Released : 1984
The Boys of Summer is the second song in this rundown which Tom Petty had the option of releasing (After Lone Justice’s Ways To Be Wicked), but he declined Heartbreaker Mike Campbell’s suggestion, apparently baulking at it’s synth-heavy overtones.
Don Henley borrowed the song’s title from Roger Kahn’s eulogy to the Brooklyn Dodgers of the 1950’s, a golden age for baseball and also for a new America growing strong on the broad shoulders of mass consumerism. Following the demise of The Eagles Henley had scored a massive hit in 1983 with Dirty Laundry, but although that remains the commercial peak of his solo career, The Boys of Summer now dwarfs it by the modern day yardstick of streaming numbers.
Whilst blue collar rock and roll was enjoying a renaissance due to Springsteen, John Cougar Mellencamp and Bryan Adams, The Boys of Summer was also a romanticised backwards look at an America fast receeding in the rear view mirror, although Henley cloaked his nostalgia in the guise of a doomed affair with a youthful willo’-the-wisp. Where major chords and check shirts were animating the masses elsewhere, the chilly vamps and clattering drum beats were a look forward to a more uncertain future where the steel mill, the picket fence and the railroad through town would eventually be their own sort of ghosts. Petty’s gifts it seemed always came at a price.