Bird & Animal Names In Rock 'n' Roll History - Part 5
Billy Swan, Eagles
Author: Robert Benson
Robert writes about rock & pop music, and vinyl record collecting.
As we continue our series of "bird" and "animal" names in rock and roll history, let's explore some more famous groups and names that contain "birds."
In the early 1960's, Missouri native Billy Swan wrote a hit single for Clyde McPhatter called "Lover Please" and spent the rest of the decade working as a roadie, engineer's assistant and songwriter, writing material for Conway Twitty, Waylon Jennings and Mel Tillis.
After moving to Memphis to continue writing songs and later relocating to Nashville, Swan supported himself as a recording assistant, but quit the job during the recording of Bob Dylan's album "Blonde On Blonde" and gave his job to Kris Kristofferson. Swan went on to produce Tony Joe White's hit single "Polk Salad Annie." He also toured and played with Kris Kristofferson.
But Swan's main claim to fame is his number one hit in 1974 called "I Can Help," a song he wrote after receiving a little RMI organ as a wedding present from Kristofferson and then wife, Rita Coolidge. It went to number one on both the pop and country charts in 1974, and the accompanying album of the same name also topped the country list. After a few years, Swan returned to Kristofferson's band and played with them until 1992.
However, taking time out from his still-active career as a session and backup musician, Swan recorded a new album at the original Sun studios, "Like Elvis
Used to Do," in 2000. In 2002, he teamed up with the Eagles' Randy Meisner and Alan Rich, on a self-titled album from the aptly named Meisner, Swan & Rich.
One of the most successful rock groups of the 70's, the Eagles blended country, folk and rock into a stellar career that produced five number one Billboard hits. The group's original members, Glenn Frey, Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner and Don Henley were all session players and group veterans, Leadon had been with the Flying Burrito Brothers and Meisner founded the band Poco, and they were assembled as back up musicians for Linda Ronstadt's album "Silk Purse."
Signed by Asylum Records, the Eagles released a self-titled album in 1972 which included the hit singles "Take It Easy" which was written by Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey, "Witchy Woman" and "Peaceful Easy Feeling" and brought the California sound to the world. With their passionate, articulate harmonies, superstardom awaited, and music fans clamored for more.
The second Eagles album, "Desperado"(1973) emphasized an "outlaw" image, but was not as successful as the first release. They added guitarist Don Felder on the third album, "On The Border" which went gold in three months and produced the number one Billboard hit "Best Of My Love."
In 1975, the Eagles released "One Of These Nights," a breakthrough album that mixed sappy, yet fulfilling ballads with pure rock and pop. The public loved the music, evidenced by the hit singles "Lyin Eyes," "Take It To the Limit" and of course the title track, which peaked at number one on the Billboard charts.
In 1976, the Eagles released a "Greatest Hits" album that has sold well over fifteen million copies, but suffered the loss of guitarist Leadon, who was replaced by former James Gang leader, Joe Walsh. In 1977, the Eagles released the powerful and expressive LP, "Hotel California," which added the title song as a number one hit to their already impressive resume. In 1977, Meisner left the group and was replaced by Timothy B Schmit, but it took the group almost two years to complete their next album, "The Long Run." The long wait paid off, as the Eagles scored another number one hit, "Heartache Tonight" and top ten hits, the ballad "I Can't Tell You Why" and the title track. They followed this with a live tour and release, but the group disbanded in 1981 and swore they would get back together "when hell freezes over."
After the breakup of the band, each ex-member tried his hand at a solo career. Joe Walsh had already established himself as a solo artist in the 1970s before and during his time with the Eagles, but it was uncharted waters for the others.
Walsh had scored solo hits in 1973, "Rocky Mountain Way" and 1978, "Life's Been Good." After the breakup, in 1981 he released a successful album, "There Goes the Neighborhood," but his subsequent albums throughout the 1980s, such as "Got Any Gum?" were not as well received. Walsh also kept busy performing as a session musician for Dan Fogelberg, Steve Winwood and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, among others, and produced and co-wrote Ringo Starr's "Old Wave" album.
However, it is Don Henley who turned out to have the greatest solo success of the five core Eagles. In 1982, he released the LP "I Can't Stand Still," featuring the smash hit "Dirty Laundry." But that album paled in comparison to his next release, the 1984 smash, "Building the Perfect Beast," which featured the #5 hit and classic rock radio staple, "Boys of Summer," "All She Wants to Do Is Dance (#9)," "Not Enough Love In The World" (#34), and "Sunset Grill" (#22). Henley would not release another album for 5 years until 1989's "The End of the Innocence." This LP was also a major success and included the hits "The End of the Innocence," "The Last Worthless Evening" and "The Heart of the Matter". But his solo career was cut short due to a contract dispute with his record company, finally resolved when the Eagles reunited in 1994.
Glenn Frey also found solo success in the 1980s. In 1982, Frey released his first album, "No Fun Aloud," which scored him the #15 hit, "The One You Love." He followed this album with 1984's "The Allnighter," which featured the #20 hit "Sexy Girl." He reached #2 on the charts with "The Heat Is On," from the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack. He had another #2 single in 1985 with "You Belong to the City" from the Miami Vice soundtrack, which featured another Frey song, the gritty cut "Smugglers Blues."
Don Felder also released a solo album, and contributed two songs to the soundtrack of the movie Heavy Metal: "Heavy Metal Takin A Ride" (with Henley and Schmit providing backing vocals) and "All of You." Timothy B. Schmit had a Top 40 hit in 1987 with "Boys Night Out."
But that is not the end of the story, because hell must have frozen over and the group reformed and released the aptly named LP "Hell Freezes Over" in 1994. The album rehashed all their earlier hits and also included a new song called "Get Over It," which reached the Billboard Top 40 and was well received by adoring Eagles fans.
In 2007, the Eagles, who now consisted of Frey, Henley, Walsh, and Schmit released the cut "How Long," as a single to radio with an accompanying online video at Yahoo! Music and debuted on television on CMT during the Top 20 Countdown on August 23, 2007.
On October 30, 2007, the Eagles released "Long Road Out Of Eden," which is their first album of all new material since 1979. The album debuted at #1 in the US, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Netherlands and Norway. It became their third studio album, seventh album release overall to be certified at least seven times platinum. In an interview with CNN, Don Henley stated, "This is probably the last Eagles album that we'll ever make." We've heard that before from this legendary band, only time will tell if we hear more music from them.
In the next article, we will again explore "bird" names, but this time we will focus on the "Crows" of the rock 'n' roll era.
Billy Swan Tidbits:
Billy Swan was born in Cape Girardeau, MO, in 1942 and grew up listening to country music until he discovered rock 'n' roll as a teenager.
Although he could not duplicate the success of "I Can help," Swan did reach the country Top 20 with a 1975 single, "Everything's the Same (Ain't Nothing Changed)."
1975 I Can Help
1975 Billy Swan
1977 Four 1977
After their tenure with Ronstadt and with her encouragement, they decided to form their own band, signing with Asylum Records, the new label started by David Geffen. Geffen and partner Elliot Roberts also initially managed the band.
In 2003, the Eagles released a new greatest hits album "The Very Best of the Eagles." The two-disc compilation was the first that encompassed their entire career, from "Eagles" to "The Long Run." The album also included a new single, the September 11-themed "Hole in the World." The album debuted at #3 on the Billboard charts and eventually gained triple platinum status.
Also in 2003, Warren Zevon, a longtime Eagles friend, began work on his final album, The Wind, with the assistance of Henley, Walsh, and Schmit.
In 1976, "Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975," a best-of drawn from the Eagles' first four albums, entered the album chart. One-third of a century later it will be pronounced the best-selling album in history.
On December 25, 1976, the iconic LP "Hotel California" entered the album charts for the first of 107 weeks.
1974 On the Border
1975 One of These Nights
1976 Hotel California
1976 Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975
1979 The Long Run
1982 The Eagles Greatest Hits Vol 2
1994 Hell Freezes Over
2003 The Very Best of Eagles / The Complete Greatest Hits
2007 Long Road Out of Eden