On Feb. 26, 1977, the Eagles observed giddily as the first single from their soon-to-be-immortal Hotel California album echoed the performance of “Best of My Love” and “One of These Nights” by ascending to the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100.
Written by Glenn Frey, Don Henley, and J.D. Souther, “New Kid In Town” began in a similar fashion to many a hit song: it began life as a chorus, after which the rest of the track was built around it. The man responsible for that chorus? The aforementioned Mr. Souther, who - upon penning it - let his fellow members hear it, after which he was informed they had another hit on their hands. A bold statement, to be sure, but it must be said that they were spot-on with their assessment.
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That said, Souther didn’t really know where to go from that hit-worthy chorus, so he set it aside for a spell, picking it up again when the band was in the midst of their writing sessions for Hotel California a year later. Sitting down with Mr. Frey and Mr. Henley, Souther and his compatriots tried to turn it into a proper song.
In the liner notes of the Eagles’ The Very Best Of collection, Henley mused on the song’s meaning. “It's about the fleeting, fickle nature of love and romance,” he said. “It's also about the fleeting nature of fame, especially in the music business. We were basically saying, 'Look, we know we're red hot right now but we also know that somebody's going to come along and replace us — both in music and in love.'”
Elsewhere - in an interview with Songfacts - Souther explained that the guys’ mutual fascination with gunfire as an analogy was what led them down that particular dusty lane of lyricism. “At some point some kid would come riding into town that was much faster than you and he’d say so, and then he’d prove it,” said Souther. “We were just writing about our replacements.”
“New Kid in Town” certainly proved that the Eagles didn’t need any stinking replacements yet: in addition to topping the Hot 100, Rolling Stone later declared it to be the 5th greatest song of the band’s entire career.
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