We’ll take a break from insects and politics this week to dwell on a much more pleasant subject: rock and roll. Specifically, several rockers have published their (mostly) autobiographies; five of them are up for discussion today.
We’ll start with Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles (1974-2001) by Don Felder with Wendy Holden. This book could have easily been subtitled: How a Poor Boy From Gainesville Lucked Into the Big Time and Still Finds Reasons to Whine. This is the story of Don “Fingers” Felder, a truly talented guitarist and composer who came up with all the music for “Hotel California” and other Eagles classics, as well as some of the tastiest guitar licks ever to hit the airwaves and stages of the world. It’s also about his relationship with the other Eagles, namely Glenn “Roach” Frey, Don “Guano” Henley, Joe “Rubber Nose” Walsh, Timothy B. “The Wanderer” Schmit, and former Eagles Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner.
Here’s the story in a nutshell: boy in Gainesville grows up poor, learns how to play guitar, gives Tom Petty his first guitar lesson, meets the love of his life, moves to California, gets a job with an up-and-coming country-rock band, makes millions, does a lot of drugs, has a few kids, sleeps with groupies on tour, argues over money and music with management and band mates, survives the band breakup, goes fishing, makes loads more money when the band reforms, argues over money and music with management and band mates, gets divorced, gets fired from the band, cries a lot, sues his old band, makes even more millions from the settlement, meets a new girl, establishes good relations with his adult children, and is finally at peace after whining through 332 pages.
Don’t get me wrong—the book is still a good read, and one of the only accounts of the inside workings of the Eagles. If I could, however, give Mr. Felder a bit of perspective, it would be this: Quit whining. I’ve been a working pro musician all my adult life. I’ve been playing for people for pay for more than 30 years. Unlike you, Don, I never made it to the big time. I don’t have millions of dollars and royalties that will keep me solvent for the rest of my life. I never rode in Lear Jets. And roadies? I still move all my own freakin’ equipment! So don’t expect a huge amount of sympathy from me… Fingers.
Moving on, the next rock tome is only one of two in this list to have been written by the musician with no outside help. Clapton: the Autobiography is a sobering and honest look at the life of a man who just wanted to play the blues… and managed to get himself addicted to everything bad along the way. Heroin, alcohol, women—it didn’t matter. Eric Clapton used and abused them all. His search for sobriety is the underlying theme of the book, and the look back on his life is at times painfully honest. There are a few times when Clapton comes across as a whining rich rock star, but the story would not have been complete without mentioning these instances.
There are plenty of great stories about his friendships with other music legends and the classic bands he’s been a part of, as well as the accounts of the numerous (and I mean numerous) women he lusted after or loved. And there’s one picture I might not have included. It features Eric, Ron Wood, and their wives on the beach in Paradise Island. Ron and Eric are in Speedos. In my humble opinion, the only people who should wear Speedos are men under 70 who spend most of their waking hours working out. No fat guys, and certainly no emaciated cocaine-body rock stars.
If you can get past the picture, then the book is highly recommended. Clapton’s journey through addiction and into sobriety, and his efforts to help other addicts, is a compelling read. Along the way, he just happened to make some unforgettable music.
It seems like two books (out of five) are all we can squeeze in today. Needless to say, please look for Rock Reads Part 2 next week. And if there’s anything I can promise, it’s this: even if Glenn or Marc decides one day to write a tell-all book about Storm Watch, there will be no pictures of me in a Speedo! Thank God!