Felder Makes It Count

For much of the past year my guitar lessons have focused on solos. My instructor considers where I am then assigns challenging but makeable solos that will “unlock” a new technique or concept. I like learning about the background of the songs and guitarists whose solo I’m studying. I’m currently learning the solo for One Of These Nights by the Eagles. With disco being popular, the Eagles took a stab at a song in that style.

From Wikipedia:

“We wanted to get away from the ballad syndrome with One of These Nights…While they were recording the album in Miami, the band also shared a studio with the Bee Gees, and according to Henley, the “four-on-the-floor” bass-drum pattern is a nod to disco.”

The solo, recorded separately in LA, is a sharp departure from the rest of the song’s vibe. The solo is “composed of blues-based licks and sustained string bends using an unusually meaty distortion tone”

Doug Frey said “With Don Felder in the band now, we can really rock…[we] wanted One Of These Nights to have a lot of teeth, a lot of bite—a nasty track with pretty vocals.”

My teacher, Patrick, is friends with Felder. He added some more color. At this time the Eagles were writing their 4th album and Felder just joined the band. They were already very popular in the US (they wouldn’t reach international stardom until Felder writes Hotel California a couple of years later). Felder comes into the studio and his first assignment is to lay down a solo for One Of These Nights. The solo has a tight, highly compressed tone. As I am trying to learn it it’s very clear as the technique requires choking off the sustain on the notes to mimic the staccato attack. It’s strangely aggressive given the song’s style. Patrick explained how he could hear the nervous energy that drove it.

It turns out it was the first take. It could have been a brainstorm. But context is everything. To the band, a first take counts for nothing but to Felder, the new guy stepping up to the plate, it counted for everything. He had something to prove. The whole “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” type thing.

The mindset of something mattering to you if it doesn’t “matter” is powerful. In Last Dance, someone argues that, even more than innate ability, Jordan’s greatest gift was his ability to be present. It made regular-season games matter. If you can fabricate meaning when there is none you have a superpower. It’s an answer to nihilism. You naturally channel Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” as you walk out to mow the lawn.

So that first Felder take was the final take you hear on the track. Sometimes nobody cares about a moment but to you it’s everything. But the meaning you give it can turn out to matter to everyone.

Fwiw, I was never a huge Eagles fan but the History Of The Eagles doc on Netflix is outstanding. Although, I hear the contentious parts are just one side of the story…

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