Although not originally intended as a single from One Of These Nights, “Take It To The Limit” was the Eagles’ first major hit in 1976 & it became Randy Meisner’s trademark song. Here is the story behind it.

Eagles by Norman Seef, 1975


“Take It To The Limit” would be Randy’s seventh songwriting credit with the Eagles (his fourth as co-writer). But he found writing difficult.

 Randy: “It takes me a long time to get something going…I didn’t study English literature so it was harder for me to find words that would go together lyrically. I had a hard time with that. Musically, I could always get an idea or hook line that was good.” (2006)

He credited the Eagles with pushing him to write songs:

“I never wrote for Poco. The Eagles convinced me to try and write. But still to this day writing is real hard for me. I need co-writers and I wasn’t fast enough, like Henley and Frey became.” (1991)

He also felt each member of the Eagles used the band for self-expression and contributed to all of the songs individually:

“We all use the band to express ourselves. If I write a song the other guys are gonna influence it in their own little way. It’s a job keeping us together, happy and compromising. But the idea of the band is that everyone can get to do what they want some of the time.” (1976)

Randy began writing “Take It To The Limit” at his apartment in Studio City, California. In the mid-1970s, Randy and his family alternated between living in this apartment and his large home in Mitchell, Nebraska. Randy’s first wife, Jennifer, describes the Studio City apartment, which was located at 4100 Arch Drive:

“The furniture we had brought from Nebraska: antiques, the bed had been my sister’s and it was painted–or antiqued, as they said then, a sort of pinkish, bluish color, an old wood rocker in there also. A couch and chair Randy and I bought at an antique store in Scottsbluff when we had the Clothes Horse.¹ Randy and I refinished lots of things. He loved antiques.”

Randy outside the Arch Drive building. Their apartment was at the top of the stairs on the right.
Photo by Jennifer Meisner.

The apartment was also filled with whatever Randy needed to write music. Jennifer recalled that there was always a guitar around, as well as a TEAC reel-to-reel recorder and headphones. Sometimes he would ask her to listen to something he was working on: “He would constantly put headphones on me to listen to everything.” He would also write lyrics in a notebook, which he kept close by. One day, while they were sitting in their bedroom, Randy shared lyrics for a song he was working on:

Jennifer: “We were sitting on our bed… He was showing me what he had written, and just asked me which wording would be better.

The lyrics were the opening lines to “Take It To The Limit.”

The next day, Randy’s bandmates, Don Henley and Glenn Frey, came over and they sat around in the small living room tossing ideas around. “We were just sitting on the floor having fun,” remembered Jennifer.

Randy: “’Take It To The Limit’ was a song where we were getting close to recording, and it wasn’t finished. Don and Glenn helped me with the lyrics. I started the song, but those guys helped me a lot.” (2009)

During an interview in 1977, Randy described the meaning behind the line “Take It To The Limit”:

“The line ‘take it to the limit’ was to keep trying before you reach a point in your life where you feel you’ve done everything and seen everything, sort of feeling, you know, part of getting old. And just to take it to the limit one more time, like every day just keep, you know, punching away at it … That was the line, and from there the song took a different course.”

History Of The Eagles, ©Jigsaw Productions, 2013.

According to producer, Bill Szymzyck, “Take It To The Limit” was influenced by “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes:

“Around that time, I was really influencing the Eagles insofar as my greatest love in music has been black music and rhythm and blues, and I had been turning those guys on to all these various records, especially the Philadelphia International label records. The tune of ‘Take It To The Limit’ is based on ‘If You Don’t Know Me By Now’ by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes – I told them to listen to that record, because it was really good. So Randy started to write a real laid back three-chorded thing, and we put the strings on it.” (1982)

“If You Don’t Know Me By Now” – Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes (1972)

Another noteworthy comparison was made by critic Bud Scoppa of Phonograph Record, who felt that “Take It To The Limit” was “based on the theme and orchestrated texture of Jackson Browne’s innovative ‘The Late Show.’”

“The Late Show” – Jackson Browne (1974)


Lyrics for “Take It To The Limit” from the One Of These Nights Songbook, published 1976.

Spread from One Of These Nights Songbook (1976)


One Of These Nights was recorded at the Record Plant in Los Angeles and Criteria Studios in Miami in late 1974/early 1975. It was produced by Bill Szymzyck, who had produced most of their last album, On The Border. (Glyn Johns produced two songs in London). Randy co-wrote and sang lead on two songs for One Of These Nights: “Too Many Hands,” co-written with Don Felder, and “Take It To The Limit.”

Randy: “I didn’t get to shine too often with the Eagles but One Of These Nights turned out to be a big album for me.” (1995)

Below: the Eagles at Criteria Studio, 1975. These photos are from the collection of Kazumasa Matsuo, a Japanese fan, who became acquainted with the band while they were in Miami.

Credits for “Take It To The Limit” from the One Of These Nights album inner sleeve.

Outtake from “Take It To The Limit” recording session:

Below is an early rehearsal for “Take It To The Limit,” possibly recorded at the Record Plant in Los Angeles. You can hear Randy working through the lyrics in the background. There is also some chatter among the band members. I have made note of certain sections below that might be of interest. If you are easily offended by foul language or drug use, this recording isn’t for you. Rock and roll ain’t always pretty.
I cannot stress this enough: earbuds or headphones ARE A MUST if you want to hear the talking and singing. Simply turning up the volume might not work.

“Take It To The Limit” recording session2

:08 – The recording opens with Glenn saying they can move on to Randy’s tune. Randy says if they don’t get to his song, that’s ok.
:44 – Randy coughs
:50 – Randy talks to producer Bill Szymczyck about whether they are recording vocals.
Music starts. You can hear “ooohs” in the background.
2:26 – For the first time we hear the line “The dreams I see today” which will later become “The dreams I’ve seen lately” on the final recording. This gets repeated.
3:35 – Randy cuts in with “that was supposed to be the C, right?” He then utters “Aw, shit.”
Glenn leaves to use the restroom (he refers to it a bit differently in the recording).
There are sniffing sounds and references to “blow.” Draw your own conclusions.
There’s more chatter before the music starts again.
5:37 – Randy sings “Show me the sign.” This will later be “Show me a sign.” He repeats this again at 7:10.
6:00 – Randy sings “Always been a dreamer. And that’s hard to change.” This later becomes “I’ve always been a dreamer. And that’s so hard to change.”
6:50 – We hear “dreams I see today” again.
7:40 band works on the ending.
8:30 Glenn calls Bill S by his nickname “coach.” We hear Randy say: “the maestro.”
8:40: More chatter. Randy asks if it was “slow enough” with a laugh.

Critical Acclaim

One Of These Nights was released in June 1975. It spent five weeks at number one in July and August.

Early reviews of One Of These Nights in Rolling Stone, Variety and The Los Angeles Times mention both “Take It To The Limit” and “Too Many Hands” as among the best cuts on the album. Although, “Take It To The Limit” generally received only passing mentions in reviews for One Of These Nights, Bud Scoppa of Phonograph Record magazine, felt it was “the best lead vocal Meisner’s ever recorded.”

When the Eagles toured that summer in support of One Of These Nights, “Take It To The Limit” was not part of the setlist. Instead, Randy performed his other cut from the album, “Too Many Hands.” The track was his homage to planet Earth a song he was very proud of writing. It had also been the B-side to “Lyin’ Eyes.”

Becoming a Single

In 1988, Randy described how “Take It To The Limit” had never been pushed as a single by the band or record company, but was radio-driven instead.

“What was nice about that it was never really promoted. It was the radio people who chose it without pushing it. A lot of times you’ll push a single, but this one it was on-demand. It was because it was getting played so much, they had to release it as a single. So, that was actually a real nice feeling. And every time we would play it live it would always bring the house down. It was THE song–and it still works pretty good.”

“Take It To The Limit” was released in December 1975. To make the song more “radio friendly,” it was shortened from the original by a full minute. It debuted at #80 on the Billboard Hot 100 on December 13th, where it spent 23 weeks. It peaked at #4 on March 13th, 1976. It became the Eagles’ biggest selling single to date.

Asylum single:

Foreign picture sleeves for “Take It To The Limit” (Asylum did not include picture sleeves with the Eagles’ singles in 1975).

Live Performances

Randy’s live performances of “Take It To The Limit” have arguably become his legacy. Nearly fifty years later, fans are still captivated by the existing footage of these performances and his exquisite vocals.

The first mention of “Take It To The Limit” appearing on an Eagles setlist was at the Sunshine Festival in Anaheim on September 28th, 1975. Los Angeles Times critic, Robert Hilburn, mentioned the song in his review of the festival:

“The hour and a half set spotlighted the various sides of the group’s music from the poignancy of ‘Lyin’ Eyes’ to the sensualness of ‘One Of These Nights’ to the sting of ‘Take It To The Limit’ to the bluegrass infectiousness of ‘Midnight Flyer.'” (Los Angeles Times, September 30, 1975).

Below I have included some noteworthy performances, as well as a couple of personal favorites.

Osaka, Japan, February 2nd, 1976

This is the first known live recording of “Take It To The Limit.” This early rendition is notably different from later versions in that Randy does not hold the high note at the end as long as he does in later performances. He adds “yes, you can” after the line “You can spend all your time making money” and includes a beautiful vocal flourish at the end. Glenn Frey recalled in 2003 that there was “mass hysteria” whenever Randy performed “Take It To The Limit” in Japan.

Eagles – “Take It To The Limit” (live, Osaka Festival Hall, February 2, 1976)

Houston Summit, November 6th, 1976
My personal favorite of the existing live video performances of the song. The Eagles were on tour and putting the finishing touches on Hotel California in Miami at the same time. They were exhausted and it showed. Nevertheless, Randy delivered this beautifully raw version of “Take It To The Limit,” recorded from Houston’s in-house video screen.

Capital Centre, Largo, MD, March 20th, 1977

Randy’s live performance of “Take It To The Limit” at the Capital Centre during the 1977 Hotel California tour has become iconic. I struggle with the notion that Randy was shy on stage because none of that is noticeable in any existing concert footage. To me, he always exuded confidence. This performance is no different and he knew he was being filmed from every angle. He’s not shying away from that high note either. He belted it out for 8 seconds.

Poco – VH1’s Behind The Music, 1989
This beautiful acoustic version includes harmonies only the original members of Poco can deliver.

Watch more performances of “Take It To The Limit” here:

“Nothing Short Of Amazing”

Below I’ve included some of my favorite reviews of Randy’s live performance of “Take It To The Limit.”

Lloyd Noble Center, Norman, Oklahoma, November 8, 1976:
“‘Take It To The Limit,’ with Meisner’s soprano vocals, brought the crowd to a frenzy.” (Marilyn Duck, Oklahoma Daily, November 10, 1976)

Market Square Arena, Indianapolis, IN, November 22, 1976:
“The man who stole the show, perhaps, was bass player Randy Meisner, who sang lead only once. The number was last winter’s giant hit, ‘Take It To The Limit.’ Meisner had ’em cheering long before the finish of the song. His clean, crisp high vocals earned him the only standing ovation for an individual performance.” (Zach Dunkin, Indianapolis News, November 23, 1976)

St Louis Arena, November 23rd, 1976:
“It was Meisner who sang ‘Take It To The Limit.’ It was really well-performed and the crowd reaction was instantaneous, long and loud – so long, in fact, that he told the crowd it was embarrassing him, and he looked as if it were.” (Dick Richmond, St. Louis Dispatch, November 24, 1976)

War Memorial Auditorium, Rochester, NY, March 19, 1977:
“Bassist Randy Meisner’s vocals on his own ‘Take It To The Limit’ was nothing short of amazing. I am referring to one endless note that’s about three octaves above any sound human beings are usually able to sing.” (Barbara Komansky, The Spectrum/SUNY Buffalo, March 25, 1977)

Maple Leaf Garden, Toronto March 30th, 1977:
“When humanity breaks through, it can often dazzle. Randy Meisner’s vocals were a case in point: he appeared throughout to be only passingly interested in the performance, but then stepped to the front for his impassioned vocal on ‘Take It To The Limit.’ Only then was it apparent that this man’s seeming disinterest actually hid some real emotion.” (Paul McGrath, Globe and Mail, March 31, 1977)

Greensboro Coliseum, June 27, 1977:
“Bassist Randy Meisner gave the crowd a good rush when he took a note in ‘Take It To The Limit’ that Anna Moffo would be proud to call her own. Meisner had a great rapport with the crowd. At least twice he came to the aid of fans sweltering on the front lines of the surging floor crowd with some liquid relief. They appreciated it and showed so by making him come to the mike to take a bow for his high note.” (Russ Edmonston, Greensboro Daily News, June 28, 1977)

Myths about Randy’s Refusal To Perform “Take It To The Limit”

In 2013, the Eagles documentary falsely stated that Randy had begun to complain about singing “Take It To The Limit” as an encore and was refusing to perform it. It has been proven that this was completely untrue and, for whatever reason, fabricated by Don Henley and Glenn Frey. In the blog post below, I have provided evidence that Randy performed the song right up until the end of the 1977 Hotel California tour. I also prove that the song was never performed as an encore.

“Take It To The Limit” Discography

Eagles – One Of These Nights (1975) (album version) (4:46)

Eagles – “Take It To The Limit” (album version)

Eagles – “Take It To The Limit” single (1975) (3:47)

Eagles – “Take It To The Limit” (single version)

Eagles: Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975: Vol. 1 (1976) Includes the album version

Eagles Live (1980)
Live version recorded at the Forum in Inglewood, CA between October 20-22, 1976, with orchestra accompaniment.

Randy added vocal overdubs to the original live recording in 1980, prior to the album’s release. (Bam magazine, November 7, 1980)

Eagles – “Take It To The Limit” (live at the Inglewood Forum, October 20-22, 1976)

Randy Meisner (1978)

Randy re-recorded “Take It To The Limit” for his first solo album. Although, he had not initially intended to include the song, he reconsidered after hearing John Hobbs playing it between takes.

Randy: “He played a lot of gospel piano, and gave the song a new feeling. I started singing along, and we finally decided to include it.” (Interview from 1978 press kit)

Randy Meisner – “Take It To The Limit” (1978)

Randy Meisner – Dallas (1983)
Recorded live at Nick’s Uptown Theater in Dallas, Texas, December 1, 1982. Album released in Japan in 1983. CD in 2003.

Randy Meisner – “Take It To The Limit” (live in Dallas, 1982)

Randy Meisner – Love Me Or Leave Me Alone (2003)
Live recording. World Classic Rockers era (per Japanese edition liner notes).

Randy Meisner – “Take It To The Limit” (live with World Classic Rockers)

Eagles – Hotel California 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (2017)
Includes “Take It To The Limit” live at the Forum between October 20-22, 1976. Alternate version from Eagles Live.

Eagles – “Take It To The Limit” (live at Inglewood Forum, October 20-22, 1976, alternate)

Eagles – Legacy (2018)
Includes both the album and single version, plus live version from the Forum (same version as Eagles Live).

Randy Meisner – Live In Denver (2018): Recorded live at Rainbow Music Hall, Denver, Colorado, February 28, 1981.

Randy Meisner – “Take It To The Limit” (live in Denver, 1981)

Eagles – Live At the Forum ’76: Includes version from Hotel California 40th Anniversary Edition.

“Take It To The Limit” has been covered over 50 times by the likes of Tom Jones, Dave Mason, Cher, Miley Cyrus, Etta James, and Willie Nelson & Waylon Jennings.

Final Thoughts

Randy passed away shortly after I began researching and writing this post about “Take It To The Limit.” I couldn’t go back to it right away because it was just too close. But, as time passed, I felt it was important to finish it. “Take It To The Limit” has become a meaningful song to so many people. That was clear in the tributes following Randy’s death, in the comments on social media, and even in personal messages to me from people who just wanted to tell me, fan-to-fan, what Randy and “Take It To The Limit” has meant to them. Music is very personal, and we all react to it in different ways. Randy was proud of the grassroots way “Take It To The Limit” became a hit. It wasn’t a single that was decided upon by the band or record executives, it was fan and radio driven. It was what people wanted to hear at the time. It soothed them. Made them feel happy. And it is still doing so nearly fifty years later.


1 From 1968-1971, Randy and his wife Jennifer owned and operated a clothing and gift store in Scottsbluff, NE called The Clothes Horse.
2Probably from one of the Soul Pole bootlegs. Producer Bill Szymczyk would put together albums of outtakes and funny studio moments to give to friends and family at Christmas. The albums were called “Soul Pole,” his nickname. There are 4 volumes.


Correspondence with Jennifer Meisner, July 2023
“The Eagles: One Of These Nights (Asylum)” by Bud Scoppa, Phonograph, June 1975
“Desperados In Blue Jeans & Sneakers” by Barbara Charone, Sounds, March 27, 1976
The Record Producers, John Tobler & Stuart Grundy, 1982
Desperados: The Roots Of Country Rock by John Einarson, 1991
“Randy Meisner Takes It To The Limit One More Time,” Ken Sharp, Discoveries magazine, September 2006
Canyon Of Dreams: The Magic & Music Of Laurel Canyon, Harvey Kubernik, 2009

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  1. Lawd have mercy, after your insightful and honest Randy review I felt compelled to slip on my headphones and belt out Limit along with him, I accomplished running my cats off while tears run down my face, can’t hit a high C to save my life but dammit Randy Meisner you still bring me joy and always will…!

  2. Wow. Really enjoyed this one. What a great song, great singer, great time of life. Thank you for continuing to bring us all of this lost information.

  3. Jessica, thank you so much for all your hard work in researching and writing yet another wonderful article – an interesting in-depth history of Take It To The Limit, the song we all love so much and never get tired of hearing.

  4. What a Fantastic article Jessica! You always put your heart & soul into everything you do & that really shines here in this one. Thank You so Much for All You do! Randy’s Legacy will Live on Forever!

  5. Saw him do this song with the Eagles in Glasgow – May 1977. Fantastic performance , more than the equal of the Capital one in the video, the ovation went on for at least 5 minutes before they could do another song

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