Tag Archives: Don Henley

The shortstop who smoked

As softball season arrives again, and as the weather in our corner of Wisconsin finally starts to get nice, it brings back memories of the shortstop who smoked.

For most of the 1980s, I played for a newspaper team with one of the great names of all time. We were the Muckrakers.

In the early ’80s, our shortstop was the paper’s music writer, a guy who also dabbled in music (and almost certainly the recreational drugs of the time). I remember Michael’s long hair, his droopy mustache and his penchant for playing shortstop with a lit cigarette hanging from his mouth.

Off the field, Michael often pointed me toward new music. His tips were many, but my cluelessness was vast. He saw everything, as you’d imagine. I wish I’d gone to even a small fraction of the gigs he’d suggested.

So imagine my surprise when Michael got into a record I’d mentioned to him. It seems mainstream now, and perhaps was a bit so then, but he really dug Don Henley’s “Building The Perfect Beast.”

The singles that dropped from that LP had a distinctive sound when they hit the airwaves in late 1984 and into 1985. I liked them. Michael liked them. You know them all, foremost among them “The Boys Of Summer” and “Sunset Grill.”

This is one of the lesser-heard songs, and one of my favorites.

“You Can’t Make Love,” Don Henley, from “Building The Perfect Beast,” 1984.

It isn’t edgy. It isn’t full of synths and programmed drums as are many of the songs on this record. It’s just a laid-back slice of 1980s L.A. rock, co-written by Henley and guitarist Danny Kortchmar. It’s much along the lines of Kortchmar’s work with Jackson Browne and Warren Zevon, which I also have enjoyed.

The rest of the story

Michael wiped out on his motorcycle on a rain-slicked road. It left him paralyzed from the waist down. After that, Michael ran around in a wheelchair, but I’m not sure he was all that diligent about following his doctors’ advice. Too hard to give up some of those vices.

Michael is gone now, but Madison’s music community honors his memory by presenting a lifetime achievement award in his name at its annual awards show.


Filed under May 2012, Sounds

The tale of the tapes

It all started the other day with the story headlined “Cassette tapes make a comeback” in the Washington Post.

Cassettes again, eh? Not for me, but whatever trips your trigger.

Then I shared the link on Facebook. Dane cut right to the chase.

“Damn hipsters.”

I then wondered whether this meant the Maxell guy would have to climb back into the chair to get blasted all over again.

Larry piled on.

“Now he’s sitting in one of those mobility scooters.”

That’s cold, man. That wouldn’t happen to the Maxell guy. He’s too cool for that. I’m thinking we’ve seen that cat around.

Maybe that’s him in the Cialis ads, sitting in the tub next to his lady.

Truth be told, I loved that iconic Maxell image. But I bought only TDK tapes.

In the basement is a carrying case full of almost six dozen cassette tapes I recorded off vinyl during the ’80s. Here’s a tune from an album that always comes to mind when I think of that time and those tapes.

“Drivin’ With Your Eyes Closed,” Don Henley, from “Building The Perfect Beast,” 1984.

I don’t think I’ve played any of those tapes since the ’80s, nor do I expect to anytime soon. I no longer have a cassette deck.

So I won’t be able to listen to a couple of King Biscuit Flower Hour shows I recorded off the radio: National Lampoon Radio Hour bits that aired Nov. 30, 1980, or a Rockpile live show that aired Jan. 11, 1981. (Many old King Biscuit Flower Hour concerts can be streamed at Wolfgang’s Vault.)

Nor will I be able to listen to the radio simulcast of the first Farm Aid Live from Sept. 22, 1985. (But I vividly remember Sammy Hagar, then just having joined Van Halen, dropping some F-bombs on live TV. That did not seem cool, but this cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” was all right!)

I also wonder what’s on this tape. I can’t remember.

My friend Hose sent it to me. Side A is titled “Mike Goes To The Game On Sunday.” Side B is titled “Letter Perfect.”

If you’ve made it this far, a video bonus: That classic Maxell tape ad.


Filed under May 2011, Sounds