– by Melinda Allen
A short review, on histories greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll legends.
Heaven and Hell – Don Felder
Don Felder is pure California. Blonde hair, tanned skin, blindingly white teeth. So it makes sense that this is the dude who wrote the famous guitar riff for The Eagles’ smash Hotel California. Except, Felder was actually born in Florida and spent his childhood there (amoung other things, teaching fellow blonde southerner Tom Petty to play guitar) before heading to LA where his talent landed him the gig of lead guitarist with country rockers The Eagles.
In his brutally honest memoir, we tag along with Felder on his journey from free-wheelin’ muso hanging out in the sunny canyons of LA, dreaming up those laid-back seventies tunes, right through to the tumultuous times when The Eagles found themselves thrust onto the world stage, subject to fame and all its (apparently many, many) pitfalls. While a lot of Felder’s confessions reveal behaviour that’s pretty questionable, he at least did a stint as a faithful husband before the temptations of the road got too much.
One of the most enjoyable things about this book is the insider’s look at the mind games and ego battles that plagued the band and eventually led to their infamous implosion. In stark contrast to their relaxed, easy going music, Don Henley and Glenn Frey could be some pretty nasty fellas (at least, according to Felder).
Heaven and Hell might not give you a peaceful, easy feeling but it’s a hell of a good read.
Does The Noise in My Head Bother You? – Steven Tyler
Aerosmith’s Demon of Screamin’ tells it like it is and holds nothing back as he recounts his early days of rock and roll right up to his gig as a judge on American Idol. In case you don’t realise how long Aerosmith have been around, one of their early gigs was opening for the original Beach Boys – Brian Wilson and all.
In a rollicking read that could easily have turned into a one-dimensional story of the epic rise and fall of a legendary band, or the journey of an addict from early experimentation to rehab and back again (and again and again.) Tyler’s multi-layered tell all is one-up from a simple tale of debauchery and the pitfalls of the a rock ‘n’ roll existence. While the behind-the-scenes rock star stuff is rife in the pages of this compelling melodrama, including Tyler’s antics with Guitarist Joe Perry that lead to the duo being dubbed The Toxic Twins, you get the sense that Tyler’s desire to make great music is the real motivation behind his long lasting career in rock’n’roll. Yes there’s sex, drugs and debauchery a’plenty but Tyler’s overriding passion for the music is infectious and, dare we say it, charming.
There are anecdotes aplenty – including the time he fooled some fans into believing he was Mick Jagger (well, why wouldn’t you?) – and plenty of stuff about the various and numerous women, but the real surprise here is what a wacky writer Tyler is – his colourful anecdotes are rich with wordplay and laugh-out-loud witticisms.
Some have (understandably) complained that this book needs a good edit and that Tyler goes off on too many bizarre tangents – and we admit to being little apprehensive during the first few pages of his waffling – but once you settle in to the rhythm of the dude’s rants it’s pretty easy to sit back and enjoyed them.
Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood – Eric Burdon
The Animals emerged as one of London’s most popular groups in the swinging sixties and went on to conquer America as one of the forerunners of the British Invasion. Front-man Eric Burdon’s colourful memoir covers this fascinating period and beyond.
Eric hangs with Hendrix at Woodstock, parties with Jim Morrison, does a stint in a German prison and races motorcycles with Steve McQueen in California. But the best bits are the stuff about the early days of the Animals. Eric’s passion for the blues is as heartfelt as his bitterness towards the record company that helped itself to a bunch of his band’s royalties.
Burdon has a great voice and concentrates on the interesting stuff rather than prattling on too much about every man, woman and dog he’s ever met (see Eric Clapton’s autobiog for an example of this).
A must-read for anyone who loves sixties music.