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Lyrics submitted by Demau Senae, edited by robotdino, anintellectual

The Boys of Summer song meanings
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  • +10
    General CommentHenley's "Heart of the Matter" was the song that I always carried with me in my head to accept the lost love of my life twenty years ago. That was until she looked me up last year and I found out things were not what I had always thought. She had always regretted losing me, we began talking again, and then she confessed that she still loved me, more today than back then. I played that song again, and the rest of Henley's Greatest Hits, and suddenly I came upon "Boys of Summer", a song I had heard many times, and always thought of it as a good song of reminiscing of lost youth. Now I see the real genius of the song.

    He sings of his lost love for most of the song, he's gonna get her back, he's gonna show her what he's made of. There's going to be a happy ending. Then the bridge leads to the classic line:

    Out on the road today I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac
    Little voice inside my head said don't look back, you can never look back
    Though I knew what love was, what did I know?
    Those days are gone forever, I should just let em go

    A lot has been made of the reference to the irony of a non-conformist Deadhead driving a Cadillac, which deserves some merit. But for me, it's the next lines that hold the most weight for me. I didn't know what love was, I only thought I did, and I thought I was in love with her. I've grown and changed so much in twenty years. I don't love her anymore. I can't look back that way anymore. It's just a memory, it's gone.

    landed09on February 06, 2010   Link
  • +6
    My InterpretationWhoa, fasten yr safety belts, because my interpretation of this haunting song was always way, way different that anyone else's! In the late 1950s I hit the road and got involved in the urban folk scene, doing a lot of writing and backup guitar stuff, deeply influence by the Beat Generation writers but also by the emerging folk-rock sound in LA and New York. I got into the habit of working summers at resorts, usually by a lake or by the ocean, through the summer season, then collecting unemployment in the winter. You'd always have a wonderful and incredibly sweet romantic fling with one of the college girls during the summer--the hottest memories imaginable--then you'd go visit them in their university digs, and they'd show you off to their college friends. Then in a couple of months, when the chilly winds started to blow, they get tired of you and send you on your way. (No complaints here, cause I wrote some nice songs behind it.)

    Anyway, after the last chorus of 'Don't Think Twice' on the summer love affair, ("don't look back, you never look back") you'd hit the road to New York to see what the boys and girls were singing in the Village at Gerde's Folk City and maybe the Cafe Whah, and then you'd go back to California Dreamin' to work all winter on the songs or the novel you were writing, or whatever...until the resort season started the next summer. And when you had a little spare time, you'd be trying to get traction with the folk-rock group you were organizing. Of course, you were poor as a church mouse throughout this entire process, because those were the dues you were paying.

    In those days, late 1950s and on through the 1960s, it was easy to go to a dealership and sign a contract to drive a car across country to a prospective customer on the east coast. (The dealerships even advertized for drivers in the newspaper classified ads.) This practice was commonly called 'deadheading' a car, 'cause you'd only drive it one way, then have to make an arrangement to 'deadhead' another car back wherever you came from. The license plates for such cars were a little weird, so the dealers would commonly put a 'deadhead' sticker on the vehicle so the cops down south wouldn't throw you under the jail, and you didn't have to stop at the weight stations with all the eighteen wheelers...so, long story shorter, I always assumed that's where the line about the "deadhead sticker on the Cadillac" came from. I did the old deadhead with many a Cadillac, I can tell you. Many a make-out session and more with young ladies requesting a road trip with an honest-to-goodness singer-songwriter. Memories, beautiful memories, and again lots of songs came out of it...

    I have made it a point to remember the name of every young lady I kissed or made love to. They were all beautiful, even more so in memory. I am just sorry that I couldn't have written a song for every one of them. They deserved it, for being so young and so lovely.

    Anyway, I got the hell out of the music business in 1967 in San Francisco, when I realized that there were too many substances to abuse, and that I couldn't handle it. I roamed the earth doing every kind of journalism, and writing books as well. One day a beautiful Filipino lady took me off the road, nursed me back to health, married me, and shared her food, her home, and her life with me. I'm one lucky old man, and I know it.

    But I'll never forget those wild years. Had a partner whose slogan was, "Screw philosophy! People just want to have fun!" And we did. So for me, Don Henley's haunting song reminds me of those nine crazy years between 1958 and 1967. To me the references to empty streets and the empty beaches refers to the end of the resort season, when the beautiful college girls would go back home. (And there's nothing that generates feelings of loneliness and abandonment like a resort town at the end of the season.) The college girls would think about the boys of their summer, and maybe you'd talk on the telephone, then you'd deadhead a car to wherever they were, and carry the torch a bit longer. The brown-tanned skin, the idea of a special love in a special place where the laws of physics and of human societies don't really apply, that's all in the song. It's about thinking about the past, big-time, and appreciating what you had but wanting to go back, just a little. Just enough to have that feeling again.

    The fact that this song has so many cultural reference points for me that probably don't exist for anybody else, just goes to who how a really good lyric is likely to be completely universal. Don Henley and so many other writers of his generation were great poets, in their own way. But for me the very best will always be the Boss, since Springsteen seemed to accomplish what Bob Dylan wanted to do but never could--Springsteen had the longing, the crazy sexual electricity, but also managed to include the love of social justice that drove people in the 1960s and 1970s. But Henley came close, in this song and also 'Sunset Grill,' which has the same California moodiness. I really like his compassion for people who are sometimes on the losing end of the social spectrum.
    SongDreamson April 11, 2013   Link
  • +3
    General Commentdrummer4514's got it right on. I think this song is about a couple who was in love, but the girl broke things off over the summer, so she could mess around with other guys. He's saying that he loved her so much that he will still love her "after the boys of summer" have gone, as in, when the summers over and she realizes that she loves him too.
    M3on April 23, 2004   Link
  • +3
    General CommentThis song is about love, but the youthful, passionate kind of love. In our lives, we've all known the girl who would "wlak reall slow and smile at everyone". All the guys wanted her, and she wanted each one of the guys at some point. But, she changes her mind so often that it seems like summer brings different groups of boys. And while she may be 100% past the relationship, the boys aren't, and they don't even care that she's had many other "boys of summer".
    I've been in this situation with a flirty girl such as this. I wanted her so badly, but I was kind of just her toy. And, yes, sometimes I would go the long way home to drive past her house. Now, though, I no longer need her love, but the love I had for her is still buried inside of me, and honestly, it will never go away. Like the song says, I really go back to this time, but I still remember her and love her just the same.
    Also, this song sounds like summer love. It's sexy, hot, and steamy. Plus, the video is just perfect. I love this version over any of the other covers, even though those covers are very good.
    SupahManDudeon May 18, 2008   Link
  • +3
    General CommentGreat, great song. I think a few on here are making it more complicated than it is. He had the classic summer romance when he was younger. Come Fall, the relationship ended as it was fated too when he went back to school or whatever. Except he, somewhat surprisingly to him, never gets over her.

    I think the "Deadheads sticker on the Cadillac" line just represents the passage of time. The car driven by a former idealist hippie kid who has grown up and is now making good money with a corporation or something and is driving a Cadillac.
    Digginiton September 19, 2009   Link
  • +3
    General CommentThere has been a lot of comments about this song, but it seems to me that none got it the way I got. But this is because the song has clearly a LOT of meanings.. It takes part in lot of subjects. That's the geniusness in lyrics! As one can't ever tell EXACTLY what are they all about.. People tend to reach to these lyrics from the girls point of view, but I thought it as the guy.

    I'm sure this isn't the most common approach to this song but my 2 cents and what has hit me like a million volts is the feeling that the GUY is confused about his relationship with the girl he loves. As he is this boy of the summer, and I see this "boys of summer" more like a metaphor or a period of a guy who decides to live/explore his youth more and so leaves his loved girlfriend. He knows his love to her will still be strong even after he's "exploration" -period..

    And now as he's older he misses her, as he thought he knew what love was (something else than what he had with her back then) and now knows it was that what he had with her. He knows looking back at it hurts. He sees other boys of summers established with their cadillacs, but he is still without his true love. But determined to get her back :)

    Touches me a lot
    metsurion August 25, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI was raised in a house where the likes of Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen and other writing geniuses were always being played (not disputing the genius of DH and The Eagles, Im a huge fan), but this song has always been the one that speaks to me.

    I dont even understand why, it just has so much emotion in it. Brilliant.
    dollsnatchon October 27, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General Comment"A dead head sticker on a cadillac"-was his interpretation of looking back @
    the old days with The Eagles.
    I hadn;t heard this in like ages and one day it just happened to come on
    and I actually started crying-the sentimentality actually
    got me! :) Great song.
    Thia007on November 23, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentTo me i think the song is love in the teenage years, maybe throughout high school. and when graduation came in the summertime. The love between the two people went out the door. One of them begins to realize what is going on and begins to miss the other person. Throughout the song it talkes about all the good times they shared in the past. "I never will forget those nights
    I wonder if it was a dream
    Remember how you made me crazy?
    Remember how I made you scream?
    Now I don't understand what's happened
    to our love,
    But babe, I'm gonna get you back
    I'm gonna show you what I'm made of
    I can see you-
    Your brown skin shinin' in the sun
    I see you walkin' real slow and you're smilin' at everyone
    I can tell you my love for you will still be strong"
    drummer4514on April 11, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song needs no decoding, no key...no explanation.

    What does need explanation, however, is the fact that this, the original, is far better than any of the covers, most notably the Ataris version.
    madnesslover_89on April 09, 2007   Link

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