To say that The Eagles didn’t always get along is the understatement of the year, if not the century. They fought constantly behind the scenes, and guitarist Don Felder was right in the middle of the storm.
Brought aboard in 1974, Felder shook up The Eagles’ tranquil country-rock aesthetic with the venomous lead guitar of tracks like “Victim Of Love” and “Those Shoes.”
Felder, who was sacked from the band in 2000, has written a new book titled “Heaven and Hell: My Life in The Eagles (1974-2000)” that chronicles the contentious atmosphere within the band and Felder’s battle with depression.
Continuing on from Part I of our interview with Felder that appeared in the June 6 issue, in Part II of this interview, Felder talks about the Hotel California record, critics and his own place in The Eagles. Watch for more in our July 4 issue.
The dictate for Eagles live performances was to reproduce all the music exactly like the records?
DF: Yes, identically. As a matter of a fact, it got down to where you had to make certain moves onstage, a certain position. It was almost like you were doing a play. You had to go and hit a certain mark, do your solo and move to a certain area. If you were too far out of that or drawing too much attention to yourself, you were reprimanded. It was really strange. It was power and control; that’s what it was all about.
How would you present your songs to the band?
DF: The one place that I was able to freely create without the iron fist was in my own studio, not in the band and not in the studio with them. It was my one place to really look at this band, no matter what the makeup of the band as far as members.
Having studied how Don plays drums — I play drums — when I’d write tracks I would play drums in my demo studio how I thought Don would play. I would write parts for him. I knew what Glenn was good at, and I’d write guitar parts that he could manage. So, each part I came up with I’d write to fit each member of the band. It was like you had a cast of characters on a sitcom, and you knew the character of each person in the ensemble, and you’d have to write to their strengths. That’s really what I tried to do. If I wrote a complicated drum part, we would never record it, because Don couldn’t play it. He plays very simply, has a great feel, way behind the beat. But he’s not a technician, so you can’t write complicated parts.
When I was writing tracks for the Hotel California record, I wrote for two lead guitar players, Joe (Walsh) and I. I wrote thinking that this was an opportunity for me to write stuff that Joe and I could do together. I wrote bass parts, too. As a matter of a fact, on “One of These Nights” I had to write the bass part and show it to Randy (Meisner), because he was locked in a snow storm in Nebraska, and I was in the studio. So I said, “OK, I’ll play bass.”
We cut the demo of that song with me playing bass. I wrote all the bass lines, and Randy came in the next day, and I showed him the part. I also wrote the bass part for “Hotel California.” That bass part comes out of jazz from my time in New York. If you look at stand-up jazz bass players, they all play those sort of root fifth octave lines. That’s really what that is. It’s a jazz approach to playing reggae.
Was the band open to your presenting them with material?
DF: Yeah. Don and Glenn wanted my input. They wanted my writing, and they wanted my guitar influence. They wanted my drive.
What I would do for One of These Nights or Hotel California or The Long Run was write a bunch of tracks. F