How The Eagles Wrote “Life In The Fast Lane”
Members of the American soft-rock ensemble The Eagles sit on chairs as the perform on the television show 'Don Kirschner's Rock Concert,' 1979. Bandmembers are (left to right) Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and Don Felder. (Photo by Fotos International/Getty Images)
A Timeless Piece
“Life in the Fast Lane” is the third single from Hotel California – the first album that featured Joe Walsh after he replaced Bernie Leadon. It didn’t crack the top 10 of the US Billboard Hot 100 but it did manage to become a fan favorite. It was also rated by the Rolling Stone magazine as one of The Eagles’ greatest songs.
The band had bigger hits but this track is a classic through and through. It tells the story of a man and woman who had it all but ended up losing everything because of their hedonistic ways.
Since most rockstars were known for living life in the fast lane, a lot of people assumed this was written about the band’s lifestyle. But Glenn Frey revealed in an interview with BBC in 1984:
“Life In The Fast Lane’ kind of expressed the stereotyped LA ‘run around in your Porsche’ 24 hour boogie mode that unfortunately is too true for a lot of people. It wasn’t really a statement about the guys in the band, or about anybody in particular – just it’s kind of disturbing to see the extremes that the bourgeois jet set will involve themselves in. For instance, disco almost turned into a lifestyle, and it’s such a non-meaningful thing on which to base one’s life.”
None of his bandmates denied the fact that the song may have described their lifestyle a little bit but at the end of the day, they rose above it all. The title came from, well, a drug dealer who was with Glenn Frey. He said in History Of The Eagles: The Story Of An American Band:
“I was riding shotgun in a Corvette with a drug dealer on the way to a poker game. The next thing I know we’re doing 90. Holding! Big-Time! I say ‘Hey man!’ He grins and goes ‘Life in the fast lane!’ I thought, ‘Now there’s a song title.'”
Joe Walsh came up with the iconic riff when he was warming up in his dressing room. He told Rolling Stone:
“I had this one lick I’d play over and over as part of warming up. Because it’s really a hard lick to play. And that’s “Life in the Fast Lane.” And [Don] Henley came in and said, “What the hell is that?” He went and got Glenn [Frey] and I played it for them. They said, “Is that yours?” And I said, “Yeah.” And they said, “Well, there’s our Joe Walsh Eagles song!” Don and Glenn, but mostly Don, put the words together, and Glenn kind of arranged it. And there it was. So it’s a Walsh/Henley/Frey tune, and I’m really proud of it.”
“Life in the Fast Lane” stood the test of time. And just like other Eagles classics, it will remain as well-loved in the next 100 years.