The Eagles were conceived in the teachings of Carlos Castaneda and his ephemeral medicine man, Don Juan. The Mojave Desert was their classroom, and they named themselves after one of the major spirits in the Indian cosmos: the eagle. During long sleepless nights on raw tequila and peyote, the young musicians studied. "There is a scene in Castaneda in which Don Juan tells him to walk until he finds his power spot," says Guitarist Glenn Frey. "After searching for hours, he collapses. He wakes up to find Don Juan, who laughs and tells him that he has found his spot. We all wandered around with different bands, but as the Eagles we have found our power spot."
Indeed they have. Since those desert meditations four years ago, the Eagles have become the top U.S. rock band. Their LP, One of These Nights, has been at the top of Billboard's chart for four weeks; they have two gold and two platinum albums; some 850,000 people will pay $5 million to see them on their current 59-city tour.
Rock Nail. If Castaneda was their spiritual mentor, the late Gram Parsons, who was among the first to combine country music with the energy of rock, was their musical inspiration. The Eagles' tunes, performed on three rock guitars paced by a drummer and a bass guitar, have more wail than twang. They are in fact a somewhat unlikely assemblage. Drummer Don Henley, 28, and Guitarists Frey, 26, and Don Felder, 27, have roots in rock. Bernie Leadon, 28, is country-trained, while Randy Meisner, 29, remains partial to Motown blues.
Their personalities are as diverse as their musical tastes. Leadon and Felder are almost recluses. An eight-mile-long dirt road separates Felder's rustic, ridgeline house from the Pacific coast highway far below. On tour, Leadon is a loner who prowls music stores to discover new instruments for his $80,000 collection. Frey is a nocturnal playboy; Henley reads Rimbaud. Meisner is a family man, calls his Nebraska home daily to check in with his wife and three children.
With The Band in semiretirement, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young again disbanded and the Allman Brothers crippled by brother Gregg's dalliance with Cher, the Eagles have run out of challengers. But they might still be wandering in the desert if David Geffen, a wiry former show-biz agent, had not convinced them to leave Singer Linda Ronstadt's band to form their own group. In 1972 he advanced them $100,000, along with instructions to head for Colorado to get an act together. When the Eagles returned a month later, Geffen, who had become president of the newly created Asylum Records, immediately gave them a recording contract.
Using earnings from three hit singles, the Eagles repaid their debt, then established their reputation with their second album, Desperado. The songs drew an analogy between Western outlaws and rock performers, two groups linked by loneliness, excess and self-destruction. The next album, On the Border, expanded the same themes. Using Parsons' death and James Dean's career as springboards, the Eagles touched upon the reveries of millions of teenagers and demiadults.