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 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.
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.