The art show was called “El Chingadero” (Elder’s nickname) and was arranged by fellow artist John Van Hamersveld. The event took place in Venice at a garage that was converted into an art studio. Elder’s artwork was later used on the cover of three Eagles albums: One Of These Nights (1975), Their Greatest Hits: 1971-1975 (1976) and The Very Best Of (2003).
This art show is often touted as the first public performance by the Eagles. This is simply false. Please see my post about the shows in Aspen and Boulder in November and December 1971. There were all advertised gigs in front of an audience. Other articles claim the band was also “unsigned.” This is also untrue. The Eagles signed with Asylum in September 1971. They had just finished recording their debut album a couple of months before the art show.
The poster for the El Chingadero, which also served as an invitation.
The poster was created by Rick Griffin, who later designed the unique lettering for the Eagles’ third album, On The Border:
In Marc Eliot’s biography To The Limit, Elder recalled that the band stood in a corner and played the same songs over and over because they were nervous and didn’t seem confident in their material. Perhaps this is true, but it seems unrealistic. A couple of weeks later, they would set out on a short tour as an opening act for Joe Cocker. So, it seems unlikely that they wouldn’t have had a setlist already worked out. Plus, they had just finished recording their first album. It’s possible that they were nervous to be playing for the first time in front of an audience of their peers.
Below: Jackson Browne watches as the Eagles perform (Randy at left). ©Henry Diltz.
Bernie Leadon, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, David Geffen, and Ned Doheny at the opening. ©Henry Diltz.
The Eagles paid homage to “El Chingadero” in the song “Visions” from One Of These Nights with the line: “Play on, El Chingadero, Play on.” The song was co-written by Don Felder and Don Henley (and sung by Felder). In his autobiography, Felder recalled the line and its meaning:
At one point in the lyrics, Don and Glenn sing, “Play on, El Chingadero, play on.” I learned later that chingadero is Spanish and loosely translates to ‘motherfucker.'”Don Felder, Heaven and Hell: My Life In The Eagles (1974-2001)
Hear the line at 2:02:
Henry Diltz shot footage of the opening, which was shown in the documentary, History Of The Eagles. You can hear the band singing “Tryin'” as well as “Get You In The Mood,” a non-LP track, written by Glenn Frey and Jackson Browne, that later appeared as the B-side to “Take It Easy.” Henley’s narration makes it seem as though this footage was filmed in Colorado in 1971, but it was actually filmed at the art show in April 1972. You can see the artwork on the walls at :26, plus Jackson Browne, who is wearing the same clothing as the photo above. More footage from the event can be seen here.
Footage from History Of The Eagles ©Alison Ellwood, Jigsaw Productions, 2013.
Read more about the opening here.