REWIND: Say goodbye to summer with Don Henley, the Beach Boys, Green Day

Don Henley

Don Henley, deciding that autumn is not that great, either. Courtesy.

You may be expecting a Labor Day column full of songs about the working man, but some idiot decided to use that theme on May Day. But in the United States this weekend is the unofficial end of summer, so rather than come up with five more songs on an existing theme it opens new doors.

Personally, I don’t understand the wistfulness associated with the end of summer. It certainly makes sense as a kid and as a teenager, since it means the end of several months off, but as an adult? It means everything isn’t infested with youths all day and that the temperature is finally going to go back down to something humane. As an added bonus it means Halloween’s around the corner. What’s not to like?

Of course I’ve been outvoted, so here’s some wistful songs about less sunburn or whatever.

The Beach Boys — “All Summer Long”

This song itself evokes the end of summer, both in lyrics and tone. But the real reason this is the first thing to jump to people’s minds is that it ends American Graffiti.

What’s that you say? You’re not familiar with the Beach Boys, one of the greatest American bands of all time, nor American Graffiti, an objectively great movie? Because you’re too young to know about anything good? Well they’re both among my favorites, so get familiar and get off my lawn.

The Kinks — “Summer’s Gone”

The Beatles completely revolutionized music. There’s a clear delineation in music worldwide at the point the Beatles became popular; just about everything about all music shifted all at once to match what they did. Individual Beatles songs became entire genres—they were that impactful on the entire art form.

That said, while the Beatles changed everything, they were one step in the long arc of musical evolution. The under-appreciated third band of the British Invasion, the Kinks, were arguably more directly influential. Their raw, distorted guitars and hard, often sneering vocals did more to inspire punk and heavy metal than they get credit for. What Lennon and McCartney did for the mainstream, Ray Davies did for the underground.

Of course by the time they recorded “Summer’s Gone” in 1984 that edge had mostly gone. Davies was 40 by that point, after all.

Don Henley — “The Boys of Summer”

This song, at its core, is about the failure and corruption of the dreams and ideals of the Baby Boomer generation. All the way back in 1984 it was already obvious how hard the one-time hippies had sold out and it hadn’t even gotten really bad yet. We still hadn’t gotten to the peak Gordon-Gekko-ness of the ’80s, let alone the ’90s or the ’00s. And that doesn’t even touch the last three years.

But the real irony? A song about money and luxury triumphing over ideals and art—”a deadhead sticker on a Cadillac”—is zealously policed on YouTube to the point there’s not a single video of the original recording, even on Henley’s or the label’s official channels. Well played, Geffen Records.

The Doors — “Summer’s Almost Gone”

I didn’t really want every song to have the word “summer” in the name but songwriters are apparently just so, so bad at creative titles. I mean, I’m bad at creative titles, don’t get me wrong, but songwriters? If a song is about summer or mentions summer as an allegory they’re gonna put summer in that name.

The Doors get a pass, though, because they’re The Doors. Jim Morrison was probably on all the drugs in the world. Also the song is probably about drugs. It’s a safe bet “summer” means drugs. It’s drugs all the way down.

They’re super good at music though, so it makes the list.

Green Day — “Wake Me Up When September Ends”

Oh! I’ve got one!

OK, so this isn’t about the end of summer, strictly speaking. Yes, it’s about an end, and it implies it’s at the beginning of September which means it’s theoretically set about now, and it doesn’t have “summer” in the title, so I can justify including it.

Admittedly it’s a bit darker than that. It’s about Billie Joe Armstrong’s dad dying when he was 10.

Always end a column on a high note!

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