Don Henley Hated Only One Eagles Song
via The Howard Stern Show / Youtube
Don Henley is known for two things: his standard in writing songs for Eagles and his beef with his band members. And in one instance, these two converged into a song that Henley hated and dismissed as “smarmy cocktail music”.
Henley, who had a hand in concocting Eagles quintessential songs “Hotel California” and “Heartache Tonight”, hated “I Wish You Peace”, an ironic farewell from guitarist Bernie Leadon who wrote the song with his then-girlfriend Patti Davis.
“Nobody else wanted it,” An annoyed Henley revealed. “We didn’t feel it was up to the band’s standards, but we put it on anyway as a gesture to keep the band together.”
Apart from the song being too un-Eagles, the motivation to dislike the song was also partly political.
A love-hate note from Bernie Leadon
If you find Davis’ name familiar, her parents’ name should ring a bell. Leadon’s girlfriend was actually the daughter of Ronald and Nancy Reagan. Patti changed her last name and used her mother’s maiden name.
Nancy had already disowned Patti around this time, one major reason was the latter’s choice of living together with Leadon as an “unmarried couple”.
The pair resided together from 1974 to 1975, and Leadon caught Davis working on the song one day. He contributed to its completion, and his enthusiasm to include it in the Eagles’ album “One of These Nights,” which they were actively producing, was palpable.
Henley, along with guitarist and co-lead singer Glenn Frey, were against the song’s inclusion in the album. Their reservations were partially tied to their personal disliking of the song and partly stemmed from Davis’ background, given that her father was the Republican Governor of California during that time, five years before his eventual election as president.
In contrast, Leadon held a firm stance in favor of the song’s inclusion, as he recounted in n 2019 interview with Rock History Music.
“I basically let it be known that if they didn’t record that song, that I was gonna break his arm, or something like that,” he recounted with a laugh. “It’s absurd, right? The song is ‘I Wish You Peace,’ but I’m gonna break your f–king arm if you don’t record it.”
Eagles had high standards when it came to writing songs for their albums, and they employed the services of well-known songwriters such as Bob Seger, Jackson Browne, J.D. Souther, and Jack Tempchin.
The inclusion of Davis in this flawless list particularly vexed Henley, who disregarded “I Wish You Peace” as “certainly not something the Eagles are proud of.”
And Henley’s misgivings aren’t without reason.
One of These Nights could do without “I Wish You Peace”
Though some hardcore Eagles fans liked the mellow vibes of the song, a lot of people believed that “I Wish You Peace” was an unimportant inclusion in an otherwise iconic record.
One of These Nights was the California legends’ first record to reach number one on Billboard’s album chart and their commercial breakthrough. This fourth outing was what helped them achieve international superstardom.
But, Leadon’s heavy marks on the album were also the ones singled out by critics, particularly Rolling Stone. The influential magazine harshly pummeled on “Journey of the Sorcerers,” and “I Wish You Peace”:
“One of These Nights is far from flawless. Bernie Leadon’s “Journey of the Sorcerers,” a bombastic instrumental, should have been omitted and his closing ballad. “I Wish You Peace” (cowritten with Patti Davis), comes as a trite after-thought, poorly sung.”
The album was the last record to feature the classic lineup of Henley, Frey, Leadon, and Randy Meisner (along with then-new member Don Felder). Leadon would later leave the band after disagreeing with Eagles’ direction from country to mainstream rock. His replacement, Joe Walsh, would bring forth the band’s intended rock sound with major success in Hotel California.
It was said that Leadon poured a beer over Frey’s head to chill him out and to announce his decision to leave. Not cool.
Not the first time the band fought over a song
Fighting over a song isn’t new for the feisty members of Eagles. The band was known for their altercations, some of them even onstage. And “I Wish You Peace” isn’t the only song that led to a member leaving the band.
Meisner, who co-wrote songs and played bass, had a peculiar reason for his departure: he got tired of singing a hit song he had lead vocals on, the Eagles classic and concert-favorite “Take It To The Limit”. Coincidentally, this song is also from One of These Nights, and a single at that.
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The soaring vocals of “Take it to the Limit” were particularly challenging towards the end and Meisner began feeling anxious about hitting those notes. In response, Frey chastised him humorously, remarking, “Randy, there are millions of people waiting to hear you sing that song. You can’t just say ‘Fuck ‘em, I don’t feel like it. We just got fed up with that. So we said ‘if you’re not happy, quit’”.
And leave he did, but not before nearly bashing Frey’s face in a fight that almost involved calling the security guards in the middle of a tour. Meisner’s replacement was Timothy B. Schmit, who also replaced him in his previous band Poco.
Another casualty of the mic dynamics between the members was Felder, who had long wanted to sing more for the band. While the Eagles members were recording their iconic album Hotel California, Felder had his eye on a song that he insisted he wrote, a track called “Victim of Love”.
Other band members advised him against the idea, but Felder really wanted to do it. As things were winding down during the sessions, the band made one of the biggest dickish moves in music history: they had the manager take Felder to dinner while they re-record “Victim of Love”.
“It was like Don was taking that song from me. I had been promised a song on the next record,” an indignant Felder said of the event. This incident alienated the guitarist from the rest of the band.
The cracks gradually became wider until the band broke up after things heated up between Felder and Frey during a benefit concert for Senator Alan Cranston in Long Beach. The duo threatened to kill each other onstage, and when the concert ended, Felder smashed his guitar onstage, drove off, and never looked back.