The Long Run was one of the only records I remember my dad purchasing on the first week of its release.
You must understand that there were two records from my childhood that seemed to be permanent fixtures in my parent’s shitty stereo system: Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors and The Eagles Hotel California. They played incessantly, and while I have fallen out of love-and then back in love-with Rumors, I haven’t heard Hotel California for decades, and I seem to be fine with that. It’s still etched in my memory and while I’ve grown to despise the fucking Eagles, man, I can admit that Hotel California is arguably a significant piece of work and the band’s crowning achievement.
After the massive success of that effort, The Eagles took three years to follow it up with The Long Run. On the surface, the cover art makes it seem that the album is another epic offering. With its black cover and slick, thin grey font, it gives the impression that those three years were hard ones, resulting in a release that would continue the band’s rise as American cultural observers and mellow rebel rousers.
So why-aside from the hit singles-don’t I remember The Long Run like I do its predecessor? We’re talking an album that reached #1 on the album charts during a period of time when that took some doing.
I decided to revisit this album, nearly three decades after last hearing it, searching for clues as to why what once was The Eagles’ final moment had been completely overlooked in favor of the aforementioned Hotel California and the ubiquitous Greatest Hits Volume One.
The reason, as it turns out, is because The Long Run is a lazy record, full of professional gloss and contrived arrangements. The conflict surrounding its development was one resulting from clashing egos rather than creative debate of “How do we set about topping Hotel California?”
They barely come close, which is what makes the album so frustrating, but it isn’t until you let The Long Run settle for three decades or so before the real resentment towards the Eagles begins to take shape.
And the inspiration for that resentment is clear with this album’s ten tracks.
It’s most obvious on the hit single “Heartache Tonight,” which found Glen Frey and composer J.D. Souther struggling with coming up with a chorus. They used the phone-a-friend option and called up their Detroit buddy Bob Seger who managed to come up with one during the phone call. In case you’ve forgotten, the chorus goes “There’s gonna be a heartache tonight/A heartache tonight, I know.”
Now that wasn’t so hard, was it?
The Eagles hired Timothy B. Schmit as the replacement for founding member Randy Meisner, which is ironic as Schmit seems to have been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on the sheer fact that he’s made a career out of being the runner up to everything that Meisner had ever done.
Initially, Schmit was passed over for Meisner in Poco, only to get the job a few years later when Randy left to join the Eagles. When Meisner quit The Eagles, guess who got the call?
Prior to his joining, Schmit was probably best remembered from the awful Firefall hit “Just Remember I Love You.” It’s good to know that Tim’s penchant for soft-rock schlock followed him to his new band, in the form of the ultra shitty “I Can’t Tell You Why.” If there ever was an Eagles hit devoid of any hint of their previous formula, Schmit delivered it with this track.
But the real spite must be saved for Don Henley, particularly with the way in which the man has conducted himself during the years that followed The Long Run. If Hotel California was Henley’s commentary on decadence and the homogenization of American culture, then how are we to view his own contribution to the same sins?
His holier than thou lyrics are in full view throughout The Long Run, culminating in the side one closer, “King Of Hollywood.” Henley treats the object of his scorn with an overly long six-and-a-half minute track which is nothing more than a shittier sequel to “Hotel California.” In it, Henley manages to sound like a jealous ex-boyfriend, attacking his scarf-wearing enemy’s small penis (“You’d know it if you saw his stuff/The man just isn’t big enough”) and his coke-fueled inability to achieve an orgasm (“Still he just couldn’t get off”).
The Long Run’s only saving grace comes from Joe Walsh’s “In The City,” which was originally a solo recording from earlier in the same year for the movie The Warriors. Frey and Henley apparently liked the track so much that they re-recorded it for The Eagles record.
Of course, if the Eagles were so desperate for material to use tracks that had already been released, or ones that were evidently inspired by Animal House (“The Greeks Don’t Want No Freaks”), then you have to wonder what exactly went on during the three years since their last release.
What the record-buying public ended up with was merely a collection of capable, but hardly credible, songs that reek of contractual obligations and an understanding that fans like my father would end up buying pretty much anything that The Eagles released. Its self-important looking cover and never ending musings on how greed and decadence are values worthy of ridicule don’t seem to apply to the worlds of The Long Run’s creative forces.
That’s something that we all did manage to find out in the long run.