Don Felder: How the Eagles Wrote ‘Hotel California’
If you're a guitarist, odds are you hold a special affinity for the dueling guitar parts of the Eagles classic "Hotel California." But in this episode of Gear Factor, co-writer Don Felder recalls how it almost never came to be.
"I had made a tape of about 15 or 16 song ideas, one of which was my demo of ‘Hotel California’ that I had made in my back bedroom with an acoustic 12-string, me playing bass and a Roland drum machine, trying to simulate a guitar part between Joe [Walsh] and I, with me playing the main part. Basically the whole concept of the song came out of that demo musically," recalls Felder.
The band had some studio time booked in Miami, and the guitarist said it was the intervention of drummer Don Henley that eventually led to the now iconic piece of guitar history.
As he explains, "Joe [Walsh] and I are sitting in the studio, two guitars, going at each other, trading off, and Henley comes walking in and says, ‘Stop, what are you doing? That’s not right.’ I said, ‘What do you mean, that’s not right?’ He’s like, ‘You’ve got to play it just like the demo.’ He’d been listening to the demo over and over for over a year now. I just thought, ‘I don’t know what I played. I just made that up.’ He’s like, ‘We’ve got to get that so you can learn it.’"
So Felder called his housekeeper back in California, had her sift through his cassettes and eventually they found the demo of "Hotel California." With it being the '70s, she played it through a "blaster" into the phone and Felder recorded it on the other side of the line, eventually working off that to re-learn what he had written.
"He was right," said Felder of Henley's suggestion of revisiting his "off the cuff" moment. "It was a very unique, kind of melodic progression that had been written, but the notes in the solo fell right where the chords were supposed to go.”
Felder also discusses how Elvis Presley first attracted him to playing music. He speaks about the impact and life lessons learned from a meeting with B.B. King as a teenager and reveals how he acquired his first instrument, which led to the first song he learned to play.
Felder also discusses how the players on his latest American Rock 'n' Roll album caused him to raise his game, and gives us the story on how Rush's Alex Lifeson came to appear on his latest release. Watch it all in the Gear Factor episode above, and be sure to pick up Don Felder's American Rock 'n' Roll here.
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