Meaning Behind the Eagles’ “Lyin’ Eyes”

The meaning behind the Eagles’ hit “Lyin’ Eyes” is all there in the rock staple’s lyrics, dancing in and out of the tune’s vivid imagery and perceptive storytelling. A character study, “Lyin’ Eyes” paints a cautionary tale of what happens when money outweighs love and the substitutes we look for to take love’s place.

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Behind the Song

The 1975 tune was written during a beautiful time in the band’s early career, a time that several of the members look back on fondly.

“Lyin’ Eyes” is one of the songs written when Glenn [Frey] and I were roommates in a house we rented up in Trousdale,” the band’s drummer and co-lead vocalist Don Henley recalled in conversation with Cameron Crowe. “Glenn and I lived at opposite ends of the house and we actually converted a music room to a full-on recording studio.”

Nicknamed “the House With the Million Dollar View” and at times “The Eagles’ Nest,” the place – situated on Briarcrest Lane in the upscale Los Angeles neighborhood of Beverly Hills – had a 360-degree panoramic view. Henley remembered being able to look out over “snowcapped peaks to the east,” “the blue Pacific to the west,” and see “the twinkling lights of the city below” at night.

“We had some great times up there,” the drummer added. It was at that house that several of the band’s hits, including “One of These Nights,” “Take It to the Limit,” and “After the Thrill Is Gone,” were born. Also among those tunes was “Lyin’ Eyes.”

“Lyin’ Eyes” mirrors the splendors they beheld while living in that house while surrounded on all sides by such beauty. While a heart-wrenching song about searching and settling, the lyrics evoke images of late nights awash in bright city lights.

“Glenn’s pretty much responsible for that track and for the title, the choruses,” Henley mentioned. “I helped out with the verses and perhaps with the melody. It’s really Glenn’s baby.”

Of “Lyin’ Eyes,” the Eagles’ guitarist-vocalist Glenn Frey chimed in. “The story had always been there,” Frey added. The idea came to the band during their early days when they used to frequent their haunt of choice, Dan Tana’s, as told in their 1994 concert film, Hell Freezes Over. They had often had conversations about beautiful women who married for money, wondering if they were happy or not, but when they encountered one such woman at their local watering hole, Frey said, “Look at her, she can’t even hide those lyin’ eyes!”

As the story goes, this young woman was stunning, but a few steps behind her trailed her much older and much larger wealthy companion. With “Lyin’ Eyes,” the band tells a story of the woman’s life as they imagined it to be.

City girls just seem to find out early, the tale begins, How to open doors with just a smile / A rich old man and she won’t have to worry / She’ll dress up all in lace and go in style. In the band’s pointed narrative, they depict a woman who marries for money and the comforts that it brings.

However, the life she’s become accustomed to is not all it’s cracked up to be. Late at night a big old house gets lonely, the next verse plays, I guess every form of refuge has its price / And it breaks her heart to think her love is only / Given to a man with hands as cold as ice.

In the song, she’s having an affair but tells her husband she’s on her way to see an ailing friend. But he knows where she’s goin’ as she’s leavin’ / She is headed for the cheatin’ side of town, the song continues and the chorus plays:

You can’t hide your lyin’ eyes
And your smile is a thin disguise
I thought by now you’d realize
There ain’t no way to hide your lyin’ eyes

The narrative continues, briefly introducing a lover who makes her feel the way she used to feel. But the real struggle isn’t with the love she has to hide, it’s with herself. She wonders how it ever got this crazy, the lyrics reveal, She thinks about a boy she knew in school / Did she get tired or did she just get lazy? / She’s so far gone she feels just like a fool.

It was easier for her to marry for wealth than to risk the uncertainties that come with love; and in doing so, she’s missed out on the one thing she really wants. My, oh my, you sure know how to arrange things, the song surmises, flinging a few more barbed words before coming to a close after the chorus plays once more, You set it up so well, so carefully / Ain’t it funny how your new life didn’t change things / You’re still the same old girl you used to be.

“I don’t want to say it wrote itself,” Frey continued in the conversation with Crowe, “but once we started working on it, there were no sticking points. Lyrics just kept coming out, and that’s not always the way songs get written.”

(Photo Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns)

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