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Although rock stars complaining about the rigors of being on the road is nothing new, much of “History of the Eagles” is a more advanced rumination on the grueling labor that goes into sustaining a successful band. When they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in 1998, Henley told the audience that he felt the band should get the award “Not for being famous, but for doing the work.”
For one of its original members, bassist Randy Meisner, the end of that work came when he developed a case of stage fright over his ability to hit the highest notes in his Eagles hit “Take It to the Limit.” He just couldn’t face it anymore, so he left — an experience he reflects on with sadness. (He was replaced by the good-natured Timothy B. Schmit, who joined the band for the fraught recording of the “Long Run” album, released in 1979.)
“History of the Eagles” is also an interesting reminder of an old-fashioned music industry: the untold millions that could be made from actual record sales; the royalties picked clean by vultures; the troubles success could bring; the lawsuits filed against David Geffen (who graciously submits to an interview here); the fights with producers; the limitless cocaine; Walsh’s famously destroyed hotel rooms. All of it great fun and not quite the same in today’s pop-star realm.
After a 14-year cool-down (during which Frey and Henley separately achieved a string of MTV-era pop hits), the Eagles reunited in 1994 for a “Hell Freezes Over” tour and album. Frey and guitarist Don Felder found themselves at familiar odds, leading to one last ego clash, after which Felder left the band.By the time the film enters its third hour, it seems like the Eagles should have more to tell us about growing old besides the platitudes they offer. There is little here about their personal lives or past relationships, and only fleeting glimpses of, and references to, spouses and children. The most haunting lyrics from “Hotel California” come to mind, about never being able to leave. Only now do you fully understand the relative comfort in staying. –Washington Post
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