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Generational Cycles – Deadhead Stickers On Cadillacs

Generational Cycles –  Deadhead Stickers On Cadillacs

| On 31, Jan 2018

Darrell Mann

“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!”

So said Eagles vocalist and drummer, Don Henley of his 1984 solo single release, ‘The Boys of Summer”. It was the lead single from Henley’s album Building the Perfect Beast, song was released on October 26, 1984 and reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the US as well as No. 1 on the Billboard Top Rock Tracks chart and number 12 in the UK Singles Chart. The song’s music video won several awards. In 1986, Henley won the Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for the song. “The Boys of Summer” was ranked No. 416 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. “The Boys of Summer” is also included in The Pitchfork 500, Pitchfork Media’s “Guide to the Greatest Songs from Punk to Present.” In other words, the song is pretty iconic.

The Henley quote comes from an interview he did with the NME in 1985. He called out the ‘Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac’ lyrics as an example of his generation selling out.

Henley was born in 1947, making him one of the early Baby Boomer generation. When the song was released, Henley was in his late 30s, on the verge of the ‘moralistic’ phase of his generation’s life journey. While clearly a stab at his generation’s selling out of the ideals of their Woodstock/flower-power youth, it more likely served as a signal moment for the next generation, the GenX Nomads. The song was released as the spearhead of this new generation was hitting their peak music-listening years. Punk had happened, and the previous generation of Boomer rock-stars were finding life tough in the new market of Nomad record-buyers. Some Boomers never made the transition. Others, like the Eagles, stuck to their generation. Henley, on the other hand, earned himself a whole career’s worth of credibility with the X’ers. ‘Not selling out’ is one of the main characteristics of Nomads. Henley gave them the ‘proof’ that the Boomers had sold out. The evocative lyric became something that would continue to be quoted for the next twenty years. A living reminder to everyone what the Boomers had done…