Take It To the Limit by The Eagles

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Take It To the Limit by The Eagles

Kahli Scott
Brisbane, Australia and London, UK; April 2016

Shortly after Glenn Frey, star and founding member of The Eagles, died in January, I found myself curled on the couch of my family home in Brisbane watching an Eagles documentary. The Eagles had been my Dad’s favourite band, and their sound, history and energy always reminded me of my old man. He’d passed away in 2009, and Frey’s death, combined with the memory of Dad’s, had me thinking about time and ageing, the contrast between the free-spirited ‘70s and today. Long-haired men with starry eyes who had hit the highways hard back then were dying now. These were sombre thoughts, but I was on the cusp of a big change in my own life and the documentary seemed imperative to that, though I wasn’t yet sure how.

There’s a stunning performance of Take It To The Limit in the documentary, from the Capital Centre show in 1977. I’ve always loved this song, and it’s the only  Eagles’ hit not sung by superstars Don Henley or Frey. Take It To The Limit belonged to lesser-known member Randy Meisner, and is memorable for the killer high vocals that come at the end. I see music mostly as a form of storytelling and don’t know much about technique, but I found this performance awesome, in the true sense of the word. As Meisner nailed those notes, the crowd went wild and you could see Frey grinning — almost with pride — from behind his piano.

I was interested to learn then, through the commentary after, that performing Take It To The Limit was a constant source of worry for shy Meisner, who would get extremely nervous about carrying the song and hitting those high notes. At one notable gig later, he refused to perform it, leading to a huge scuffle between him and Frey. Meisner left the band for good shortly after.

It’s April now, and that couch in my family home and the luxury of documentaries on pay TV are far away. I’m living in London in a tiny apartment in a room I share with my boyfriend. We don’t have a TV. We don’t even have a living room—not unusual for London, where communal spaces are often converted into bedrooms to squeeze as many rent payers into properties as possible. I don’t have a job, and fairly soon, I probably won’t have any money. This isn’t tragic. This is a typical ex-pat in London story, really. Big cities attract big crowds, and the exciting opportunities are only proportionate to the amount of people exactly like me vying for them.

There’s so much in London to see and do. And just wait until summer! I keep hearing these things, and I know they’re true. But there’s been a shadow over me that doesn’t seem to lift when the grey skies do. And Randy Meisner’s voice keeps popping into my head, singing: but the dreams I’ve seen lately, keep on turning out, and burning out, and turning out the same…

I was lying in bed last night, faced with some important decisions that will greatly impact my life and happiness in London. On a good day, I can barely decide whether to have Thai or Japanese for dinner, let alone make crucial choices that seem to fork into long shadowy paths with no well-lit ends. Lying there, I dramatised, fantasised and overanalysed. I wished ‘the right choice’ were more obvious. I found myself thinking, “I want a sign.” And without even meaning to, those words turned into lyrics: So put me on a highway, and show me a sign. And take it to the limit one more time.

It’s funny that a song that made Meisner so nervous and full of self-doubt can inspire such courage. I looked up the meaning behind the lyrics, and found Meisner saying, “The line ‘take it to the limit’ was to keep trying. You reach a point in your life where you feel you’ve done everything and seen everything— it’s part of getting old. And [it’s saying] just take it to the limit one more time, like every day just keep punching away at it.”

I’m not old, but I’ve been feeling like that. Things that should seem exciting don’t. I’ve been full of worry and self-doubt. I find myself shrinking and cowering, especially when I look at other people’s whirlwind burn-bright lifestyles. I’ve been thinking that it’s impossible to hit those high notes, so I may as well not even try.

Last night, as my boyfriend slept, I put on my headphones and watched that 1977 live performance of Take It To The Limit again. I felt something quite viscerally wash over me…or maybe something was lifting. Back in January, when I’d watched the clip in Brisbane, I’d felt free and excited and reflective and wise. But I don’t think you can appreciate Take It To The Limit fully until you’ve been crippled with regret about the past and doubt about the future. It’s not about speeding down the highway in the fastest, most expensive car. It’s about simply going, even if you don’t know where. Take It To The Limit could only have been Randy Meisner’s song. And it’s mine now too.

 

© Kahli Scott.

 

 

Kahli is a freelance writer and editor from Brisbane. She’s recently worked on projects for Story City, Tiny Owl Workshop and Country Update magazine. She currently lives in London. www.kahliscott.com

By | 2017-01-11T13:51:27+00:00 April 30th, 2016|country rock, Pop, Rock, Singer-songwriters|7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Lucia Nardo May 1, 2016 at 3:58 pm - Reply

    Kahli, What a great story! You’ve really captured something here. I read it, watched the clip and cried. Those buggers write a mean lyric. Hooks me in every time. Thanks for sharing it.

    • Kahli May 8, 2016 at 11:18 pm - Reply

      Hi Lucia, thanks so much for your comment! Have to admit, I struggle to watch the clip without getting tears or shivers too. Masters! Thanks for reading and glad you could relate. Kahli x

  2. Anjou Wills May 11, 2016 at 10:14 am - Reply

    This is stunning, Kahli. This is exactly what music is for. I was 25 when I decided to live in London. The city and the people and the seemingly perpetual winter can really put a strain on ambitions. I only lasted about 6 months before I returned home. But when I did I came home knowing exactly where I stand in the world and exactly what I wanted to do in life. I now have my dream job and am infinitely more happy than I thought London could have made me. For me it took being dirt broke in an unforgiving city that still somehow manages to inspire. Good luck in London!

  3. J Lawrence July 6, 2016 at 12:23 am - Reply

    Great article Kahli. That was one of the great live performances ever. This Eagles song changed my life and inspired the book by the same name that I recently finished.

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B01G4ILO3I

    Would love your take on it or an interview.

    Thanks,
    – Jeremy Lawrence

  4. Robert Terlizzi August 4, 2016 at 11:36 pm - Reply

    Hi Khali, thank you for sharing your story. Take it to the limit is a beautiful song in so many ways that resonates with me in similarly. I find listening to the song helpful in moments of self reflection in my life. When I learned about Randy’s fear of the limelight and not be able to hit the high note at the end at many performances ultimately overcoming it to send off the song to a magical place it makes the song even more special.

  5. Katherine Anne May 18, 2017 at 7:19 pm - Reply

    In 1987 I was returning to Antioch College in Ohio to finish the final term of a BA; I had left 10 years earlier because, long story short, I wouldn’t buckle down to my dad. I had driven a 1960 Falcon from Portland Oregon, almost clear across the continent. Each morning I renewed the incense stuck in her grill. On the first day she had died, and I was able to coast off the Interstate and into a garage for what turned out to be a minor repair. A few days later we went over Rabbit Ears pass in the Rockies in a blizzard – no studs, no chains, just keeping calm foot by foot as I followed a big old boat with Texas plates that plowed the way through probably 3 feet of snow – there was a foot of ice on my car when I got to the bottom. Somewhere in the Midwest I got gas, got back on the freeway, and about 5 miles down I wasn’t sure if I’d put the gas cap back on or not. I pulled over, and it was rolling around on the trunk. It was that kind of trip – barely any money, not sure where I was going after I finished at Antioch, just having the immediate goal of getting there and finishing my degree, and a sense of purpose and protection. I got off of I-70 and was cruising down Route 68 toward Yellow Springs, closer to my previous years there, which had been an extended emotional breakdown, when Take It to the Limit came on the radio. As you say, this song is for when you are crippled with regret about the past and doubt about the future. That falsetto I will never, ever forget. I, too, have been watching the 1977 Capital Center performance, and that look on Meisner’s face is something nobody can buy. It is only won by accomplishing something that is very difficult and challenging and frightening, and that somehow life and who we are and what we care about requires that we do.

    • Stereo Stories Admin May 18, 2017 at 9:43 pm - Reply

      Thanks for your evocative response, Katherine: a mini-Stereo Story all on its own.

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