One problem with groups like Eagles that churned out so many good songs is that you can’t seem to pin down one particular song you really fancy. Always the mood, time, ambiance. I like Timothy B. Schmidt’s I Can’t Tell You Why and Love Will Keep Us Alive. I think TBS was a good addition to the band. Gave it the smoother edge of the band. But Desperado is one you can sing along to when you feel a little down.
Songfacts – http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=458: Don Henley began writing parts of this in the late ’60s, but it wasn’t arranged into a song until his songwriting teammate Glenn Frey came along. It was the first of many songs Henley and Frey wrote together.
Henley explained in the liner notes for The Very Best of the Eagles: “Glenn came over to write one day, and I showed him this unfinished tune that I had been holding for so many years. I said, ‘When I play it and sing it, I think of Ray Charles – Ray Charles and Stephen Foster. It’s really a Southern gothic thing, but we can easily make it more Western.’ Glenn leapt right on it – filled in the blanks and brought structure. And that was the beginning of our songwriting partnership – that’s when we became a team.
Don Henley has always been unhappy about his vocal on this song. He explained to Mojo in 2015: “When we are in England, recording ‘Desperado,’ I was a nervous wreck. I was standing in this huge room, Island Studios, a big orchestra right behind me, and they were bored to tears. Some older gentleman had brought chessboards and they would play between takes. I would hear these remarks like, ‘Well, you know, I don’t feel much like a desperado.’ I was so intimidated that I didn’t sing my best. Our producer Glyn Johns, who is still a friend of mine, I think, wanted to get the album done quickly and economically, and he didn’t let me do many takes. I wish I could have done that song again.”
This is a classic rock staple, but it was never released as a single. Holding it back from single release helped goose sales of the album, and also the various compilations it would later appear on.