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How Don Henley, a Corvette and a mound of cocaine spawned one of The Eagles' greatest hits


The Eagles may well have been the kings of the soft rock scene that was emanating from the golden shores of America’s west coast, but that doesn’t mean everything associated with the band was mellow. The group were famously huge cocaine users, with Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler once claiming that the heavy metal icons had to do some heavy-duty cleaning of the studio the Eagles had used because “they’d left about a pound of cocaine in the board”.

Considering Sabbath’s own notorious past, their admission of Eagles as the top dogs when it came to snorting powder is really some feat. But, despite what their music may suggest, The Eagles were party monsters and even called their after-parties “the thrid encore” to fits of giggles and delight. While after-show parties and cocaine in the mixing booth may sound glamorous, as with all drugs, there has to be a source.

Often, that source is in an undesirable location or with an equally unpleasant person involved. There are likely countless times when members of the Eagles were engaging in such practices, but there was only one time when it would inspire one of the group’s finest songs. Don Henley has often noted how cocaine operated as a “writing tool” for the band before admitting “at the end, it brought out the worst in everyone”. However, on this occasion, it wouldn’t be the drug that enabled Henley to write a song but the experience of going to pick it up.

‘Life in the Fast Lane’ is a song that not only ranks as one of the band’s greatest tracks but spawned a saying we all use to this day. The song was originally penned around a riff Joe Walsh would use to warm up; it was jointly written by Henley and Glenn Frey who, in 1981, said this of the track: “Life In The Fast Lane’ kind of expressed the stereotyped LA ‘run around in your Porsche’ 24-hour boogie mode that unfortunately is too true for a lot of people.

“It wasn’t really a statement about the guys in the band,” he continued, “Or about anybody in particular – just it’s kind of disturbing to see the extremes that the bourgeois jet set will involve themselves in. For instance, disco almost turned into a lifestyle, and it’s such a non-meaningful thing on which to base one’s life.”

It was once pointed out to Walsh that the song did seem to mirror many of the lives of the band members, to which he replied: “Yeah, that’s probably true, and I think it was healthy, though, that we realised that running around and parties and fast cars are really not the answer – it’s kind of a shallow way to approach why we’re on this planet, and it probably came as a band consciousness.”

One thing is for sure, the titular phrase that is used far and wide today came directly from the band. Don Henley recalled the moment his drug dealer said those infamous lines as part of the 2013 documentary The History of the Eagles: “I was riding shotgun in a Corvette with a drug dealer on the way to a poker game. The next thing I know, we’re doing 90. Holding! [cocaine] Big time! I say, ‘Hey man!’ He grins and goes, ‘Life in the fast lane!’ I thought, ‘Now there’s a song title'”.

The song has since become one of The Eagles most cherished tracks, and it was all spawned from a series of happenstance, most notably, one which featured Don Henley, a Corvette and a mound of cocaine — life in the fast lane!