There were no peaceful feelings to go around — and none easy, either — for Eagles fans who learned Monday of Glenn Frey’s death at 67. It wouldn’t be in keeping with the healthful regiment Frey adopted in the 1980s to stay up till the dawn drinking tequila, as one early song recommended as a way of dealing with loss. But there’ll be plenty of sad all-nighters in honor of the rocker behind The Allnighter, nonetheless. Here is a guide to some of Frey’s greatest Eagles and solo tracks:
“Take It Easy” (1972)
Writer Barney Hoskyns summed up the genius of the Eagles’ debut country-rock single: it sounded like “Poco with a turbo engine.” In many ways, it remained their signature song all the way through their final tour 43 years later. The writing was mostly Jackson Browne’s, but it was Frey who convinced Browne that there was gold buried in the unfinished tune, and who put a bow on it with one of the song’s most memorable lines.
“I told [Jackson] that I really liked it,” Frey recalled in an interview with Cameron Crowe. “He started playing it for me and said, ‘Yeah, but I don’t know — I’m stuck.’ So he played the second unfinished verse and I said, ‘It’s a girl, my lord, in a flatbed Ford, slowin’ down to take a look at me.’ That was my contribution to ‘Take It Easy,’ really, just finishing the second verse.”
But Frey’s soulfully twangy vocal sold the tune in a way that Browne’s own subsequent recording couldn’t, quite. “I don’t know that we could have ever had a better opening song on our first album,” Frey said. “Just those open chords felt like an announcement: ‘And now … the Eagles.’”
“Peaceful Easy Feeling” (1972)
“It reminded me so much of Poco,” Frey told Cameron Crowe in 2003, reminiscing about what appealed to him most about the Jack Tempchin-composed tune that became the Eagles’ second single. “Back then, Poco was the band that impressed me most. Their vocals were pristine and perfect. They were the band I wanted to model us after… ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’ had a happy, country-rock quality but a bittersweet irony about it that I thought was really great. I still love that song. Love singing it.” Tempchin wrote the song after being stood up by a waitress. “It was basically about trying to get the girl, but then you realize: hey, if I don’t get the girl I’m still fine,” the songwriter told the Tolucan Times. “I never thought of it as a love song and it never occurred to me that it was going to be a hit.” While Tempchin was staying at Jackson Browne’s house, Frey heard him playing “Peaceful” and asked him if he could record it on his portable cassette player. Frey “came back the next day and said, ‘I’ve got a new band. We’ve been playing with Linda Ronstadt, but now we’re putting together our own band. We’ve had it together for eight days. We worked up your song and here’s how it sounds.’… It was just incredible!”
“Tequila Sunrise” (1973)
Like a lot of early Eagles songs, this Frey/Don Henley co-write was far from immediately a radio hit — peaking at No. 64! — yet over a period of just a few years quickly established itself as one of rock’s all-time balladic classics. It was knocked off in Dan Tana’s, the old-school restaurant next door to the Troubadour in West Hollywood, which was the country-rock clubhouse at the time. “‘Tequila Sunrise’ was written fairly quickly, and I don’t think there’s a single chord out of place,” Frey told Cameron Crowe in the liner notes for a 2003 boxed set. Henley said the title came from Frey, who was “ambivalent about it because he thought that it was a bit too obvious or too much of a cliché because of the drink that was so popular then. I said, ‘No — look at it from a different point of view. You’ve been drinking straight tequila all night, and the sun is coming up!’ It turned out to be a really great song. The changes that Glenn came up with for the bridge are very smart. That’s one song I don’t get tired of. ‘Take another shot of courage’ refers to tequila — because we used to call it ‘instant courage.’ We very much wanted to talk to the ladies, but we often didn’t have the nerve, so we’d drink a couple of shots and suddenly it was, ‘Howdy, ma’am.’”
“Already Gone” (1974)
The opening track on the Eagles’ third album finally established them as a rock & roll band, as opposed to genteel Poco wanna-bes, with lead guitarist Don Felder newly in the fold. But it was written by Jack Tempchin (who’d previously given the group “Peaceful Easy Feeling”) as something much more in the wheelhouse of their first two albums. Recalled Tempchin in an interview with Songfacts: “Glenn heard it, called me from the studio where they were making [On the Border], and said, ‘You know that country song that you have? I think it would make a great rock song,’ and he just rocked it out! I also think [choosing that song] is a measure of Glenn as a guy; others would want to write their own songs. I notice this over and over – the guys with true greatness are always very, very generous with everybody else. Others don’t do that because they can’t get past themselves.” Frey told Cameron Crowe that, for him, the liberation in the song wasn’t related so much to cutting a woman loose as changing producers, saying there was now “a much more positive energy in the recording studio. The ‘all right, nighty-night’ at the end of the song was sort of typical of the spontaneous feeling we wanted on our records. It was at this time that we changed producers and started working with Bill Szymczyk. I was much more comfortable in the studio with Bill [than Glyn Johns], and he was more than willing to let everyone stretch a bit. ‘Already Gone’ — that’s me being happier; that’s me being free.”
“Lyin’ Eyes” (1975)
Amazingly, Frey only had one solo lead vocal on the Eagles’ fourth album, One of These Nights, even though he’d had the lead on most of the band’s singles to date. It was on “Lyin’ Eyes,” one of the few tracks on the record that adhered to the country-rock template the group had started out with. Henley insisted that Frye was okay with the change in lead vocal emphasis. “He was generous in that respect,” Henley said in the book Take It to the Limit. “He would push another guy up to the front and say, ‘You carry the ball for a while and I’ll just sit back here and block.’ He was a good team player that way, a good captain.” Although Henley co-wrote “Lyin’ Eyes,” he said, “It’s really Glenn’s baby.”
“New Kid in Town” (1976)
Again, as with “Lyin’ Eyes,” “New Kid in Town” was the country outlier on an otherwise rock-based album… and again, it fell to Frey, who was more identified with the band’s original sound, to sell it. Ironically, this twangy odd-song-out on Hotel California became the group’s first No. 1 pop hit. J.D. Souther was the instigator of the tune, which Henley described as being “about the fleeting, fickle nature of love and romance. It’s also about the fleeting nature of fame, especially in the music business. We were already chronicling our own demise.” True to their mellow roots, Frey sounds deceptively unconcerned as he wryly and sadly chronicles what it’s like to be superseded.
“Heartache Tonight” (1979)
Henley again dominated the final album the Eagles made during their original run, The Long Run, but it was Frey propelling the LP’s good-time anthem. “It was a difficult record to make overall, but I loved ‘Heartache Tonight’,” Frey told Crowe. “No heavy lyrics — the song is more of a romp — and that’s what it was intended to be.” Recalled co-writer J.D. Souther, “Glenn and I were walking around my living room just clapping our hands, without any instruments, which is pretty much how we recorded it. I always thought ‘Heartache’ would have been a perfect song for Sam Cooke.” To the extent that it eschewed country in favor of a distinct R&B influence, the song certainly prefigured the direction of Frey’s subsequent solo career.
“The Heat Is On” (1984)
Nothing screams “1980s” like Frey’s three biggest solo hits, all of which were popularized by film or TV useage. His post-Eagles career had gotten off to a slow start, but this Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack choice took him to No. 2 on the pop chart. In subsequent decades it’s become a sports anthem… especially when the team in question is the Miami Heat.
“Smuggler’s Blues” (1985)
Although it wasn’t written for Miami Vice, this track from Frey’s second solo album became the title song for the hit series’ 15th episode, and Frey was even cast in a role on the show. When I interviewed Frye for the Los Angeles Times in 1993, he referenced Miami Vice in talking about how his style sense had evolved since the Eagles’ T-shirt-and-jeans days. “We dressed the way we did during the Eagles because that was the way we dressed every day,“ he told me, "but I always enjoyed putting on a suit or a blazer and tie to go out to dinner. It was funny: I called my mother up some years ago to tell her that I got this part on Miami Vice, and she says, ‘Oh, Glenn, that’s great — you’re gonna finally get to wear your Armanis!’ I said, 'Well, Mom, the guy I’m playing, he doesn’t even have good personal hygiene, so I’m afraid you’re not gonna see me walking next to Don Johnson in a white suit.’”
“You Belong to the City” (1985)
Frey’s association with Miami Vice had gone well enough with “Smuggler’s Blues” that he was invited to write a song specifically for the show. It just missed out on making the top of the charts and became his second solo single to peak at No. 2, though it’s eternally No. 1 in the hearts of smooth-sax lovers everywhere. Its MTV success certainly helped the Miami Vice soundtrack album it fronted stay at the top of the sales chart for 11 weeks. Like most of his solo material, Frey co-wrote it with perennial collaborator Jack Tempchin, who’d authored two of the Eagles’ biggest seminal hits, “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and “Already Gone.”
“It’s Your World Now” (2007)
When the surviving Eagles officially released news of Frey’s death on the band’s Facebook page, they included the full lyrics to “It’s Your World Now,” the final song on the band’s final album. On paper, the lyrics to the Frey/Jack Tempchin composition almost sound like they were written as self-eulogy, and could hardly read more poignantly: “My race is run/I’m moving on/Like the setting sun/No sad goodbyes/No tears allowed/You’ll be alright/It’s your world now… When dark clouds appear in the sky/Remember true love never dies.” But the actual recording allows for an extra dose of sweet in the bittersweet, thanks to an almost cheerful Tex-Mex arrangement that provides a bookend with the Eagles’ country-rock beginnings. Frey never released another solo album of original material after 1991, so, wittingly or otherwise, he chose the Eagles swan song in 2007 to record his own.