|Released March 22, 1974|
|Recorded Record Plant Studios, Los Angeles, CA
Olympic Studios, London|
Genre Country Rock, Rock, Hard Rock
Producer Bill Szymczyk, Glyn Johns
On the Border is the third studio album by American rock group the Eagles, released in 1974. Apart from two songs produced by Glyn Johns, it was produced by Bill Szymczyk because the group wanted a more rock‑oriented sound, instead of the country-rock feel of the first two albums. It is the first Eagles album to feature guitarist Don Felder. On the Border reached No. 17 on the Billboard album chart and has sold two million copies.
- Critical verdict
- Commercial result
- Side one
- Side two
- My Man
- On the Border
- Ol 55
- Good Day in Hell
Three singles were released from the album: "Already Gone", "James Dean" and "Best Of My Love". The singles reached No. 32, No. 77 and No. 1 respectively. "Best of My Love" became the band's first of five chart toppers. The album also includes "My Man", Bernie Leadon's tribute to his deceased friend Gram Parsons. Leadon and Parsons had played together in the pioneer country rock band Flying Burrito Brothers, before Leadon joined the Eagles.
This is the first album by the Eagles to be released in Quadraphonic surround sound. It was released on Quadraphonic 8-track tape and CD-4 LP. A hidden message carved into the run out groove of some vinyl LPs reads: "He who hesitates is lunch".
The album was to be produced by Glyn Johns and recorded at Olympic Studios in London, but during the making of the album, disagreement arose between the Eagles and their producer. As the band tried to lean towards a more hard rock sound, they felt that producer Glyn Johns was overemphasizing their country-influenced rock sound. The band—Glenn Frey in particular, but not Don Henley—were also unhappy with the no-drug policy of Johns during the recording; furthermore they did not feel at home recording in London. The Eagles spent six weeks recording in London, with both the band and the producer becoming frustrated with each other. The band then took a break, decided to find a new producer and discarded all the recordings except for two usable tracks, "Best of My Love" and "You Never Cry Like a Lover".
The band relocated back to their native California and hired Bill Szymczyk, previously producer of two rock albums by Joe Walsh–who would go on to join the Eagles in late 1975–that interested them. The band recorded the rest of the album at the Record Plant Studios in Los Angeles. They wanted more input into how the album was made, and Frey felt that they enjoyed more freedom with Szymczyk in the making of the album. Szymczyk suggested they bring in a harder-edged guitarist to add slide guitar to the song "Good Day in Hell". Bernie Leadon suggested his old friend Don Felder, whom they had met and jammed with on a few occasions. The band was so impressed that they invited Felder to become the fifth Eagle. The only other track on this album on which he appeared was "Already Gone". They credited him as a late arrival on the album's liner notes.
On the difference in sound between Johns' and Szymczyk's productions, Henley said: "There’s a lot less echo with Bill, for one thing. There’s more of a raw and funky presence. Glyn had a stamp he put on his records which is a deep echo that is really smooth like ice cream". He thought that the production on the two songs that Johns produced was good and necessary. Frey, however, found that L.A. country-rock records were "all too smooth and glassy", and wanted a "tougher sound". Their friend and collaborator J. D. Souther ascribed the change of producer to "Eagles’ desire to get more of a live, thin sound on the albums".
The first two singles released were more rock-orientated; Frey was reluctant to release the Johns-produced "Best of My Love" as a single, and held off its release for some months. However, when it was finally released, the label had truncated the song–without the band's knowledge or approval–so that it would be more radio-friendly. "Best of My Love" would become their biggest hit thus far, and their first No. 1 on the charts.
In an early review, Janet Maslin of Rolling Stone found the album "competent and commercial", but was disappointed that it did not live up to the potential for bigger things shown in Desperado. She also thought that with three guitarists in the band, there were "just too many intrusive guitar parts here, too many solos that smack of gratuitous heaviness. Many of the arrangements seem to lose touch with the material somewhere in mid-song." Overall, she judged the album "a tight and likable collection, with nine potential singles working in its favor and only one dud ("Midnight Flyer") to weigh it down," and that it's "good enough to make up in high spirits what it lacks in purposefulness." William Ruhlmann of AllMusic noted in his retrospective review the R&B direction in its title track that would be pursued more fully in later albums, and considered the album "which looked back to their earlier work and anticipated their later work" to be "a transitional effort that combined even more styles than most of their records did."
The album became the band's most successful album of the three released thus far. It entered the Billboard 200 chart at No. 50 in its first week of its release, peaking at No. 17 in its sixth week on the chart. The album certified Gold by the RIAA after two months of its release on June 5, 1974, and was eventually certified double Platinum on March 20, 2001.
- "Already Gone" (Jack Tempchin, Robb Strandlund) – 4:15
- Lead vocal by Glenn Frey, lead guitar by Glenn Frey, guitar solos by Glenn Frey and Don Felder, ending dual guitar solo by Glenn Frey and Don Felder
- "You Never Cry Like a Lover" (J.D. Souther, Don Henley) – 4:00
- Lead vocal by Don Henley, lead guitar (uncredited) by Bernie Leadon, piano by Glenn Frey
- "Midnight Flyer" (Paul Craft) – 3:55
- Lead vocal by Randy Meisner, slide guitar by Glenn Frey, banjo by Bernie Leadon
- "My Man" (Bernie Leadon) – 3:29
- Lead vocal and pedal steel guitar by Bernie Leadon
- "On the Border" (Henley, Leadon, Glenn Frey) – 4:23
- Lead vocals by Don Henley, T.N.T.S. by "Coach", claps by The Clapetts, lead guitar (uncredited) by Glenn Frey
- "James Dean" (Jackson Browne, Frey, Souther, Henley) – 3:38
- Lead vocal by Glenn Frey, lead guitar by Bernie Leadon
- "Ol' '55" (Tom Waits) – 4:21
- Lead vocals by Glenn Frey and Don Henley, pedal steel guitar by Al Perkins, piano by Glenn Frey
- "Is It True?" (Randy Meisner) – 3:14
- Lead vocal by Randy Meisner, slide guitar by Glenn Frey
- "Good Day in Hell" (Henley, Frey) – 4:25
- Lead vocals by Glenn Frey and Don Henley, lead guitar and slide guitar by Don Felder
- "Best of My Love" (Henley, Frey, Souther) – 4:34
- Lead vocal by Don Henley, pedal steel guitar by Bernie Leadon
Bernie Leadon's "My Man" is a tribute to Gram Parsons, who had died of a drug overdose in September 1973. Leadon and Parsons had been members of the pioneering country-rock band The Flying Burrito Brothers. In the lyrics, Leadon makes reference to Parsons' song "Hickory Wind" ("like a flower he bloomed till that old hickory wind called him home") which appeared on the Byrds' groundbreaking country-rock album Sweetheart of the Rodeo in 1968, the only Byrds album Parsons appeared on.
"On the Border"
This track was inspired by the Watergate scandal and fears of the government overstepping its bounds and infringing on people's privacy. Barely audible at the end of the song, Glenn Frey can be heard whispering "Say Goodnight, Dick," a line made famous by Dan Rowan of Rowan and Martin but in this case referring to Richard Nixon's resignation. Nixon would indeed resign five months after the release of the album. In the liner notes, T.N.T.S. was credited for the vocals on the track – it refers to Tanqueray 'n' tonic, a drink favored by the producer Szymczyk. According to Henley, the drink "“helped out“ on the hand-clap overdub and the Temptations-like background vocals on the title track" by adding an element of spontaneity to the song.
David Geffen played to Glenn Frey a demo of three songs by Tom Waits; Frey loved this song and took it to Henley suggesting that they split the vocals on the song. Frey said: "It’s such a car thing. Your first car is like your first apartment. You had a mobile studio apartment! “Ol’ 55” was so Southern California, and yet there was some Detroit in it as well. It was that car thing, and I loved the idea of driving home at sunrise, thinking about what had happened the night before."
"Good Day in Hell"
According to Henley, the song was written by Frey as a tribute to Danny Whitten and Gram Parsons. He also described the song as another of their "running commentaries on the perils of the music business and the lifestyle that often comes with it".