Thursday, September 11, 2014

In Search of Iain Matthews: 7 Bridges Road

If you mention the song “Seven Bridges Road,” people’s minds immediately go to the Eagles. It is no wonder, as the Eagles’ late 1980 live version of the song charted at #21 on the Hot 100, #17 on the adult contemporary chart, and #55 on the country chart. Eighteen years later, Ricochet recorded a similar arrangement and it charted at #48 on the country chart.

Although the Eagles’ version is the best known release, they were not the first to record Steve Young’s song. In fact, Young recorded it thrice before the Eagles, with versions released in 1969, 1972, and 1978. Even Eddy Arnold, Joan Baez, and Rita Coolidge recorded it earlier.

Even at that, the arrangement of the song by the Eagles was borrowed from Iain Matthews who was the first to record “Seven Bridges Road” in 4/4 time, as the original was in 3/4. Matthews was also the first to introduce an a capella beginning. Both the Eagles and Ricochet owe a debt of gratitude to Matthews, as had it not been for his 1973 release from his “Valley Hi” album, their subsequent hits would have never occurred.

While the Eagles version utilized the vocals of all five members of the band, Iain Matthews sings all of the parts on his recording – making it even more remarkable. “Seven Bridges Road” and “Valley Hi” were produced by former Monkee Mike Nesmith who also lends his guitar work to the album. In addition, Red Rhodes’ steel guitar is prominently featured giving “Seven Bridges Road” a haunting feel.

Although released as a single, it failed to chart for Matthews, which is a shame as it is one of his best recordings. For Matthews’ release, both the single and album titled the song as “7 Bridges Road” unlike the full name of “Seven Bridges Road” used on earlier and subsequent releases of the tune. Of course, he was known as “Ian” Matthews in those days too.


  1. Great Post! I am a huge fan of Ian Matthews and his version is by far the best. I like Steve Young's version as well as Rita Coolidge. The eagles version bothers me simply for the fact that they obviously ripped it off from Ian Matthews (According to Matthews he hung around with the Eagles in California in the 70s and they liked Valley Hi) and there is a grating quality to their harmonies. Ian should have stuck with Nesmith as producer as well as Red Rhodes and B-Bender player Bob Warford for his next album Some Days... Instead he hired boring LA studio musicians and it was nowhere near as good as Valley Hi.

  2. Glad you like it Tom. It is my favorite version of the tune as well. Check out the other Iain Matthews tunes I've posted as well.

  3. Nesmith played both acoustic guitars (left & right channel) and contributed to the massed harmony vocals on Matthews version, as well as producing it. Word is, two of the Eagles were present at the Valley Hi session which most likely led to the Eagles "borrowing" the Matthews/Nesmith arrangement. There is an interesting alternate take of this tune from the Valley Hi sessions which I have. All in all, a great, underappreciated album.

  4. A bit of trivia: On "Some Days You Eat The Bear...," Ian does a version of Gene Clark's "Tried So Hard" which is the only track on that album to feature the exact same musicians as on "Valley Hi." However, the mix is very muddy which hinders the sound of an otherwise great tune. The tune was considered (and rejected) for the Valley Hi album. I have the Valley Hi version (produced by Nesmith) which blows away the "Some Days..." version. To this day, "Valley Hi" is Ian Matthews least favorite (and, ironically, most critically acclaimed) album. Personally, it's my favorite of the many, many albums he's released.