Sunday, August 01, 2004

No peaceful easy feeling here...

It seems that Don Henley ran into a bit of the same trouble that Linda Ronstadt recently did. At a concert at the Pacific Ampitheater, in Orange County, California, Henley apparently decided to reference her in the intro to a Randy Newman song titled, Political Science. He got as far as:
Given what my good friend Linda Ronstadt...
And that's when a chorus of boos drowned out the few cheers that he roused. Okay. Let's ignore that he attempted to make a liberal political statement in one of the most Republican counties in the country. Let's also ignore that Henley is no stranger to political activism. We can even ignore the lyrics from Newman's song - well... no, we can't - here they are:
No one likes us-I don't know why We may not be perfect, but heaven knows we try But all around, even our old friends put us down Let's drop the big one and see what happens We give them money-but are they grateful? No, they're spiteful and they're hateful They don't respect us-so let's surprise them We'll drop the big one and pulverize them Asia's crowded and Europe's too old Africa is far too hot And Canada's too cold And South America stole our name Let's drop the big one There'll be no one left to blame us We'll save Australia Don't wanna hurt no kangaroo We'll build an All American amusement park there They got surfin', too Boom goes London and boom Paree More room for you and more room for me And every city the whole world round Will just be another American town Oh, how peaceful it will be We'll set everybody free You'll wear a Japanese kimono And there'll be Italian shoes for me They all hate us anyhow So let's drop the big one now Let's drop the big one now
Ben Werner, from the Orange County Register, took the booing patrons to task in a review titled, Boom goes Orange County (free registration required). From his article:
What few cheers went up were quickly drowned out in waves of boos that grew larger and louder. Unflappable Henley initially backed off: "Whoops Orange County." Once the ensuing hometown hooray waned, however, he made his point. "We used to be able to agree to disagree. We used to be able to have civil debate in this country. "Not anymore," he concluded. Then came the song: "Political Science," a wickedly satirical yet increasingly relevant statement on American imperialism that dates back to the Vietnam era. Henley: "I've imagined it as a duet between Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney." ...The old-hat argument that "I paid to be entertained, not to listen to political speeches" holds little weight with me, but I concede that an evening of Ronstadt singing standards is an unusual forum for social commentary. But Don Henley? People, you've got to be kidding. If you were there, were you really paying attention to his other songs? "Dirty Laundry," about sleazy TV news coverage. "The End of the Innocence," about disillusionment amid the Reagan era ("this tired old man that we elected king"). Even "All She Wants to Do Is Dance," a deceptively playful tune about willful ignorance in the face of political wrongdoing. Thus, applying the just-entertain-me complaint to Henley is misguided; his longstanding criticism of American policy has always been intrinsic to his form of entertainment.
Werner has a point... sort of. Anyone attending a Henley concert had better well expect politics thrown in (free of charge). Yet my concern is not with whether Henley has the right to speak his mind (which he does), nor whether the patrons have the right to boo him (which they do) but, rather, with Henley's statement, "We used to be able to have civil debate in this country." Get over it Don. Being in front of a microphone, in front of thousands of people who'd like to hear a concert, does not constitute a civil debate. It's obvious what you want. You want the advantage that thousands of watts of amplification gives you. That's fine. You're in a position that gives you the opportunity to deliver your message in such venues. But don't for a minute think that it's a civil debate.

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