When Eagles Joined Richard Marx: Book Excerpt
Singer-songwriter Richard Marx looks back on a lifetime of memories in his recently published memoir, Stories to tell. The making of her hit single “Don’t Mean Nothing” from 1987, which appeared on her self-titled debut album, was a particularly unforgettable experience as it included a collaboration with three members of one of her favorite bands: Eagles .
It was Marx’s manager, Allen Kovac, who sparked the idea. In 1986, when Marx performed a demo of “Don’t Mean Nothing” at Kovac, he immediately recognized the song’s potential success as a single. Kovac also spotted a musical style that was reminiscent of a certain band.
“That has a bit of an Eagles vibe to it, right?” “Marx remembered Kovac telling him back then.” I said, “Yeah, I guess so. I’ve always loved them and I know every album by heart, so it probably crept in there- in.’ Allen said: “I’ve known Randy Meisner for a few years. We should see if he would like to sing backing vocals on it. I said, ‘Wow! That would be amazing!’”
It seemed to be fate. In an excerpt from Stories to tell, Marx tells how not one, not two but Three Eagles helped create his first single.
Sure enough, a few days later Allen called with the good news that Randy loved the song and would be happy to come into the studio and sing along. And then I remembered that Bruce Gaitsch had recently worked with Timothy B. Schmit. I asked Bruce to contact Timothy to join Randy and I in the backing vocals, and we got a yes from him as well. I was like a kid. I could hardly believe it.
We recorded the base track on “Don’t Mean Nothing” at Capitol Studios with an excellent rhythm section of Bruce on guitar, John Keane on drums, Nathan East on bass and Michael Omartian on piano. Michael was and is not only a brilliant pianist, but he was also a successful writer and producer in the ’80s and’ 90s for everyone from Christopher Cross and Donna Summer to Rod Stewart and Jermaine Jackson. I knew Michael a little bit and admired his musicality a lot, and I was also a bit unsure of my piano playing and thought Michael would be better suited to the track. I was right. His performance is a fucking killing.
I recorded my lead vocals later that night, and a few days later Randy Meisner and Timothy Schmit arrived at the studio to do the backing vocals. They had both been members of the Eagles (and the Poco band), but at different times, as they both played bass in the band. They had met briefly before but had never worked together until my session. The three of us worked out harmonies, deciding that because we all had a similar scale, we would get a great take, then switch parts on the second and third passes, which would have all of our voices singing every part. When we listened to the reading, I got chills all over my body. This feeling … this feeling: it’s like the heroine. I’ve felt it so many times, and I still can’t get enough of it. It really is the ultimate motivation for me to create.
I thanked Randy and Timothy profusely. Neither would accept any payment. There I was, an unknown singer making his debut album, and two of the Eagles were on board for free. As Randy left the studio he said, “I noticed you haven’t cut a guitar solo on this yet.”
“Yeah,” I say. “We still have a few overdubs to do.”
Randy said, “I’m still buddies with Joe Walsh. I bet he would love to play on it.
I just looked at Randy. “Don’t be kidding me, man.”
He’s laughing. “I can’t promise he will, but I’ll ask him if you want to.”
“Are you kidding? I want to!”
A few days later my manager called me. “Dude. Walsh loves the song and wants to play the solo. We just need to find a moment in his schedule.
The inside of my head was spinning. I had a good feeling this was going to happen, but the reality was quite breathtaking.
It was about a week later that my engineer-co-producer David Cole and I anxiously sat inside Capitol’s Studio C and waited for Joe to arrive. I invited Randy Meisner to be there, and when Joe walked in and saw him, his eyes lit up and he threw his arms around Randy. They hadn’t seen each other in quite a while and Joe’s affection for Randy was evident. Joe was warm, friendly and immediately complimented me on the song. We launched the song and Joe spent a few minutes composing his sound before he started recording takes. His second attempt is what’s on disk. It was inspired and perfect. And now that little song that Bruce and I composed in my house in Vermont wasn’t just my first single on EMI Manhattan Records, it was a mini-Eagles reunion. We were all very excited about the song and the launch of my career as an artist.
Top 100 rock albums from the 80s
Ultimate Classic Rock takes a chronological look at the top 100 rock albums of the 80s.