Eagles: Up Ahead in the Distance

New Book “Up Ahead In The Distance” Is History of Eagles As It Happened

Columns My Back Pages Reviews

The Eagles by Henry Diltz
photo by Henry Diltz


The idea was to wait for the Troubadour bar to close, drive to Joshua Tree National Park in the middle of the night and shoot what happened in the desert. Armed with a bag of peyote buttons, trail mix, bottles of tequila and water and blankets, a fledgling band called Eagles joined the team of photographer Henry Diltz and designer Gary Burton who documented the band around a campfire in the pre-dawn hours that turned into the cover of Eagles, the self-titled 1972 debut that captivated America from the opening chords of “Take It Easy” and has ever since. 

Diltz, who earlier had shot the iconic covers of Crosby, Stills & Nash and the Mamas and Papas in a bathtub, captured the ethereal feel that underlied “Witchy Woman” and “Chug All Night.” Diltz would go on to shoot Eagles’ follow-up album, Desperado.  Today he is a co-owner of the Morrison Hotel Gallery named after the album cover he shot when Jim Morrison and the Doors snuck into the lobby of the Morrison Hotel.

This week he’ll be hosting the book launch and signing of Up Ahead In The Distance, which chronicles that night at Joshua Tree and everything that happened through the next nine years until Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Don Felder, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit called it quits. Diltz’s photos appear throughout the second volume of a planned three-part trilogy chronicling America’s most successful band and providing a comprehensive assessment of Eagles’ place on the continuum and what today is considered Americana music.

For authors Rik Forgo and Steve Cafarelli, it represents the culmination of three years of work. The 400 plus-page book follows Forgo’s chronological storytelling approach called Time Passages that documents historical events and milestones as they were happening in real-time and on the timeline. Up Ahead In The Distance progresses throughout the Seventies as Eagles ascended and became the country-rock heir apparents of Flying Burrito Brothers and Poco. It chronicles the events that led to their landmark Hotel California album only to labor for several years in an attempt to unsuccessfully replicate it. Succumbing to exhaustion, they ended it all in 1980 following the aptly named The Long Run (and referenced in the vernacular as “the long one.”).

I discovered Rik Forgo’s debut book Eagles: Before The Band on Amazon and was curious as it covered the years leading up to the band’s formation—right up until Diltz and Eagles made their pilgrimage to Joshua Tree. It was an ambitious approach since none of Eagles’ music had yet to be made. As I noted in my review, the detailed chronology creates its own suspense for avid fans as the years anticipate future events leading to the band’s formation and eventual success. I added that the chronological approach and meticulously researched book follows history in real time as it unfolded, placing Eagles in the context of historical events all around them. 

The publication of its successor is special for Americana Highways. For Up Ahead In The Distance, both myself and managing editor Melissa Clarke were involved in the book’s development. Melissa was the book’s line editor and I was part of an editorial team of researchers along with Andrew Vaughan and Nik DeRiso, who went back in time to help surface the nuggets and find the stories of the events as they happened. Along the way this forensic approach to rock and roll research (as Rik Forgo describe it) became infectious.

In the book, I also appear where I told Time Passages of my close encounter with The Eagles on their last tour. It was a hot summer afternoon in June 1980 at the Yale Bowl In New Haven, Connecticut on The Long Run tour. As the band finished their cover of Huey “Piano” Smith’s “Sea Cruise,” they suddenly appeared behind the stage along the wooden stadium benches that had become the makeshift backstage area. Out of the corner of my eye someone came running up the stadium stairs snapping his fingers and still singing the chorus like he was onstage. I suddenly realized it was Glenn Frey who flew right by me. I looked down and spotted Eagles manager Irving Azoff huddling with Felder, Walsh, Schmit and Henley as they waited to go back for the show’s finale of Walsh’s “All Night Long.”

As I said in the book, “In that moment he was still the kid from Detroit whose voice I still try to pick out everytime I hear ‘Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man’. Whenever you talk about the dysfunction of the Eagles, I go back to that afternoon. If anyone wonders whether there were any moments of joy in all that turmoil, I can tell you that I saw one of them.”

My love of the Eagles goes back to middle-school and is directly attributable to reading Circus Magazine. Turning to the record reviews section by Janis Schacht, I saw she gave a heart, her highest rating, to signify she loved a new record called Eagles. Curious, I went out and bought it with the blue Asylum label of David Geffen’s new record company. A few years later an empathetic music teacher fronted the money to bring me the trifecta of Elektra-Asylum’s new releases including Bob Dylan’s Planet Waves, Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark and Carly Simon’s Hotcakes

Before The Band demonstrated that Eagles did not come out of a vacuum. Now the new book at twice its size details the trials and tribulations as Eagles strive to find their identity and shed the country-rock contours of their origins. Although much of the history has been documented, the contemporaneous approach allows you to immerse yourself deeper  in their struggles and move through concurrent events in a period or era at the flip of your fingertips. What happened on Eagles’ first tour with Jethro Tull and Yes? What was Glenn Frey’s reaction to Don Felder joining the band?  What happened the day the Eagles played Rolling Stone in a softball game and beat them 15-8?

It tells the story behind the band’s first single “The Best of My Love” which emerged on a radio station in Kalamazoo. As Elektra promotion man Rip Pelley relayed the buzz in these pages, Eagles wanted “James Dean” to be the single.  But the song took on a life of its own and was soon picked up by other stations. When it was finally sent to stations, manager Irving Azoff and Don Henley were incensed that the label had reduced the length of the song.  The authors also spoke with Elektra’s head of production and recount how Azoff sent Asylum a gold record with a piece cut out that was captioned “The Golden Hacksaw Award.”

Through its extensive “Pathway Album” features, the authors have provided a generous spotlight to the band Poco, chronicling the band’s work before Timothy B. Schmit replaced Randy Meisner in Eagles (and as he had done previously in Poco.) In the shadow of Eagles’ enormous success, Poco’s influence and contribution is often overlooked, a point of contention mentioned by Richie Furay to this day. The album spotlights provide a great historical record of Poco’s contributions and influences. Additionally the spotlight features on J.D. Souther and Joe Walsh put the focus on their extensive solo careers and profile all of their individual albums. For Walsh it’s the most comprehensive narrative of the ex-James Gang star who wrote “Rocky Mountain Way” on his tractor and was at a pivotal juncture when he was asked to join Eagles. 

The book takes a deep dive into the stories about the album covers and the inspiration behind signature songs like “Tequila Sunrise,” “Lyin’ Eyes” and “The Sad Cafe.” Along the way there are juicy nuggets about the Eagles early years  with Procol Harum where they gathered around the piano with Gary Brooker at Holiday Inns and sang into the night after shows. The book details Joe Walsh’s presidential campaign in 1980 and the time in New York where a radio station was held hostage until it met the demands of a fan who simply wanted them to play “Desperado.”

We may know some of these events but moving through the chronology in the moments in which they happened sheds new light on the history of Eagles. In adding to the vantage of perspective that time offers, the authors have provided new insights for retelling stories that seemingly never get old. 

(To read an excerpt of Up Ahead In The Distance, click here.)

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:

Also, 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

Leave a Reply!