Eagles: Up Ahead in the Distance

Chapter Premiere: “Eagles: Up Ahead in the Distance”

Listen & Watch Song Premieres
The Eagles by Henry Diltz
Eagles photo by Henry Diltz

Eagles: Up Ahead in the Distance is the second book in a comprehensive trilogy narrating the Eagles band’s experiences sequentially through the years.  The trilogy was co-authored by Rik Forgo and Steven Cafarelli (Time Passages).  It is due to be available on November 10th.

The trilogy takes a comprehensive and fresh approach to chronicling the history of the Eagles. In Eagles: Up Ahead in the Distance, the authors trace the evolution, schedules and captivating anecdotes that the band experienced, in detail, beginning with the summer of ’72 and winding all the way through to The Long Run.

The book is methodically researched as it lays out the history of the Eagles, situating the members in the milieu of events and in relationship with contemporary musicians, writers, venues, artists, and more.

We are premiering a humorous part of a chapter exclusively here, when Joe Vitale began drumming with the Eagles a bit.  This excerpt spotlights Don Henley’s reaction to some of Vitrale’s off the cuff jamming.

For a short while, the first book in this trilogy, Eagles Before the Band by Rik Forgo, will be available on Amazon.com in ebook form for $2.99, here:

Then, starting November 11 and running for only 5 days, the new ebook will be available for free on Amazon, here: http://www.amazon.com/Eagles-Ahead-Distance-Rik-Forgo-ebook/dp/B0BJKVGS5L/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1667093620&sr=8-1

Also, enjoy our review of the book, here: New Book “Up Ahead In The Distance” Is History of Eagles As It Happened

And now for a peek at part of the book, p. 358:


In concert, from the start, the Eagles have performed their songs just as they sound on record. The band members meticulously crafted writing and recording their material and believed that fans shelling out hard-earned money to attend a show should hear everything the way they are accustomed to hearing it.

Critics claim that approach creates sterility in a live show and removes spontaneity from a performance, while others subscribe to the Eagles’ notion that a band should not reinvent beloved songs. Judging by the history of sold-out Eagles concerts, many of their fans share the band’s point of view.

As Eagles’ later albums became more difficult to reproduce with only the five members pictured on the record packaging, they opened up to the idea of bringing on extra hands to help on stage.

One player who’d pitch in on later tours was Joe Vitale, drummer and multi-instrumentalist from Joe Walsh’s Barnstorm band and a veteran touring drummer for many other 1970s groups. As Don Henley emerged as the most prominent lead singer in the Eagles, there were times, like on “The Best of My Love,” when it made more sense for the drummer to grab an acoustic guitar and make his way to the front of the stage to sing.

Henley also had issues with back pain, in part from singing while drumming, and it seemed reasonable that a second drummer could either relieve or redistribute his onstage strain. Vitale fit the bill: a talented, versatile musician who also played percussion, keyboards, and more on songs that did not need a second drummer.

Walsh lobbied his Eagles bandmates to hire his longtime musical partner and friend, and they agreed. But when he called Vitale at three in the morning to tell him the Eagles wanted to bring him aboard, the drummer was certain his former boss and serial prankster was trying to pull one on him.

“Listen, you’ve gotta get on a plane tomorrow and come out [for rehearsal],” Walsh told him. “You’re gonna be in the Eagles, ’cause we need an extra guy to play percussion, drums, and keyboards. But you’ve gotta get on a plane tomorrow and come out to rehearsal ‘cause we’re gonna go to Japan.”

Vitale told Walsh he wouldn’t believe it unless Henley called and invited him. He assumed that would be the end of the “prank,” but not too long after that, the phone rang again.

“I thought it was Joe running the joke into the ground,” Vitale recalled. “I picked up the phone and said, ‘WHAT?’ This time, it was Henley.” A really deep voice, quite different than Walsh’s, said, “It’s Henley. You feel like coming out and practicing with us?”

Vitale knew it was really the Eagles drummer and the offer was legitimate because Henley was anything but a prankster. Vitale flew out in the morning and, before long, was boarding another flight to Japan with the Eagles.

Since he called with a personal invitation, Henley presumably welcomed Vitale on board. Still, Don Felder, when telling the story in his 2008 biography, suggested otherwise. He claimed Henley, in fact, felt threatened by the other drummer’s presence and suggested that Walsh had lobbied to make his buddy a permanent Eagle. Felder claimed Henley saw Vitale’s inclusion as “a direct criticism of his competence as a drummer,” and sniped that “Joe Vitale could play better drums than Don Henley with an arm and a leg cut off.”

Notwithstanding Felder’s claims, Vitale stayed on well past the Japan shows.

Despite being a more technically proficient drummer, Vitale respected Henley a great deal and considered him an excellent player as well. He spoke glowingly about Henley’s voice, too, and said he was among the best in the business at managing the difficult job of singing while playing.

Vitale would do the drumming during certain spots in the set when Henley would perform from the front of the stage. Other times, both played the drums—each on his own kit—and Vitale would help by handling the fills while Henley just kept the backbeat. This allowed Henley to focus on his singing and gave him a break from contorting and twisting his back more than necessary.

Vitale, who the band affectionally called “Joe Bob” (which worked better when Walsh was within earshot), usually stuck to the parts as Henley had played them on the record. He made it a point to do so, respecting the band’s philosophy on that matter, until one fateful night when, as Vitale explained it, “I got a little fancy on a drum fill in the song called ‘Those Shoes.’ It’s an extremely funky song and coming out of the talk box solo where Joe and Felder were doing dueling talk boxes, I did this really funky syncopated fill.”

Members of the band turned around and grinned at him. Vitale figured his fellow musicians really dug what he did. Bands like Barnstorm would occasionally stick their toe in the “jam band” waters, and when someone pulled off a chops-y fill, the other players would often nod in delight. As it turns out, that was not the case here. Vitale’s bandmates were grinning at him because they knew he was going to hear from Henley.

As Vitale recalled in his 2008 memoir, “Later on at the hotel, Henley called and asked me to come over to his room for a second…Henley, wearing a hotel robe, came to the door and opened it about six inches. He said something like, ‘Yeah, hey, you know that drum fill you played coming out of the solo in ‘Those Shoes’?’

“So, there I was expecting to bask in this big compliment from Henley about my cool drum fill,” he wrote. “I expectantly said, ‘Yeah…?’ And he shook his head and said evenly, ‘Don’t do that.’ Then he said, ‘Good night, Joe Bob,’ and closed the door.”

The boss had spoken. Vitale took it in stride and agreed to follow orders. But the next night before the show, Frey came up to him and ribbed him further. When Henley was not around, Vitale recounts, “Glenn said, with a completely straight face, ‘So, Joe Bob, remember to play that fill.’ They all laughed.”

When telling the story in a 2016 interview, Vitale added that Frey also peeled off some large bills from a wad of cash, offering them as an incentive to play the fill again. “[There] ain’t enough zeroes on those bills to play that,” Vitale laughed.

Enjoy our previous coverage of the first book, here: Eagles Preflyte: “Before The Band” Is First Book in a New Historical Trilogy

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