Three days before the Eagles flew their nest for good, the rock legends put together, before a sold-out crowd at the Santa Monica Civic Center, one of their most striking vocal performances ever.
"Seven Bridges Road," written by country rocker Steve Young, had been a longtime favorite of the Eagles', thanks in part to a harmony-laden version recorded by British musician Iain Matthews in 1973. (Matthews and the band were acquainted thanks to frequent gigs at The Troubadour in Los Angeles.) The band were prone to open their gigs with the track - with the members of the band singing their part into a single microphone - and even used it as a warm-up song before gigs, singing in locker rooms of various arenas to utilize the natural acoustics to the fullest. "It was always a vocally unifying moment, all five voices coming together in harmony," guitarist Don Felder recalled in his memoirs.
After the release of the blockbuster Hotel California, the Eagles quietly phased the song out of their sets, with more than enough hit material to spare throughout the rest of the decade. But by a twist of fate, while supporting their studio album The Long Run with a tour in 1980, Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Felder, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit reincorporated the song back into their set list. On July 28, 1980, at a show in Santa Monica, tapes rolled as the group locked into those tight harmonies once more.
Three days later, after a date in Long Beach punctuated by Felder and Frey promising to beat up the other offstage in between songs, the Eagles were no more. One more album was issued for the Christmas season: Eagles Live, a double LP of performances from that final tour (plus a handful of tracks from the Hotel California era, before Randy Meisner had been replaced with Schmit). The lead single? That haunting version of "Seven Bridges Road." It was the group's 16th career Top 40 hit, and a fitting period on the end of the Eagles' work together - at least, that's what it looked like at the time.
Eagles Live is now available on vinyl from Rhino Records. Classic Rockers readers can get 20% off at Rhino.com with the promo code "EAGLES20."