Don Felder Surprised at Ex-Eagles Mates' Ill Will Toward Him
When guitarist Don Felder joined the Eagles in 1974, he was seen by many as a sort of bridge member, as the band was morphing from the more countrified lineup with Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner to the latter, rockier quintet that also included Timothy B. Schmidt and Joe Walsh.
Photo by Michael Helms/Courtesy of ABC Public Relations
But -- just in case anybody ever thought any differently -- the Eagles were always run by the not-always-so-benevolent dictatorship of co-founders Don Henley and Glenn Frey. And while Felder was in the lineup when "Hell Froze Over" and the band reunited in 1994, he was terminated in 2001 after purportedly questioning the split of the financial pie.
Felder in turn sued for wrongful termination and breach of contract and fiduciary duty (the suit was settled out of court years later), raising Henley and Frey's ire. Felder's no-holds-barred autobiography, Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles (1974-2001) ramped the ill will up even more.
Felder contributed his reminisces to the recent lengthy History of the Eagles documentary DVD, sitting for what he says was about 3 and a half hours of interviews, of which about five minutes ended up onscreen.
And while he doesn't necessarily quibble with his onscreen time, saying "the full story would take about 12 hours," he was taken aback at how much vitriol Henley and Frey apparently still hold out for him.
The pair refer to their former band mate as "Mr. Felder" throughout, getting plenty of shots in. One scene is even edited to show a tearful Felder bolting from his interview chair when discussing his dismissal.
"I felt a lot of the history of the band members before they joined the Eagles was left out, and a lot of [us] were in popular bands before," Felder says today. "Most of it was about Don and Glenn. But they controlled it, owned it, and paid for it, so they could do what they wanted. But it did take me back how angry they were and how much venom they still had toward me, especially Glenn."
In the current "History of the Eagles" tour, Leadon was welcomed back and performs a number of songs, while Meisner's poor health prevented any participation. Felder was pointedly not asked to take part in the celebration.
Still, Felder says he got a kick out of seeing old footage and remembering how "skinny we all were and how long our hair was." He also juxtaposed in his mind viewing the at-the-time recent Beyoncé Super Bowl halftime extravaganza with pyro, dancers, lip syncing and effects versus Eagles shows of "five guys in ripped jeans and football jerseys with no concern about making a visual statement playing and singing live" (though, to be fair, the comparisons are hardly comparative).
donfelderonline.com Reunited and it felt so good...for awhile at least. The Eagles in the mid-'90s: Joe Walsh, Timothy B. Schmit, Don Henley, Glenn Frey, and Don Felder.
Outside of the Eagles, Felder has steadily recorded and toured on his own, as well as with others like the Bee Gees, Diana Ross and Stevie Nicks, while contributing the occasional song to a film. With no chance at singing in a band that already had three lead vocalists, he also had to find his performing voice.
Interestingly, it was Felder who scored an early post-Eagles breakup hit in 1981 with the title song to the cult favorite animated film Heavy Metal. Although the tune could have actually appeared on the Eagles last pre-breakup record, having begun life during the recording of The Long Run.
"There were rigid constraints writing and recording songs with the Eagles. You had to be in 'Eagles World' and anything outside of that just didn't fit," Felder says. "And it might be that some guys couldn't play the parts.
"So I wrote this great guitar track and we recorded it, but we didn't finish it because we ran out of time. A couple of years later, I rerecorded the basic track and wrote new lyrics, and that became 'Heavy Metal.'"
Story continues on the next page.