History Of The Eagles
History Of The Eagles debuted on Showtime in February (2013) to critical acclaim and scrutinization. Clearly, the focus of the long-awaited rockumentary is on Don Henley and Glenn Frey, the band's co-founding members and self-appointed leaders. There may be some merit to this considering they have been with the Eagles the whole time, write the lion's share of the songs and sing most of them. Would it have helped to know more about the childhoods of the band's other co-founders Randy Meisner and Bernie Leadon, or even Joe Walsh, Timothy B. Schmit or Don Felder? Likely not as the band's entire foundation and existence is based on a musical vision held by Henley and Frey, who not only dominated the repertoire, but the style and direction, much to the dismay of others, as well.
For those without Showtime, such as yours truly, History Of The Eagles has at last arrived on DVD and Blu-ray Disc. The three-disc set includes both parts of the documentary on separate discs with Eagles Live At The Capital Centre March 1977 on the third disc. There's also a super deluxe box set with all three discs, a 40-page book, photos and a lithograph. Whatever your point of view of how the story is told, History Of The Eagles is the most revealing piece on the band with the biggest selling album of the 20th century, a feat forever sealed in the annals of rock and roll.
There are current and past interviews with all present and former members of the band. The band's manager Irving Azoff, Jackson Bowne, JD Souther, David Geffen, Bob Seger and Kenny Rogers also pipe in, each fitting into the story. Old interviews with Linda Ronstadt (was she unavailable for a more current one?) illustrate how Henley and Frey came together as members of the singer's band. Eventually, the two with Meisner and Leadon, broke out on their own and the real story begins from here.
While both Leadon and Meisner are prominently featured, it would seem their respective exits from the band would warrant more harmonious explanations, but that isn't necessarily the case, which is of course plays into the drams that lead to the band's break-up in 1980. Don Felder, whom I interviewed in March without seeing the documentary, actually catches blame for sparking the break-up after he and Frey nearly came to blows during a benefit concert. During the second part, when we arrive at the point in time when Felder is released from the band in 2001, Frey unleashes his fury against the man responsible for the main riff behind "Hotel California." Whether or not Felder was justified in wanting more money or a bigger hand in the songwriting or singing isn't fully examined. According to both Henley and Frey, he simply wasn't as important to the Eagles as they were and continue to be.
Little is sugar-coated when it comes to the internal struggles the band experienced during their reign in the 70s and their return in the 90s. We get glimpses of the wild partying, especially when it comes to Joe Walsh, but nothing too controversial (Henley's antics, such as the November 21, 1980 incident involving drugs and under-aged girls isn't brought up). The second part looks into the 80s when both Henley and Frey's solo careers were thriving, Walsh was dealing with his demons, and Timothy B. Schmit, who'd only been with the Eagles for three years, went back to a supporting role with other bands. There's little to be said of what Felder, Leadon or Meisner did during that time. Felder, of course, came back into the fold for the 1994 Hell Freezes over reunion, and all the members were part of the Eagles 1998 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The Eagles Live At The Capital Centre March 1977 disc is a sweet bonus of the band on stage in Washington D.C. at the peak of their powers, just after the release of Hotel California. The band opens with the epic title track and proceeds to roll through a blazing set that includes "Take It To The Limit" (a song that would become a mixed blessing for Randy Meisner), "Lyin' Eyes," "Rocky Mountain Way" and "Take It Easy." As a whole, History Of The Eagles, the roughly three-hour and half hour documentary directed by Alison Ellwood and produced by Alex Gibney, rates easily up there with some of the best rock bio docs out there. As the band mounts what is being called their final tour behind their story, it may truly be the final word on the Eagles.
~ Shawn Perry