When The Eagles broke up in 1980 at the near-height of the band's popularity, it could have been a major blow to the musical fortunes of the band's remaining members. However, the '80s - particularly the decade's first half - featured plenty of music from all but one of the band's total of seven members. While de facto band leaders Don Henley and Glenn Frey enjoyed the greatest pop success, the other four also made notable music during this time. Here's a chronological look at the best ex-Eagle solo songs of this period.
Guitarist and singer-songwriter Joe Walsh was a seasoned band leader and journeyman session player long before he joined The Eagles in late 1975, so perhaps it made sense that he would hit the ground running post-breakup as a continuing solo artist before any of his bandmates would. This track, featured on the soundtrack to the hit film Urban Cowboy, showcases Walsh's signature guitar style and is built solidly on one of his memorable riffs. It's a song about fun that may never stretch beyond such modest aims, but it's satisfying nevertheless.
As an original member of country-rock pioneers Poco, Meisner had already experienced plenty of internal band strife through his less than amiable departure from that group in 1968. So upon his departure from The Eagles in 1977 after years of conflict, it probably came as little surprise that Meisner landed on his feet quite ably into a solo career. Resulting success was modest, but at least Meisner was able to exercise his talents fully as a songwriter and lead singer. This song showcases Meisner's pleasant vocals and also his keen ability to merge sunny country-rock with a bright pop sensibility.
Brought on as a second guitarist for The Eagles in 1974, Felder did much to beef up the band's sound even before the addition of Walsh moved the group far away from its country-rock roots. He also happened to be a gifted writer and singer in his own right, a fact made clear on this underrated track from the soundtrack to the 1981 cult animated film classic Heavy Metal. Felder's lead and riff work particularly shines here, but his spirited lead vocals make one wish he'd been given a few more chances in that role while with The Eagles.
The genesis of this 1981 Top 40 single from Walsh's LP from that same year, There Goes the Neighborhood, actually stretches as far back as 1973, when Walsh wrote and recorded it with Barnstorm, his first solo band following his exit from James Gang. However, during his tempestuous and wildly successful ride with The Eagles, the track had remained shelved and incomplete. In its polished form, the song boasts an unforgettable opening and one of Walsh's most fully realized melodies. A great mid-tempo rock song on all fronts, the tune is so good it doesn't even need Walsh's distinctive lead guitar lines to supply their stamp of distinctiveness.
No other Eagle embraced the new sound of the '80s - namely its focus on keyboards and mechanical drum beats - like Don Henley. His solo work, in fact, starting with his debut LP I Can't Stand Still, has absolutely nothing to do with the country-rock sound of his early years. Nevertheless, Henley found relatively instant success with this track from late 1982, which reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Lyrically, Henley targets the vapid and sensationalist tendencies of pop culture and news reporting, showing a fearlessness that was welcome and unusual for the time. "It's interesting when people die" is just one line that gets truer every day.
Though leaps and bounds away from the laid-back sound he perfected so memorably as lead singer on Eagles standouts like "Peaceful Easy Feeling" and "Lyin' Eyes," this saxophone-fueled pop song still manages to showcase Frey at his understated yet passionate best. Musically, this one embraces the '80s in a way that almost seems to deny Frey's rootsy past, but somehow the slick arrangement doesn't get in the way. Frey's songwriting here is quite simplistic with a direct romantic tone, but his tale of a heartbreaking love dilemma carries plenty of genuine emotional heft.
While "You Belong to the City" may well be impossible to challenge as Frey's finest soundtrack song of the '80s, this "other" track featured on TV police drama Miami Vice comes awfully close in terms of quality. Frey's interest in acting came along at the right time, not only because he starred on a related episode of the aforementioned show, but also because the rise of MTV helped promote his work for TV and film (including "The Heat Is On," the wildly popular 1985 hit from Beverly Hills Cop). Even so, the tasteful slide guitar neatly complements Frey's well-drawn fast-lane themes in "Smuggler's Blues."
To bypass entirely for this list Henley's 1984 album Building the Perfect Beast (particularly its hits "The Boys of Summer," "Sunset Grill" and "All She Wants to Do Is Dance") may seem like a bold move, but the quality of this title track from his long-awaited 1989 release is also quite high. Having focused on "The Boys of Summer" and "The Last Worthless Evening" elsewhere, I choose here to praise this somber, mature take on life's challenging complexities. Henley has often gravitated toward social commentary before, but here he excels through restraint. Ultimately, his lyrics - combined with Bruce Hornsby's music - strike a perfect intelligent pop balance.