I was talking to my wife this morning about our favorite summer songs (hers was Mr. Brown by Bob Marley) and I mentioned that one of my favorites has to be The Boys Of Summer, by the Ataris. I realize that liking this song non-ironically lowers my status as a legitimate music critic, but I unabashedly love this song.
What the song has going for it, is its nostalgia-laden lyrics. The sense of longing for a past is evident in all aspects of the song; a look back to a more innocent time, a time before the stresses of real live, the naive perfection of high school and childhood.
But what I realized, as Elana and I discussed the song, is that The Ataris seemed to have missed the point. In the original Don Henley version, the final verse opens with the line “Out on the road today, I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac.” The Ataris, aware that their fan-base weren’t really aging hippies and jam band fans, updated that to “Out on the road today, I saw a Black Flag sticker on a Cadillac.” Until today, I loved that The Ataris had done this; had covered a great song, while adding their own musical and lyrical updates, without taking away from the original.
But what Mr. Henley did with the line is lost in The Ataris version. Don painted an evocative picture – an aging hippie, driving a Caddilac. Sure, he still loves The Dead, but he’s gone corporate. And by 1984, the year Henley released the song, most of the hippies who were teenagers in the late 60s were now in their late 30s, and music of The Grateful Dead had become somewhat corporate. That age of innocence, that time of change, the perfection and beauty of youth was gone.
The Ataris, however, missed the point. Where Henley’s line is able to both pay homage to one of his favorite bands as well as evoke feelings of loss for an era that once was, The Ataris merely name-dropped one of their favorite bands. In 2003, Black Flag was not corporate, and their punk rock fans were not driving Caddies. While some pop punk rock had become mainstream by then, Black Flag’s music certainly was not.
So whether you’re looking for some feel-good reggae, a nostalgic look towards the past, or just some love for your favorite hardcore punk band, check out the tracks below. Hopefully they’ll be able to usher in summer before we go crazy from the cold.
Bob Marley – Mr. Brown
The Ataris – The Boys Of Summer
Don Henley – The Boys Of Summer