‘We never finished the song’: The Eagles’ loss was Don Felder’s gain as the 1980s began

How much better would the Eagles’ only so-so 1979 album The Long Run have been with the inclusion of Don Felder’s first solo hit, 1981′s “Heavy Metal (Takin’ A Ride)”? It almost happened.

Felder had already served as co-writer for the Eagles tracks “Victim of Love,” “Those Shoes” and “Hotel California,” while making key contributions as guitarist and vocalist on several others — including “One of These Nights,” “Visions” and “Take It to the Limit.”

His contribution to the underground hit film Heavy Metal, even with backing vocals from bandmates Timothy B. Schmit and Don Henley, would give Felder’s fledgling solo aspirations a huge boost as the Eagles went on an extended haitus beginning in 1980.

But it turns out “Heavy Metal (Takin’ A Ride)” — which only went to No. 43 on the Billboard charts, but became an album-rock radio staple — was actually started during sessions for what, at the time, looked like the Eagles’ studio swansong.

“That started out bring a track that I wrote for The Long Run record, as a matter of fact,” Felder tells I-95. “We never finished the song, and then I went out to Universal and saw the film in a screening by the director. They asked me to write a song, and I said: ‘I’ve got this great track. Let me finish writing the lyrics about Heavy Metal,‘ and there is was.”

Felder just released an extended edition of his most recent solo album, 2012′s Road to Forever. The project included collaborations with Tommy Shaw of Styx, with whom Felder is touring this summer. That concert bill is rounded out by Foreigner.

Felder, Shaw and Foreigner’s Mick Jones recorded a new version of “Hotel California” to celebrate the tour. “With all of the different singers singing a verse, and everybody singing on the chorus,” Felder adds, “it’s kind of a different arrangement than what you’ve heard before. The very end, where you would normally hear all of the regular guitars come in, Tommy Shaw jumps in and does an amazing guitar solo and then Mick jumps in and does another amazing solo, and then we do these harmonies, all three of us. So, it’s a unique take on that song.”

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