The Long Run at 40

The Eagles’ sixth LP brought the band continued success as well as the beginning of the end

The Eagles 1979

In many ways, The Long Run, the sixth studio album by the Eagles, was a definite milestone, although it ultimately achieved that distinction for all the wrong reasons.

In a perfect world, its notoriety would have been ensured by the fact that it spawned three hit singles (“Heartache Tonight,” “I Can’t Tell You Why” and the title track), and that it would go on to sell eight million copies, enter the charts at number two, and garner a Grammy as well.

It was also the first Eagles album to feature Timothy B. Schmitt, following the departure of his underrated predecessor Randy Mesiner. Schmitt’s entrance was especially auspicious. He was not only the second new recruit to abandon Poco in favor of the Eagles, but he also contributed one of the aforementioned hit singles, “I Can’t Tell You Why.” 

That’s one way to ensure you make your way into your new band’s good graces. And also to piss off your old bandmates at the same time. 

Nevertheless, there were more contentious matters to contend with. As it turned out, The Long Run was the final Eagles album for the next 27 years. The band broke up the year after, in 1980, and although they reformed in 1994, it would be another 13 years after that until they released their next studio LP. It was also the final album to include founding member Don Felder prior to his firing in 2001. The feud with Felder continues to this day. 

Eagles The Long Run, Asylum 1979

Indeed, its title aside, The Long Run was a difficult album to make in a variety of different ways. The follow-up to Hotel California, their biggest selling album to date (their next record, Eagles Live would prove to be one of the most successful albums in music history), it put pressure on the band to create a viable follow-up, an already enormous challenge to begin with. The constant touring, perpetual partying, a need to maintain their momentum and come up with new material, as well as the increasing interpersonal squabbles began to take their toll. Although the group envisioned the new effort as a double album, they could barely come up with enough material for two sides, much less four. Ultimately, they were able to supply it with ten songs, the bare minimum for any album worth its weight.  However to do that, they had to enlist Bob Seger and old pal J.D. Souther to help complete the composing process. As it was, one song was recycled, that being Joe Walsh’s “In The City,” which he had previously recorded for the soundtrack to the cult street classic The Warriors.

Not surprisingly, it was the title track that bore the most significance. With punk and disco diminishing the worth of veteran rockers like the Eagles in particular, it was meant as a rebuttal to those that insisted rock’s longevity would be short lived. There’s an irony in the fact that the Eagles’ own run would soon come to an end, at least temporarily when the band broke up the following year.

Still others had more distinct quibbles with the effort. While it was obviously well received by the masses, fans and critics alike faulted it for its lack of ambition, a trait so evidently displayed previously on Hotel California. Several of the songs — “The Greeks Don’t Want No Freaks,” “Those Shoes” and “The Disco Strangler” seemed shallow in comparison to earlier outings. Likewise, Bill Szymcyk’s production typically tended to be overly glossy, and its surface sheen furthered the impression that commercial credence was the group’s prime consideration. Indeed, many earlier admirers, especially those that saw them as major players in the crossover from rock to country felt like the band had abandoned its rural roots and initial authenticity for a life in the fast lane they had heralded in song.  Likewise, the album’s solid, unadorned dark gray cover seemed to reflect an uncommonly aloof attitude.

Still, you can’t argue with success… at least until the band starts arguing amongst themselves.

 

AUDIO: Eagles The Long Run (full album)

 

Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

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