Single Review: Don Henley “Boys of Summer”

Boys of Summer
Album: Building the Perfect Beast
Year: 1984

In “Boys of Summer,” Don Henley longs for the days when he was young, naive, and wild.

The summer vacation spot he had visited throughout his childhood and adolescence is now deserted and run down. He realizes the time he spent there and his youthfulness is beyond his grasp. He tries to remember it as he did: vibrant and full of life. But reality settles in: it is no longer the place he knew. He even drives past an old girlfriend’s home, despite knowing she doesn’t live there anymore to find something, anything which would prove to himself he belonged there once. (“nobody on the road/nobody on the beach/I feel it in the air/the summer is out of reach/empty lake, empty streets/the sun goes down alone/I’m driving by your house/though I know, you’re not home”).

He remembers his old girlfriend in an idealistic, romantic way in the chorus “but I can see you/your brown skin shining in the sun/you’ve got your hair combed and sunglasses on, baby/I can tell you my love for you would still be strong/after the boys of summer have gone”). It could be assumed she was his first love and he will always have positive memories of dating her, long after he has left. He knows it was a summer romance, perhaps one of many she had.

He remisices more about the time he spent with his first love: the jokes, enjoying each other’s company, being intimate (“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”). He vows to get in touch with her again. However, he feels not out of love, but to relive his youth (“Now I don’t understand what happened to our love/But babe, I’m gonna get you back/I’m gonna show you what I’m made of”). He’s unaccepting of reality at this point. It’s over simply because the summer was over and they had to move on, not of anything which happened in the relationship.

Even some traces of his youth are hard for him to bear (“Out on the road today, I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac/A little voice inside my head said, “Don’t look back. You can never look back”). He now knows it was only a summer romance and not really love (“I thought I knew what love was/What did I know?”). Finally, he realized he needs to let her be and continue with his life but the cherish the memories all the same (“Those days are gone forever/I should just let them go but”).

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