The Eagles on Desperado: “We were quite taken with the idea of being outlaws…”

In tribute to Glenn Frey, who died on January 18, 2016, we look back on the legend of Desperado...

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Back in the late winter of ’72, returning to California with their new record, the Eagles began to experience misgivings. “Back home, the paranoia would begin,” says Leadon. “Second guessing everything: ‘Oh my God, it doesn’t sound like everyone else. The songs suck. We suck. We need to redo it.’” It was left to Johns, who flew over before Christmas to take part in the cover shoot, to talk them down. “Glyn was fabulous, truly what we needed at the time. He said, ‘You’re wrong. You don’t know, but I know. I’m right, shut up!’ And he was.”

Time may have proved him correct, but the initial impact of Desperado when it was released in April 1973 seemed to confirm the band’s concerns. There were no hit singles, critically and commercially the response was lukewarm, while “everybody at the record company was horrified,” says Stone.

“Like, ‘What are we going to do with this?’ It was a big disappointment, but creatively it was such a leap, such an ambitious thing to do, not to sit on your success but to push the envelope. Now, when you look back across their work it doesn’t seem like such a radical thing to do, but at the time it was a left turn without signalling.”


Browne agrees. “Desperado was a brilliant move, because it gave the Eagles an identity. There was something limited about the concept, but it was also very potent. There was a nouveau-Indian hippy thing going on, everyone was coming to California, and in the end that was what they were writing about: that projected dream of what freedom could be. Vacate your assigned positions in life and be what you fucking want!”

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