Hello, and welcome back to my music!
Today we’re covering another cover of a song: “Boys of Summer,” originally done by Don Henley.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the Don Henley version of this song. Someday, I will purchase the Don Henley version of this song. But the version I currently own is The Ataris version of the song.
When I was maybe eleven or so years old (I was pretty young) I bought my first stereo. Nothing fancy or expensive, just speakers, a CD player, and a radio. I bought one CD (Country) to go with it, and then collected CDs from there. I have since bequeathed that stereo, which still works wonderfully, to my little brother, but when I first got it, I was looking for a radio station.
And I first began to listen to rock music.
Songs that are now “old” were brand new then, and even the ones that were covers of much older songs, like this one, were still brand new to me. And I forever recall that young, musically naive moment of my life in conjunction with these covers, notably, this one.
The Ataris version is a fairly faithful cover rendition, which I appreciate. The instrumentation is different, which amps up the sound a bit, but this is more in keeping with the sound at the time when it was made. More of a post-grunge sound.
There is only one significant lyrical difference. Instead of “I saw a Dead Head sticker on a Cadillac,” this cover version says, “I saw a Black Flag sticker on a Cadillac.”
Not a huge difference, except again, a sort of generational update. When I first heard the song, it was literally brand new, on its first play on the Portland radio station I was experimenting with. I don’t remember what the station was now, but I do remember the radio host pointing out this line when he compared it with the Don Henley version (I had never heard of Don Henley, so that meant nothing to me), and he said that it was the prerogative of The Ataris to update something small like that, make it relevant to their listeners.
This was a strange concept to me, because I had – to that point – always valued the most accurate copy possible in covers, in book-to-film, etc. A few years later, I would grow to understand why a slightly personalized artistic interpretation is good, and how it can still be faithful by becoming something new. At the time, my mental development was simply not ready for this sort of thinking, and this simple statement by the radio host blew my mind.
I think of that every time I hear this song, in either version. Now I know who Don Henley is. I know what Dead Heads are (ah, how young and naive I was), and I’ve heard so many cover versions of so many songs that I actually can appreciate the cover as an art form.
I think I can safely say that this version of this song – while in many ways simply a suitable cover version of a good song – was a seminal moment in my artistic development, and in many ways changed the way I look at art forever.
All thanks to a radio host I don’t even remember the name of on a station that I couldn’t find again if I tried.