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”
It’s the last week in August, and this song is playing in my mind. I hadn't listened to it in a while, but when I looked it up on YouTube, 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, naïve 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 – more than 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.