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A look at Don Henley's Solo Records

Updated on July 4, 2011

One of the very first artists I can remember listening to is Don Henley. He was my dad's favorite artist, and what can I say? I love his music as well. Mr. Henley just has some amazing quality with his songs that both inspire and touch the heart. His voice has such a soulful sound to it. There aren't a lot of singers out there who's voices themselves are an instrument, but Mr. Henley would definitely qualify as one. While I in no way claim to be an expert on his discography, I would like to pay homage to Don Henley through a breakdown of his solo albums.

Cover art for "I Can't Stand Still"
Cover art for "I Can't Stand Still"

I Can't Stand Still

In 1982, Don released his first solo album after the Eagles breakup in 1980. "I Can't Stand Still" is the album my dad says he used to listen to on his first walkman. The album went gold, including three singles, with “Dirty Laundry” reaching number 3 on the charts, and forever solidifying itself as one of Henley's greatest songs of all time. One of the first things I notice when I launch the playlist for this CD on my ipod, is I don't skip songs. I don't delete songs I don't like off of the playlist. I can listen to this entire album because Mr. Henley, as well as the Eagles, had the habit of making a record with a solid track for the WHOLE album, not just a few singles and a lot of filler.

I Can't Stand Still” - The feelings of nostalgia flood my mind when I hear the first bit of this song. But the feelings behind this song is no mystery. The song is talking about two lovers who have separated, but one of them still has strong feelings for the other. “You know I love you too, You know I always will, no matter what you do”. His feelings for her haven't changed even though it's obvious that she's seeing another person. And it eats him up. He goes over his hurt over the loss (“I can't stand still, while he's holding you/ kissing you”), some fond memories he had while they were together, (“I remember when we walked together, makin' love on a summer night, guess we thought that it would last forever, we were all right”) and talks about problems he perceives (“So we got a little problem baby: how to put together love and work/I can't take it if you need some freedom”). Anyone who has gone through a difficult breakup will understand the feelings behind this song.

You Better Hang Up” - The first stanza of this song isn't hard to figure out. There's a woman who has obviously settled in her life, missing not only experiences she could have had traveling the world, but also lovers she could have had. “She knows that she's married but she can't remember why”. But the first few lines of the chorus confuse me. “She's hotter than an oven, just to fill your lovin' cup, if a man answers you better hang up.” It's obvious that he's smitten with this girl, and if you try to call this girl and get a man's voice, hang up the phone. Don says “cause her ol' man love to kill you for the look that's in your eye”. Even though you love her, she is married and you don't want to insult her husband.

Long Way Home” - The first stanza of this song has what is in my opinion, one of the greatest lyrics of all time. “There's three sides to every story baby, yours and mine and the cold hard truth.” The song appears to be a bunch of random lines thrown together. “The heat don't work, the toaster don't work, the car don't work. And I guess I know why.” But this song is so very obviously talking about the loss of a lover, and how everything else in your life just seems to fall apart as a result.

Nobody's Business” - I must be honest, I don't really understand the meaning to this song. I absolutely love this song, it has one of the wickedest sounds of all time. But the lyrics confuse me. It seems to be that this young man in the story of the song is constantly minding his own business, when trouble comes looking for him. “I went out in the darkness just searching for someplace to be. Wasn't looking for trouble I guess it was looking for me.” “I was taking some comfort, I needed a break from the rain. I guess I was mistaken when someone remembered my name. But I knew I was doin' just fine.” “Well I guess for some revenge is sweet, though it be once removed. I hope you feel better I don't know what you proved.” I mean, sure, some people spend their entire lives trying to take revenge on someone, and once they're done it (though it be once removed), it doesn't make them feel any better. (I hope you feel better I don't know what you proved). Then again, the next line confuses me. “Well yonder comes the emperor boys, he sure looks fine in blue. Hope you feel better, babe, I know you're scared too.” Blue is usually used to signify peacefulness. Maybe the Emperor has sued for peace, and hopefully it's putting people at ease even though they're still afraid. Then again, another great line. “Well it sure makes you wonder the things that some people will say. They can see black and white but they don't seem to notice the gray.” What a brilliant line for a brilliant song.

Talking to the Moon” - This song needs little analysis. It's a song Henley wrote to talk about his fond memories of his hometown in Texas. This song is a beautiful peace for piano. It has beautiful lyrics, and one of Henley's better vocal performances on the album. “Hopin' someday soon that I'd be over the memory of you” - Henley can never get over the love he has for this town.

Dirty Laundry” - And finally we get to the single that broke the charts. It's got a catchy rhythm, great sound, and a killer guitar solo. But an analysis of the lyrics is not required. Don himself has explained what the song means. He was tired of the tabloids; their lack of sympathy in using any story for the sake of getting “the latest scoop” (Just give me something- something I can use/ It's interesting when people die), their lack of professionalism (I just have to look good I don't have to be clear/ we got the bubble-headed bleach blonde who comes on at five, she can tell you about the plane crash with a gleam in her eye) and their want to get themselves in situations they don't need to be (we got our dirty little fingers in everybody's pie). And of course, we all know that crap is king!

Johnny Can't Read” - What has the most catchy sound to the whole album, Johnny can't read talks about the sadness of the life of someone who misses something so basic as learning to read. The first stanza talks about all the “extra-curricular” activities that school brings, anything to keep ol' Johnny from learning to read. “Johnny can dance, love, push shove, hang out, talk tough, get down, and throw up.” He loves to live the hard life, but sit down and read? It ain't the teacher's fault, mommy's fault, societies fault, the president's fault, and it definitely isn't Johnny's fault. He goes and gets himself in trouble with the FBI. And the great double negative, “He never learned nothing that he'll ever need.” So he learned something that he'll never need? Is that how it works out. But we can also see a tip to Don's own love for reading in this song.

Them and Us” - I'm not sure if this song talks in relation to any specific war, but it's definitely talking about Nuclear warheads. “One finger on the button, one finger up his nose”. The people who have power over these things don't seem to be too intelligent. Johnny's relaxing when the first warnings sound. “Bigger is better, more is more.” It reminds us of the arms race. “If we can't have the ball, there won't be any winner this time.” How can anyone win if there's no fight? And then in a matter of minutes, everything would be over with. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust/ In forty five minutes, it will all be done. We'll all be good and crispy but we'll still be number one.” Everything is destroyed, but we'll still win. And if they kills us first, we're primed to still kill them too.

La Eile” - In what is probably the most ironic song, la eile translates from German to English as “hurry”. But the pace of the song is nothing if hurried. There are no lyrics, just a beautiful tin whistle instrumental.

Lilah” - As a young man, he let the love of his life, Lilah get away. “I had some things that I wanted to say, ere I could begin, you know the world got in my way.” He wishes he could go back to simpler times. But they spent so much time fighting. He reflects on his loss, the pain cuts like a knife. He realizes that a man needs simple pleasures in life, a home, a wife, and children. He's going to miss Lilah, what it feels like to kiss her, what she smells like. “Whate'r ye sow, so shall ye reap”.

The Unclouded Day” - In a surprising twist, Don Henley goes almost spiritual with the last song on the album. O they tell him of a home which has no problems. A home far away, in the skies, no storms. This song has no hidden meaning, it's obviously talking about paradise. Whether it be heaven or whatever your idea of it is. It's no surprise as Don Henley helped write “The Last Resort” which talks about Paradise Lost. This song is just as solid as the first on the record.

Part 2 coming soon, check back on this hub.


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      Mike 21 months ago

      Can't believe I just saw this. Nice posts. Regarding "Nobody's business" this is what it's about:

      He was arrested in 1980 and charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor when paramedics were called to his home to save a naked 16-year-old girl overdosing on cocaine and Quaaludes. He was fined $2,000 and given two years' probation and ordered into a drug counseling program.

      The reality is that according to Henley, the 1980 incident happened after a party he had at his LA home. As common in those days the partiers were mostly crashers that Henley didn't know and it got out of hand. Henley and his then-girlfriend decided to go to bed, but let the party continue. He says he was woken up in the morning by the police pounding on his door with a search warrant. They found the drugs and the naked unconscious teenage girl.