Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Boys of Summer

By Lisabet Sarai

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.
~ Don Henley, “The Boys of Summer”

As soon as I saw Kristina's topic for the week, this song began playing in my mind. I hadn't listened to it in a while, but I discovered that my reaction hadn't changed. “The Boys of Summer” still brings tears to my eyes and sends chills up my spine.

If you're not familiar with the song, go here:

This isn't a particularly good video, but the lyrics will paint their own pictures for you. Or at least, they do for me.

Why does this bittersweet song touch me so deeply? One reason is the fact that it so perfectly captures the blind intensity of teenage passion – the way sex and love get totally confused when you're burning up with desire. When you're young, the nights are magic and they last forever. Everything kiss, every touch, is new and overwhelming. I don't know about you, but I find this song incredibly erotic, perhaps because it reminds me of my own early loves, swept away by the tides of time.

In fact “The Boys of Summer” isn't really a summer song at all:

Nobody on the road;
Nobody on the beach.
I can feel it in the air,
The summer's out of reach...

But it celebrates the glories of summer, bare limbs, bronzed bodies, and heat that rivals the sun. The song pulls you back to the season when the beach was crowded and girls drove around in convertibles, when rock and roll and scent of sun tan oil filled the air. In the brilliant light of summer lust, forever seems possible, even likely.

The song tells a story, too, one that I might try to express in my own medium some day, if I get the chance. Just three verses, and yet I know the characters: the fickle, flirtatious girl “smiling at everyone”, the brash, na├»ve young man, hurt yet boasting “I'm gonna show you what I'm made of”. And then the third verse, surely the voice of greater wisdom and maturity, “those days are gone forever; I should just let them go.”

But he can't, and neither can I. The memories tempt me back, to relive the thrill and the pain of first love or first lust – if there's a difference.

While looking for a recording to include in this post, I noticed that “The Boys of Summer” was released in 1984 – nearly three decades ago. And even then, I was wistfully recalling earlier summers. It's sobering to realize how long ago it was that I first experienced “those nights” of which this song reminds me. I guess I never will forget them. And honestly, I don't want to.


  1. I was 16 when that song came out. My peers wore their RayBans and tried to look cool; the girls with their feathered hairdos and the guys trying to behave more macho than 16 could ever pull off.

    I was The Nerd, so I just watched and longed. But I also was the one who really listened to the lyrics (and would laugh during "All She Wants to Do is Dance" since the song's not about dancing).

    I never had "those nights" to forget, unless you count the night the girls crashed our gaming party because J had a crush on C, our pretty boy. But I'll never forget that song either.

  2. hi Lisabet!

    It seems sometimes that poetry has fallen out of fashion or popularity, but I think for our generation it was very much alive, it was just the medium of the poets that changed, because for us the poets were the song writers. I've noticed that people from out time still listen very much to the songs that meant so much to us when we young. I wonder if our kids will find poetry in the same way.


  3. Hi, Ed!

    Didn't realize you were such a youngster!

    I didn't really have "those nights" when I was a teenager, but oh, I understand the emotions.

    Sometimes I feel sorry for teens today. They seem to take sex so casually -- they've lost the intensity that made youth precious.

    (Of course, that's from the outside looking in!)

    (Oh, I was a nerd, too.)

    (And thanks for reminding me of "All She Wants to Do is Dance". Henley has penned some fantastic lyrics.)

  4. Hi, Garce,

    I don't know - you're the one who has a kid. Does he read/like/react to poetry at all?

    I wrote poems from the time I was seven or eight. Even though I hardly ever do that anymore, the sense of word rhythms is always with me, informing my prose.

  5. I think today's kids still have poetry that resonates for them, but for many it is in rap music or hip-hop. Music still speaks to a specific audience, and if it sounds discordant to those of us who are older, so much the better! My parents hated my music also.

    There were exceptions, and while you are reminiscing about summer songs from a while back, please don't forget Mungo Jerry's "In the Summertime". I bought that as a 45rpm single, and played it constantly. Then I flipped it over once and heard "Mighty Man" for the first time and realized it was the better song. How many other rock/pop songs had kazoos in them? My Dad loved that song, because of the lyrics he used to sing along with as he danced around our house:

    I’m driving down the highway
    Brand new shiny car
    I got money in my pocket
    Gonna be a star

    I’m a mighty, mighty, mighty man, whoa!
    I’m a mighty, mighty man.
    (Oh, yes I am)
    I’m a mighty, mighty, mighty man, whoa!
    I’m a mighty, mighty man (yeah)

    Well, I’m gonna get to you, girl
    Get to you if I can
    Take you round the hill
    I’m a mighty, mighty man.

    Yeah, gonna come ‘round your house, girl
    Gonna get you in your bed
    I’m gonna give it to you all night long.
    Gonna do just what I said.
    I’m a mighty, mighty, mighty man.
    I’m a mighty, mighty man.
    (Won't tell your old daddy about it!)

    My Dad said the song perfectly described for him the man he used to be, and missed being, even when he was still only in his early 40s.

    Ah, summer music...


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