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BIRDS OF PLAY: FORMER SACRAMENTAN TIMOTHY B. SCHMIT AND THE EAGLES BRING BACK THE PAST

January 18, 1995
Author: J. Freedom du Lac

All good things must come to an end. . . . . Time heals all wounds. . . . . Nothing lasts forever. . . . . Good things come to those who wait. . . . .

Pick a cliche - any cliche.

Go ahead and try to pin one on the recently reunited Eagles, if you must. But know this about America's Favorite Country-Rock Band, whose much-ballyhooed it's-not-really-a-reunion reunion tour - its first after 14 years of absolute inactivity - lands at Arco Arena tonight:

Not even the band members themselves know where this thing is headed. For all they know, bassist Timothy B. Schmit says, the group could end up playing together well into the 21st century. Then again, it could all be over before you can say "Hotel California."

"I'm really not sure how long it's going to last, if indeed it will possibly be a mother ship for the future," says Schmit, a Sacramento native. "I'm just not sure. But right now, it's going along really smoothly."

Yes, life in hell has never been better.

These, of course, are the facts:

The ever-popular Eagles - purveyors of an easily digestible country-rock sound, winners of four Grammys, sellers of over 80 million albums worldwide either broke up or simply began what became an incredibly long hiatus in 1980. Largely due to tensions among band members - and somewhat because of burnout and drugs - the five members of the band at the time (drummer Don Henley, bassist Schmit and guitarists Glenn Frey, Don Felder and Joe Walsh) all went their separate ways, embarking on solo careers.

Asked at one point when the Eagles would fly again, Henley reportedly said: "When hell freezes over."

Last year, hell finally froze.

The last version of the Eagles, which had only two original members (Frey and Henley; Felder joined in 1975, Walsh replaced Bernie Leadon that same year and Schmit replaced original bassist Randy Meisner in 1977), reunited for an MTV special in April, then announced plans for a major tour. Appropriately, the tour was dubbed "Hell Freezes Over."

After recording four new songs that were included on a "Hell Freezes Over" album, which was otherwise filled with greatest hits tracks from the MTV tapings, the band began its reunion tour in Irvine in May.

Of course, it's not really a reunion, so. . . .

"Reunion really is not the right word." Schmit says. "When we first started rehearsing and getting together, it was almost like only a few weeks, maybe a year had gone by - except for the fact it seemed everybody was even more focused than we used to be. We were bent on working very hard to make this thing good.

"I'm not sure what you'd call it, but "reunion" doesn't quite get it. I think if it were a reunion, probably, the other two past members (Meisner and Leadon) might be involved. But the band came back where it stopped, with the same guys who were in it when we stopped. And it's a very cohesive group now.

"It really feels more like a resumption, although . . . . a lot of time went by in between."

It certainly did.

The 14-year hiatus lasted longer than the group itself had (nine years).

Despite the large, richly green stacks of money the group was reportedly offered to get back together over the years, Henley and Co. resisted.

So why now?

"It was just finally time to do this," says the 47-year old Schmit. "We tried to pull it off in 1990, but it just didn't fall into place.

"This time, there was the (3 million-selling country tribute album, "Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles"), there was a cameo appearance by all five of us for the first time in 14 years in a Travis Tritt video (for Tritt's cover of the Eagles' "Take It Easy").

"It just seemed like the right time, and everybody was ready to do it," says Schmit. "So we looked it in the eye and pressed forward."

When the group first got back together in April, Henley - the most openly and harshly bitter member of the Eagles following the breakup - surprisingly said over and over that he was having fun. Likewise the rest of the group, which has a reputation as a no-frills outfit.

Eight months later, Schmit says, nothing has changed on the fun front. Of course, over 14 years after the breakup, he says, some things that tore the group apart in the first place haven't changed, either.

"I think that any group of people have certain things that are ongoing," he says. "That's not to say that things are rocky; they're not. We just couldn't be getting along any better at the moment.

"I just think that some things change and some things don't. There are certain factors that don't go away. And I'm not speaking about animosities; I'm speaking about the whole spectrum of things that go on between people.

"Fortunately, we're older, we're wiser, we're able to communicate better - all those good things." Schmit - who as a teenager played in a popular local band, New Breed, then moved to Los Angeles (where he still lives) to join the country/rock band Poco - never really anticipated the Eagles 1980 breakup.

He saw it coming about as well as a stealth bomber.

"I was pretty naive as to what was going on around me, the Encina High graduate says. "I sort of had blinders on. I was the newest member, I'd only been at it for three years, I was having a great time, my lifestyle had changed dramatically and any problems that I saw within the group seemed just like another little band tussle.

"It didn't really occur to me - or I didn't choose to look at the reality, that was going on. When I finally got the word, because I hadn't been looking at things in reality, it surprised me. I was very taken aback, and I was pretty sad about it all." Surely, it didn't help that Schmit's post-Eagles solo career sputtered and wheezed.

While Henley's solo career took off and Frey enjoyed some mild success, Schmit struggled. None of his solo albums was a commercial success, and only one single, 1987's "Boys Night Out," cracked the Top 25.

"There were a few singles that did fairly well, but my albums didn't really sell so good," Schmit says. "At least not yet. This is an ongoing thing; this is what I do, whether it be in a band or by myself.

"But it's true; it didn't really take off. Of course my desires were there, but I think I started looking at things in a more realistic fashion after the band split up.

"I just tried to do the best work I could. That's all you can do. And there are actually some songs I did that - well, it's just too bad nobody will hear them."

Perhaps you might want to buy all of Schmit's solo albums. You could do that for less than the amount of money people are paying to see tonight's show at Arco.

The group has been heavily criticized for pricing its tickets well above the concert-standard average. Cheap seats to tonight's show are $52, while top tickets run $87 - a Sacramento-area record for pop music concert tickets.

Schmit's feeling about the ticket prices?

You get what you pay for.

"People are always going to criticize," he says. "We certainly don't hurt for attendance, though. People think we're worth it. We do, too.

"We give them a long, intricate show, in which they hear many many Eagles songs and some from solo careers in all different forms and fashions. It's not like we're going out there for 45 minutes and splitting town; we're working. And they're coming.

"Anyway," Schmit adds wryly, "most of the criticism that I've heard comes from a lot of press people who get in for free."

Right.

But not even cynical journalists have detracted from the thrill Schmit has felt since Day One of Round Two for the Eagles.

"I'm thoroughly enjoying it," he says. "It's good music, a lot of people come to see us, and they seem to take the music in like it's food. It's really pretty wonderful."

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