The Boys of Summer (song)

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"The Boys of Summer"
Don Henley - Boys of Summer cover.png
Single by Don Henley
from the album Building the Perfect Beast
B-side"A Month of Sundays"
ReleasedOctober 26, 1984 (1984-10-26)
Format7-inch single
Length4:47 (album)
3:54 (edit)
Don Henley singles chronology
"I Can't Stand Still"
"The Boys of Summer"
"All She Wants to Do Is Dance"
Audio sample

"The Boys of Summer" is a song released in 1984 by Eagles vocalist and drummer Don Henley, with lyrics written by Henley and music composed by Mike Campbell, guitarist with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

The lead single from Henley's album Building the Perfect Beast, "The Boys of Summer" was released on October 26, 1984[1] and reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the US as well as No. 1 on the Billboard Top Rock Tracks chart and number 12 in the UK Singles Chart.

The song's music video won several awards. "The Boys of Summer" was also performed live by Henley with the reunited Eagles; such a version is included on the group's 2005 Farewell 1 Tour - Live from Melbourne DVD.

Composition and history[edit]

In a November 2003 interview with Songfacts, Mike Campbell explained the song's origins:

I used to have a 4-track machine in my house and I had just gotten a drum machine - when the Roger Linn drum machine first came out. I was playing around with that and came up with a rhythm. I made the demo on my little 4-track and I showed it to Tom (Petty), but at the time, the record we were working on, Southern Accents, it didn't really sound like anything that would fit into the album.

The producer we were working with at the time, Jimmy Iovine, called me up one day and said he had spoken with Don, who I'd never met, and said that he was looking for songs. He gave me his number and I called him up and played it for him and he called me the next day and said he put it on in his car and had written these words and wanted to record it.

That's kind of how it started. Basically, he wanted to recreate the demo as close as we could. We ended up changing the key for the voice. We actually cut it in one key, did the whole record with overdubs and everything, and then he decided to change the key like a half step up or something, we had to do the whole record again, but it turned out pretty good.[2]

The song is cemented by Campbell's 1-7-5 repetitive riff over a vi-IV-V-IV chord pattern. Superficially, the song appears to be about the passing of youth and entering middle age, with the theme of 'summer love' apparent in the choruses, and of reminiscence of a past relationship.[3]

"The Boys of Summer" is written in the key of F major in cut (2
) time
with a tempo of 88 beats per minute. Henley's vocals span from F3 to A4.[4][5]

In a 1987 interview with Rolling Stone, Henley explained that the song is more about aging and questioning the past[6]—a recurring theme in Henley's lyrics (cf. "The End of the Innocence",[7] and "Taking You Home".[8])

In an interview with NME in 1985, Henley explained the 'Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac' lyrics as an example of his generation selling out:[9][10]

I was driving down the San Diego Freeway and got passed by a $21,000 Cadillac Seville, the status symbol of the Right-wing upper-middle-class American bourgeoisie – all the guys with the blue blazers with the crests and the grey pants – and there was this Grateful Dead 'Deadhead' bumper sticker on it!


"The Boys of Summer" reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the Billboard Top Rock Tracks chart for five weeks. It was also a hit in the United Kingdom, reaching No. 12 on the UK Singles Chart. A re-release of the single in 1998 also reached No. 12.

In 1986, Henley won the Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for the song.[11]

"The Boys of Summer" was ranked No. 416 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

"The Boys of Summer" is included in The Pitchfork 500, Pitchfork Media's "Guide to the Greatest Songs from Punk to Present."[12]

Music video[edit]

The music video to "The Boys of Summer" is a French New Wave-influenced piece directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino. Shot in black-and-white, it shows the main character of the song at three different stages of life (as a young boy, a young adult and middle-aged), in each case reminiscing about the past relationship. This is shown during the line "A little voice inside my head said don't look back, you can never look back" at which point, each of the three people look back in turn. The young boy in the video, played by seven-year-old Josh Paul,[13] resembles a young Don Henley[citation needed]. The girl in the music video is played by Audie England.

Interspersed with these scenes are segments of Henley miming the words of the song while driving in a convertible. At its conclusion, the video uses the post-modern concept of exposing its own workings, as with a wry expression Henley drives the car away from a rear projection screen.

The video won the Video of the Year at the 1985 MTV Video Music Awards (leading Henley to comment at the Awards the following year that he had won for "riding around in the back of a pickup").[14] It also won that year's awards for Best Direction, Best Art Direction, and Best Cinematography. The Best Direction award was presented to Mondino by Henley's then-former Eagles bandmate Glenn Frey.

Chart performance[edit]

DJ Sammy version[edit]

"The Boys of Summer"
The Boys of Summer by DJ Sammy featuring Loona.jpg
Standard artwork for most CD releases
Single by DJ Sammy featuring Loona
from the album Heaven
ReleasedNovember 18, 2002
LabelRobbins/Ministry of Sound/Data
Songwriter(s)Don Henley, Mike Campbell
DJ Sammy featuring Loona singles chronology
"The Boys of Summer"
"Rise Again"
Alternative cover art
Artwork for UK 12-inch vinyl release
Artwork for UK 12-inch vinyl release
Audio sample

In 2002, Spanish trance artist DJ Sammy (with vocals performed by Loona) covered the song. It was released in November 2002 as the third and last single released from the album Heaven. This cover peaked at number two in the United Kingdom in March 2003 and was one of the biggest hits of New Zealand in 2002, reaching number three and earning a Gold certification from Recorded Music NZ (RMNZ). The cover also reached number nine in Australia and the top 20 in Flemish Belgium, Ireland, and the Netherlands.

Music video[edit]

The music video was filmed in València, Spain and was released in November 2002.

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Boys Of Summer" (Original Radio Edit) - 3:58
  2. "Boys Of Summer" (Original Extended) - 6:33
  3. "Boys Of Summer" (Green Court Remix) - 8:08
  4. "Appalachian Fall" - 4:54


Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (2002–2003) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[28] 9
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[29] 49
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[30] 20
Germany (Official German Charts)[31] 25
Ireland (IRMA)[17] 15
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[32] 19
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[33] 31
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[34] 3
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[35] 1
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[36] 36
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[37] 2
UK Dance (Official Charts Company)[38] 7
US Billboard Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales[39] 5

Year end charts[edit]

Chart (2002) Position
Australia (ARIA)[40] 82
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[41] 9
Chart (2003) Position
Australia (ARIA)[42] 69
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[43] 47


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Australia (ARIA)[44] Gold 35,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[45] Gold 5,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[46] Silver 200,000double-dagger

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

The Ataris version[edit]

"The Boys of Summer"
The Ataris - The Boys of Summer cover.jpg
Artwork for overseas commercial release
Single by The Ataris
from the album So Long, Astoria
ReleasedSeptember 8, 2003
GenrePop punk
Songwriter(s)Don Henley, Mike Campbell
The Ataris singles chronology
"In This Diary"
"The Boys of Summer"
"The Saddest Song"
Audio sample

In 2003, the rock band The Ataris covered "The Boys of Summer" for their album So Long, Astoria. The song became their second single when a radio station began to play it. The Ataris's version of the song replaced the "Deadhead sticker" reference with one more appropriate to the age group of their fans, namely a "Black Flag sticker", in honor of the punk rock band from the 1980s. The single peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Modern Rock Chart (held off the No. 1 top spot by Linkin Park's "Faint") and No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100. It remains their most successful single to date.[47]

Music video[edit]

The music video was directed by Steven Murashige and was released in July 2003.[48]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (2003-2004) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[49] 24
Brazilian Singles Chart (ABPD)[50] 53
Germany (Official German Charts)[51] 45
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[52] 17
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[53] 87
UK Singles (The Official Charts Company)[54] 49
US Billboard Hot 100[47] 20
US Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks[47] 36
US Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks[47] 2
US Billboard Hot Adult Top 40 Tracks[47] 18
US Billboard Top 40 Mainstream[47] 10


  1. ^ "Public Catalog". U.S. Copyright Office. Retrieved July 20, 2017.
  2. ^ "Mike Campbell". Songfacts. Retrieved January 22, 2018.
  3. ^ Puterbaugh, Parke (January 31, 1985). "Don Henley: Building The Perfect Beast". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on July 24, 2009. Retrieved September 13, 2008. ...a wistful look over the shoulder at a faded summer romance.
  4. ^ "Key & BPM for The Boys Of Summer by Don Henley | Tunebat". Retrieved 2018-06-19.
  5. ^ Henley, Don. "Don Henley "The Boys of Summer" Sheet Music in E Minor (transposable) - Download & Print". Retrieved 2018-06-19.
  6. ^ Gilmore, Mikal (November 5 – December 10, 1987). "Henley Interview 1987". Rolling Stone. 512 (20th Anniversary Issue). Archived from the original on 2008-10-10. Retrieved September 9, 2008. Beyond that, I'm also not convinced we really accomplished all that much. Kennedy was president and everybody thought it was Camelot, but look at what we did. We raised all that hell in the Sixties, and then what did we come up with in the Seventies? Nixon and Reagan. The country reverted right back into the hands it was in before. I don't think we changed a damn thing, frankly. That's what the last verse of 'The Boys of Summer' was about. I think our intentions were good, but the way we went about it was ridiculous. We thought we could change things by protesting and making firebombs and growing our hair long and wearing funny clothes. But we didn't follow through. After all our marching and shouting and screaming didn't work, we withdrew and became yuppies and got into the 'Me' Decade.
  7. ^ "A father now, Don Henley has matured—as has his music". July 3, 2000. Archived from the original on February 19, 2009. Retrieved September 13, 2008. As a solo artist, Henley offered bittersweet commentary on aging - on what happens when those carefree rebels grow up - in such songs as 'Boys of Summer' and 'The End of the Innocence.'
  8. ^ Varkentine, Ben (May 23, 2000). "Don Henley: Inside Job". PopMatters. Retrieved September 13, 2008. Don Henley is the cynical man's cynical man.
  9. ^ R. Cooke (February 23, 1985). "Bumper Sticker!". NME.
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  11. ^ "Grammy Awards 1986". February 25, 1986. Retrieved February 21, 2012.
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  13. ^ "The Band". The Chris Daughtry Fanlisting. September 8, 2008. Retrieved September 8, 2008.
  14. ^ "Don Henley's stand-up performance takes top honor among MTV awards". The Dallas Morning News. Associated Press. September 15, 1985. Retrieved October 30, 2008. Don Henley, whose video Boys of Summer won the top honor at the MTV Video Music Awards, says he did little more during the making of the piece than stand in the rear of a pickup truck that was driven around Los Angeles.
  15. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
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  18. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 - 2 Maart 1985/Week 9 (Dutch)". Retrieved April 19, 2009.
  19. ^ " – Don Henley – The Boys of Summer". Top 40 Singles.
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  21. ^ a b "Awards". Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  22. ^ "Chart Stats - Don Henley - The Boys Of Summer {1998}". Retrieved 19 April 2009.
  23. ^ "Suomen virallinen lista". Retrieved July 1, 2009.[dead link]
  24. ^ "Sverigetopplistan". Archived from the original on May 27, 2016. Retrieved October 19, 2012.
  25. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100 - Official Charts Company".
  26. ^ "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – 1985". Hung Medien. Retrieved 16 April 2017.
  27. ^ "Top 100 Songs of 1985 - Billboard Year End Charts". Bob Borst's Home of Pop Culture.
  28. ^ " – DJ Sammy – Boys of Summer". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved May 18, 2018.
  29. ^ " – DJ Sammy – Boys of Summer" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved May 18, 2018.
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  32. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 1, 2003" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40 Retrieved May 18, 2018.
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  34. ^ " – DJ Sammy – Boys of Summer". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved May 18, 2018.
  35. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
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  37. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  38. ^ "Official Dance Singles Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company.
  39. ^ "allmusic". Retrieved April 19, 2009.
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  45. ^ "New Zealand single certifications – DJ Sammy – Boys of Summer". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved May 18, 2018.
  46. ^ "British single certifications – DJ Sammy – The Boys of Summer". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved May 18, 2018. Select singles in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Type The Boys of Summer in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  47. ^ a b c d e f " - Artist Chart History - The Ataris". Retrieved April 19, 2009.
  48. ^ The Ataris videography
  49. ^ " – The Ataris – The Boys of Summer". ARIA Top 50 Singles.
  50. ^ "Brazil" (PDF). ABPD. October 6, 2001. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
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  53. ^ " – The Ataris – The Boys of Summer". Swiss Singles Chart.
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External links[edit]