The music of the Eagles has both very loud supporters and detractors. I’m not a hater, but I’m not all that much of a fan, either—so many of their songs are played to death on retro stations, and there are only a very few I’m actively not unhappy to listen to when they pop up on the radio. What about the solo stuff, though? Some of that’s been overplayed as well, but is any of it any good? Let’s take a crack at checking things out.
All told, there were twenty-three solo Top 40 hits by five of the guys who at one time or another were members of the Eagles: eight by Don Henley, seven by Glenn Frey, four by Joe Walsh, three by Randy Meisner, and one by Timothy B. Schmit. Only Henley (four times) and Frey (twice) made the Top 10 (though Henley also had Top 10 duets with Stevie Nicks and Patty Smyth); none went all the way to #1.
I’ve picked three honorable mentions and an unranked Top 5 Eagles solo hits; a top one-third seems like a reasonable cutoff, maybe before things start smelling a bit. While I’ve tried a little to avoid overweighting personal preference, that can’t help but creep in, I’m sure. Before I get to those eight,though, a small shout-out to Schmit, whose “Boy’s Night Out” came nowhere close to making the cut: he did a fair amount of notable backup singing and session work throughout the 80s, and his “I Can’t Tell You Why” is one of those Eagles hits I can still bear to hear.
Joe Walsh, “Rocky Mountain Way,” Don Henley, “The Boys of Summer,” Glenn Frey, “The Heat Is On.”
“Rocky Mountain Way” pre-dates Walsh’s time with the Eagles, and I guess actually isn’t a solo cut (credit really goes to Barnstorm, his band at the time), but label attribution is 90% of the law, no? I’ve always liked “The Boys of Summer” and its oh-so-serious video; I had a couple of college friends who thought the lyric “Remember how I made you scream” was awful, and they may not be wrong. The Frey piece, from the beginning of his Hollywood phase, was in the Top 10 with “The Boys of Summer,” back-to-back at #8 and #9, on 2/16/85.
Top 5, in chronological order:
Joe Walsh, “Life’s Been Good.” Walsh wasn’t content to do only Eagles work after he joined the band. This humorous take on self-destructive rock star behavior probably points toward Walsh’s own excesses, but it’s justifiably a classic. LP version only, please.
Randy Meisner, “Deep Inside My Heart.” I was huge on “Never Been in Love” in the late summer/early fall of 82, but this is Meisner’s best single, and it isn’t that close. A greatly underrated rocker; if I were ranking these, I’d be sorely tempted to put it at #1. It’s a travesty that Kim Carnes gets no label credit (not even a “with”)—without her interplay on the chorus, this wouldn’t be nearly so good.
Glenn Frey, “The One You Love.” I’ll confess I’m letting my bias show here—I just really like this song and the emotions it conveys. If you want to put “The Heat Is On” in this spot instead, I won’t complain too much. I’m realizing now how important the sax parts are to those two Frey hits, as well as “You Belong to the City.”
Don Henley, “The End of the Innocence” and “Heart of the Matter.” No real surprise if you read what I wrote last Saturday. Pretty, mature songcraft in both instances. There’s a strong case to be made that Henley ran laps around Frey in their post-Eagle years.
“Deep Inside My Heart” made it to just #22 (it was #25 on this show). The audio on the clip below is great, while the quality of the video is anything but. Nonetheless, we get a sense of how Carnes helped take the result up a few notches.