End the Innocence

While Neill Kirby McMillan Jr. was watching the Grammy Awards in 1989, something spooked his mojo. After seeing Don Henley pick up an award for the aptly titled The End of the Innocence, McMillan, who is better known as Mojo Nixon, jumped up from the couch to scribble some words on a piece of paper. These lyrics would eventually morph into Nixon's cult hit "Don Henley Must Die."

"I mean, Henley was in the Eagles, for God's sake," says Nixon, "a band which I refer to as the country monkeys of the 1970s, a pure pop band that somehow was associated with country music. Then he becomes a savior of the rain forest and endangered animals, comparing himself to Bob Dylan like he's the conscience of the nation. Think about it. Here's the guy who did 'Tequila Sunrise,' and now all of a sudden he's up there on the Grammys wanting to be taken seriously? I said, 'I'm just not buying it.' "

Nixon has taken aim at everyone from O.J. Simpson to Debbie Gibson to Princess Diana in his lyrics, but targeting Henley, of all people, led to death threats.

"It was in Santa Rosa, California, just after the song came out, and there was this guy who kept calling up saying he was going to kill me. I hired a bodyguard for $150, but nothing happened. But I still keep that contract with the security guard and carry it around in my gig bag." Several verbal skirmishes also ensued between Nixon and Henley: "He called me a puny fly on his ass of greatness," says Nixon. Then, on August 2, 1992, during a show at Austin's Hole in the Wall, Nixon's road manager alerted the performer to a danger greater than any stalker: " 'It's fucking him, dude.' " The next thing he knew, Nixon was on stage alongside Henley.

"I was like Ralph Kramden, going, 'homina-homina-homina,' and my fans went from being Mojonites to starstruck idiots in half a second. I said, 'Do you want to debate or wrestle?' Henley says, 'I want to play the song about me, particularly the part about Glenn Frey.' I mean, he was extremely cool, probably liquored up, and put me right in my fucking place. But he's still a pompous twit. Have you seen those posters for his tour? I mean, is he looking constipated or what?" -- Greg Barr

Don Henley performs Sunday, May 21, at Compaq Center. Tickets are $42.50-$62.50. For more information, call (713)629-3700.

Stereolab -- Since 1991, through shifting lineups and what seems like a million CDs, EPs and singles, Stereolab has created avant-garde sonic collages anchored by a hypnotic rhythm track with pop, jazz and even some bossa nova accents. Lacking any sort of consistent structure, the band's latest, First of the Microbe Hunters (Elektra), boasts seven cuts of loopy space-age instrumentals and adventurous ambient sounds with lyrics in French, English or some bastard hybrid. Tracks like "Retrograde Mirror Form," "Barock-Plastik" and "I Feel the Air (of Another Planet)" are basically acid trips. Sometimes, just as the band settles into a repetitive groove, the melody or beats shift dramatically, forcing you to check the CD player to see if it somehow skipped to the next track. With founding members Tim Gane (guitar/keyboards) and Laetitia Sadier (vocals, keyboards) still around, the band continues to trade on its singsongy Sesame Street-for-adults vibe. Stereolab performs Tuesday, May 23, with Chicago Underground Duo at Numbers, 300 Westheimer. For more information, call (713)629-3700. (Bob Ruggiero)Radney Foster -- If there's one artist who should be a role model to country upstarts, it's Radney Foster. Note the word "should." The example Foster provides may not necessarily be the road to riches. But it's still a good illustration of an artist who has maintained his integrity and quality while working within the Nastyville machinery. More amazing is the fact that Foster has done this not only as a solo act, but also as one half of the duo Foster & Lloyd.

Last year Foster took a great leap forward with his release See What You Want to See. A beautiful yet brutally honest look at relationships and the way they can crumble, the album is the culmination of all the promise Foster has displayed for going on 15 years.

He does have all the goods: a voice as warm as a balmy spring day and songs as wise as a best friend's advice and as musical as the birds of the Big Thicket. His current trek through the Lone Star State finds him backed by the Thompson Brothers, a young country-rock band whose debut album, which Foster produced, sounds much like -- surprise -- Foster & Lloyd. But this Houston stop is not about protégés; it's about an artist who has found his groove, the sweetest and smartest one a musician can find. Radney Foster performs Tuesday, May 23, at McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk. For more information, call (713)528-5999. (Rob Patterson)

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Rob Patterson