Moments In Song #1 – Don Henley ‘The Last Worthless Evening’
by Scott Creney
Let’s get this out of the way right now. Don Henley can not sing. He is a fucking terrible singer. People go on and on about Lou Reed, or Bob Dylan, Kathleen Hanna, The Legend!, Britney Spears, about what terrible singers they are, how they couldn’t carry a tune if their life depended upon it. But Don Henley’s worse than any of them, by any objective criteria you want to use to judge bad singers.
He has two ways of singing, each of them equally bad in totally different ways. There’s the quiet sincere voice, where Don sounds like a smarmy uncle trying to get into your 12-year-old knickers. And then there’s the emotive voice, the weaselly screech that Don uses to signify emotion — the attempt to create a Grand Moment, filled with Significance.
But to be honest, I could give a shit about Don Henley’s voice. I just find it weird that the man was the main singer-songwriter in the most successful rock band of all time. The Eagles Greatest Hits is the best selling album OF ALL TIME, and it has a guy who can’t sing (along with Glen Frey, who sounds like a colossal dick) singing most of the songs. So let’s set this aside once and for all: it doesn’t matter whether or not you have a good singing voice. It sure didn’t hurt Don any.
Honestly, I had thought Don was out of my life at this point. Like I’m ever going to hear his mellow-shriek post-hippie angst ever again. But I went into Taco Stand this past Sunday — I’m not proud, eating Mexican food in Georgia is pretty much an exercise in culinary masochism, like trying to get decent lobster in Idaho — but Taco Stand will sell you beer on Sundays, which here in the south is harder than you think. Because even though 21st Century United States of America is pretty much a rotting dead squirrel dick of a country that can’t balance its budget, fix its bridges, take care of its citizens, or stop dropping bombs on villages of brown-skinned people, it is VERY VERY important in some parts of this country that people not be allowed to buy alcohol on Sundays. Because it will make Jesus sad or something.
But as with everything else in the Christian faith, there’s always some kind of loophole. And thankfully there’s one here in Georgia when it comes to selling alcohol on Sundays. See, if your business establishment sells a certain percentage of non-alcohol (food, coffee) consumables, then you’re allowed to sell alcohol. So as long as I buy a couple of tacos, it’s okay for me to drink as much beer as I want to.
Religion is weird.
So I’m sitting there in the Taco Stand. It’s 95 degrees outside and raining, and thank god I don’t drink the way I used to (back in the day, etc, etc) because the acid-casualty cashier has to break out the calculator (to figure out whether I’m old enough) the second time I go to get a beer, and I’m well on the other side of 21.
So I’m sitting there waiting for the rain to let up so I can walk back home. I’m holed up in a booth with my nose in a book and the satellite radio is set to some kind of classic rock deep cuts station. So you get Journey’s ‘Only The Young’ instead of ‘Don’t Stop Believing’. You get 38 Special’s ‘Hold On Loosely’ instead of ‘Caught Up In You’, etc, etc, ad nauseum, add nausea. Which is fine, I guess. I mean, this music makes a certain sense in the context of drinking at two in the afternoon on a Sunday in a place called Taco Stand surrounded by college students and rapidly expanding adults. It totally fits the environment, stripmall drinking being one of the bleaker forms of escapism after all.
Then this woman comes and sits down in the booth adjacent to mine. She and I are facing each other, but she’s too consumed in reading the local alt. weekly to notice I’m watching her. She’s a bit older, with tight curly hair cascading down past her shoulders, and wearing the kind of wide-framed, dark-tint sunglasses you usually only see in yellowing magazines from the 70s. I don’t pay her too much attention though until her husband sits down with his back to me. His hair is identical to hers but shorter, like someone shaved his head and placed a dishtowel made of steel wool over what remained. Their conversation, what I can make of it, is stilted and uncomfortable. He has a fake gold necklace draped over the neck of his shirt and a bracelet made of seashells tied around his right wrist. Each of their skins resembles a stick of beef jerky stretched out until it resembles a fruit roll-up. The scene is pretty much captivating.
And then Don Henley comes on the satellite radio, singing about the last worthless evening. The woman begins to bounce in place against her gray plastic bench. And when the chorus comes she begins mouthing the words, even as her husband continues to speak — about what they need to do later, about the errands they need to run — I can still make out her whispering voice as it quivers.
This is the last worthless evening that you’ll have to spend.
And I can’t help imagining that this song has some kind of special significance for her. Maybe she’s thinking of some guy she knew back when this song was popular. Maybe she’s thinking of the dull sack of sweatshorts sitting across from her. But as they picked at their shared bowl of nachos deluxe, the moment shifted. The room became filled with a small amount of poignancy. A moment was happening. And Don Henley — despite his grating over-emotive voice, his vulgar ponytail, his aesthetic contribution to our nation’s blind pursuit of bland mediocrity — had nevertheless played a small part in its creation.
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