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Why Did The Eagles Break Up? The Long Night At Wrong Beach Might Hold The Clues.

Long Night At Wrong Beach How Eagles’ Feuds Boiled Over On Stage

F**k you. I’m going to kick your ass when we get off stage.

Glenn Frey to Don Henley

When asking the question – Why did the Eagles break up, one needs to look back at a turning point in the band’s history; The long night at Wrong Beach.

Ensemble bands, such as Eagles, where all the band’s members take such an active role in the music writing can work well when everyone is getting on and the jams are flowing. 

However, rock and roll history knows all too well that when these band members begin feuding for power and recognition, as well as having long tour dates, tempers fray, and with the all too common addition of drugs and alcohol things can sometimes boil over and get aggressive.

We only have to look at The Beatles, or Metallica, to see how when band members feud things can get nasty, both in terms of legal dispute and straight-up violence.

Here’s what led to what was known as ‘Long Night at Wrong Beach’ when a performance at Long Beach got threatening and almost physical between the Eagles.

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Soaring Eagles

After forming in 1971, the Eagles were destined for greatness as they followed the footsteps of many bands of this generation by releasing 6 albums in these years as well as unmanageable tour dates. These were the years you had to live and write, fast.

The result of their prolific writing and touring was, inevitably, success. Eagles best selling album and record, ‘Hotel California’, has since been ranked as one of the best-selling albums ever, reaching 37 in the Rolling Stones list of 100 greatest albums of all time. (Make sure you check out our thoughts on the best classic rock albums)

The titular song was considered one of the best songs of all time as well as one of the best guitar solos by many.

Don Henley and Glenn Frey were the original founders of the band and wrote a lot of the music for the Eagles on their own until Don Felder joined them in 1974 as lead guitarist and also helped in the songwriting process. 

Undoubtedly, when you have been growing something for 3 years, potentially the hardest years of a band’s career, when someone joins in the fun after the fact as Felder did, there was always going to be some tension from the get-go.

But no one knew how far the tension might stretch.

Every band has it’s creative peak. I think that was ours.

Don Henley

The Irony Of Hotel California

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There are two points, perhaps, in the Eagles’ history when they should have taken note of the signs that there would be trouble to come if they didn’t try to slow down.

One of these points is the irony of the song Hotel California, from its lyrics to its influence on the culture.

Firstly, the song is ironically about how when innocence is fettered by experience it can change your concept of reality. The song is very much about the dangers of drink and drugs which were part of the Eagles’ tour life for a long time. 

So it’s ironic that the song’s message, which was created by the band, totally fell on deaf ears for themselves, perhaps afraid to face how real their lyrics were. 

Secondly, the success of the song and the album and the subsequent touring and media responsibilities they took on undoubtedly frayed their relationships and substance abuse further than before.

According to Felder’s own recounting of events, he suggested that Henley was a perfectionist who sucked the fun out of the room, but that it was ultimately this perfectionism that saw Hotel California succeed so greatly.

The second point they should have realized they were going too hard was when Randy Meisner left the tour.

Randy himself was a founding member of the Eagles, so the idea of leaving the band would have been a hard one for him to entertain, but health issues and flared tempers led Randy to leave the band in 1977.

Irony again plays a strong part here as one of the largest disputes that led to Randy leaving was the fact that he could no longer hit the high notes on their tune ‘Take It To The Limit’ so refused to perform the song as he felt his health compromised his ability to sing and vice versa.

Randy had gained stomach ulcers from touring and his health was generally deteriorating, making him very immunocompromised, as well as impeding his ability to perform.

Glenn Frey took this personally, failing to see the wood from the trees, and questioned Randy’s commitment to the band. After choosing not to sing again at a Knoxville concert, due to what Randy said was flu the night before, he and Frey had a physical and angry confrontation backstage.

At this point, the Eagles were really taking it to the limit in a literal sense and they had lost sight of what really mattered and seemingly reality themselves, just like the narrator of Hotel California.

Felder himself had this to say about the situation:

I blame the drugs more than anything for what happened with the Eagles. We went from a bunch of guys hanging out together to 5 men who couldn’t stand each other.

By 1977 Glenn and Don Henley started to take the reins of the band, calling for road managers to be fired, and ordering around roadies and road staff, which led many of the staff to dub the tour ‘The Prison California Tour’.

The Long Night At Wrong Beach

why did the eagles break up

After 9 years of touring and media obligations, things really took a turn for the worse after the band went into the recording studio to record ‘The Long Run’, a period which ultimately ended with their disbandment.

After the album’s release in 1979 many critics of the time thought it was a disappointment and it didn’t receive the favourable reviews that the Eagles were used to by this point. After the success and stardom of Hotel California, this surely would have hit an already tired band pretty hard. 

In Felder’s own words;

The Long Run took 18 months to record. Almost a year longer than Hotel California, and it nearly killed us.

But for some reason, likely pressure from their label as they were top of the charts by the time the decade changed, the band decided to take on a huge tour of their album.

Glenn Frey decided to sign them up to perform at a benefit gig for liberal Californian Senator Alan Cranston. Felder opposed the idea of performing for politicians, which Frey apparently knew.

But Felder made a bad situation worse by providing cheeky and tongue-in-cheek responses to the Senator’s wife such as ‘Nice to meet you… I guess.’

The two of them, Felder and Frey, started feuding backstage about the affair, minutes before going on stage. Likely fuelled by drugs, before going on stage Felder turned to Frey to tell him:

You’re an asshole for doing that.

to which Frey replied:

That’s an honor coming from you.

While playing ‘The Best Of My Love’, once again the irony is painful, Frey walked up to Felder while they were performing on stage and said ‘F*** you. I’m going to kick your ass when we get off the stage.’

The two continued spatting under their breath while they continued to play their songs, the sound technicians literally had to turn their mics off when they weren’t singing in order for the crowd not to hear the language and arguments they had.

Felder reported that Frey threatened him after every song, reminding him how many songs were left till he beat his ass.

Eagles almost always played an encore, fitting their refusal to perform in moderation, and Felder says that during the break he went off stage to calm down and got his guitar technician to bring him his guitar and put it by the back door.

Once the gig finished, everyone scuttled off to avoid conflict, rarely speaking after the gigs at the best of times. Felder went to the back and picked up his guitar and smashed it until it was in smithereens. Little did he know that both the Cranstons and Henley were watching.

Henley, thinking that Felder did this in front of the politicians on purpose remarked to him ‘typical of you to break your cheapest guitar’. Felder suggests he didn’t know either party was there, but a few days later the Eagles were no more.

Felder and Henley never made good on the promises to beat each other up, but the band were the ones who took the hit as after that gig they broke up for a good few years. Frankly, they all needed a break from touring at this point anyway.

So Why Did The Eagles Break Up?

After a well-needed 14-year break The Eagles decided to reunite and attempt to perform again, having clearly not learned from their previous mistakes. They mainly performed reunion tours that likely brought back bad memories.

By 2001, Felder was fired by Henley and Frey for what they described as creative and personal differences. What occurred after was a long legal process due to Felder filing three lawsuits against the band for wrongful termination, breach of contract, as well as breach of fiduciary duty.

Essentially, Felder felt he was being cut out of many money deals, suggesting that Frey and Henley received more royalties from the songs than he did for no real reason.

Felder was then counter-sued for the book he was about to publish about the Eagles’ career called “Heaven and Hell: My Life In the Eagles”, the book where most of these stories come from.

What this story does show is that touring for nine years can really take a toll on a band, and cause friends to turn into enemies.

Eagles made some of the best music in American Rock and Roll history, but their individual egos and refusal to take a break ultimately led to their demise as a band.

For some further insight into the band’s on-stage feuds, have a look at this interview featuring Don Felder on the Artie Lange Show.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who Were The Eagles?

The Eagles were an American rock band that formed in the 1970s.
The founding members were: Glenn Frey (guitar and vocals), Don Henley (drums and vocals), Bernie Leadon (guitars and vocals) and Randy Meisner (bass guitar and vocals).

Why Did The Eagles Break Up?

The Eagles went their separate ways due to significant personality differences between the members. The stress of their busy touring schedule no doubt played a part in the tensions that lead to them breaking up.

What Was The Eagles’ Most Famous Song?

Easily the band’s most famous song is the classic ‘Hotel California’. The band have performed this song live over 1,000 times.

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