It is the lead track and first single from Henley’s 1984 album Building the Perfect Beast and reached the top five in the United States as well as the top position on the Top Rock Tracks chart and number 12 in the UK Singles Chart.
Henley’s 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. “The Boys of Summer” is written in the key of E minor. In a 1987 interview with Rolling Stone, Henley explained that the song is more about aging and questioning the past —a recurring theme in Henley’s lyrics (cf. “The End of the Innocence”, and “Taking You Home”.)
In an interview with NME in 1985, Henley explained the ‘Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac’ lyrics as an example of his generation selling out:
“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!”
In an interview with Knoxville.com, Neil Giraldo, Pat Benatar’s guitarist and husband, says that Henley came in the studio while he was in the process of recording the song “Love Is a Battlefield” using an up tempo beat, and asked Giraldo if he could steal the sound for use in his song, “The Boys of Summer”, to which Giraldo gave his permission. Both “Love Is A Battlefield” and “The Boys of Summer” rely heavily on the Linn LM-2 drum machine.
Building the Perfect Beast is the second solo studio album by Don Henley, the lead vocalist and drummer for the Eagles. The album was released on 19 November 1984 on the Geffen label. A commercial and critical success, it is generally regarded as the culmination of the smoother, more adult-oriented sound of Henley’s solo work. […]