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One of these early nights.. ROCKER DON HENLEY ON SPURNING HIS WILD PAST; 'Touring with the Eagles in 70s was all about groupies, drugs and trashing hotel rooms. Now I have lots of sleep and a fitness trainer'; EXCLUSIVE.

Byline: TOM BRYANT Head of Showbiz

Their name may be a byword for melodic country rock, but their behaviour was seldom so harmonious. Drugs, booze, onstage fights, groupies galore - for The Eagles, success was marked by a life of full-on rock and roll excess.

But for founding member Don Henley life on the road is taken at a more sedate pace these days.

Talking to the Mirror as he releases his first solo album in 15 years, he laughs as he says he's swapped the wild times for an alcohol ban, exercise regime and a good night's kip.

"It's certainly very different from the way I used to prepare to go on stage," he says.

"Firstly, there is no alcohol on tour. Sleep is very important. I don't really have a social life - I stay in my room and I try to keep quiet."

Quiet is not a word you would associate with The Eagles in their heyday. After coming together in Los Angeles as Linda Ronstadt's backing band, they struck out alone in 1971 and shifted an incredible 120 million albums worldwide with hits like Take It Easy, One Of These Nights and Hotel California. Their Greatest Hits: 1971- 1975 sold 41million copies worldwide and the Hotel California notched up 25 million.

And their wild antics behind the scenes left an equally huge impres sion. Guitarist Joe Walsh even trav elled with a chainsaw he would use to cut holes in the walls between hotel rooms when the doors were locked. One bill for repairs came to [euro]23,500 and the group were endlessly banned.

Drugs, mainly cocaine, were every where. So much so that Glenn Frey came up with the song Life in the Fast Lane after riding on the Santa Monica highway with a drug dealer known as The Count on the way to a poker game.

The band also liked to go into the desert and take the hallucinogenic cactus plant peyote - one such session inspired the atmospheric cactus picture on the sleeve of their debut album.

Now 68, Don says he enjoys nothing stronger than "a good glass of claret" when relaxing at his home on his ranch in Texas, and things are markedly different on tour.

"I have a fitness trainer who goes on the road with me," he says. "For many years now I've taken a static exercise bike which I put in the dressing room and I ride it for about half an hour before shows, which is the equiv alent to about eight miles.

"Then I do stretching and weightlifting before taking a shower and going on stage."

Don is talking after the release of Cass County, his fifth studio solo album. It has won rave reviews as a return to his country-rock roots, but in fact he never stopped making music after the Eagles imploded in 1980 amid recriminations and violence.

The band didn't play together for another 14 years. Don famously said they would only reunite "when hell freezes over" - so the reunion tour was called Hell Freezes Over.

A major documentary, History Of The Eagles, shone a light on the extraordinary concert in Long Beach, spectacle than the California, which ham-m mered a final nail into themusic... it's just trashy coffin of the band's first run of success.

Tensions between guitarist Don Felder and singer Glenn Frey had become unbear able and Frey was heard to whisper that after three more songs he was going to kill Felder.

Before the show he had broken a beer bottle against the dressing room wall, while Felder smashed his guitar before storming off.

Don Henley, who moved smoothly on to solo success in the 1980s with hit singles Dirty Laundry and The Boys Of Summer, now lives a quiet life with his model wife Sharon and their three teenage children on a ranch in Dallas, 160 miles from the tiny Texas town where he grew up. Is he worried about his kids following in the hedon istic footsteps of their dad?

"We've had those conversations and they are pretty smart kids," he says. "They get it. We live in Texas and interestingly it is all very conservative there. Not that there aren't some of the same temptations and dangers there are for example in Los Angeles.

"But they have grown up near their grandparents and with a family unit with aunts and uncles and cousins, so they haven't given us any trouble in that regard."

Don's new album features guest appearances by stars including Mick Jagger, Alison Krauss and Dolly Parton.

But what does he think about the younger generation of singers, such as Rihanna and Miley Cyrus, known more for their provocative videos than the quality of their music?

Don doesn't single out anyone in particular but he does say: "It is more about spectacle than it is about music. It's just trashy. I don't understand it, because a lot of those people can actually sing. I don't know why they feel compelled to do all the titillating stuff."

He also has strong opinions about the internet and the devastation it has wreaked on the music industry. So much so that he wouldn't recommend his kids to follow in his footsteps.

"I'm not sure I even want them to be in the music business," he says. "There is no music business left. The internet has pretty much destroyed it as we've known it. There is really no money to be made in selling records any more.

"Albums such as the one I've just made are basically nothing more than advertisements for the tour, because music is all stolen online.

"The internet is a wonderful thing and I use it every day, but it has a dark side and one of the facets of that dark side is it is destroying the idea of copyright and intellectual property.

"My son is quite a good musician. He is a good guitarist and drummer but he doesn't seem to be terribly interested, and I'm not pushing him."

The Eagles - who have lately been joined on stage by founder member Bernie Leadon for the first time since 1975 - are continually being linked to the possibility of a swansong performance at Glastonbury - and Don says he would be up for playing the festival.

"I always love playing in the UK and I'd love to come over there. It is the land of my ancestors," he says. "But up to now it has never been logistically possible.

"It's quite expensive to cart around a large band and crew. So if we did Glastonbury I would have to be in the vicinity or already on tour. I would like to do it but I just don't know what I'm going to be doing next year or the year after that."

For now Don is busy promoting Cass County, which was recorded mainly in Nashville and Dalla but is named after the East Texas plains where he grew up and is very much a labour of love.

He recalls: "My first memory of music is me lying in my crib and my mother softly singing as she did her housework... there was always music. This album is a reflection of what I've carried with me for 68 years.

"It's a nod to my native turf in Texas and my family and friends."

Asked why it's been 15 years since his last album, he says: "The Eagles went on the road virtually for 21 years and particularly during these last two years, the touring has just bee intense. Plus, I have three teenagers at home and it is very important for me to be a good father. When I'm not touring I like to be with them.

"So I had to make this album in the little spaces that were left over in between touring and parenting. Those are the primary reason it took so long. I'm very family-focused."

He said working with artists such as Mick Jagger and Dolly Parton was a particular highlight of the recording sessions.

"My main goal was to get people whose voices strike a chord in me.

"Really authentic voices from authentic country singers who are the real deal. They're both that."

Don Henley's solo album Cass County is out now.

tom.bryant@mirror.co.uk

"I have three teenagers at home and it's very important for me to be a good dad "These days it's more about the spectacle than the music... it's just trashy

CAPTION(S):

EAGLES 2015 Leadon, Henley and Frey in Perth, Australia

EAGLES 1973 Randy Meisner, Henley, Frey and Leadon

SOLO STAR Henley in the video for Boys of Summer in 1984

FIRST FLIGHT Don in the early days of The Eagles
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 30, 2015
Words:1455
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