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Subject: Analysis - "The Boys of Summer" by Don Henley (1984)

Written By: Marty McFly on 12/27/07 at 8:17 pm

Who else likes it? :)

This is such a classic song that defines the decade. It also has the earmark of "timeless music" in that it's way less dated than alot of other stuff from the same era. Like, you can definitely tell it's from 1984 with the slick new wave production and lite arena rock sound, but in a more subtle way. I remember ALOT of people liked it whenever it came on the radio or one of my mix tapes in the '90s. Same with today. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever heard anyone say they disliked the song, or they didn't make fun of it for being old school.

One reason I think so many people liked it was because of how fun and catchy it is, although when you really study it, it's actually a pretty deep song. There's a few possible interpretations, but I've always looked at it as being about this guy who regrets that a relationship he once had with a girlfriend had to come to an end. He's also thinking back on the way things used to be, compared with the present. For example, the "Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac" line was about the countercultue Baby Boomer hippies becoming the mainstream establishment.

The video seems to represent Henley or at least the character he's interpreting at three points in his life. The 10ish year old playing the drums was him as a kid, the one singing and reflecting on his experienced was himself in the present, and the bored-looking middle aged guy twirling the pencil at his desk, was the version of him who regretted certain things in his life.

Subject: Re: Analysis - "The Boys of Summer" by Don Henley (1984)

Written By: AmericanGirl on 12/27/07 at 8:22 pm


Who else likes it? :)

This is such a classic song that defines the decade. It also has the earmark of "timeless music" in that it's way less dated than alot of other stuff from the same era. Like, you can definitely tell it's from 1984 with the slick new wave production and lite arena rock sound, but in a more subtle way. I remember ALOT of people liked it whenever it came on the radio or one of my mix tapes in the '90s. Same with today. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever heard anyone say they disliked the song, or they didn't make fun of it for being old school.

One reason I think so many people liked it was because of how fun and catchy it is, although when you really study it, it's actually a pretty deep song. There's a few possible interpretations, but I've always looked at it as being about this guy who regrets that a relationship he once had with a girlfriend had to come to an end. He's also thinking back on the way things used to be, compared with the present. For example, the "Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac" line was about the countercultue Baby Boomer hippies becoming the mainstream establishment.

The video seems to represent Henley or at least the character he's interpreting at three points in his life. The 10ish year old playing the drums was him as a kid, the one singing and reflecting on his experienced was himself in the present, and the bored-looking middle aged guy twirling the pencil at his desk, was the version of him who regretted certain things in his life.


Excellent song.  (I bought the album on its strength.)  I always associated it with summer fun.  I never analyzed it quite the way you did - good observations!

Subject: Re: Analysis - "The Boys of Summer" by Don Henley (1984)

Written By: johnny5alive on 12/27/07 at 8:46 pm

when it first came out i didnt care too much for it, but it did grow on me, i much prefer all she wants to do is dance or dirty laundry.

Subject: Re: Analysis - "The Boys of Summer" by Don Henley (1984)

Written By: woops on 12/27/07 at 8:52 pm

I like "Dirty Laundry" better and still relevant today, IMHO.

I'm indifferent towards "The Boys of Summer" and I find the video rather boring despite that it won Video of the Year at the 1985 VMAs.

Subject: Re: Analysis - "The Boys of Summer" by Don Henley (1984)

Written By: Marty McFly on 12/27/07 at 9:06 pm


Excellent song.  (I bought the album on its strength.)  I always associated it with summer fun.  I never analyzed it quite the way you did - good observations!



Thanks. :)

It's ironic that the song itself mentions Summer and beaches, yet the video is dark and wintry, so it could go either way.

Subject: Re: Analysis - "The Boys of Summer" by Don Henley (1984)

Written By: dcs84 on 12/28/07 at 3:07 am

I had heard, somewhere (probably on the net), that it was about a northern California town that came alive in the summer but virtually closed in winter.  Anyway I prefer to think about it as has been mentioned, as some ode to nostalgia and longing for feelings that will never come again along the vein of "you can never go home again". I almost cry at the line "Those days are gone forever, I should just let them go but.." and the 'but' is the kicker.  I know the past is gone and I should not mull it over too much ....but.

Subject: Re: Analysis - "The Boys of Summer" by Don Henley (1984)

Written By: Timm on 12/28/07 at 6:58 am

Great song, I never sat down and analyzed it, but just took the song for a "remembering when" theme.  Something we all do from time to time, and can think of that time and place in our lives we sometimes wish we could relive.

The Ataris did a remake of this song not long ago, maybe 3-5 years) and it's pretty good, a little faster tempo, more guitar, etc.

Subject: Re: Analysis - "The Boys of Summer" by Don Henley (1984)

Written By: quirky_cat_girl on 12/28/07 at 9:26 am


Great song, I never sat down and analyzed it, but just took the song for a "remembering when" theme.  Something we all do from time to time, and can think of that time and place in our lives we sometimes wish we could relive.

The Ataris did a remake of this song not long ago, maybe 3-5 years) and it's pretty good, a little faster tempo, more guitar, etc.




I really dig the Ataris remake. :)

Subject: Re: Analysis - "The Boys of Summer" by Don Henley (1984)

Written By: Class of 84 on 12/28/07 at 9:10 pm

Marty is definitly the music philosopher!  This was one of my favorite songs of 84, I simply loved the sound, and the fact that it talks of beaches and summer. ;) It takes me back to my freshman year in college, cranking the stereo up when it came on the radio, having people in the room next to mine complaining about the loud music. It was kind of an ode to the summer of 84....

Subject: Re: Analysis - "The Boys of Summer" by Don Henley (1984)

Written By: johnny5alive on 12/28/07 at 9:44 pm

funny thing is i thought it was about baseball! ;D  with the title  boys of summer!

Subject: Re: Analysis - "The Boys of Summer" by Don Henley (1984)

Written By: MaxwellSmart on 12/28/07 at 10:21 pm

I was never an Eagles fan, but when a song works, it works no matter who does it.  "Boys of Summer" doesn't just work, it excels.  It's got clockwork precision. The percussion is especially brilliant.  The bass guitar builds tension, the keyboards release it.  I love this song even more than I did 20 years ago.

They lyrics--Woodstockers turning middle age--are the kind that so often flopped as self-indulgent nostalgia in the 1980s; however, Henley bases the lyrics less on generation-specific events and sticks to universal themes of love lost and sentiment (sentimentality, some might say). As I got to be the same age Henley was when he wrote it, I started identifying much more with the song, although I'm a generation younger.  I deliberately severed myself from all things in my past because the pain of unrequited loves and unsettled scores was too great.  I haven't been back to the town of my teens in six years, and I shall never, ever return.

But that's the essence of the song, isn't it?

The Americana lyrics with the references to baseball and topless sunbathing are in themselves hokey; we never cared about baseball, and the Goth girls I went with didn't bask in the sun.  On top of that, I despise the Grateful Dead.  

No, I have to churn the deeper meaning from the superficial.

The summer, as in the past as a whole, is out of reach.  The vista in my mind, as described in the song, is desolate and lonely.  I turned my back on it out of anger, and now all I was angry at has moved on and I can never make peace with it. ("I'm driving by your house, though I know you're not home..."  "I thought I knew what love was, what did I know? Those days are gone forever, I should just let them go...")  The "Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac" is a bit of a metaphorical stretch.  A superficial analogy, such as Morrissey moving to Beverly Hills is certainly valid; however, the deeper suggestion is growing up into what we once swore we would never be yet clinging to a dopey shard of the past.  For some reason, I keep pinned to my passenger-side visor a Fixx button I bought at Record Town in 1984!

But above all it's the haunting notion that  I'll reconcile old heartbreaks someday when I know there's nothing left out there with which to reconcile.

The cliche is "bittersweet," but there's only enough sweetness to make my heart ache.  So I try not to look back.
http://www.inthe00s.com/smile/15/tearyeyed.gif

On a lighter note, my little brother didn't know what a Deadhead was; he thought the lyric went, "Out on the road today I saw a dead head sticking to a Cadillac."  I always liked that, it's sort of Repo Man-esque!
8)

Subject: Re: Analysis - "The Boys of Summer" by Don Henley (1984)

Written By: whistledog on 12/29/07 at 1:48 am

The best remake of this song was by DJ Sammy :)

As for Henley's original, it's a song I grew up with.  I remember it, and I still love it 8)

Subject: Re: Analysis - "The Boys of Summer" by Don Henley (1984)

Written By: Dukefan on 12/29/07 at 6:17 pm

The song is brilliant.  I love it.

However I usually don't listen to it when it's on the radio because...well, it is simply too depressing.  Even without the lyrics the music itself is enough to send me into a spiral.

Subject: Re: Analysis - "The Boys of Summer" by Don Henley (1984)

Written By: Marty McFly on 12/29/07 at 10:45 pm


I had heard, somewhere (probably on the net), that it was about a northern California town that came alive in the summer but virtually closed in winter.  Anyway I prefer to think about it as has been mentioned, as some ode to nostalgia and longing for feelings that will never come again along the vein of "you can never go home again". I almost cry at the line "Those days are gone forever, I should just let them go but.." and the 'but' is the kicker.  I know the past is gone and I should not mull it over too much ....but.


That's a great analogy on both parts. Actually, I just rewatched the video, and in the beginning, it looks like the storefronts are all closed down. That ghost town would make sense with the "Nobody on the road, nobody on the beach" line.

I agree that he's reluctantly accepting that the past is over, but is okay with moving on, too.


The Ataris did a remake of this song not long ago, maybe 3-5 years) and it's pretty good, a little faster tempo, more guitar, etc.


You know, even though alot of people rip on the Ataris version, I liked it the first time I heard it. Even if it's not as good as the original, it's still catchy. You can usually hear shades of an original song in a cover, no matter how different it is, because it did come from that initially.

But just on its own terms, it's fun and '80slike...it's just punkish, as opposed to soft arena rock.

Subject: Re: Analysis - "The Boys of Summer" by Don Henley (1984)

Written By: loki 13 on 12/30/07 at 10:11 am

I despise this song. To me, it is one of the worse songs ever recorded. When I hear this song  on the
radio I have to fight the urge to heave the radio against the wall. Now that you now my feelings on the
song; Songfacts.com has the meaning, I don't know if it's accurate or not.

http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=2820

Subject: Re: Analysis - "The Boys of Summer" by Don Henley (1984)

Written By: ?????????????????????? on 12/30/07 at 2:37 pm


Great song, I never sat down and analyzed it, but just took the song for a "remembering when" theme.  Something we all do from time to time, and can think of that time and place in our lives we sometimes wish we could relive.

The Ataris did a remake of this song not long ago, maybe 3-5 years) and it's pretty good, a little faster tempo, more guitar, etc.

Also, the deadhead line is changed to Black Flag, because The Greatful Dead aren't Punk.

Subject: Re: Analysis - "The Boys of Summer" by Don Henley (1984)

Written By: SpaceHog on 01/02/08 at 10:46 am

the song reminds me of Hurricane Bob, which hit in 1991. It was on the radio when the storm hit.

Subject: Re: Analysis - "The Boys of Summer" by Don Henley (1984)

Written By: agoraphobicwhacko on 01/03/08 at 8:03 am

some ode to nostalgia and longing for feelings that will never come again along the vein of "you can never go home again". I almost cry at the line "Those days are gone forever, I should just let them go but.." and the 'but' is the kicker.  I know the past is gone and I should not mull it over too much ....but.
You hit the nail on the head. The song is about the loss of innocence, and he revisited this same topic on The End of the Innocence, although speaking about it from an older perspective. Henley must have been going through a sort of mid life crisis in the mid-late 80's.But above all it's the haunting notion that  I'll reconcile old heartbreaks someday when I know there's nothing left out there with which to reconcile.
Thats a great line, and its also the truth.


I rarely listen to this song anymore(or The End of the Innocence). Don't listen to Everybody Wants to Rule the World either. Too depressing. :P I find it amazing how people yearn for something thats out of reach. I do it myself, but I have always wondered what it is about humans that makes us do that.

Years ago, after my dad died, my mom had alot of trouble coming to terms with his death. She started drinking heavily, and basically just drowned her sorrows. She used to say a particular line quite often- "I just wanna go home". She was home, but she meant go back in time to where things were different and better in her life. One night after hearing this, I gave a reality check to the both of us by saying, "home doesn't exist anymore". I think saying that made me even more emotional than her, because I understood the finality of what I had just said, and also realized that no amount of liquor bottles, money spent, or in my case sex, drugs,etc. could ever take us back to that place called home.

Subject: Re: Analysis - "The Boys of Summer" by Don Henley (1984)

Written By: malibumike65 on 01/03/08 at 11:48 am


I was never an Eagles fan, but when a song works, it works no matter who does it.  "Boys of Summer" doesn't just work, it excels.  It's got clockwork precision. The percussion is especially brilliant.  The bass guitar builds tension, the keyboards release it.  I love this song even more than I did 20 years ago.

They lyrics--Woodstockers turning middle age--are the kind that so often flopped as self-indulgent nostalgia in the 1980s; however, Henley bases the lyrics less on generation-specific events and sticks to universal themes of love lost and sentiment (sentimentality, some might say). As I got to be the same age Henley was when he wrote it, I started identifying much more with the song, although I'm a generation younger.  I deliberately severed myself from all things in my past because the pain of unrequited loves and unsettled scores was too great.  I haven't been back to the town of my teens in six years, and I shall never, ever return.

But that's the essence of the song, isn't it?

The Americana lyrics with the references to baseball and topless sunbathing are in themselves hokey; we never cared about baseball, and the Goth girls I went with didn't bask in the sun.  On top of that, I despise the Grateful Dead.  

No, I have to churn the deeper meaning from the superficial.

The summer, as in the past as a whole, is out of reach.  The vista in my mind, as described in the song, is desolate and lonely.  I turned my back on it out of anger, and now all I was angry at has moved on and I can never make peace with it. ("I'm driving by your house, though I know you're not home..."  "I thought I knew what love was, what did I know? Those days are gone forever, I should just let them go...")  The "Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac" is a bit of a metaphorical stretch.  A superficial analogy, such as Morrissey moving to Beverly Hills is certainly valid; however, the deeper suggestion is growing up into what we once swore we would never be yet clinging to a dopey shard of the past.  For some reason, I keep pinned to my passenger-side visor a Fixx button I bought at Record Town in 1984!

But above all it's the haunting notion that  I'll reconcile old heartbreaks someday when I know there's nothing left out there with which to reconcile.

The cliche is "bittersweet," but there's only enough sweetness to make my heart ache.  So I try not to look back.
http://www.inthe00s.com/smile/15/tearyeyed.gif

On a lighter note, my little brother didn't know what a Deadhead was; he thought the lyric went, "Out on the road today I saw a dead head sticking to a Cadillac."  I always liked that, it's sort of Repo Man-esque!
8)


A great song for sure, but Don Henley, while an outstanding musician, did not write this song. It was a song that Mike Campbell, guitar player  for "Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers", wrote. One of the catchier 80s tunes out there, imho.

Subject: Re: Analysis - "The Boys of Summer" by Don Henley (1984)

Written By: agoraphobicwhacko on 01/03/08 at 11:03 pm


A great song for sure, but Don Henley, while an outstanding musician, did not write this song. It was a song that Mike Campbell, guitar player  for "Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers", wrote. One of the catchier 80s tunes out there, imho.
The lyrics were written by Henley. The song loses its power without those lyrics.

Subject: Re: Analysis - "The Boys of Summer" by Don Henley (1984)

Written By: gibbo on 01/06/08 at 4:31 am

Don Henley's best solo effort of the eighties. The Eagles included it in their concert set last year and it sounded fantastic.

Subject: Re: Analysis - "The Boys of Summer" by Don Henley (1984)

Written By: MaxwellSmart on 01/10/08 at 10:40 pm


You hit the nail on the head. The song is about the loss of innocence, and he revisited this same topic on The End of the Innocence, although speaking about it from an older perspective. Henley must have been going through a sort of mid life crisis in the mid-late 80's.Thats a great line, and its also the truth.


I rarely listen to this song anymore(or The End of the Innocence). Don't listen to Everybody Wants to Rule the World either. Too depressing. :P I find it amazing how people yearn for something thats out of reach. I do it myself, but I have always wondered what it is about humans that makes us do that.

Years ago, after my dad died, my mom had alot of trouble coming to terms with his death. She started drinking heavily, and basically just drowned her sorrows. She used to say a particular line quite often- "I just wanna go home". She was home, but she meant go back in time to where things were different and better in her life. One night after hearing this, I gave a reality check to the both of us by saying, "home doesn't exist anymore". I think saying that made me even more emotional than her, because I understood the finality of what I had just said, and also realized that no amount of liquor bottles, money spent, or in my case sex, drugs,etc. could ever take us back to that place called home.

Sad story, thanks for sharing it.  I can relate.  There's a lot of loss and heartbreak in my family too.  Apart from the catchy tune, I think the universal theme of loss is what accounts for the song's enduring popularity.  I know what you mean about avoiding songs from times of painful memories.  For me, that period is more acute from about 1989--1993 when I felt disillusioned and betrayed by the adult world.  For instance, I was in Dunkin' Donuts this morning and the Tom Petty song "Freefalling" came on the radio.  I put down my coffee and bagel and cringed for a moment.  I think that song will make me cringe until the day I day, but worst is Jesus Jones' "Right Here, Right Now"!  I hate it more than tongue can tell!

Anyway, more TBOS analysis:

Henley's other songs never appealed to me in the same way, neither musically nor lyrically.  Perhaps Campbell's contribution has something to do with it.  Synthesizer (keyboard & percussive) is prominent in "Boys of Summer," which is what drew me to it at 15.  As a New Wave kid, I kept my fondness of this Baby Boomer song to myself.  Perhaps that served to make it even more personal. 

Who are the boys of summer?  I didn't know until years later that baseball players were sometimes called "the boys of summer."  I took "boys of summer" as a reference to his beloved's casual affairs in the fleeting, sultry weeks of vacation, college break most likely.  The narrator felt dedicated to her while viewing her other suitors as just along for kicks at beach parties (lyrics referring to sunbathing). 

If "boys of summer" refers to baseball players, then it could once again be a reference to the passing season, or a metaphor for the passage from youth to middle age, which is the consensus.  "Summer" might refer to 1967 and "The Summer of Love," but why "boys"?

Roger Kahn's book "The Boys of Summer" is about the Brooklyn Dodgers' championship team in 1955, something for which Henley might wax nostalgic,  but that would be his childhood, not his early manhood.  The book itself was published in 1971 when Henley was in his mid-20s, but there's nothing to suggest he developed an emotional identity with the book, much less even read it. 

Henley denies the song has anything to do with baseball or baseball players (see wikipedia article).

Again, according to Wikipedia, Kahn took the name of the book from the Dylan Thomas poem "I See the Boys of Summer," published in 1934.  I'm no baseball buff, so I'd have to do more research to determine if the sobriquet for baseball players predates either Kahn's book or Thomas' poem.  It would be odd for Kahn to title his book after Thomas' poem if the sobriquet was already in usage. 

Did Henley adopt the title from Dylan Thomas? If he did, he probably liked how the phrase sounded; the poem itself is more metaphysical.
http://www.undermilkwood.net/poetry_boysofsummer.html
I can glimpse places where Henley might have drawn inspiration from the poem, but this is an opaque neo-romanticist poem and you're nuts if you think I'm going to takcle it here!

If neither baseball nor Thomas, perhaps my first analysis was correct.
???

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