SITE NOTE: Whew, those Stars on 45 did a number on my bandwith! Help a brother out Á¢€” hereÁ¢€â„¢s the deal Á¢€” if you download a track, click on a Google Adword above? Deal? YouÁ¢€â„¢re so good to me.
Fans of the super laid-back, southern California twang of the Eagles must have gone into cardiac arrest upon hearing the first synth-blast chords of Don HenleyÁ¢€â„¢s first solo single, Á¢€Å“Johnny CanÁ¢€â„¢t ReadÁ¢€. Teamed with new writing partner Danny Kortchmar, Henley seemed eager to leave the Eagles in the dust and update his sound and approach for the 80s. The resulting album, Á¢€Å“I CanÁ¢€â„¢t Stand Still,Á¢€ is awash with synthesizers, mechanical percussion flourishes and hiccupy, New Wave-influenced vocals. As a young eighth-grader, I was familiar with the Eagles thanks to a worn-out copy of Á¢€Å“Greatest HitsÁ¢€ my older brother received one Christmas Á¢€” however, I wasnÁ¢€â„¢t a big fan. So, when I first heard Á¢€Å“Johnny CanÁ¢€â„¢t ReadÁ¢€ on our local Top 40 station one night, I was surprised to discover it was not in fact the Boomtown Rats, but rather from the same guy who once warbled Á¢€Å“Welcome to the Hotel CaliforniaÁ¢€ over and over until I changed the station.
Á¢€Å“Johnny CanÁ¢€â„¢t ReadÁ¢€ was less a scathing indictment of the failures of our educational system than more of a catchy Objectivist shrug:
Á¢€Å“Is it teacherÁ¢€â„¢s fault?
Is it mommyÁ¢€â„¢s fault?
Is it societyÁ¢€â„¢s fault?
Well, is it JohnnyÁ¢€â„¢s fault?
Musically, Á¢€Å“JohnnyÁ¢€ seems to have been influenced by The NailsÁ¢€â„¢ Á¢€Å“88 Lines About 44 WomenÁ¢€ and the Jim Carroll BandÁ¢€â„¢s Á¢€Å“People Who DiedÁ¢€, with its rote, deadpan reading and rapid-fire delivery, especially near the end where Don ends up yelling Á¢€Å“WOKKA WOKKA WOKKA!!Á¢€ in his best Pac Man impersonation. Another nice touch near the end is when Don tosses off the line Á¢€Å“ThereÁ¢€â„¢s a new kid in townÁ¢€ which serves a dual purpose Á¢€” it reminds the listener of who he is, while announcing who he is now. Alas, it was all a bit too much for Top 40, as the single stalled at a disappointing #42.
Now the follow-up single to Á¢€Å“Johnny CanÁ¢€â„¢t Read,Á¢€ that youÁ¢€â„¢ve heard. Á¢€Å“Dirty LaundryÁ¢€ was a huge hit, which eventually climbed to #3 and basically saved Don HenleyÁ¢€â„¢s otherwise-stillborn solo career. With one near-hit and one blockbuster to his debut albumÁ¢€â„¢s credit, it was time for single number three.
Á¢€Å“I CanÁ¢€â„¢t Stand StillÁ¢€ was the choice, an almost Eagles-y ballad but with decidedly New Wave production. It always struck me as some sort of unholy mix of Zeppelin’s “D’yer Maker” crossed with the Payolas Á¢€Å“Eye Of A StrangerÁ¢€. The organ/synth riff drives the song, underscoring the increasing desperation and agitation of the lyrics. And where there used to be a squiggly Joe Walsh guitar solo had this been an Eagles tune, here we get a squiggly synth solo that must have driven Eagles fans insane. I loved it.
Unfortunately, not enough people did, so Á¢€Å“I CanÁ¢€â„¢t Stand StillÁ¢€ stood still at #48. Luckily, this didnÁ¢€â„¢t deter Henley from mining New Wave to embellish his second solo album, Á¢€Å“Building The Perfect BeastÁ¢€ Á¢€” and he was rewarded with two huge smashes, Á¢€Å“Boys of SummerÁ¢€ and Á¢€Å“All She Wants To Do Is DanceÁ¢€.
The drummer for the Eagles using a drum machine Á¢€” who would imagine?
Á¢€Johnny CanÁ¢€â„¢t ReadÁ¢€ peaked at #42 on the Billboard Pop Singles Chart in 1982.
Á¢€Å“I CanÁ¢€â„¢t Stand StillÁ¢€ peaked at #48 on the same chart in 1983.
Buy Don Henley CDs at Amazon or on