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The 11 best songs by the Eagles

Why have a Top 10 when you can have one more? Here are our 11 favourite Eagles songs, ranked

When you think about 70s Laurel Canyon, who springs to mind? It’s probably Daisy Jones and the Six, but it’s too late to do anything about that now. Back in the real world, two bands ruled the canyon and, by extension, America’s airwaves: Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles. Where the former built off Peter Green and Mick Fleetwood’s roots in blues and British folk, the latter took country rock and turned it into the smoothest glass of honey-hued malt liquor imaginable.

As the band prepare for their final victory lap, we look back at the 11 finest songs of their phenomenally successful careers.

11. Learn To Be Still

(Hell Freezes Over, 1994)

There’s a choice to be made when a band reforms: stick to the hits or risk your legacy with some new songs. When the Eagles returned from the void in 1994, they did so with four new songs, all of which only bolstered their reputations. ‘Learn To Be Still’ is the best of the four, a yearning ballad from Henley that comes off like ‘Desperado’ rewritten for the 90s.

10. Heartache Tonight

(The Long Run, 1979)

There were only six years between the dusty country of ‘Desperado’ and the groovy stomp of ‘Heartache Tonight’, but they sound decades apart. Those sweet, amiable cowboys of the early records have been hardened by the city, but their new worldliness rocks harder than almost any other Eagles song.

9. Wasted Time

(Hotel California, 1977)

The sweeping, orchestral melodrama of ‘Wasted Time’ would have seemed out of place on any of the Eagles’ first three records but it’s right at home on the sonically ambitious Hotel California. Henley’s rasp has never sounded better.

8. Desperado

(Desperado, 1973)

‘Desperado’ is the Eagles in a nutshell. It starts simple, just a maudlin piano riff and Henley’s sad, sad voice singing a song about a restless soul who can’t tell when they’re onto a good thing. Soft strings creep in, the whole thing swells and then ebbs away almost as quickly as it arrived. 3 minutes and 33 seconds of bittersweet perfection.

7. The Last Resort

(Hotel California, 1977)

The ambition of the Hotel California album reaches its denouement with this grandiose seven-minute-plus epic. If ‘Hotel California’ is the warning shot that the party is about to turn ugly, ‘The Last Resort’ finds the revellers gone, the room irreparably trashed and regrets looming everywhere you turn. It’s a sad, cynical song but stunning nonetheless.

6. Peaceful Easy Feeling

(Eagles, 1972)

There’s a gentle, enticing glow to this laidback country shuffle from the band’s debut, the musical equivalent of a drink on the porch at sundown. It shares a lot of common ground with ‘Lyin’ Eyes’, but ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’ wins out for its wide-eyed lovestruck lyrics and sprightly pedal steel solo. Even when Frey sings, “This voice keeps whispering in my other ear, telling me I might never see you again”, he chooses to follow his gut and banish the doubt. Positive vibes win out every time.

5. My Man

(On The Border, 1974)

The Eagles aren’t short on heartbreakers but it’s hard to think of one sadder than ‘My Man’, Bernie Leadon’s farewell to his former bandmate Gram Parsons. Parsons and Leadon played together in country rock supergroup The Flying Burrito Brothers and Leadon wrote this tribute after his comrade’s tragic death in 1973. “My man’s got it made, he’s far beyond the pain,” Leadon sings of his friend, finally freed from whatever it was that tormented him in life. It’s wounded, raw and painfully sincere.

4. Already Gone

(On The Border, 1974)

If any other band had recorded ‘Already Gone’, it would probably be the signature song that brings the house down every night. But this is the Eagles, so even though it was their first No.1 single, it’s probably not even in their 10 best-known songs. Sent to Glenn Frey in the mail by songwriters Robb Strandlund and Jack Tempchin (also responsible for ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’), it’s a cracking country rocker buoyed by note-perfect harmonies and a sweltering guitar line from then-new recruit Don Felder. The perfect choice to raise the curtain on the band’s ambitious third record.

3. Take It Easy

(Eagles, 1972)

Is there a cooler line than: “It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flat-bed Ford, slowing down to take a look at me”? Jackson Browne started ‘Take It Easy’ but couldn’t finish it, so he handed what he had to Glenn Frey to run with. The result is the smoothest, coolest ode to carefree living, the kind of song that automatically rolls down your windows and forces the sun out of its hiding place.

2. Hotel California

(Hotel California, 1977)

Those opening notes are heavy with cinematic imagery of empty highways, full moons and ominous structures, even before Don Henley starts singing about the worst bad decision a weary traveller can make. The titular hotel is a Californian equivalent to the sirens’ song from Homer’s Odyssey, but with more indulgent excesses and one of the finest guitar solos of the 70s…  which is what Homer was really lacking.

1. Take It To The Limit

(One Of These Nights, 1975)

The Eagles were always more “crying around the campfire” than “tears in my beer” but this soulful exception is a doozy. It’s a firm fan-favourite, and deservedly so, standing out like a white suit in a saloon. Meisner supposedly hated singing it by the end of his tenure in the band, which is a phenomenal shame. His vocal performance raises every hair on your body, wounded and soaring in equal measures, carried to the end by his bandmates’ sublime harmonies, like they’re carrying their broken friend home. A stunning song that stands out as one of the all-time greats.

Get tickets for the Eagles five-show summer 2024 run at Manchester’s Co-op Live