38 years ago, the Eagles crashed in ‘Long Night in Wrong Beach’

Today is a sad, sad day for whatever Eagles fans remain on this side of the daisies. It’s the 38th anniversary of the so-called “Long Night in Wrong Beach,” when the outwardly mellow rockers burst into flames and called it quits after their July 31, 1980 concert that fell just shy of an all-out brawl between founding member Glenn Frey and second-chair guitarist Don Felder.

Probably the only thing that prevented physical violence was the fact that both musicians were burned out and reduced to about 90 pounds apiece after a year-and-a-half of recording and touring fueled by voluminous amounts of various liquids and powders.

The band’s performance that night was a charity affair arranged by Frey to benefit Sen. Alan Cranston’s reelection campaign that year. Backstage before the show, Cranston’s wife, Norma Weintraub, thanked Felder for doing the performance. Apparently not realizing the show was a benefit, he said “Thank you,” before muttering to his wife, “…I guess.” Frey heard the aside and took it as an insult to Cranston, and, what with nerves being frazzled, a declaration of war.

And then the fun began.

Obscenities, violent epithets and dark threats. Frey threw a seven-letter adjective at Felder, who came back with, “That’s an honor, coming from you.”

In his autobiography, “Heaven & Hell: My Life in the Eagles,” Felder recalled, “We walked onstage and Frey came over while we were playing ‘The Best of My Love’ and said, ‘F—you. I’m gonna kick your ass when we get off the stage.”

Maybe. No set list from the show indicates the band even played “The Best of My Love” that evening, but don’t let that ruin a good story. The point is, things didn’t simmer down. Threats from both guitarists bounced back and forth through “Lyin’ Eyes” and “I Can’t Tell You Why,” as sound techs muted Frey’s microphone when he wasn’t singing.

In the book, Felder recalled that Frey “approached me after every song to rant, rave curse and to let me know how many songs remained before our fight.” As Joe Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way” was firing up, Frey gave Felder the heads-up: “Only three more songs before I kick your ass, pal.”

The show ended without a skirmish. Felder, knowing he was going to throw a fit, told his guitar tech to leave his Takamine guitar just off the stage and when the show ended, Felder picked it up and slammed it against a concrete pillar in a show of anger, which didn’t diminish when Frey said, “Leave it to you to smash your cheapest guitar.” Felder jumped into a limo and was driven away before anything newsworthy occurred. And when bassist Timothy B. Schmit called Frey the following morning for a debriefing, Frey told him the Eagles were finished.

And they were, until hell froze over over 14 years later and the band reunited, bigger than ever. It went through some personnel changes. Following Frey’s death in 2016, the band added his son, Deacon Frey, and Vince Gill played some 2017 dates. Felder was let go, and the band has steered clear of Long Beach ever since the Long Night in Wrong Beach.

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.
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