On decades-old taped call, Eagles manager said 'pampered rock star' was stalling band biography

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NEW YORK (AP) — The Eagles' manager once told their authorized biographer that his book wasn't getting published because of friction from “a pampered rock star,” according to a recording played in court Thursday.

“It’s gonna come out when God Henley says it can," Irving Azoff said in the same years-old phone call, apparently referring to band co-founder Don Henley. "Now it’s up to God.”

The recording emerged at the criminal trial of three collectibles experts charged with conspiring to hang onto and sell sheets of handwritten, draft lyrics to the megahit “Hotel California” and other Eagles favorites.

The biographer, Ed Sanders, isn't charged in the case, but he factors in it because he sold the roughly 100 pages to one of the defendants. Henley and prosecutors contend that the documents were stolen, saying Sanders obtained them from Henley's home to research the book and was obligated to return them to the Eagles.

Defendants Edward Kosinski, Craig Inciardi and Glenn Horowitz have pleaded not guilty.

The never-published book is a side player in the legal case. But testimony about the book has shed light on the Eagles' interpersonal dynamics and reputational aims around the time of the group's 1980 breakup.

And Thursday offered a behind-the-scenes look at music-business wheeling and dealing, and at the longtime manager whom Henley once called — affectionately — “our Satan.”

Azoff has been the personal manager of the Eagles, one of the most successful bands in rock history, since about 1973. He's managed many other big-name musicians, produced the classic 1982 teen comedy “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and was CEO of Ticketmaster for a time.

In 1979, as the Eagles were closing out the decade that brought them superstardom, they hired Sanders to pen a biography. The writer, who also co-founded the ’60s counterculture rock band the Fugs, had authored a noted book about murderous cult leader Charles Manson.

Azoff testified Wednesday that when Sanders turned in the Eagles manuscript in the early 1980s, Henley and Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey were “very disappointed." Azoff said he found the draft's discussion of the Eagles’ breakup “unacceptable" and the band never authorized publication because the book “wasn't very good.”

“It didn’t, to me, capture the essence of the joy of the story,” Azoff added on the witness stand Thursday, elaborating about the Eagles “chasing the American dream and how important they were to establishing Southern California as a mecca of music."

“Somebody else might have thought it was very good," he said, but "we didn’t think it was good for the Eagles.”

Then one of Kosinski's lawyers played a recording of Azoff proclaiming he was “phenomenally, absolutely happy” with the book.

The recording, of a call between Azoff and Sanders, was undated but apparently from the 1980s. The defense said the writer taped it.

At other points in the call, Azoff indicated that Frey didn't have a problem with the manuscript and that “deals are done,” but there still was an obstacle.

“Ed, you've been wonderful. The book is gonna come out — it’s just that I have a pampered rock star here,” Azoff said.

Asked on the witness stand who the “pampered rock star” was, Azoff said: “Probably all of them.”

“You'd agree that you told Mr. Sanders that the book was going to come out when ‘God Henley’ says it can?” attorney Scott Edelman asked at another point.

“It was either me or Satan that told him that,” Azoff quipped.

Henley said in the Eagles' 1998 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction speech that Azoff “may be Satan, but he’s our Satan.″ Asked during testimony Wednesday about the remark, Azoff shot back: ”Have you ever heard of humor, sir?"

Notwithstanding the taped phone call, Azoff said Thursday that he didn't remember any publishing deal for the Eagles biography, and he said years of rewriting never produced a book the band was willing to approve.

“There were a lot of changing positions, but at the end of the day, I believe it was Mr. Frey who pulled the plug,” the manager said. Frey died in 2016.

Horowitz, Inciardi and Kosinski are accused of deceiving auction houses, and trying to fend off Henley, by crafting bogus explanations of how Sanders got the documents.

Horowitz, a rare-book seller who has brokered deals to place major archives at institutions, bought the Eagles lyrics drafts from Sanders for $50,000 in 2005.

Horowitz later sold them for $65,000 to Inciardi, who was then a rock Hall of Fame curator, and Kosinski, who owns a rock memorabilia auction site.

After Kosinski's site offered four pages of the “Hotel California” lyrics in 2012, Henley reported them stolen but ultimately bought them for $8,500. After more sheets from that song and “Life in the Fast Lane” went up for auction in 2014 and 2016, Henley refused to negotiate more buybacks and turned to authorities again, according to prosecutors and Azoff.

Defense lawyers say Henley gave Sanders the documents. The defense argues that the writer was the rightful owner when he sold them, and so were the defendants once they bought the pages.

Sanders hasn't testified, and it appears unlikely he will. He hasn't responded to a message seeking comment on the case, and emails sent to him bounced back.