can afford to.

“They don’t really need this, but it’s a matter of enjoying the process onstage and going through the songs, making some money (and) in their own way proving they can still do it. And they certainly can.”

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@ or 702-383-0288.


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