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Eagles Desperado Montage

Years ago, after returning home from a late shift at a sad cafe, I found myself in an exhausted haze. With just six hours to clean up, catch some sleep, and prepare for another round, I was wobbling on the edge of fatigue. In that weary moment, all I could do was hit play on the song ‘Desperado‘ and let it loop endlessly. Now, three decades later, that memory remains trivial, but remarkably vivid.

By all rights, I should love this album. I’m spellbound by its intriguing concept, entranced by its iconic cover, and deeply smitten by a handful of its chart-topping songs Yet, as I revisit it as a whole, I can’t help but feel that it somehow missed the mark.

With the benefit of hindsight the band’s concept for the album seems a little daft. Concerned they had achieved success too quickly, they feared of being considered ‘sell outs’ (wait til they release Hotel California!) . As a response to this, they decided to create an album that told the story of a group of outlaws living outside the boundaries of society, living by their own rules. The iconic front cover, shot by legendary rock photographer Henry Diltz added to this presentation of outlaws, six shooters and all.

The Outlaw Themes

The band, and friends including Jackson Browne leaned into the whole outlaw thing, contributing ideas that would influence songs. Browne shared a book of cowboy stories he’d received as a gift. These stories included tales of Bill Dalton & Bill Doolin of the Doolin Dalton Gang. Another story about that legendary outlaw, James Dean was also recorded but shelved until it appeared on their next album On the Border.

The whole band was encouraged to come up with songs based on the outlaw concept. In 1973 Don Henley suggested that this album was a ”big artistic commentary on the evils of fame and success, with a cowboy metaphor.” Obviously this theme of ‘evils’ would reappear to stratospheric effect on Hotel California.

The principal songwriters on the album were original band members Don Henley and Glenn Frey, with contributions from Jackson Browne and J.D. Souther

Two of the least ‘outlaw’ songs are the ones that have stood the test of time. The title track, ‘Desperado’ and ‘Tequila Sunrise’ were two of the first songs written by Henley and Frey for the album. They both remain two of the most streamed Eagles songs on Spotify.

The Album Cover

The album cover artwork was designed by Gary Burden with photos from legendary rock photographer Henry Diltz. Both worked on the original album and would remain collaborators into the future.

The cover shoot took place on the 18th December 1972 at the Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills up in Santa Monica. The outlaws on the back cover included the band, Glyn Johns and Jackson Browne.

Recording & Reaction

Recorded at Island Records in London’s Notting Hill (later known as Basing Street Studios or SARM West) the album was put together under Producer Glynn Johns (famous for his work with the Beatles, the Stones, Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan) the whole album was done in less than three weeks and was considered a triumph by the band.

The record company was less triumphant, “Jeez, they’ve made a fucking cowboy album!” was the reaction from Atlantic Records label boss Jerry Greenberg. And you can hear why, the outlaw/Wild West theme of the album is echoed in the banjo playing that gets phased out as they evolve to the country rock of Hotel California.

“Desperado” did not win any major Grammy Awards, but it has since become one of the Eagles’ most beloved albums and is considered a cornerstone of the country-rock genre. Collaborator and friend, Linda Ronstadt recorded a version of the title track for her album ‘Don’t Cry Now’, which became popular and further added to the Eagles growing credibility as songwriters.

For me this album is just too twangy and a little hit and miss. The big hits, Desperado and Tequila Sunrise are undisputed classics but there are too many duff numbers for me to play this front to back over and again.

Next up was On the Border which took them further towards the country sound.

Jay

I am Jay, the founder of Wine, Travel and Song. UK based, I set this blog up in 2016 to share my passion for food & drink, travel and music - Wine, Travel & Song. In these posts I share some of my passions in the hope that it may inspire you to go there, eat that or listen to this. In return I hope you will comment and share recommendations of where to go, what to eat and what to listen to!