This was re­leased by Don Hen­ley of the Ea­gles in 1984, his words to mu­sic by Mike Camp­bell. It’s on­ly a mi­nor mem­ber of the California-rock canon but it’s spe­cial to me, and I still love to hear it.

Don Henley

Don Hen­ley

At some point in time not too long af­ter 1984, I took a win­ter trip from Van­cou­ver to Regi­na to vis­it my moth­er, by Grey­hound bus since I was kind of broke at the time. That‘s two days in a seat more or less, not an ex­pe­ri­ence I’d ev­er hope to re­peat. I had some way to lis­ten to ra­dio through head­phones; The Boys of Sum­mer was hot that win­ter, and I can’t ev­er hear it with­out re­mem­ber­ing the bus ride. I’d ma­neu­vered my way in­to a front-row seat, and not long there­after dis­cov­ered a long lame verse in my note­book, from which this stan­za:

One bone-white noon:
end­less wind
end­less ropes of snow twist across the road
the skele­tons of a thou­sand sun­lit snakes
laugh­ing un­der the wheels of the Grey­hound.

Any­how, this is a pure Cal­i­for­nia Rock Croon; good melody, and those word­s:

But I can see you,
Your brown skin shin­ing in the sun.
You got your hair combed back
And your sun­glass­es on, baby.
I can tell you my love for you will still be strong
After the boys of sum­mer have gone.

I sup­pose it’s re­mote­ly pos­si­ble that some won’t know where the phrase “boys of summer” comes from; it’s prob­a­bly best known as the ti­tle of a a love­ly, love­ly base­ball book by Roger Kahn from 1972, about Jack­ie Robinson’s Brook­lyn Dodger­s, as a team up to their World Series win in 1955, and then af­ter­ward as ag­ing men. I read it when it was new and loved it. And that ti­tle is from a Dy­lan Thomas verse: the boys of sum­mer in their ru­in. I don’t know whether Don Hen­ley was in­flu­enced by Thomas or Kah­n.

And I can sneer about Cal­i­for­ni­ca­tion all I wan­t, but those lines stick in my ahead, in­clud­ing Out on the road to­day/I saw a Dead­head stick­er on a Cadil­lac.

Then in 2003, some band called The Ataris cov­ered the song and their ver­sion had a Black Flag stick­er on a Cadil­lac; it’s ac­tu­al­ly a catchy harder-rock ver­sion that still gets played. I heard on my car ra­dio this evening, which is why you’re read­ing this, a few days lat­er.

This is part of the Song of the Day se­ries (back­ground).

Links · Spo­ti­fy playlist. The Hen­ley ver­sion on Ama­zon, iTunes, Spo­ti­fy. The Ataris ver­sion on Spo­ti­fy, iTunes Ama­zon. Here’s live video of The Ea­gles in 1994 (mu­sic starts at 0:28). And here are the Ataris.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Eric A. Meyer (Apr 09 2018, at 07:19)

A little voice inside my head said, “Don’t look back, you can never look back…”


From: Paul Morriss (Apr 10 2018, at 06:18)

It has such memories for me too - it was on a mixtape I listened to at the last year of University. Is Black Flag the equivalent of the Grateful Dead for a different generation?


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April 08, 2018
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