Saturday, November 10, 1979

Eagles “Heartache Tonight” hit #1

Heartache Tonight


Writer(s): Glenn Frey, Don Henley, J.D. Souther, Bob Seger (see lyrics here)

Released: September 18, 1979

First Charted: September 28, 1979

Peak: 11 US, 11 CB, 11 HR, 14 RR, 38 AC, 1 CL, 40 UK, 12 CN, 13 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 5.6 video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

The Eagles formed in 1971 as a country-rock band. Thanks to rotating band members, their sound became more album-rock oriented, reaching its zenith with 1977’s Hotel California, one of the biggest albums of all time. Singer and drummer Don Henley acknowledged, “We probably peaked on Hotel California.” FB “The band was road-weary and partied out. They were snorting legendary amounts of coke. They hated each other. They didn’t want to be a band anymore.” SG However, they managed one more album – 1979’s The Long Run – before their demise.

Glenn Frey said, “Everything changed for me during The Long Run. There was so much pressure that Don and I didn’t have any time to enjoy our friendship.” FB He said, “I knew the Eagles were over halfway through The Long Run.” FB

While not as well-received as Hotel California, The Long Run sold well and spawned three top-10 hits. The first of those, “Heartache Tonight,” would give the Eagles their last #1 hit. It “is a breakup song, but it’s not a sad one. Singing in his usual tight harmony with Henley, Frey considers the forthcoming end of a relationship as if it’s an inevitability.” SG “Frey sounds surly and impatient, as if he would like this cataclysm to hurry up and happen. He also sounds vaguely horny…He wants the breakup, and he wants the breakup sex.” SG

“The song is built around a big, rude, almost glam-rock drum-stomp…Guitars purr and snarl. Frey starts out in a high, clenched upper register and moves onto pseudo-blues shouting.” SG The song came about when Frey was listening to Sam Cooke records with J.D. Souther, a longtime friend and collaborator with the band who’d co-written their chart-topping hits “Best of My Love” and “New Kid in Town.” Frey and Souther came up with a few verses and Bob Seger, “who’d been a bit of a mentor to Frey in his pre-Eagles days, wrote the chorus…on the spot and sang it to Frey over the phone.” SG Frey and Henley finished the song later.


  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Eagles
  • FB Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 514.
  • SG Stereogum (2/28/2020). “The Number Ones” by Tom Breihan
  • WK Wikipedia

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First posted 6/30/2022.

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