This review was originally written for Epinions.com in May 2008. It appears here as/is.
I was pretty excited when I saw that Don Felder, former guitarist in the Eagles, had written his bookHeaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles (1974-2001). The book, which was published in 2008 and written with help from author Wendy Holden, was in my hot little hands just weeks after it came on the market. Although it’s a pretty sizable volume, I was able to finish it after just a few days of frenzied reading. Don Felder has a lot to say… probably much to the chagrin of his former bandmates.
Heaven and Hell begins with a quick chapter describing what it was like for Felder and his fellow Eagles before a typical show. They would emerge into a stadium, fresh from a beer drinking and cocaine session, take their places, and gaze out at the crowd. The concert would begin and Felder would enjoy the rush of adrenaline, fan adoration, and cocaine as he and the rest of the Eagles launched into “Hotel California”. After this very brief look at life as a rock star, Felder begins his life story, starting at the beginning.
Don Felder was born and raised in Gainesville, Florida. He grew up poor and survived a bout with polio, the second son of hardworking parents who lived in a house Felder’s father had built with his own two hands. While he was sick with polio as a small child, Don Felder discovered the joy of music. One day, he traded some firecrackers for a neighbor’s old guitar and started learning how to play. It wasn’t long before Felder was so good that he was playing gigs and teaching other people how to play. One of his earliest students was none other than Tom Petty. Felder seemed destined for a career as a rock star.
With friends like founding Eagle, Bernie Leadon, Duane and Gregg Allman, and Graham Nash, it certainly seemed like Don Felder had plenty of contacts who could help him get his foot in the door of the music business. As Heaven and Hell continues, Felder explains how he came to meet and marry his wife and eventually end up in southern California where his destiny as a star awaited. Using a very laid back style, Felder continues the story of how he gave up a gig with Stephen Stills to become a part of the Eagles, a band that is notoriously private, yet extremely popular.
It was Felder’s friendship with Bernie Leadon that led him to meet the other members of the Eagles circa 1971, Don Henley, Glenn Frey, and Randy Meisner. Felder describes how each band member had a unique style and talent that, when blended together, created what became known as the “California Rock” sound. Back in the early 70s, the Eagles’ style was decidedly more country than rock. Felder describes the early Eagles as a bunch of young guys who enjoyed drinking, drugging, and getting laid. All of them, except for Randy Meisner, were single and apparently very horny. Don Felder joined them for jam session. A few years after that, he moved to California and officially became an Eagle in 1974.
Felder and his co-author then describe what a mixed blessing being an Eagle actually was. Here he was, a member of an extraordinarily talented band that would one day be the biggest selling act in America. He was doing what he loved, adored by fans, and making a lot of money. He was also constantly on the road, dealing with the lonely grind of touring. Drugs and girls were constant temptations for Felder, who was happily married and a father. Worst of all, none of the Eagles seemed to get along. Though they made beautiful music together and each Eagle brought something special to the group, the band members bickered amongst each other constantly. Apparently, even in Felder’s early days as an Eagle, there was extreme contention among the band members. Don Henley and Glenn Frey were, according to Felder, the most egotistical members of the group.
Being an Eagles fan, I was pretty interested in reading about the band’s politics. However, I also enjoyed reading Felder’s many anecdotes about other rock stars he got to know. Some of the stories in Heaven and Hell are quite revealing and some are just plain hilarious.
Any Eagles fan knows that the band didn’t always play country rock. In 1976, the band developed more of a rock sound when Bernie Leadon left and was replaced by funky guitar player Joe Walsh. Felder includes some great stories about Joe Walsh; apparently, he’s quite a practical joker. Felder also includes the story about how the great song “Hotel California” came to be created and how, after the album that spawned “Hotel California”, Randy Meisner quit the band and was replaced by Timothy B. Schmit. Felder writes about the people behind the scenes as well, including the Eagles’ manager and producer.
What goes up must eventually come down and that seems to be true for the Eagles as well. By 1980, the band was at the height of its success. And the band members were also fighting amongst themselves. Fueled by their egos, greed, and perhaps too much cocaine, the Eagles ended up breaking up. For the first time in years, Felder was able to go home to his family, enjoy some of the fruits of his career, and be a father to his children. Fourteen years later, the band got back together for the Hell Freezes Over tour. Felder includes some juicy bits about that reunion, too.
Heaven and Hell also discusses how Don Felder was eventually fired from the Eagles and how he sued the band when it tried to force him to sell his interest. I got the feeling, as I was reading this book, that Don Felder wrote it, in part, as a way of thumbing his nose at Glenn Frey and Don Henley, who seemed to be the biggest offenders of egotistical and greedy behavior. I was certainly left with the impression that while Don Felder respected their talent as musicians, particularly Henley’s talents as a singer and song writer, he didn’t appreciate being screwed by them. Of course, Don Henley and Glenn Frey have their own sides of the story. We may never get to read what they think of what happened, but it sure is fun reading Felder’s account.
I don’t know how much of this book was written by Don Felder and how much was written by Wendy Holden. I will say that the book did seem to come from Felder– never once did I feel like it was a story told by another person. The book is long and involved, but it’s fun to read and very interesting. And again, I did laugh aloud several times, usually due to Felder’s wry descriptions of @sshole behavior coming from Glenn Frey. I don’t think the two are on good terms at all. Besides lots of juicy anecdotes, Heaven and Hell also includes lots of pictures, especially of Felder and his family.
Needless to say, I really enjoyed reading Heaven and Hell and I would, without question, recommend it to any Eagles fan or anyone who just likes to read about rock stars. While I feel like this book had a slight element of sour grapes to it, I also feel like Don Felder has every right to tell his story. By this account, it sounds like he was not treated very well and I can’t blame him for speaking out. He seems like a nice person and that makes me hope his book is successful… but I also genuinely enjoyed reading his story. It seems ironic that he was a member of a band bearing the name of a bird that symbolizes freedom, yet he’s probably never been freer in his lifetime than he is right now. I, for one, say good for Don Felder.
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I wrote this post in the fall of 2018. It was “born” out of a comment I got from someone who was irritated about my tendency to “trash” my husband’s ex wife. This person, who wasn’t someone who had been reading the blog for a long time, thought I was just a bitter second wife. I’m pretty sure I know who the “anonymous” commenter was, as she had been sending me private messages about moving to Germany. In those discussions, she told me she was a “first wife” of someone. I suspect that she thought I was attacking all first wives, when I was really just commenting about my situation with Bill, and how I felt about HIS ex wife. Bill’s ex wife is a special kind of terrible. And no, I certainly don’t think ALL exes are like her, and thank GOD for that!
Anyway, the offended person left me a comment telling me how “inappropriate”, “TMI”, and “negative” she felt my blog is, and advised me to “let it go”, or keep my negative posts about Ex private. She said I came off as “bitter, petty, and snotty”. I was kind of scratching my head at those comments. Was she really expecting me to take her unsolicited advice, especially when they were delivered in an insulting way? I mean, maybe I would if she was a friend of mine, but she was a random person on the Internet who had left me a comment with the moniker “Wondering Why”.
Maybe I would have considered taking her suggestion if people were paying me to write this blog… but as it stands right now, I don’t even take tips for this space. I only recently monetized this blog as an experiment. I may decide to demonetize it, since I don’t like looking at ads any more than anyone else does. But the travel blog is monetized– so far it’s raked in a big fat $1.70. I get far fewer hits on the travel blog, so I would like to see if this blog does better, and if so, how much better.
This post from November 2018 is left “as/is”. It came in the wake of a post I had written comparing Ex to “Wile E. Coyote”. I was inspired to write the coyote post after Bill told me about things his daughter had told him about growing up with Ex and some of the really fucked up shit she did (and continues to do). My husband’s former wife is legitimately toxic and crazy, and it was upsetting to hear about things she did to her own children. So I processed those feelings by writing about them in an admittedly “negative”, “personal”, and “snarky” post comparing Ex to a feckless cartoon character whose harebrained schemes never work out for the best.
Like Wile E. Coyote, Ex usually assumes she knows better… and in fact, she often seems to think she knows all. But the end result of a lot of her big ideas usually turn out to be disastrous, and they have ripple effects that harm innocent people– even people like me, who get upset at hearing about them and write blog posts that piss off clueless readers. I get rude comments, then feel compelled to write even more. 😉 See? More ripple effects!
I should mention that at the time, I was feeling especially stressed out, because we were about to move out of our last house. I knew ex landlady drama was coming, as well as the sheer pain in the ass of moving, so my mood was definitely affected. I still think there are some pearls of wisdom in this piece. I was pretty gratified that several then regular readers left comments for “Wondering Why”, advising her to move on if she didn’t like my material. I still think that’s good advice for anyone. So here goes…
About twenty years ago, I was working as a temp at the College of William & Mary’s admissions office. While I was working there, I became friendly with an older lady named Peggy, who, like me at that time, lived in Gloucester, Virginia. As I got to know Peggy, I learned that she had a daughter who had been friends with my older sister, Sarah, when they were in high school in the early 80s.
Over the few months that I worked in the admissions office at William & Mary, Peggy and I got to know each other better. The work I was doing was pretty boring. It was mostly filing and data entry on an ancient (by 1998 standards) computer. You might be surprised by what high school seniors were sending to William & Mary in 1998. William & Mary is a very prestigious school, and it receives many applications from outstanding students around the country and the world.
I don’t know if it’s still true today, but back in the late 90s, Virginia had a law that required in state publicly funded colleges to admit a certain number of students from Virginia. That meant that gaining admittance to William & Mary as an out of state or international student was extremely difficult. Consequently, not only did the admissions office receive stellar test scores, personal essays, and transcripts from hopeful students; it also received a lot of other supporting documents, all of which needed to be filed. That’s where I came into the picture.
It was really an eye opening experience to see what people sent to the admissions office in their personal quests to become members of the “Tribe”. It was insane, and created a lot of work for temping drones like me. I noticed that most of the extra stuff did nothing but add detritus to each applicant’s folder. It was pretty rare that an extra supporting document would result in an offer of admission to someone who otherwise would have been rejected. Some of it was entertaining to look at, though.
I remember one girl’s mother sent a photocopy of her out of state nursing license and a picture of a younger version of the girl standing in front of the Wren Chapel with her family. There was a supporting document from the girl’s dad, a police officer, stating that the family planned to move to Williamsburg to support their daughter in her academic endeavors. I recall that this young lady didn’t gain acceptance to William & Mary. I hope she found a school that she liked just as much. Having been rejected by my first choices when I was a high school student, I understand how rejection feels. But then, I did manage to find a great school for my purposes, so it all turned out fine in the end.
Anyway, this story comes up in the wake of yesterday’s minor drama on this blog, in which a first time commenter advised me that I need to “let it go”, regarding my husband’s ex wife. Telling somewhat to “let it go” is kind of akin to telling them to “get over it”. Personally, I think it’s an extremely rude, dismissive, and short-sighted thing to say to another person, particularly someone you don’t know. I do understand why some people think it’s constructive advice, although frankly, I think it’s futile to tell someone they need to “let it go”. Sometimes, it’s just not possible. I came to that conclusion while I was working with Peggy. She offered an analogy that I’ve not forgotten in the twenty years since we met.
I was sitting on the floor next to a giant filing cabinet and Peggy’s cubicle. I had a huge stack of essays, drawings, certificates, test scores, and the like, that I was stuffing into manila folders dedicated to each new applicant. It was mindless work that numbed my brain as it chapped my hands. Peggy helped me pass the time by telling me about her upbringing. It turned out that, like me, she was raised by an alcoholic. However, while my dad was the alcoholic in our family, in Peggy’s case, it was her mother who drank too much. Peggy’s mother was extremely abusive to her. Consequently, Peggy grew up suffering from depression and anxiety, and she had lingering feelings of hatred for her mother. There was no love between Peggy and her mom, because Peggy’s mother had repeatedly beaten her up mentally, physically, and emotionally.
I felt sad for Peggy that she had those feelings toward her mom. I may not always love the way my own mom behaves, but I do love her very much. She was the sane parent; which isn’t to say that I didn’t love my dad. I did love him, and mostly try to remember him fondly. He did have a good side. But he was often mean and abusive to me, and those memories are hard to erase. I am now kind of “saturated” when it comes to abuse from other people. I simply can’t tolerate it.
Peggy explained that as the years passed, her depression lingered, even though in 1998, she was probably in her 60s and her mother was long dead. Peggy didn’t seem depressed to me in person. In fact, she was bright, funny, friendly, and cheerful. A lot of people have described me in the same way. More than one person has told me they think I’m “bubbly”. Some people even think I’m hilarious. In person, I joke a lot and laugh and giggle. A lot of “funny” people are like that. Humor is a way to mask depression and anxiety.
In 1998, I, too, was suffering from significant clinical depression and anxiety, and at that time, it had gotten really bad. I had actually had these issues for most of my life, but in 1998, it was especially severe. That was the year I finally decided to seek professional help, and got prescription medication for the depression that had dogged me for at least ten years. I was not under a doctor’s care when I worked at William & Mary, though. At that time, I was too poor to get help, and I had no health insurance. Also, I didn’t know I was depressed and anxious. That was the way I’d always been, only it was much worse in ’98 than it was in the preceding years. That year, I thought of suicide fairly often. I still sometimes have those fleeting thoughts, but it’s not nearly like it was in those days. I’m probably more dysthymic now than anything else.
I remember Peggy explained in detail what she’d endured during her formative years at home, when she’d had no choice but to endure her mother’s constant insults, taunts, and physical abuse. She got away from her mother as soon as she was able to and married a man with whom she was not compatible. They eventually divorced, and Peggy was left alone to raise her daughter, which was very difficult for her. At the end of her story, I remember Peggy telling me that having clinical depression is a lot like trying to function with a broken arm.
If you met a person with a broken arm, would you tell them they need to “let it go” and “get over it”? Would you assume that you know what the timeline should be for them to “heal” from a physical injury? I’m sure there are cases of people who heal from broken bones very quickly. Maybe you’ve had a broken bone and bounced back in just a couple of weeks. But does that mean that someone else can heal in that same timeframe? Maybe the other person has mitigating circumstances that make healing more difficult for them. I think it’s often the same for depression and other mental health issues. Some people heal faster than others.
I have never forgotten Peggy’s comparison of clinical depression to having a broken bone. In either case, the condition is crippling and painful, especially without treatment. I was especially clued in to how astute the comparison is when I did seek medical help in 1998. It took about three months, but I finally found an effective antidepressant that literally changed my life. When I got my brain chemicals straightened out, I was amazed at how much better and more competent I felt. It really drove home to me that depression is a real illness and not just made up bullshit in my head.
For so long, I felt so guilty about who I am. I thought there was something truly “wrong” with me. When I finally took the right medication and eventually felt the way non-depressed people feel, I realized that I didn’t have to feel guilty about being depressed. Depression was, indeed, a sickness that was beyond my control. I couldn’t will myself not to be depressed. I needed help to move beyond it. In my case, potent antidepressants and counseling from an empathetic psychologist did the trick.
Now… this does not mean that a person can’t learn techniques to combat depression, and it doesn’t give a person an excuse to be a jerk to other people. However, I did finally realize that depression is real, and it will probably always be a part of my life. Being negative, grumpy, and bitter is a part of having depression. Maybe some people don’t find that side of me pleasant and they think all they need to do is tell me to “get over it” or “let it go”. I’m sure it seems that easy to them. It’s not that easy for me. I write in this blog to process those feelings instead of acting on them in a destructive manner. In other places, I try to be less negative and bitter. Some of my readers interact with me in other places and have seen that I’m generally not as “bitchy” there as I can be here. It’s because I have a place to put most of the bitchy stuff, and that’s here in this blog.
I realize that some people don’t like me or stuff I write. Fortunately, I’ve gotten to a point at which I no longer feel the need to try to please others. I do wish I were a more likable, positive, friendly, and popular person. I have accepted that I will never be those things, and that’s okay. I don’t take antidepressants now. Maybe I will again at some time, but at this point, I’d rather not. So I write blogs and publish them, and I make music. Sometimes people like my efforts, though I think more people are either indifferent or think they can fix my problems by telling me to “let it go”. My own mother has, more than once, told me to “let it go”. I actually love my mom and I haven’t been able to take her advice. What makes you think you’ll be more successful at giving me that advice than she’s been? And why does it even matter to you if I’m “inappropriate” or share too much information? It’s not your life, is it? You don’t have to read this stuff.
I suppose I could make this blog private and I have openly suggested doing that before. However, I have had several people tell me that they enjoy reading my blog. So I leave it public for them and anyone else who understands. If you don’t understand, and you find me unpleasant, I won’t be upset if you move on to another place on the web. You’re certainly not the first one to find me unpleasant. But please don’t glibly tell me to “get over it” or “let it go”. That is a very dismissive thing to say to another person and it’s not right to discount other people’s feelings, particularly when you are a guest in their space.
As for my husband’s ex wife, I’m sure it would be amazing if I could simply “let it go” that she did her best to destroy my husband’s happiness, career, and connections to people who love him. I wish I were that mature and magnanimous. I’m not there yet, and I don’t think I will ever be there. How do you forgive someone who sexually assaulted the love of your life and then denied him access to his children while spreading vicious lies to his parents about the kind of person he is? I’m sure if it had happened to me, my husband would be equally angry. So, you’ll have to excuse me for not “letting it go” where she’s concerned. It will probably take a much longer time than I have left in life to completely get over it. But with every day, there’s fresh hope.
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