In 1973, as the members of the Eagles began work on their second album, Glenn Frey and Don Henley rented a mountaintop home in Laurel Canyon. Sitting at the piano overlooking the city, Henley played “Desperado,” a ballad inspired by Ray Charles’ Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. Frey told Henley he needed to finish it. “He said, ‘This is really good, man,’” Henley later remembered. The band desperately needed inspiration after the surprise success of their 1972 debut album. “Don Henley and I sort of looked at each other and said, ‘We better start writing some good songs, or we’re not going to be around here for very long,’” said Frey. They found inspiration in a coffee-table book belonging to Jackson Browne, one that covered the history of the gunfighters of the Old West. Reading about the Dalton gang, a family of officers turned train robbers, Frey and collaborator J.D. Souther wrote “Doolin-Dalton,” a meditative ballad about an outlaw stuck in a cycle of violence, gambling, and women. The song became a recurring motif on Desperado, the Eagles’ 1973 sophomore album. “The basic premise was that, like the outlaws, rock ’n’ roll bands lived outside the ‘laws of normality,’” said Henley. “We all went from town to town, collecting money and women—the critical difference being that we didn't rob or kill anybody for what we got. We worked for it.” After Henley and Frey wrote “Desperado,” Frey brought another classic to the table: “Tequila Sunrise.” Frey initially thought it was cliché to write a song about the popular tequila and orange juice drink, but Henley convinced him it could be more than that, resulting in a song about the sad cycle of relationships on the road. “I don't think there's a single chord out of place,” said Frey later. The band also included “Out of Control,” a rowdy party anthem with a fiery slide solo by Frey, and Bernie Leadon’s “Twenty-One,” which he wrote about Emmett Dalton, the young outlaw who survived 23 gunshot wounds when his gang raided the two banks in Coffeyville, Kansas, in 1892. Henley recorded “Desperado” live in London’s Island studios, backed by musicians from the London Philharmonic. “I was scared shitless,” says Henley, who complained years later he could have sang the track a lot better. While Desperado wasn’t a hit, the album proved Henley and Frey could write strong material together. “We were commenting on the ephemeral nature of success in the music business—and the outlaw business,” Henley said later. “We were attempting to presage our own demise. Problem is, we—or at least our body of work—lasted much, much longer than we would ever have suspected.”

Select a country or region

Africa, Middle East, and India

Asia Pacific


Latin America and the Caribbean

The United States and Canada