When the Eagles Took Off: A 2008 Interview with Randy Meisner

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Eagles’ Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner, Don Henley and Glenn Frey, Sept. 1973 (Photo © Henry Diltz; used with permission)

Randy Meisner passed away in Los Angeles on July 26, 2023, at age 77, due to complications associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). He had previously been a member of Poco and Rick Nelson’s Stone Canyon Band when, in 1971, he got together with Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Bernie Leadon to form a new country-rock band called Eagles (usually referred to as The Eagles). They were quickly signed  to David Geffen’s new Asylum Records label and became an immediate success.

In addition to playing bass and singing with the group, Meisner, born March 8, 1946, contributed song material to the group’s repertoire. “Take It To the Limit,” a 1975 single from their fourth album, One of These Nights, co-credited to Meisner, Henley and Frey and sung by Meisner, became a #4 hit in the U.S. After leaving Eagles in 1977, Meisner embarked on a solo career resulting in three albums of his own.

In 2008, Los Angeles-based music journalist Harvey Kubernik interviewed Meisner for his book Canyon of Dreams: The Magic and the Music of Laurel Canyon. The following quotes are excerpts from that interview.

“Glenn [Frey] knew David Geffen and that’s what started the whole Eagles thing. Then I met [manager] Elliot Roberts. These managers were way beyond me. I was aware of the music business but all I wanted to do is play. I just let things happen as they happened.

“On one of our first gigs, in Boulder, Colorado, I captured it on tape. I had this little stereo tape machine and it was exam time for the college students, so I recorded this gig in front of three people. The waitresses were real nice and we played like it mattered.

“At the time [1971], George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh had just been released, I took the applause from [that album] and overdubbed it onto the gig that we played when nobody was there. It sounded like we were at a big stadium. There was magic when we played live.

“I recorded everything from rehearsals to shows. We had [producer] Glyn Johns up in Boulder and he didn’t really want to deal with us at the time. He said, ‘You’re too rock ‘n’ roll.’ Eventually, he came back and we rehearsed at a place in Studio City, California, and he said, ‘I want [more] vocals.’ And that’s when we got together and did the first album in England.”

This photo of Eagles receiving a Gold album for One of These Nights appeared in the Aug. 2, 1975 issue of Record World. Randy Meisner is at far L in the back row

“We were getting close to recording ‘Take It to the Limit’ and it wasn’t finished. Don and Glenn helped me with the lyrics. I started the song but those guys helped me a lot. I came home from [Doug Weston’s nightclub] the Troubadour one night and got out my acoustic guitar and all of a sudden I had the first few lines of ‘One of These Nights.’

“From my perspective, I just went along with everything up until Hotel California. Glenn, Don and I were tight—we partied together. They lived together. I couldn’t squeeze in between ’em. When we recorded in the studio I told those guys a lot of things they didn’t like hearing about what they were writing. Sometimes they’d come up with a song and I was a critic.

“Our live show was perfect. It was just like the record. And Henley was a real stickler about that. In the beginning, Henley and I were real perfectionists. We went from clubs to stadiums, like Wembley arena in England, 120,000 people. Later, right before Hotel California, I left because I hated traveling. I always have and always will. I just hate flying on planes.”

A new compilation, To The Limit: The Essential Collection will be available on April 12, 2024, as a 3-CD set and a deluxe 6-LP set on 180-gram vinyl. The title is available for pre-order in the U.S. here and in the U.K. here.

Harvey Kubernik

7 Comments so far

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  1. v2787
    #1 v2787 28 July, 2023, 14:05

    If Meisner (who was a great talent that I admired tremendously) hated flying so much, why did he get into a rock band? Flying is how you get to the gigs, dude. At least you didn’t have to cram into a van with four or five other guys and drive all night while trying to sleep lying on an amp in the back. I will never understand how people can hate to fly, especially when it’s first class like the Eagles travel. Get over it and fly to the gig, and be grateful you’re a millionaire who gets paid for playing music. RIP, Randy.

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  2. 122intheshade
    #2 122intheshade 29 July, 2023, 02:09

    That’s a bit harsh, isn’t it? The history of musicians and planes is not a comfortable one, going back at least as far as Glenn Miller.

    I was a DJ when “Hearts on Fire” came out. Good song.

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  3. Linda Richardson
    #3 Linda Richardson 29 July, 2023, 07:44

    Lot of musicians have died in planes. Including his former boss Rick Nelson. Cant say as I blame him.

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