I’ll never forget the day I first saw the face of Donald Hugh Henley, the man who would become my arch-nemesis. Actually, I don’t remember the exact day, though I’m pretty sure of the month – September 1990. And it was most likely a Friday in that month, since that’s when the family would go grocery shopping and I, along for the ride, perused the magazine rack. Wait, scratch that – don’t most magazines come out like months before their cover date? The day in question could have been pretty much any Friday in 1990, though odds are it was a good while before September. Would it help if you knew it was issue 587?
While I clearly don’t remember the date, I do remember Henley’s face, fierce and furious, jumping off the page and right into my psyche. The expression on that million-dollar visage was plain-as-day: he hated my guts and I was gonna pay.
Those new to my feud with Don Henley will no doubt point out that I’ve had a phobia about 70’s rock musicians my entire life; just handling a copy of Foghat’s “Fool For the City” makes me break out in hives. If you are one of them, I won’t blame you for wondering if this is just another example of the phobia, no different than, say, me being convinced at age four that Gene Simmons was lurking outside the kitchen window. I will note, though, that most people are frightened by 70’s rock musicians, and rightly so. (Do you remember Frampton coming alive in any other decade?) Then I’ll also point out that in all the other copies of that issue, Henley is playfully choking Glenn Frey to death instead of staring daggers at a hapless teenager. And I’ll probably also run for the door, shouting “Henley got to him! Henley got to him!” and hoping you don’t chase me into the IHOP parking lot. Yes, I may scream, but don’t read into that as me blaming you.
I’m not saying it makes sense to think Don Henley has it out for me. Why would he? Isn’t having gobs of money, a slew of multiplatinum hit reords and worldwide fame enough? For heaven’s sakes, Bob Dylan covers his songs, and the guy’s got a grudge against little ole me? But then life doesn’t always make sense. Peter Frampton, after all, released “Frampton Comes Alive II” in 1995, even though he was already alive thanks to “Frampton Comes Alive.” A more appropriate title for “Frampton Comes Alive II” would have been “Frampton Remains Alive.” No, I do not have a personal grudge against Peter Frampton. One is plenty, thank you.
And while it hasn’t been the busiest of feuds, Henley and I have taken our shots at each other over the years, each of us compelled to respond to the other in turn. I told a fanzine something to the effect that “Joe Walsh could pee into a teakettle, and the whistle from his boiling pee would sing better than Don Henley ever could.” (Save your outrage, I was like 17.) Henley, of course, responded by reforming the Eagles – a move of such magnitude that it throws the gauntlet down against all of humanity, but one intended to throw me off my game just as I was starting college. Not that you asked, but it worked – not only did I flunk three courses, but my Historical Geology professor cut the words “YOU SUCK” into my scalp with a woolly mammoth tusk. I responded with six years of petty crimes in and around Peoria, Illinois – ask any of the locals about “The Henley Fires.” He then slandered me in the song “The Garden of Allah” – he wasn’t talking about donuts when he sang, in the persona of the devil, “I love those bavarians.” (I should point out: Henley is convinced I’m Bavarian. Again, life doesn’t always make sense. Frampton Remains Alive.)
On and on we dueled, neither of us yielding an inch, each more determined by the day to defeat the other, even though it’s never been clearly understood why he had it out for me in the first place. In a way our battle is like the battle between John McClane (Bruce Willis) and Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) in the movie “Diehard” – through circumstances beyond my control, I’ve been forced to confront Don Henley and battle against his treachery. I don’t have time to ask why; I’m too busy dodging his bullets.
Which brings us to today, when the missus and I were driving around town running some errands. She’s driving, I’m commandeering the radio, and what should come on but “The Last Worthless Evening,” from Don’s landmark album “The End of the Innocence.” I was humming along, learning to live without your love, and I made a note that it’d been a while since Henley and I had gone at each other. “Maybe we’re friends now?” I joked. Little did I know. For the rest of the day I was followed by the music of Don Henley. At the gym – “Dirty Laundry.” At the grocery store – “The Boys of Summer.” On EaglesBand.com – “Busy Being Fabulous.” Do you know what it’s like to be stalked by somebody’s musical catalog?
So I guess now it’s my turn to retaliate. Maybe I’ll start having my songs magically appear on Henley’s radio. Or maybe I’ll do something more insidious – after all, if he’s Hans and I’m John McClane…
Nah. I think I’m just make some remark about people who hang out with Glenn Frey. This feud is like the Hotel California – Don Henley and I can check out anytime we like, but we can never leave.