How Don Henley Got Revenge On Steely Dan

How Don Henley Got Revenge On Steely Dan | Society Of Rock Videos

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Amid their joint tour for The Long Goodbye Tour, the Eagles and Steely Dan, who once had a musical rivalry, faced a change of plans due to Donald Fagen’s health issues.

The two bands, managed by the same team, playfully referenced each other in their music during the ’70s. Steely Dan initiated this with “Everything You Did” from The Royal Scam album in 1976. However, Don Henley responded with his track later that year.

How The Eagles Reacted to Steely Dan’s Mention

Steely Dan’s “Everything You Did” featured the lyrics, “Turn up The Eagles, the neighbors are listening,” interpreted by many as a jab at the Eagles, particularly the ‘New Kid In Town’ musicians.

Reports suggested that Walter Becker’s frustration with his girlfriend’s love for the Eagles inspired the song, sparking discussions about its meaning for years. When asked about it in an interview with Uncut magazine, Don Henley shared:

“It was a little of both! I know them pretty well, and it was like he was sort of saying, ‘Everybody in LA’s playing this f**kin’ record, and I’m sick of it!’ It was a little bit of an acknowledgment, and a little bit taking the piss, because we had the same management – still do – but you know, they’re very droll, [Donald] Fagen in particular.”

Henley mentioned reciprocating with “Hotel California” and added:

“We repaid them in ‘Hotel California,’ with the line ‘They stab it with their steely knives, but they still can’t slay the beast.’ That was my rejoinder.”

The Steely Dan Influence and Criticism of the Track

Originally, “Hotel California” explicitly mentioned Steely Dan in the lyrics, but the Eagles opted for a more indirect reference, altering the lyrics. Glenn Frey explained in an interview:

“We just wanted to allude to Steely Dan rather than mentioning them outright, so ‘Dan’ got changed to ‘knives,’ which is still, you know, a penile metaphor.”

While the song faced controversy for perceived ‘satanic’ elements in the ’70s, Frey clarified later that it was more about artistic freedom, partly inspired by Steely Dan. Speaking to BBC, he said:

“Everybody wants to know what the song is about, but we don’t know. Don and I, really liked Steely Dan, and they had some pretty brave and different lyrics, and we’d never done anything outside the box, really. Then, we just sort of got brave with ‘Hotel California,’ and we said, ‘It’s just a movie; it doesn’t have to make sense.”

Subsequent Relations Between the Two Bands

Despite their past rivalry, Steely Dan and the Eagles maintained a positive relationship. Timothy B. Schmit collaborated on Steely Dan albums like The Royal Scam and Aja. There was even an attempt to involve Don Henley in backing vocals for “Peg” in 1977, although it didn’t materialize.

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