Rewinding the Charts: In 1978, the Eagles Found a 'Home' for the Holidays

GAB Archive/Redferns
The Eagles photographed in 1977. 

The California rockers bridged their smash LPs "Hotel California" and "The Long Run" with a cover of Charles Brown's Christmas classic.

BY 1978, THE EAGLES HAD SOLIDIFIED their dominance among American rock bands, having earned four No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, among them, the title song to their 1977 album, Hotel California, which was on its way to becoming the Los Angeles-based group's signature song.

Before recording their follow-up, The Long Run, the Eagles – then consisting of Glenn Frey, 30; Don Henley, Don Felder, Joe Walsh and newest member Timothy B. Schmit, all 31 – decided to serve up a little holiday cheer: a cover of Charles Brown's 1960 carol "Please Come Home for Christmas." Released with the B-side "Funky New Year," the songs were the first that Schmit recorded with the band. "I was quite happy with how smoothly it all went," he recalls. "It probably only took us about a week to finish both sides."

"Please Come Home for Christmas" debuted at No. 78 on Dec. 9, 1978; soared from No. 45 to No. 20 in its third week (Dec. 23); and peaked at No. 18. Nearly a year later, The Long Run arrived, and its first single, "Heartache Tonight," became the Eagles' fifth and final Hot 100 No. 1. The band split in 1980 but reunited in 1994 for its Hell Freezes Over album and tour.

The Eagles released Long Road Out of Eden, their sixth No. 1 on the Billboard 200, in 2007 and remained a touring force until Frey's death on Jan. 18 at the age of 67 due to complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia. In November, on the eve of the band receiving Kennedy Center Honors, Henley reiterated that the Eagles would not continue without Frey.

Still, the band's iconic catalog lives on, with Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 certified 29-times platinum by the RIAA – the second-best total of all time – and "Please Come Home for Christmas" a staple of yuletide programming. Schmit says he still enjoys hearing the song "floating out of a department store, or on the radio, every season. It's pretty sweet."

This story first appeared in Billboard's 2016 year-end issue, dated Dec. 17.


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