As the ’60s bled into the ’70s, the counterculture that had started so psychedelically was already turning rootsy and rust-colored. Out of that earthy aesthetic came country rock. Emblemized by The Byrds with the group’s 1968 album Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, the new country-rock genre gained steam thanks to other notable practitioners like Linda Rondstadt, Poco, and former Byrd Gram Parsons. It was Ronstadt who assembled a group of L.A.-based backing musicians in 1971—a group that soon decided to continue on without Ronstadt as the Eagles. Of its founders—Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Randy Meisner, and Bernie Leadon—only the latter two original Eagles had any real country-rock credentials (as former members of Poco and Parsons’ Flying Burrito Brothers, respectively).
As it turns out, the Eagles’ supposed level of authenticity became an issue. Critic Robert Christgau said the band’s self-titled 1972 album was “suave and synthetic—brilliant, but false.” That overall impression dogged the group until its 1980 breakup, and it would continue through various reunions up until now; the Eagles are still dismissed by many listeners and critics in more or less the same terms Christgau used. Granted, The Dude’s oft-mimicked exhortation of “I hate the fuckin’ Eagles, man!” in The Big Lebowski gave a whole new generation of haters a convenient way to brush aside the band without actually having to think or talk about its music.
The Eagles’ narrative is not one of the underdog; Frey, Henley, and crew remain one of the most successful bands in the history of popular music. And there’s no denying that so many of the group’s hits from the ’70s—from its Jackson Browne cover, “Take It Easy,” to the infamously overplayed (and overblown) “Hotel California”—can sometimes sound like little more than sepia wallpaper. That’s a shame, because many of those songs deserve a fair hearing. They’re not all coked-up, decadent rock-star lullabies, as the stereotype would have everyone believe. Here are 14 non-hits that show the Eagles are better than you think.