You don’t have to read former Eagles guitarist Don Felder’s memoir, Heaven and Hell, or see the History of the Eagles documentary to know the band was dysfunctional. After all, the group named its reunion tour “Hell Freezes Over,” because that was the condition under which its battling members said they’d get back together after a 1982 breakup.
Felder, the lead guitarist who also wrote the music for Hotel California, was part of that 1994 reunion — but he was fired from the Eagles in 2001, and it’s clear from his book and his appearance in the documentary that it had a big effect on him.
But Felder bounced back with more than a decade of touring, and cleansing himself through the 2008 memoir. In 2012, he released Road to Forever, his first solo album in nearly 30 years.
“A lot of the time that went into not touring went into writing and publishing Heaven and Hell,” Felder says. “Going through that kind of cathartic process … was a very stirring time period for me. I’m more familiar with dealing with emotions in life and writing music and songs about them than I am with writing an autobiography. So while I was writing the autobiography, I’d go into the studio with these ideas and feelings about them.” A lot of that wound up on Road to Forever.
On Saturday, Felder will come to Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie along with Styx and Foreigner — two groups that have had their own dysfunctional histories — in a stop on their “Soundtrack of Summer” tour. The three acts will perform hits separately and together. They also recently released Soundtrack of Summer, which includes several Styx and Foreigner hits as well as a new, collaborative acoustic edition of Hotel California with Felder, Styx’s Tommy Shaw and Foreigner’s Kelly Hansen trading lead vocals.
“That song is the only song that I know of that’s been recorded twice by the same band, and was nominated for Grammys both times,” Felder says. “It was a difficult task to put together a third arrangement of it and make it something new and fresh and different.”
Felder says a brotherhood has evolved from that writing process and the tour.
“The three collections of band catalogs wind up being a four-hour, song-after-song, hit-after-hit [show],” says Felder, adding that he has known the guys in Styx for about 10 years and that he and Shaw are longtime friends. “The other 20 hours of the day, you have to live with these people — and so far, [it’s] just been delightful. Whatever dysfunction there used to be, the remaining people involved [have] little to no dysfunction.”
Felder may be the only officially “solo” act on the bill, but Foreigner and Styx are both much changed since their late ’70s/early ’80s heydays. Foreigner co-founder Mick Jones is the only original group member left, and Shaw and singer-guitarist James “J.Y.” Young are what remains of Styx’s peak years (original bassist Chuck Panozzo occasionally plays with the band). But through all the changes, both bands have remained road warriors, near-constant touring presences.
And Felder doesn’t mind if you consider this part of the “nostalgia” circuit.
“I think it’s an honor to be a classic,” Felder says. “That means that people know who you are, that you’ve got an established fan base that wants to come see you that knows your song and appreciates your work, and in exchange you give them what they want to see and hear: They want to hear the songs that they spent the summers of their lives, driving around with their first driver’s license for the first year and at the beach and all the stuff that went into their youthful years.”
Felder’s playlist will include recent material, but also expect his 1981 solo hit Heavy Metal (Takin’ a Ride) as well as the Eagles classics. Given his ouster from the band, you might expect performing Eagles songs to be bittersweet for Felder, but he says that’s not the case.
“I’m very proud of the work we did together,” says Felder, who joined the band in 1974. “I don’t have any bittersweetness about it all. The work we managed to do was really unsurpassed by anyone individually in the band, but the collection of all that talent really produced some great work.”