The three, who wrote or co-wrote hits that appeared on the Eagles’ Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975), claimed publisher Warner Music owed them millions:
- Plaintiffs’ lawyer Larry Iser said on Friday that an agreement resolving the dispute had been reached, but as is typical in such cases, details of the settlement were kept confidential. Lawyers for Warner could not immediately be reached for comment.
….The three songwriters claimed that Warner Bros. Music, the predecessor to Warner-Chappell, licensed the songs to sister record label Elektra/Asylum/Nonesuch under a “sweetheart deal” for use on the Eagles’ 1976 mega-selling greatest-hits collection.
Under that deal, the “mechanical royalty” — paid to songwriters each time a song is played — was set at fixed rate of 2.4 cents per song rather than under a formula that would allow it to rise with inflation over time, the suit said. As a result, the plaintiffs claimed lost royalties in excess of $10 million in more than 25 years since the album’s release.
….The three plaintiffs earned songwriting credits on a total of four of the album’s 10 tracks. Browne, who became a major recording star in his own right, co-wrote the hit “Take It Easy” with the Eagles’ Glenn Frey. Tempchin wrote “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and shared credits for “Already Gone.” Souther collaborated with Frey and Don Henley on “Best of My Love.” [Reuters]
I will take this opportunity to pontificate on the Eagles, to wit: The Eagles evolved from a highly personal, touchingly sincere Western-rock band (“country-rock” is a misnomer) to a collection of jaded superstars. This evolution played against the band’s strengths and shined harsh light on their weaknesses. Ask any filmmaker: lighting is everything.
From the Eagles’ original position as a pleasant, unimposing, and lightweight outfit, they could slip in truths without seeming heavy, contrived or pretentious. They had charm. By the time of their highly publicized recruitment of guitar hero Joe Walsh, the Eagles could no longer creep up on anyone.
The Eagles went from overachieving upstarts to defending champions. This is a familiar transformation in sports: the underdog rises through the pack and becomes champ. Every other team gets particularly geared up to play the champions – every team sends its best pitcher against them, even on three days rest. Beating the champs gives a struggling team hope.
The defending champion mentality affects the champs as well: they feel the pressure of heightened expectations. They don’t play to win, they play not to lose. The joy of playing gets lost somewhere. The team may bring in high-priced hired hands to shore up perceived weaknesses, but they also may forget how they got to the top in the first place.
All of the above happened to the Eagles, the first rock band of the free agent era. The problem wasn’t Walsh per se, it was the “now they’ll really achieve greatness” mentality that accompanied him into the group. There was an ease to the pre-Walsh Eagles. They moved as a unit. They functioned as a pack. The latter-day Eagles felt more like high-priced session men backing up each other’s projects than a group of peers.
The band’s sound changed along with its mentality. Their pre-Walsh albums (up through One of These Nights) breathed. There are spaces in the surface of the music which afford clean, dry ventilation, like cotton or fine spun wool. The holes closed up on Hotel California and the material didn’t breathe: it was slicker but caused discomfort in the long run.
The band changed stylistically as well. When they traded the bluegrass-based Bernie Leadon for the ’70s-rock based Joe Walsh, they lost their contact with the desert: their source of high-lonesome inspiration. Gone were the banjos, the pedal steel, the fancy finger picking that informed even their most un-Western material. The falsetto R&B vocals of “One of These Nights”
were “Western” R&B vocals.
When the Eagles looked out over the city lights of L.A. in “Lyin’ Eyes” or “Hollywood Waltz'” they saw the city for what it really was: an irrigated desert. They saw the ancient smoke of the indian’s campfires backing up against the San Gabriel Mountains. The Eagles traded this view for a windowless luxury suite at the Hotel California.
When I listen to to warm dry breezes of “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” or “Tequila Sunrise,” or “Lyin’ Eyes,” I remember an incident from my childhood: When I was ten my family lived a few doors down from an open field of Southern California sage, tumbleweeds, sun-beaten dust and desert critters. Kids rode dirt bikes and flew kites and went on hikes and searched for old spent shells from the WWll firing range. We lived where Southern California confronted its former self.
One fall day, I went to the field to practice my boomerang – the real thing that my grandmother had brought back from Australia. I gave the stick a mighty heave and it swung out in a beautiful, soaring arc. Unfortunately my trajectory was off and the boomerang landed in a forbiddingly tangled mess of prickly brush. Heedlessly I charged through the crackling brown tangle, and spotting the hole that the boomerang had neatly sliced through the brush, I reached down to claim my prize.
I was momentarily confused when my hand connected with something smooth, firm and circular. Then it rattled. I nearly yanked my arm out of the socket as I extracted it from the hissing brush in an exaggerated umpire’s “you’re out” gesture. To my added horror, the rattler had lodged a fang in my shirtsleeve and it came twisting out of the tangle following my arm.
Freaked, I swung my arm over my head in a feverish calf-roping motion and the writhing menace broke free, pinwheeled through the air and landed with a pronounced thud somewhere behind me.
I sprinted all the way home – feet barely touching the ground – slammed the door behind me, and threw up. The desert is not to be trifled with. The field was replaced some years later by a luxury mobile home park with begonias and imported palms: a mobile Hotel California.
For the breathing desert Eagles, you can’t do better than Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975: this dusty, wind-blown classic includes “Take It Easy,” “Witchy Woman,” “Lyin’ Eyes,” “Already Gone,” “Desperado,” “One of These Nights,” “Tequila Sunrise,” “Take It to the Limit,” “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” and “Best of My Love.” A few greatest hits packages establish their own rhythm and magnify the quality of the songs contained therein. This is one of those few.
Having said that, there are some personal favorites missing from the era covered by the collection. From the stunning Desperado we miss “Doolin’ Dalton,” “Out of Control” and “Outlaw Man.” If you like the Eagles at all, you should own Desperado because it hangs together well as a concept.
From the third album, On the Border, we miss the title track, “James Dean” and Tom Waits’ “Ol’ 55,” one of th Eagles most affecting tunes. Better pick that one up too. The last album covered in the first greatest hits package is One of These Nights. Since I love “Hollywood Waltz” and “After the Thrill is Gone”; and I like “Too Many Hands,” “Visions,” “Journey of the Sorcerer,” and even Bernie Leadon and Patti Davis’ (yes, Ronald Reagan’s daughter) smarmy “I Wish You Peace,” you’ll have to pick up this one too. Sorry.