20 Years Ago: The Eagles Reunion Begins
The pages of rock history are full of nasty band breakups, and the Eagles‘ — whose 1980 split included the infamous concert during which Don Felder and Glenn Frey agreed to meet backstage for a beatdown — was acrimonious enough that few fans expected to ever see a reunion. But on Dec. 6, 1993, hell started freezing over, all thanks to country superstar Travis Tritt.
It all started when the band’s former manager, Irving Azoff, decided to release an all-star Eagles tribute album through his Giant Records imprint. Released on Oct. 12, 1993, the 13-track collection, dubbed ‘Common Thread,’ honored the group’s country-flavored sound by pairing some of their best-known hits with the top country stars of the day. Tritt’s contribution, which served as the leadoff track, was a new version of the Eagles’ breakthrough hit ‘Take It Easy.’
Giant saw single potential and asked Tritt to shoot a video for the song, so he decided to go for broke. As he later recalled in ‘Country Music: The Encyclopedia,’ he told Azoff, “The only way I’m going to do a video is if we get the Eagles back together.” At first, it looked like a pipe dream; as Tritt put it, “Everybody kind of chuckled and got a big kick out of it, because nobody thought it could happen.”
Of course, Tritt knew going in that he was asking for a lot. “Every time either Glenn Frey or Don Henley had been interviewed prior to that and they were asked about Eagles reunions, they would kind of go, ‘Yeah, when hell freezes over,'” he admitted. “I read an article where Don Henley was asked point blank, ‘Are the Eagles going to ever get back together?’ and he said, ‘No there is no way I see this is going to happen because Glenn Frey and I hate each other.'”
Much to everyone’s surprise, the feuding former Eagles decided they could set aside their differences long enough to hang out with Tritt on a video set shooting pool — and although it wasn’t a true reunion in the musical sense, it proved an important first step in softening old grudges. “I saw a bunch of guys who got together and really seemed to realize that they didn’t hate each other as bad as they thought they did,” Tritt recalled. “I got to be an Eagle for a day.”
Although Tritt’s version of ‘Take It Easy’ wasn’t a huge hit, stalling outside the Top 20 on the country charts, it paved the way for the Eagles’ next project: 1994’s surprising ‘Hell Freezes Over’ reunion tour, which kicked off with an MTV special and hugely successful live album and continued through 1996. And although the band has certainly been through its ups and downs since then — most notably Felder’s contentious firing in 2001 — they remain a consistently successful live act, all thanks to Travis Tritt.