All She Wants to Do Is Dance

Album: Building The Perfect Beast (1984)
Charted: 9
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  • Don Henley didn't write this song - Danny Kortchmar did. Kortchmar spent much of the '70s playing guitar and piano of seminal albums by James Taylor (Sweet Baby James, J.T.), Warren Zevon (Excitable Boy), and Carole King (Tapestry).

    When Henley launched his solo career, he tapped Kortchmar's talents not just a musician, but also as a songwriter. Songs they wrote together include "Dirty Laundry," "New York Minute" and "I Can't Stand Still." Kortchmar also wrote some songs on his own for Henley, becoming one of the few writers whose words the Eagles founder would put to tape. "All She Wants to Do Is Dance" is one of these completely Kortchmar compositions. In our 2013 interview, Danny told us how it came together: "I had the groove and the music going. That record was made back when the technology had just started to really take over in music. I had one of the first Yamaha DX 7s, which was a keyboard that was used a ton in the '80s, but we ended up luckily getting one of the first ones in the United States. It's a synthesizer keyboard, and I used it to get that sound that you hear the record starting with.

    I was fooling around with that and created a track at home while we were making one of those albums. The next morning I woke up and wrote the whole lyric in about 20 minutes - wrote the whole thing. It came very easily.

    I can't really tell you the process, just that the music suggested to me what I wanted and then it just came out very quickly."
  • The '80s were a banner decade for Don Henley, formerly of the Eagles' fame, who in his solo career had eight charting Top-40 hits, and five of those made it into the Top-10. And that's just counting the Billboard Hot 100; when you count Adult Contemporary, Mainstream Rock, and Dance charts, Henley dominated half the decade. His second studio album Building the Perfect Beast spawned four charting singles, of which "All She Wants to Do Is Dance" is the second-highest. The song became a staple of Classic Rock radio and a favorite at Henley's concerts.
  • The song's writer Danny Kortchmar draws on classic literature for song inspiration. This one has two specific inspirations:
    1) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
    Says Kortchmar: "You've got this really rich couple that's oblivious to what's going on around them."

    2) The Ugly American by Eugene Burdick and William Lederer (1958)
    Says Kortchmar: "A book about Americans coming into third-world countries and acting like they own the place."
  • This is one of these songs that has been endlessly analyzed, but came very quickly for the writer. Kortchmar says he wasn't thinking very hard about the song when he wrote it - it "just came out."

    What came out, however, were some very introspective words that stand in contrast to a deliciously danceable tune. The lyrics are often interpreted as a critical observation of the rebel side of youth culture in America - kids more interested in partying than in their professed aims to change the world. The mid-Reagan years were seen as a period where - to twist an old metaphor - Rome fiddled while Nero burned. If this line of critique of social movements sounds familiar, you've probably heard the same thing said of every generation's protest movements from the 1960s' Yippies to the 2000s' 4chan's Anonymous.

    Dwelling a bit further on the lyrics: A "Molotov cocktail" is a kind of homemade fire-bomb. One popular recipe (and we're not telling you anything you can't find out in a hundred other websites out there) is gasoline mixed with melted styrofoam in a milk jug, with a gas-soaked rag shoved through the cap as a fuse. Light it and throw. Dozens of variants on ingredients exist. Excellent examples are on display in any evening news broadcast whenever some third-world country is having a bit of civil unrest.

Comments: 12

  • Doris K Delp from FloridaForget politics, I love the servicemen and worked for their organizations during wartime. And still donate to them. Dance is what I wanted from a young age and this song drives me CRAZY. LOVE IT AND DON! Also , love his other hits.
  • Roadrunneralf from Hamilton, Ontario, CanadaI see this song as Don Henley's answer to Glenn Frey's "The Heat is On" which was recorded for Beverly Hills Cop Soundtrack. Henley was considered for a spot on the soundtrack and he heard the demo of the song, with upbeat music and prominent saxophone, with what seemed like a serious subject. Don even ends his song with "she can't feel the heat coming off the street", answering Glenn's "Baby can't you feel it? It's on the street"
  • Frank O from New OrleansI always thought this song was about US policy in South America during the 80s. “ sell the army all the drugs that they could do” “ don’t come back here yankee” the contras selling drugs,etc.
  • Georgie Girl from EarthThe song makes me think of a woman called Donut Hole Dolly dancing in an NCO club on a US military base in Southeast Asia in the early 70s. She is young and has a deep, desperate, and hysterical need to dance the anxiety of the world around her away for a while. This dancer is also likely very destitute and dependent on American GIs for money to feed her family — and very aware of all of the goings on - but just has to block it out because she is trapped in a social condition with no where else to go - in a society that sees her as an expendable commodity. Also, someone she loves will probably go hungry if she doesn’t dance.

    The protagonist telling the story in the song lyrics however is young, naive, and arrogant and judgmental of Dolly and he has no idea what her life is like. He thinks she is stupid and unaware - and all she wants to do is dance. Maybe she just needs him to keep thinking that about her so she can keep coming back there. Or maybe she’s a spy for the Viet Cong...or all of these things at once.

    Of course this was only my impression of these lyrics when I heard them for the first time in 1985. Obviously I’ve thought about this too deeply.
  • Lynn from EarthThe song is about all that was wrong in the world in the 80s but all the girl wants to do is dance. Your interpretation can be one of two things.
    1. She is resigned to all of the unrest in the world so all she wants to do is dance.
    2. She is so completely unaware of what's going on in the world she just wants to wallow in her ignorance and go dancing.
  • Rod W.bruyere from Los Angeles,california'Don't come back here yankee' is referring to Mexico. 'I'll bring more money' is his arrogant answer to those ppl who told him this... And he is kinda tryna defend himself: 'yeah I got money and you will always welcome me back.'
  • Rod W.bruyere from Los Angeles,californiaQuite simply the song is about a girl who is a newly sober dancing fool at A.A Glendale Calif. sober dances.

    She doesn't know how to hook up sober. She was a drunk player - she likes to 'get down' she likes to 'boogie' - but now all she wants to do is dance.

    The rest of the song describes ppl at the sober dances. The 'wild eyed pistol wavers' with 'blood in their eyes' is purely an artistic poetic expression of newly sober jealous men at the dance. The 'molotov cocktail the local drink' is like an alcoholic drinking again.

    This song has not a deep worldly political agenda - it's about a young man wishing to get 'a piece' of her action.
  • Chris from NycI don't think anyone in America would say "Don't come back here, Yankee." Maybe Mexico, or South America.
  • Ken from Louisville, KyWhen the Eagles reformed in 1994 and went on tour, Glenn Frey asked Don Henley to do this song. Frey said that despite rumors that they were feuding, he was a "big Henley fan" in the 1980's and considers "Building The Perfect Beast" one of the best albums made in the decade. When the Eagles perform their version, Frey is playing keyboards and can be seen dancing to this song.
  • Angus from Ottawa, OnYou know I'm not sure the issue is settled w/these "facts". All the images about political activism is all about militancy and illicit or amateur soldiering. Molotov cocktails weren't among any Americans' professed aims to change the world at that time. Maybe in the 70s, but not the Reagan era.
  • Meocyber from Alma, CoI get the silver medal ,Camille. Loved Henley w/ the Eagles and solo. Great dance song. Plus, some sharp satire lyrics about political apathy and the real world.
  • Camille from Toronto, OhWow! First one to comment on this tune! Love Don Henley's voice. Fun upbeat song.
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