Popgala ’73

On March 9th, 1973 (one day after Randy’s 27th birthday), the Eagles performed at Popgala, a two-day, made-for-TV pop festival in Voorburg, Netherlands, which featured thirteen bands, and aired a week later in a three-and-a half-hour special on Dutch television.

POPGALA ’73


Popgala was created as an alternative to the Grand Gala du Disque, which was a yearly festival organized in 1960 by the CCGC (Committee for Collective Gramophone Campaigns, a conglomerate of Dutch record companies) as a platform for presenting their annual Edison Award (the Dutch version of the Grammy),1 as well as a showcase for national and international classical and popular artists to perform. By 1973, the Grand Gala du Disque was deemed a bit old-fashioned and the CCGC decided to put on a Popgala with a more daring, rock-oriented lineup. It would be filmed over two-days and air on March 16th on VARA, Dutch public television, as well as on the radio.

Eagles at Popgala. March 9, 1973.
L-R: Randy Meisner, Don Henley, Glenn Frey, and Bernie Leadon.
Photo by Gijsbert Hanekroot.


The event was poorly organized from the beginning. Initially set to host was ex-Beatle Ringo Starr, but Starr backed out, reportedly due to a “communication failure.” Most likely they couldn’t meet his terms. He was replaced by Dutch disc jockey, Joost den Draayer.

A number of the acts scheduled to appear bailed in the weeks prior to the event. Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Donovan, The Temptations, T. Rex, Dr. Hook, Billy Preston, Wishbone Ash, and Roxy Music. As one paper put it: “Only Roxy Music apologized.” The final lineup included: Slade, Country Gazette, The Who, Gary Glitter, Colin Blunstone, Chi Coltrane, Eagles, Livin’ Blues, The Faces, Rory Gallagher, Ry Cooder Argent, and Super Sister.

Sporthal De Vliegermolen, Voorburg


In order to film the event for television, two opposing stages were set up inside the Vliegermolen, with a director’s platform in the middle. That way, as one act performed, the other stage could be set up for the next act.

Construction of the stage with the arched lighting fixture.

This short video pans the inside of the Vliegermolen showing a stage on one side of the hall, the director’s platform, then people walking around in front of the stage at the other end (source):

Although the festival was initially planned to be invitation-only, tickets were eventually sold to the public for a “hefty” price. There were about 3,000 attendees in all. There were also a multitude of sound and technical issues that plagued the show.

Despite the hefty entrance fees (15 and 25 guilders), this event, which was set up to give full attention to pop music outside the annual Grand Gala du Disque Populaire, turned out to be a mainly television-dominated affair. The accompanying technical hassles caused a messy, unfocused atmosphere for both the musicians and the audience. This was not made any better by the clumsy way in which the public was informed about the opaque course of the program by the well-known disc-jockey Willem van Kooten (Joost den Draayer). In addition, a directing platform in the middle of the sports hall, with two opposing stages, a faltering sound system and assistants and producers hastily running back and forth created the impression of a TV studio rather than a concert hall. The lack of real concert hall atmosphere was clearly noticeable, with a few exceptions, in the musicians’ playing. 

Algemeen Dagblad (Rotterdam), March 12, 1973 (translated)

Meanwhile, backstage…

Everything was done to get the pop stars in a good mood. With pinball machines, large amounts of booze, imitation palm trees and easy chairs, an attempt was made to create an atmosphere in which they would feel at home. 

Algemeen Dagblad (Rotterdam), March 16, 1973 (translated)

Since the televised show would be three-and-a-half hours long, the performances of the thirteen featured acts would have to be edited to fit the program. Therefore, only three of the thirteen songs the Eagles performed made it into the final broadcast: “Take It Easy,” “Train Leaves Here This Morning,” and “Witchy Woman.”

Program for the Popgala television broadcast.
Leidse Courant, March 16, 1973

The television broadcast from March 16th, 1973 no longer exists. However, bootleg video resurfaced many years later, comprised of film from the cutting room floor, which explains the disjointed nature of the Eagles footage, with odd camera angles, etc. The sound problems that marred the show are also clearly noticeable. Missing from this video footage is “Train Leaves Here This Morning,” as well as Glenn Frey’s introduction of the band. However, the audio of the Eagles portion of the televised broadcast does survive. You can listen to the full 15 minutes below.

Sequence: “Take It Easy,” “Train Leaves Here This Morning, band intro by Glen Frey, and “Witchy Woman.”

·

It’s not surprising that “Take It Easy” and “Witchy Woman” were chosen for the broadcast. They were songs that would have been familiar to audiences at the time. But, “Train Leaves Here This Morning” seems an odd choice, especially over a more popular tune, like “Peaceful Easy Feeling.” But, the Dutch considered Bernie Leadon the real star of the band. Of the four Eagles, he was the only one chosen to be interviewed by the Amsterdam newspaper.2 One journalist even referred to Bernie as “clearly the leader” of the band.3 So, perhaps that’s why “Train Leaves Here This Morning” a Bernie Leadon/Gene Clark composition from the Eagles’ first album (that was recorded four years earlier by Dillard & Clark), was included in the final broadcast.

Besides some grainy footage of the band singing “Tryin'” in a bar in Aspen, CO in late 1971, these Popgala outtakes are the first known footage of the Eagles performing on stage (BBC In Concert was filmed about ten days later).

Popgala ’73 Setlist:

Come All Ye Fair & Tender Ladies
Take It Easy
Tequila Sunrise
Saturday Night
Train Leaves Here This Morning
Peaceful Easy Feeling
How Long
Certain Kind Of Fool
Outlaw Man
Out Of Control
Witchy Woman
Tryin’
Earlybird


None of three songs on which Randy sang lead made it into the televised broadcast. Despite this, they do mark the first live performance of “Certain Kind Of Fool,” a song written by Randy with the help of Don Henley and Glenn Frey, for their second album, Desperado, which had not yet been released.

Also performed was “Tryin’,” a song Randy wrote for the Eagles’ debut album in 1972. Note Glenn clapping and trying to rev up the audience before the song. The sound problems are evident since Randy can barely be heard at the beginning. Randy flubs the lines to the third chorus, but goes on like a trouper, with the help of Frey. At the end of the song, Randy walks off without thanking the audience, uncharacteristic for him, but when the applause continues for several seconds, he returns to the mic to say “thank you” (at 4:20 mark).

The Popgala outtakes also feature the only known footage of the original Eagles singing J.D. Souther’s “How Long.” This song was a regular part of the Eagles set in 1972-73, but it was never recorded because Souther wanted it to appear on his first album.4 The song was rediscovered by the band thirty-five years later when they saw the outtakes from Popgala on the internet. They decided to finally record the song and it appeared on their 2007 album, Long Road Out Of Eden. Listen Here. To me, this version cannot compare with the raw, rocked-out Popgala performance, in which Glenn, Don, and Randy all take leads (although due to the sound issues, you can barely hear Don’s section).


Before appearing at Popgala, the band sat for a series of photos by rock photographer, Peter Mazel.5 Note that the band is wearing the same clothing that they wore on the show.

Not surprisingly, there was no Popgala ’74. The Grand Gala du Disque returned the next year.

The existing Eagles’ Popgala ’73 performance can be watched in its entirety here.



Notes:

1The Eagles won an Edison later that year for Desperado. They accepted the award in a ceremony at the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam on November 12, 1973. Read more here.

2“Bernie Leadon: It’s A Miracle We Survived Success,” De Telegraaf (Amsterdam), March 15, 1973.
According to the article, Leadon was also considered the most well-known of the band from his work in the Flying Burrito Brothers and Dillard & Clark. Naturally, Randy was considered the second most well-known due to Poco and the Stone Canyon Band.

3De Volkskrant, March 12, 1973

4Interview with Glenn Frey, History Of The Eagles documentary, 2013

5Mazel also photographed the band before their concert at De Doelen in Rotterdam on November 13th, 1973. Again, they were wearing their onstage attire.


5 comments

  1. A wealth of information and scene setting about this concert. Mazel’s photographs made me smile. The Eagles all had ‘dopey’ looking expressions on their faces.

    • Thank you, Leah. Your compliments mean a lot.

      As for the photos. “Dopey” is right. That Dutch dope even made Henley smile.

Leave a Reply