Forty years ago this month, the Eagles wrapped up their 1980 tour with a show at the Long Beach Arena where they got into such a nasty before showtime that it spilled out onto the stage. The gig ended with Joe Walsh’s “All Night Long,” which you can hear right here. It was the last time that they played together until the start of the Hell Freezes Over tour 14 years later.
The Long Beach concert was the culmination of a long world tour in support of The Long Run, an album that took 18 agonizing months to complete. The band was fried by this point and tensions were running very high. Making matters worse, guitarist Don Felder objected to the band’s plan to use the Long Beach show as a fundraising event for California senator Alan Cranston. Felder was initially cordial when he met the senator’s wife, Norma Cranston, backstage and said, “Nice to meet you.” But when she walked away, he couldn’t resist muttering, “I guess.”
Glenn Frey heard this and they got into a heated fight with him shortly before the show began. “We walked onstage, and he came over while we were playing ‘The Best of My Love’ and said: ‘Fuck you. I’m gonna kick your ass when we get off the stage,’” Felder wrote in his 2008 memoir Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles. “Neither of us really wanted to be there that night, and for me it was one gig too many.”
“As the night progressed, we both grew angrier and began hissing at each other under our breath,” he continues. “The sound technicians feared the audience might hear our outbursts, so they lowered Glenn’s microphone until he had to sing. He approached me after every song to rant, rave, curse — and let me know how many songs remained before our fight.”
After the gig, Felder smashed an acoustic guitar to pieces against a concrete column in full view of Frey and the Cranstons. “Within a few days, I’d cooled down,” Felder wrote. “The phone rang. It was our producer, Bill Szymczyk. ‘What’s the schedule for the band?’ I asked. A small silence fell. ‘There is no band at this time,’ he said. It was 1980, and the Eagles were history.”
The Eagles reformed in 1994, but old tensions with Felder remained, and he left the band in 2001. They’ve communicated only through lawyers and nasty comments in the press since that time. Senator Cranston, meanwhile, defeated his Republican opponent in the 1980 election by an overwhelming margin of 1.7 million votes. Whatever money he generated from the concert that night, he surely could have done without. But he does get to go down in history as the guy who inadvertently broke up the Eagles.