Raven hair and ruby lips, sparks fly from her fingertips. Echoed voices in the night, she’s a restless spirit on an endless flight.
That flight is Music Monday!
Welcome to Halloween Week here at Allison’s Written Words. I’ve got some special treats brewing in my cauldron this week. But I couldn’t think of a better way to kick the week off with a song that, while not inspired by Halloween, sorta fits the theme.
“Witchy Woman” is a 1972 single by the Eagles, released as the second single on their self-titled debut album. Written by Bernie Leadon and Don Henley, this single is one of their earliest written songs, and along with “Take It Easy,” was one of the songs they played every night in their early days. Considered by Henley to be one of his most important songs, as it marked the beginning of his professional songwriting career.
It’s also an important song for Elaine Benes on Seinfeld, as she needs a song because she can’t share the Eagles song “Desperado” with her boyfriend.
Of course, after listening to it, Elaine was a lot of things, but was she really a “witchy woman?”
Take a listen, and formulate your own opinion.
Don Henley has said that the inspiration for the central figure of this song is a number of women, but specifically Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of The Great Gatsby author F. Scott Fitzgerald. This is a credit to his reading her biography at that time. During the time he was reading the novel, Henley suffered from the flu, and during bouts of a high fever and semi-delirium. Anytime the fever and delirium would subside, he would continue the novel, with Zelda Fitzgerald combining with amorphous images of girls he met at The Whisky (A Go Go) and the Troubadour, two West Hollywood venues the band performed at early in their career.
The lyric “She drove herself to madness with the silver spoon” may be a reference to Zelda Fitzgerald’s stay in a mental institution, and the special slotted silver spoon that was used to dissolve sugar cubes with absinthe. Henley also credits a girl he knew who was interested in the occult, as well as books by Carlos Castaneda on shamanism.
“Witchy Woman” reached #9 on the Billboard Hot 100, none to shabby for only your second released single on your debut album (by comparison, their debut single “Take It Easy” reached #12).
As I said, it was featured as part of the Seinfeld episode “The Checks” (original airdate November 7, 1996) as Elaine’s “signature” song (since her boyfriend Brett won’t share his “signature” song, “Desperado” with her).
If you ever seen that episode, you’ll know about how the world stops for Brett as soon as the song comes on. You know, because there’s a perfectly-timed radio station that knows Brett is listening. I know he’s probably not listening to the album in his car, that’s not how Seinfeld works. Elaine, of course, suggests today’s song as a possible “our song,” but Brett rejects the notion.
“Witchy Woman” winds up having an ironic twist at the end of the episode, and, of course plays during the closing credits. And this whole “his/her/their song” was a somewhat minor subplot of the episode. A minor footnote in music, but for those who love shows about nothing, another great moment in Seinfeld history.
Of course, the song is about Zelda Fitzgerald, among other women, but Elaine Benes will tell you it’s about her. Unless she held someone spellbound, Dancing shadows and firelight, demonstrated crazy laughter in another room, and drove herself to madness with a silver spoon, then no, this song is definitely not about her.
But we’ll let her think it is.
Have a spooky Monday, and enjoy the music!