Don Henley Has No Patience for Your ‘Gotcha’ Questions, Lamestream Rock Critics
As a solo artist and founding member of the Eagles, Don Henley has helped create some of the most enduring classics of the rock era, including songs that made pointed cultural statements ('Dirty Laundry,' 'The End of the Innocence'), chronicled the battle of the sexes ('Witchy Woman,' 'Best of My Love'), and simply sounded great on rock radio ('The Long Run,' 'Life in the Fast Lane').
One thing Henley has never been known for, however, is having a sunny disposition. From his po-faced album cover photos to his overall reputation for being a bit of a cranky guy, he's generally not the first name that comes up when people start making lists of rock stars they'd want to have a beer with ... or intentionally annoy. But that didn't stop rock writer John Soeder from pointing out one of the goofier lines in 'Hotel California' during a 2009 interview -- and quickly suffering the wrath of Henley.
The lyric in question -- "So I called up the captain, 'Please bring me my wine' / He said, 'We haven't had that spirit here since 1969'" -- is one of several from 'Hotel California' that are supposed to carry a double meaning, which Soeder doubtless understood, but he couldn't help pointing out that technically speaking, wine isn't a spirit.
"Wine is fermented; spirits are distilled," wrote Soeder. "Wine also has a lower ABV (alcohol by volume) percentage than spirits. Do you regret that lyric?"
Predictably, Henley was not amused. And instead of shrugging off the question with a comment about poetic license, he unleashed a little Yngwie-style fury, telling Soeder that he was "not the first to completely misinterpret the lyric and miss the metaphor" and continuing, "But that line in the song has little or nothing to do with alcoholic beverages. It's a sociopolitical statement. My only regret would be having to explain it in detail to you, which would defeat the purpose of using literary devices in songwriting and lower the discussion to some silly and irrelevant argument about chemical processes."
So let this serve as a reminder to you, rock writers of the world: Don Henley is not to be trifled with. And when he hits the publicity trail in support of his upcoming album of country covers, you'd better not waste his time with any silly questions about apparent lyrical errors, or you will melt under the glare of his steely kni -- er, gaze.