Don Felder’s Disclosure About Don Henley Omitted From The Eagles Documentary

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Starting from their self-titled debut album, released in 1972, the Eagles stepped into the music scene and shaped what country music sounded like during the era. They defined the decade with their massive influence on the music of their time. Although they went through some turbulent times resulting in their disbandment, the Eagles reunited and have remained active to this day.

While the band has many hit songs that topped the charts like ‘Take It Easy,’ ‘Desperado,’ and ‘The Last Resort,’ ‘Hotel California‘ is probably the first song that comes to many music lovers’ minds while talking about the Eagles. It has become the band’s signature song, causing much controversy due to its open-to-interpretation lyrics.

The Eagles Released ‘Hotel California’ In 1976

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‘Hotel California’ arrived on the music scene as the title track of the Eagles’ album of the same name, released on December 8, 1976. The band’s lead guitarist Don Felder, drummer Don Henley, and co-lead singer Glenn Frey shared the songwriting credits of the iconic song. It is known that the whole idea started when Don Felder developed the guitar parts and chorus sections in a rented house on Malibu Beach.

The song had such a massive impact on the period it was released that nearly every line of it was under close scrutinization by the fans. Everyone has had their own interpretations of the lyrics. The hit song’s creation process was also featured in the band’s 2013 documentary, ‘History of the Eagles.’ However, according to Don Felder, it didn’t reflect the whole story due to the excluded parts.

The Part Of The Eagles Documentary That Was Left Out

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In an interview with Shawn Perry of Vintage Rock following the release of the documentary, ‘History of the Eagles,’ Don Felder was asked how he started composing the song, ‘Hotel California.’ He said that everything started while he was sitting at a beach house with his guitar and began writing the bass part, other guitar parts, and finally, the chorus section.

Later, the guitarist said the original record was close to the album release. However, it would have actually been slightly different with the new contributions from him and Joe Walsh if Don Henley hadn’t intervened in the process. Henley came in and wanted them to play it exactly like the demo version. They called his housekeeper, and she found the original cassette for them to record the song in the studio.

Don Henley wanted to ensure that the studio recording was identical to the demo version. According to Don Felder, this was the real story behind the song’s creation process. However, he claimed that all these parts were omitted from the documentary. So, although it seemed like Felder had just written the introduction part, he had his signature on the whole track.

Here is what Don Felder said about ‘Hotel California’:

“No, that was pretty much it. I had a little Teac four-track in my bedroom, and I went back and recorded about four or five times through that progression so I wouldn’t forget it, and then went back later and wrote the bass part, wrote the other guitar parts to it, including the dueling guitars on the ending, and just wrote a chorus section, just actually finished the track.

As a matter of fact, I have the original track I found on cassette about a year ago and transferred it to digital before the cassette evaporated. It’s remarkably identical to what the record turned out to be, to the point where Joe and I, which I always envisioned, got down to do the original ending guitar parts. I thought Joe would sit in the control room and plug in an amp, and I would sit in the control room next to him, and I’d rip a lick, and he’d play something, and I’d play something, and we’d just kind of go toe to toe like we had done so many times.”

He continued:

“That’s what we were doing until Don Henley came in and said, ‘Stop, that’s not right.’ I said, ‘What do you mean, that’s not right?’ He said, ‘That’s not like the demo.’ And he had been listening to this cassette demo for like a year of my old demo guitar parts where I played something I would play, and I’d put that guitar down and play the Strat, something like Joe would play, and then I’d pick mine back up, and I’d assemble this kind of part on the end, this dueling guitar part.

And so he made me call my housekeeper in LA — we were in Miami — and she found the original cassette, put it in a blaster, played it, and we recorded it in the studio in Miami. I had to sit down and learn verbatim what I’d just made up off the cuff, so it was identical to the demo. Some of the stuff that I’d written out for Joe was incorporated into his solos on the end as well. So, you know, all of that was omitted from the documentary. It made it sound like I’d given them an introduction, and they wrote the rest of the song, which was not really the truth.”

You can listen to the iconic song below.