book reviews, celebrities, music

Repost: Review of Don Felder’s Heaven and Hell: My Life In the Eagles…

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.

Yeah… this was pretty legendary.

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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dogs, musings

After the thrill is gone, he’s gone to a better place…

I always pay attention to the music that plays when Bill and I are on our way to or from a euthanasia appointment. It may seem weird that I do this, but music makes up part of my psyche. It’s important to me. So I listen carefully just before and after I lose a pet.

In 2012, when we lost our dog, MacGregor, we were on our way to North Carolina State University Veterinary School to attend his death. On the way there, the song “Far Side Banks of Jordan” by Alison Krauss and the Cox Family came on my iPod. That song goes like this…

I believe my steps are growin’ wearier each day
Still I’ve got another journey on my mind
Lures of this old world have ceased to make me wanna stay
And my one regret is leavin’ you behind

But if it proves to be his will that I am first to go
And somehow I’ve a feelin’ it will be
When it comes your time to travel likewise, don’t feel lost
For I will be the first one that you’ll see

And I’ll be waiting on the far side banks of Jordan
I’ll be sitting drawing pictures in the sand
And when I see you coming, I will rise up with the shout
And come running through the shallow waters, reaching for your hand

Through this life we’ve labored hard to earn our meager fare
It’s brought us trembling hands and failing eyes
So I’ll just rest here on this shore and turn my eyes away
Until you come, then we’ll see paradise

And I’ll be waiting on the far side banks of Jordan
I’ll be sitting drawing pictures in the sand
And when I see you coming, I will rise up with the shout
And come running through the shallow waters, reaching for your hand

I’ll be waiting on the far side banks of Jordan
I’ll be sitting drawing pictures in the sand
And when I see you coming, I will rise up with the shout
And come running through the shallow waters, reaching for your hand, hmm

It seemed like MacGregor was telepathically comforting us, even though logic tells me it was a coincidence.

You’d have to know MacGregor to know how significant this song seemed as we drove to his euthanasia appointment. He was very much a country dog– mostly beagle and basset hound. He was afraid of strangers, but if he knew you, he was the most awesome, hilarious, funny dog. And he was a very devoted friend.

After MacGregor died, we listened to music on the way home to Zane. About twenty minutes after we set his spirit free, this song by Rhonda Vincent came on the iPod.

It was a gathering of some 300 people
In the little church the crowd began to swell
Quite a send off for a simple country farmer
For many loved and knew the old man well

And as his bride of 60 years came forward
She bravely walked to where his body lay
A hush fell over all that stood around her
She smiled through tears as she began to say

I will see you again
For this isn’t the end
You’re my forever friend
And I will see you again

Ever since a simple carpenter from Nazareth
Walked the mountains and the shores of Galilee
Ever since he died and rose again on Easter
Death doesn’t have the same old victory

Tonight I’ll lay my head upon his pillow
And cry until the breaking of the day
But even in the pain of separation
There’s a hope inside my heart that lets me say

I will see you again
For this isn’t the end
You’re my forever friend
And I will see you again

Jesus, He made a way
There is coming a day
So I will hold on ’til then
And I will see you again

I will hold on ’til then
And I will see you…again

I’m not a very religious person, but this was playing on the way back from seeing MacGregor’s entry into the next world… I found it very comforting.

Yesterday, when we lost Zane, I played the iPod again. On the way to appointment, there was a song by Folk Uke. It was definitely not a religious song. However, on the surface, it seemed kind of appropriate. It was called “Try to Say Goodbye”. Folk Uke is a very irreverent band, and this was not a comforting song.

If you knew Zane, this might seem appropriate… He was kind of a wise ass, even as he always tried so hard to be good.

On the way back from the appointment, I noticed the Eagles were playing… and it was this song, of all things…

All day, I got condolences from people paying respects in the wake of Zane’s death. Some were very heartfelt, loving, and kind. Some were pretty tone deaf and borderline offensive. I mostly tried to give people the benefit of the doubt. A lot of folks just plain aren’t good at comforting others. They don’t know what to say, but feel like they should say something. Most of the time, they offer thoughts and prayers, condolences, or just plain write “sorry”. These thoughts are probably better received offline, because about 80% of communication is non-verbal. But in today’s Internet connected world, we’ve lost the ability to communicate non-verbally. If you’re typing on a computer, you miss out on seeing the other person’s facial expressions and body language, which offers so much more of a clue as to what they really mean and whether or not they really mean it. So those words are not particularly comforting. They show that someone has tried to make an effort to be kind and sympathetic, which I do recognize. But are they meaningful, wise, or soothing? Not really, if I’m honest.

Well… I mostly cut people some slack. I appreciate that people were trying to be kind. We are taught that when someone experiences the painful loss of a loved one, we should be sympathetic. If one manages empathy, that’s even better. But a lot of people just don’t get the concept of empathy. Many people don’t have the sensitivity or the time for that, or they don’t know the person well enough to know how to respond. I get that. I really do. It means something when a person makes a sincere effort, even if the effort is a bit bumbling.

However, I think the comment that kind of cut me to the quick was one that came from a family member who typed, “He’s gone to a better place.” I do think I know what she was trying to convey, although more than once, she’s claimed to be an atheist. If she’s an atheist, then no, she probably doesn’t believe he’s “gone to a better place.” Either way, “a better place” is separated from me. She’s basically said my dog is “better off dead”, which is a really shitty thing to say… although I don’t think that’s what she meant.

It’s kind of akin to Donald Trump’s massive gaffe a couple of years ago, when he tried and failed to comfort a young soldier’s wife whose husband was killed in Nigeria. Trump said something along the lines of, “He died doing exactly what he wanted to do.” Basically, it sounds like that means he’d rather be sweating in Nigeria dodging bullets than being at home with his loving wife and their children. What Trump probably meant to convey was that the soldier had willingly signed up for the military because he wanted to defend the country and be of service. However, people join the military for all kinds of reasons. Maybe he believed in the mission in which he gave his life. Maybe he didn’t. He died with honor, though, doing what he agreed to do. And he was many thousands of miles away from his wife and babies when he did it. I’d like to hope he would not have preferred being in Nigeria over being with his family. But we don’t know. Trump didn’t know, either. His words were not comforting or particularly kind. They were thoughtless and insensitive.

As to my relative and her choice of words… well, I am not surprised. She isn’t known for being particularly empathetic. This particular relative, on the day we buried our grandmother, mused aloud if maybe I wasn’t my father’s biological daughter. She cited the fact that I have blonde hair, blue eyes, and a lack of freckles, while Dad was dark haired, dark eyed, and freckled. Also, my dad and I didn’t get along very well, although we did love each other. Fortunately, 23 and Me has put that particular question to rest.

It stung when I read my relative’s words, though, although I do understand that she was trying to be comforting. It would have been better if she’d said, “his suffering is over now” or “you were kind to help ease his way” or something like that. Telling me that my dog has “gone to a better place” sounds like it means that he’s better off dead, away from me and Bill, than at home with his loving family. And when those words come from someone who claims she doesn’t believe in God or the hereafter, they are especially hollow and meaningless.

Zane loved us. It was very clear that he did. Although he didn’t fight death, I doubt he really would have preferred dying over being with us. Is he at the Rainbow Bridge? I’d like to think there is such a place, although logic tells me there probably isn’t. But I do know that he’s no longer sick, exhausted, in pain, or suffering. He doesn’t have trouble breathing. He’s not bleeding internally. He doesn’t feel the frustration of not being able to do what he’s always been able to do. He was a dog who loved to run and play. He had a wonderful sense of humor, and he loved to snuggle in bed with us. In the last weeks, he stopped being able to do those things. He no longer has to live with the frustration of not being able to enjoy soft beds (because they made breathing too difficult), long walks (because he didn’t have the energy), good food (because cancer killed his appetite), or sitting in my lap (because he no longer had the strength, stamina, or coordination to jump up into it). Even if he’s not at the Rainbow Bridge, he’s no longer conscious of the things he could no longer enjoy. That’s a blessing.

This experience has reminded me to be more careful about what I say or write to people who have experienced the loss of a loved one. It’s better to be helpful than harmful. If I can’t be helpful and kind, it’s better not to say anything at all. Even though I love to write, I don’t always have the right words… And I don’t always have to say anything. A lot of people didn’t notice/didn’t comment on Zane’s death yesterday. Although it would have been nice if more of my family members had cared enough to comment, I think it’s better that people keep silent if they don’t have the right words. I’m no longer very close to my family, mainly due to my vehement rejection of Trump and my love for swearing and raucous humor. So they don’t follow me and they don’t know… As for my friends, the ones who really know and truly care about me had the right words. They were enough to make me feel loved. While I do appreciate the condolences left by people who don’t know me so well, I was reminded that when it comes to words of comfort, sometimes less is more.

Incidentally, I think Arran is grieving a bit. This morning, he was lying in Zane’s usual spot, looking forlorn. This is going to be an adjustment for all of us.

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musings

Happy June!

Don’t look now, but Joe Walsh and I have the same hairdo… right down to the color. I guess we both quit trying to mess with Mother Nature.

Once again, I’m kind of devoid of topics to write about today. I could write about the tragic shootings in Virginia Beach. That would actually be kind of relevant, since I grew up about an hour away from Virginia Beach. But, to be honest, I didn’t get a chance to read much about it. Sadly, it’s getting to the point at which these shootings are almost becoming kind of normalized. I don’t feel quite as shocked by them as I used to, so I don’t know much about what happened, other than twelve people losing their lives and some people getting injured. I wonder what it’s going to take before something is done about the crazy gun toters in the United States. It’s getting totally ridiculous.

I could write another political post, but I’m in kind of a good mood and don’t want to spoil it. The weather is gorgeous today and we have enjoyed a beautiful outing to Bacharach, capping off a great week in which we saw the Eagles and enjoyed a couple of days in Cologne. Tonight, Elton John is playing in Wiesbaden. We saw him about three weeks ago in Stuttgart, so we’re avoiding the city tonight. May was a nice month for the concerts alone… realizing that Joe Walsh and I share the same hairstyle.

There are other things I could write about… several things that are weighing on my mind. Unfortunately, I have come to learn that some people can’t respect other people’s space or privacy. So… I will probably have to write about what’s on my mind later. For now, I think I’ll go hang out with Bill and enjoy what’s left of our Saturday. I love this time of year. So much to do and see, and we don’t have to go far to do or see it.

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home

Cologne accomplished…

We had a lot of fun in Cologne and I have plenty to write about in my travel blog. I’ll probably do that tomorrow, when I have more inclination to write. It’s almost 8:00pm now and we’re all tired. The dogs had a good time at their new pension, too. They were hanging out with a bunch of other beagles when we came to get them tonight.

So glad we took the time to see the Eagles! It was a fantastic show, probably one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to anywhere. I grew up on their music, but for a long time, people thought the band was totally finished. I’m glad to see the surviving members are still on their game. Deacon Frey, Glenn Frey’s super cute and talented son, is doing a superb job filling in for his father. Vince Gill was also fabulous! I look forward to writing up the show later.

I think I much prefer concerts in Europe. Seems like they’re less obnoxious… as long as you don’t have to drive to them when a Wasen is going on.

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travel

Off to Cologne…

It’ll be a two night trip. Going to see the Eagles for the first and probably the last time in my life. All of the bands I loved when I was young are now getting old, retiring, or dying. Last time we visited Cologne was May 2012. That time, we stayed at the Ibis next to the train station. This time we’re staying near the train station again, but in nicer digs.

I don’t know if I’ll have anything to write about while we’re gone. We’ll see what happens. The dogs are trying out their new “Hundepension”. Hopefully, it’ll be alright for them for two nights, so they’ll be ready at the end of June when we take our big road trip north.

So if I don’t write anything tomorrow or the next day, see you Thursday… probably, anyway… for the few readers who visit daily.

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