How Eagles Wrote ‘Tequila Sunrise’ in a Week
For the Eagles' debut self-titled album in 1972, Don Henley and Glenn Frey purposefully chose to not write songs together, opting instead to write on their own and bring their respective work to the recording studio.
It wasn't until their second album, 1973's Desperado, that the pair was ready to join forces. Within the first week of collaboration, they had written the LP's title track and its first single, "Tequila Sunrise."
It was, as it turned out, surprisingly easy to write alongside one another. In the 2013 documentary, History of the Eagles, Frey remembered casually strumming a riff on his guitar that he thought sounded "kinda Roy Orbison, kinda Mexican." He showed Henley and said, "Maybe we should write something to this."
Henley was right on board, already impressed with the song's basic structure.
"The changes that Glenn came up with for the bridge are very smart," Henley recalled in the liner notes of 2003's The Very Best Of. "That's one song I don't get tired of. 'Take another shot of courage' refers to tequila - because we used to call it 'instant courage.' We very much wanted to talk to the ladies, but we often didn't have the nerve, so we'd drink a couple of shots and suddenly it was, 'Howdy, ma'am.'"
Listen to Eagles' 'Tequila Sunrise'
It was Henley who convinced Frey that he should title the song "Tequila Sunrise," which served as a sorta metaphor for California drinkers.
"I believe that was a Glenn title," Henley recalled in The Very Best Of liner notes. "I think he was ambivalent about it because he thought that it was a bit too obvious or too much of a cliche because of the drink that was so popular then. I said 'No - look at it from a different point of view. You've been drinking straight tequila all night, and the sun is coming up!' It turned out to be a really great song."
"I love the song," Frey said. "I think the goal of any songwriter is to make a song appear seamless, to never show the struggle. Nothing should sound forced. 'Tequila Sunrise' was written fairly quickly, and I don't think there's a single chord out of place."