The lyrics to Eagles' Top 10 hit "The Long Run" depict a relationship that may not be able to survive. But according to Don Henley, it was really a metaphor for the era's musical landscape.

"Disco had exploded, and punk was on the rise," he explained to Rolling Stone in 2016. "We were beginning to see press articles about how we were passe. Those kind of jabs were part of the inspiration for the song 'The Long Run': 'Who is gonna make it / We'll find out in the long run.'"

However, Eagles could hardly question whether others had what it took to survive. Henley added that, at the time, the band were, "Exhausted, burned-out mentally, physically, spiritually. Homesick. We were not happy campers." He admitted that they should have taken a year off, but "the Big Machine demanded to be fed. Momentum had to be maintained. There were big bucks at stake, the corporate stockholders had expectations, jobs were on the line."

The irony of the lyric wasn't lost on the drummer-singer. "The group was breaking apart, imploding under the pressure of trying to deliver a worthy follow-up to Hotel California," Henley said, "and yet we were writing about longevity, posterity. Turns out we were right. Irony upon irony."

Eagles had been successful since their 1972 debut, but 1976's multi-platinum Hotel California took them to the elite level of rock stardom. It took its toll on them: "It was hard to cope with it rationally," Glenn Frey told the Independent in 1992, "because we'd been living this lifestyle of limos, private jets, first-class hotels and people doing what you told them to. Plus, both Henley and I had developed drug habits, which didn't help matters. Going to the studio was like going to school — I simply didn't want to go."

They had planned to make a double album, but with all the internal squabbling, it was a chore managing to complete 10 songs.

The Long Run was not as good as Hotel California, and it was an excruciatingly painful album to make,” Henley told Classic Rock. “We were having fights all the time about the songs – enormous fights about one word – for days on end. That record took three years and cost $800,000, and we burned out.”

"It made us very paranoid," Joe Walsh told the Los Angeles Times. "People started asking us, 'What are you going to do now?' and we didn't know. We ended up on the next album in Miami with the tapes running, but nobody knowing what was going on. We lost perspective. We just kinda sat around in a daze for ... months."

By the time "The Long Run" was released as a single on Nov. 27, 1979, disco was winding down its period of chart dominance. Punk never fully took off in the U.S., although its spirit infused New Wave, which continued to breathe life into rock music over the next few years. Eagles eventually succumbed to internal pressures in summer 1982, with a break-up that lasted until 1994 (ironically in the midst of the punk-influenced alternative revolution). But during their hiatus, they remained a constant presence, either through continued airplay of their hits or their members' solo work.

"In retrospect," Henley said in 2016, "we need not have been concerned."

Listen to the Eagles' "The Long Run"

 

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