Molars
24Jan/13

Henleyana

Don Henley - The End of the Innocence

800px-Henley_Regatta,_Henley-on-Thames,_England,_1890s

I have my problems with Don Henley, and I think they all started with this song, which I first heard on the radio when I was 9 or 10. I'm not going to say that I was the worst parser of lyrics when I was that age, but I wasn't very good either, and so when I heard the last part of the chorus, when Henley--in his grossest voice--sings (to a woman, presumably), "You can lay your head back on the ground/And Let your hair fall all around me/Offer up your best defense/But this is the end/The end of the innocence," I was pretty sure he was telling the story of a sexual assault he had committed. This was something I believed 100% for a long time, probably up until I heard the song again in my 20s. As a kid, I don't know if I had the explicit idea that the song was a re-telling of something terrible, but it absolutely felt like it. I realize now that the lyrics are more about the passing of time, how things were probably unbelievably wonderful for Don when he was in the Eagles and in his early solo career, when every horizontal surface of everything he owned was rimed with coke, when love was possible for him, and before the dawn of whatever it is that Don hates in this world. Even knowing all that now though, this song still creeps me out in ways that I can't articulate graphically enough to other people to make them understand. Just know that this song is perverse and virulent, and try to forgive Bruce Hornsby for his involvement in its creation.

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  1. I always thought this was a protest song against the Reagan administration.

    • You’re right, Mike–I remember reading that somewhere, though that knowledge still doesn’t erase the weird feeling the song gives me.

  2. Then factor in that he’s singing the song to his sister and the song escalates in creepiness even more than you thought possible.


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