In April 1977, the Eagles embarked on a tour of Europe to promote Hotel California. Playing 17 gigs in 5 countries, this was the band’s first major tour of the continent as headliners. This is part one of my four-part series about the tour.
Official tour poster
The Eagles landed in London via the Concorde on April 19th, 1977.1 Their four shows at the Wembley Empire Pool had sold out within days. Dan Fogelberg was originally advertised as the opening act for the European dates, but cancelled in the days prior to the tour. He was replaced with singer-songwriter Valerie Carter.
Original tour itinerary
Sometime after their arrival in London, the band appeared on the BBC Radio 1 program, Rock On, hosted by John Tobler. The interview took place at the Intercontinental Hotel, where the band was staying. At the beginning of the program, Randy gave a rare 6-minute audio interview in which he discusses his career from the Dynamics up to the Eagles. His dry wit is readily apparent, yet he is honest and humble. This interview is unique in that Randy rarely talked to the press, usually leaving that task to Don Henley and Glenn Frey.2 It’s a shame since Randy provided a unique perspective, especially as someone who had been in the trenches longer. Tobler, a noted rock journalist and founder of ZigZag magazine, was clearly familiar with his career (I get the feeling Tobler wanted to ask more questions, but Randy put the kibosh on it by telling him “the rest of it’s down there,” i.e. the rest of the story is on a piece of paper in front of him, so no need to ask him anything else). Listen for yourself below. To hear the interviews with the rest of the band, please visit my post about the program here.
April 25th, 1977
Wembley Empire Pool
Two neon “Hotel California” signs lit up either side of the stage. As Don Felder slipped into the opening strains of the first song, a giant black curtain, which took up the full width of the stage behind them, rose to reveal palm trees and a hotel silhouetted against the California sun, the exact landscape from the album cover. The audience is “justifiably blown away…The second surprise hits them, as it were, from an ambush. Three songs later comes “Desperado” and in the middle of that song another wall-to-wall curtain goes up, this time to put thirty-five strings in the spotlight.”3
The curtain rises on the backdrop at Wembley, April 25th, 1977:
The orchestra, complete with conductor, was positioned in two rows behind the stage, and accompanied the band on three songs: “Wasted Time,” “Desperado Reprise,” and “Take It To The Limit.”
The band played 17 songs with 3 encores.
(via Record Mirror April 30, 1977/Sounds May 2, 1977)
Victim Of Love
Take It To The Limit
New Kid In Town
Wasted Time Reprise
One Of These Nights
Turn To Stone
Rocky Mountain Way
James Dean (encore)
Best Of My Love (encore)
Take It Easy (encore)
Later that night, the band hosted an after-party at their hotel, among the guests were members of The Who, Queen, The Moody Blues, and Elton John.4
Dutch journalist, Jip Goldsteijn, was at the party and interviewed Glenn Frey the next day. Three years earlier, he’d spent some time with the band when they were in London recording On The Border at the Olympic Studio. He recalled their “rather shabby rented house…with four mattresses on a bare floor that were largely hidden by empty bottles. Social contact consisted of a game of tennis at the local club and a chat with the manager of the supermarket where Glenn Frey and Randy Meisner were shopping.”
Four years later, their situation was a bit different. Instead of a run-down house, the band and their crew took up 38 rooms in a posh London hotel. At the party, beer is kept cold in portable refrigerators, with staff standing by to open the bottles for the band. Liebfraumilch was flown in from Germany. The famous guests mingled. One group sat at the bar singing Beagles songs. When journalist Goldsteijn left the party at 3:30am, it was still in progress. He is scheduled to interview the band the next day, but is told that he should not expect them to be available until at least 4:00pm. He recalled that they were only 15 minutes late. He is ushered into one of the hotel rooms where Frey and Henley are reading some of the reviews of their show from the previous night. Although they claim reviews don’t mean much, they are clearly annoyed by the negative ones. Says Frey: “I read all the reviews that are written about us. Sometimes I wish the man in question an incurable disease and then I forget it all again because in the end it doesn’t matter what the media thinks.” Goldsteijn and Frey chat over a meal at a restaurant around the corner from the hotel: “He says he only has one hour and gets clear preferential treatment in the packed restaurant. The food is in front of him within fifteen minutes and in the background you repeatedly hear ‘Take It Easy’ and ‘Witchy Woman.'” He gets off on the attention from fans. He freely admits to Goldsteijn that, of all the Eagles, he is the most “into stardom.”5
April 26th, 1977
Wembley Empire Pool
There is not much info about the second night, with the exception of a few photos. None of Randy.
April 27, 1977
Wembley Empire Pool
British musician, Ian Latimer, was twenty when he attended the Eagles’ third night at Wembley. Below are his recollections of the show:
All Photos in this section courtesy of Ian Latimer.
“I had been a fan of The Eagles since hearing ‘Take it Easy’ five years previously. When it was announced that the band was to play four London shows in the coming spring I had to get a ticket. I tried several ticket agencies but was told there were none available. Undaunted, I took a day off work and caught a train for the three hour journey from my hometown in the North of England. I got into London around lunchtime and caught a tube train to Wembley. There were several ticket touts outside the venue and I managed get a ticket (£20) in the upper tier about a third of the way back with a great view of the stage. The ticket stated that Dan Fogelberg was the support act but, for some reason, Valerie Carter was the opener. I think she played solo acoustic but that’s all I recall.
“The Eagles walked onto a darkened stage and after a few moments the huge Hotel California backdrop and neon signs were revealed as Don Felder played the famous intro. Given that The Empire Pool (now Wembley Arena) is a cavern of a place, from where I was sitting the sound was great. It was the first time I had ever seen a band that recreated their recorded sound almost exactly on stage. It became, and still is, a benchmark for live performance and, as a musician myself, was a great lesson. After ‘Hotel’ Glenn spoke… ‘We’re The Eagles from Los Angeles and this is my buddy Joe Walsh.’ Joe cranked out the opening chords to ‘Walk Away’. Nobody knew there was a string section hidden behind the famous backdrop. As Don Henley went into the second verse of ‘Wasted Time’ the screen rose to reveal a thirty two piece orchestra, all dressed in dinner suits and bow ties, on a balcony above and to the rear of the stage. (You can actually hear this moment on ‘Eagles Live’ as the crowd erupts!). Apparently this was only done three times on this tour. London, Australia and once in the USA. As has often been noted, The Eagles had no ‘stage act’ or theatrics but they just looked so dammed cool! Glenn especially in a white and blue Toronto Maple Leafs hockey shirt and Felder in patched jeans, plaid shirt and braces (suspenders). Randy was playing a natural Rickenbacker 4001 bass. Glenn played acoustic guitar and piano but stuck with his trusty black Les Paul Junior for all his electric parts. Joe and Felder swapped guitars for nearly every song to achieve the distinctive sounds for each tune. I remember Don Felder’s solo in ‘One Of These Nights’ sounding exactly like the record.
“Songs that stand out in my memory are:
‘Hotel California’ – Incredible opening to show.
‘Doolin Dalton/ Desperado Reprise’ – A little heavier sounding than the record but an epic performance.
‘Take It To The Limit’ – Possibly the highlight of the entire show. Randy Meisner’s shining moment with the Orchestra.
‘Desperado’ – Stage bathed in blue light, again with Orchestra.
‘One Of These Nights’ – The Multi-tracked guitar intro on record replaced by power chords from Felder with Glenn on piano. Great lead vocal by Don Henley and Randy killing it on the high falsettos!
‘Turn To Stone’ – Inappropriate and pointless at this point in the show. I (and I’m guessing a lot of the audience) want to hear Eagles tunes!
‘Already Gone’ – Great performance of a great tune. Glenn and Felder face each other on the (dual) guitar solo.
‘Rocky Mountain Way’ – Impressive performance from Joe if a little long.
‘James Dean’ – Glenn dons dark shades for this rocker.
‘Best Of My Love’ – Don Henley on acoustic, Don Felder on pedal steel. (In some parts of the song, when he’s not actually playing anything, Felder rolls the (steel) bar from one end of the strings to the other and back, catching it each time). Harmonies sound amazing.
‘Take It Easy’ – Glenn thanks everyone for coming out and says be careful on the drive home. Giant follow spots swoop around the audience throughout this last song.
“On the way out of the venue I bought an Eagles 1977 European tour t-shirt (long gone), a tour program and a badge (see pics) This show became a benchmark for all others over the years but was never equaled. I saw The Eagles again in 1996 on the first British concert of the Hell Freezes Over tour and while an amazing show (including solo songs from Don, Glenn and Joe) didn’t quite surpass the 1977 concert.” -Ian Latimer, 2022
April 28th, 1977
Wembley Empire Pool
Prior to their fourth and final show, WEA UK (WEA = Warner/Elektra/Atlantic) presented the Eagles with silver and gold records for the UK sales of Hotel California and Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975).
The band also posed backstage for pictures with Elton John and Pittsburgh Steelers’ wide receiver, Lynn Swann.
Following Glenn Frey’s death in 2016, Swann remembered meeting Glenn in London (WR = wide receiver):
For the fourth, and closing, night, the band was joined onstage by their friend, Elton John, for a rousing version of Chuck Berry’s “Oh, Carol.” Randy and Joe Walsh can be seen in the photo duck-walking across the stage.
It was at this show that Randy debuted what would become one of his go-to shirts of the tour. A white Harley-Davidson “Great American Freedom Machines” t-shirt with blue and red stripes. He wore it at least two more times in Frankfurt and Rotterdam.
The next stop on the tour was Glasgow, Scotland on April 30th. Read more in Part Two of the series here:
Glasgow, Scotland & Stafford, England, April/May 1977
I have chosen to only include the reviews in which Randy is mentioned.
Record Mirror, April 30, 1977
Sounds, May 7, 1977
1 London Evening Standard, April 19, 1977. The band also returned to the U.S. via the Concorde. Both departure and landing took place in Washington DC (per Jennifer Meisner).
2During an interview with Cameron Crowe in late 1972, Randy kept silent, choosing to remain “quietly attentive” while the other four band members answered questions. He told Crowe later, “I like to listen.” (San Diego Door, November 4th, 1972)
3“The Eagles Are Not Stars, They Are Successful Musicians,” Jip Goldsteijn, De Telegraf (Amsterdam), April 30, 1977
4De Telegraf, April 30, 1977
5De Telegraf, April 30, 1977. Quotes from Glenn Frey were translated from Dutch.
Special thanks to Ian Latimer for his photos and remembrances.