We interview founder and band member of the Illegal Eagles, Phil Aldridge, on the Eagles, why he started the band and living Life in the Fast Lane

We interview founder and band member of the Illegal Eagles, Phil Aldridge, on the Eagles, why he started the band and living Life in the Fast Lane

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Phil Aldridge has been a professional musician since graduating from Trinity College of Music, London and Berklee College of Music, Boston. He has been a timpanist and percussionist with orchestras and West End theatre shows, a drummer with Big Band, pop, jazz and rock bands, and musical director for several soul artists. He has provided his expertise for US greats like Sister Sledge, The Four Tops and The Temptations. He created his first theatre show, The Carpenters Story, and thanks to its success formed The Illegal Eagles in 1997.

Now established as the world's official No.1 Eagles tribute, the Illegal Eagles have been delighting audiences for 20 years, capturing the emotion of Don Henley's vocal deliveries. One things for sure…there is nothing Desperado about this show as you head back to the Hotel California.

Classic hits from The Eagles include Take It Easy, Witchy Woman, Heartache Tonight, Best Of My Love, One Of These Nights, Lyin'Eyes, Take It To The Limit, New Kid In Town, Hotel California, Life In The Fast Lane and many more. The Illegal Eagles show takes you through the musical history of The Eagles and we interviewed Phil ahead of his flying visit to Potters in May…

Can you tell us about your role in the Illegal Eagles?

The band was started in 1996 after I saw the Eagles Hell Freezes Over tour, where the band united for the first time in 14 years. I was devastated when I saw the last concert at Wembley Stadium and I couldn’t believe that this was the last time that I would hear the Eagles play live, so I began to assemble a band dedicated to celebrating the Eagles music in concert. I required the talent of the best rock musicians on the scene and knew some of the best musicians from my experience in the industry. We had 37 vocal rehearsals before we even picked up the instruments. We have been going for over 20 years and it has now turned into a much bigger production, so I am mainly the producer now, but still sometimes take to the stage to perform as a drummer. I have to make sure that the show sounds right, as it’s a complicated sound system, the logistics happen and that the film footage at the back of the set is showing. There’s around six or seven of us in the band with four lead guitarists and one bass guitarist, and all five provide lead vocals.

Have you always been a fan of the Eagles?

Yes, I remember in my later school years playing piano to Desperado and singing along to it with my friends, which was in the days before iPads.

Have you ever met any of the Eagles?

No, but I have seen them live. A journalist friend of mine met Joe Walsh and told them about us, and apparently Joe wondered how we managed to perform with so few people on stage.

What’s your favourite Eagles song?

Peaceful Easy Feeling as it makes me feel happy. It’s just a great song and the arrangement is incredible.

Do you try and impersonate the Eagles through their look and mannerisms?

No, it’s a pure celebration of the music and we try to be accurate in that. We are British rock musicians so we are different to them, but we try and capture their essence. Many people wouldn’t necessarily know what Don Henley or the other members looked like anyway.

What’s your career highlight?

With the Carpenters Story we were performing at the London Palladium and had booked half an orchestra with violins and harps to accompany us. It was that realisation when we were rehearsing before going on and seeing the venue empty, knowing we were going to be performing later.

What instruments do you play?

Drums, piano and orchestra percussion.

How well do you all get on?

Like any band over the years we’ve had issues, but now we have the most brilliant strong line-up.

Have you toured the world with the band?

Yes, we went to Russia last year and have been to Malaysia, Bangkok, Singapore and Europe. I love Asia and all the culture that you soak up with a visit there.

What is the atmosphere like at your shows?

The audience are all fans of the music, and there’s so much fun and excitement. The experience starts 20 minutes before the show and we will be at Potters all day on the day we’re performing. We love to meet the fans too, so will try and arrange something before or after the show.

Have you ever been to the Hotel California?

I’ve been to California as I was best man at the wedding of one of our former guitarists Geoff. I have stayed at a Hotel California in Torquay.

Do you live Life in the Fast Lane?

We have nearly 100 shows booked in this year for the Illegal Eagles and another 80 for The Carpenters Story. At the moment its nuts as I have a recording studio too and last week was recording a chorister from Lincoln Cathedral before his voice broke. It’s all really varied, which I love.

Is there a band that you’d like to pay tribute to next?

I’d like to do something with Billy Joel or around New York music.

Here are 10 of the biggest Eagles hits…

  1. Hotel California – it won the 1977 Grammy Award for Record of the Year
  2. Take It Easy – the song was the Eagles debut single
  3. Take it to the Limit
  4. Lyin’ Eyes – it won the 1975 Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a duo or group
  5. Best of My Love – it gave the Eagles their first No.1 single on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in 1975
  6. Heartache Tonight
  7. Desperado – never formally released as a single, it remains a favourite of Eagles fans to this day
  8. The Long Run
  9. Already Gone – only a handful of hits not written by any member of the Eagles
  10. Life in the Fast Lane – this song saw the group leaving some of their country tendencies behind.