Heartache Tonight

Album: The Long Run (1979)
Charted: 40 1

Songfacts®:

  • Don Henley and Glenn Frey wrote this with Bob Seger and J.D. Souther. When Frey was a 19-year-old in Detroit, Seger took him under his wing and got his music career started. Souther, who is sometimes considered an "Unofficial Eagle," was the first person Frey met when he moved to Los Angeles in the late-'60s. When we spoke with J.D. Souther, he told us how this song started: "Glenn Frey and I had been listening to Sam Cooke records at my house. So we were just walking around clapping our hands and snapping fingers and singing the verses to those songs. The melody sounds very much like those Sam Cooke shuffles. There's not much to it. I mean, it's really just two long verses. But it felt really good." (Here's the full J.D. Souther interview.)
  • Bob Seger's contribution to this song was the chorus. Souther told us what happened: "We didn't get to a chorus that we liked within the first few days, and I think Glenn was on the phone with Seger, and he said, 'I wanna run something by you,' and sang it to him, and Seger just came right in with the chorus, just sang it and it was so good. Glen called me and said, 'Is four writers okay on this?' And I said, 'Sure, if it's good.' And he said, 'Yeah, it's great. Seger just sang this to me,' and he sang it to me and I said, 'That's fantastic.'"

    According to Seger, he was in the room with Glenn Frey when he came up with the chorus. He told Entertainment Weekly: "Glenn had the verse: 'Somebody's gonna hurt someone before the night is through.' We hadn't been sitting down for more that five minutes and I just blurted out, 'There's gonna be a heartache tonight!' His eyes lit up huge."
  • The Long Run was the Eagles' last studio album until they re-formed in 1994. There was a lot of tension in the band, and a lot of pressure to make the album perfect. As a result, they spent 3 1/2 years working on the album, which was the follow-up to Hotel California. Frey later explained to Rolling Stone that he learned from the experience: "All one need do was listen to early Stones records to realize that all this striving for perfection is totally unnecessary."
  • This won a Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance By A Duo Or Group.
  • Artists to cover this song include Conway Twitty, Tom Jones (as "A Heartache Tonight"), John Anderson, and Michael Bublé, who did a big band version of the song in 2009.
  • Bob Seger played this at a memorial service for Glenn Frey in 2016. "He was always a positive force in my life," Seger said.
  • The distinctive percussion sound was likely "inspired" by the 1978 Andrew Gold song "Never Let Her Slip Away." J.D. Souther sang backup on that one.
  • Many fans have clamored for Bob Seger to record and tour with his own version of "Heartache Tonight," but he's unlikely ever to do so. "I don't want to face a lifetime of singing that onstage," Seger explained to USA Today. "It's hard to sing! It's at the highest end of my range, really blasting it. Glenn sang the crap out of that."

Comments: 21

  • Mezzamd from Queenslandare they saying bruce
  • Markantney from Biloxi, MsJul 2014:

    Great list P.A. I'd add VHalen and FleetwoodMac. And to show how infected I am by my generation (grewup in the 70s-80s); I'd have to add Journey.

    Their "Lovin Touchin Squeezin" is a slightly better version of "Heartache Tonight" both are excellent though.
  • P.a from Co. Spgs., CoMost excellent song. Kind of retro. To me, as their "finale" album it's reminiscent of how the Beatles in the end flashed back to their roots, "Darling", "One after 909" etc. With the big creative tension the Eagles also had, 1980, I wonder if they didn't , at least subconsciously, think "let's start over, fresh" For me the ultimate American groups were The Eagles, The Doors, The Temptations, The Supremes and CCR. Man, such fine fine music.
  • Aaron from Austin, Tx> nady, adelaide, Australia wrote:
    > I used to think they were saying "Theres gonna be a party tonight, a party tonight I know" blahahaha

    Who didn't?
  • Molly from Niagara Falls, NyThe spoken part at the end is "Break my heart"
  • Johnny from Hershey, Pa, PaThere is a spoken phrase during the last guitar break. I have never been able to understand what the guy is saying. Anybody know what is being said and why it is in the rocording?
  • Ken from Louisville, KyJoe Walsh said it was his favorite track on the album. He said "Glenn sang his ass off on that song."
  • Beck from Columbus, OhFantastic song
  • Cynthia from Scranton, Palove this song! perfect to get you pumped up before a break-up! but only if youre the one doing the dumping!
  • Liz from Smallville, KsI used to think it was party too. lol
  • Nady from Adelaide, AustraliaI used to think they were saying "Theres gonna be a party tonight, a party tonight I know" blahahaha
  • Briar from Hazard, KyJohn Anderson covered this on Tribute To The Eagles
  • Jennifer Harris from Grand Blanc, MiI love this song,too.
  • Joe from Chicago, IlGreat song. Even though it was #1 for only one week, it sold 1 million copies.
  • Ken from Louisville, KyThis song was specifically written to be the opening song of the Eagles' 1980 tour. They wanted a song to get the audience pumped up right from the start, so they opened with the handclaps and solo drum beat, so the audience could join in.
  • Scott from Boston, MaFloyd, Duane Allman never sang vocals. Maybe you mean Gregg Allman, but I don't see the similarities. Just sounds like Glenn Frey to me. I can kinda see the guitar similarities, but even that's a bit of a stretch I think.
  • Floyd from Carrboro, NcThe vocals and guitar in this song sound like Duane Allman.
  • Al from Lafayette, LaThis song was ,I think, the first one released after the earth moving hit HC. The drive to reach ever higher, the tension of being, as a group, that successful is all very great. The desire for perfection and to out-do your last creation must have been enormous. Long Run, if it were released by any new band could have been more successful. However, measuring up to The HC album, it doesn't compare.
    Respectfully
    Al
  • Sara Mackenzie from Middle Of Nowhere, Flok, ok, i admit it: great song...guitar work at the beginning is AWESOME!!!!!!
  • Johnny from Los Angeles, CaYeah, this song is great. It deserves more comments. I didn't know the Eagles had that many problems and didn't release any studio albums. I thought they just had an lame decade with very little substantial work.
  • Pepper from Virginia Beach, Vagreat opening guitar
see more comments

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