deadhead sticker on a Cadillac

rusita preciosa

Modus forendi
Russian (Moscow)
How would you interpret this lyric from the song “Boys of Summer” by Don Henley? The song is about the end of a summer vacation romance.

My interpretation is that the deadhead sticker looks pitiful on a Cadillac, because it does not belong there: the driver in his youth probably was a fan of Grateful Dead (i.e. hippie/rebel) and now he is well-off and conservative (driving an expensive American-made car), but he can’t let go of his past. Am I overthinking it?

< ---- >
I saw a deadhead sticker on a cadillac
A little voice inside my head said:
"Don't look back, you can never look back"
I thought I knew what love was

< Summary deleted lyrics: He remembers a love from his youth whom he can't forget.>
(I had a bet:D)
 
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  • JustKate

    Moderate Mod
    I wouldn't say "pitiful," exactly - although you do make a good point, Rusita. I'd call it "nostalgic" - a prosperous business person who clearly has sold out almost completely but likes to think that he still retains a bit of the hippie-rebel-free-thinker that he was in his youth. Come to think of it, that is kind of pitiful. I'd say you win your bet.

    What does the person who bet you think it means?
     
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    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    It's "pitifully nostalgic." :D
    That does seem a bit strong. Remember that when the song was released in 1984, Grateful Dead stickers were common on cars in general (admittedly less common on expensive cars) and Don Henley was in his mid-30's looking back only 10 years (more or less). Perhaps, wistfully nostalgic.
     

    Miss Julie

    Senior Member
    English-U.S.
    That does seem a bit strong. Remember that when the song was released in 1984, Grateful Dead stickers were common on cars in general (admittedly less common on expensive cars) and Don Henley was in his mid-30's looking back only 10 years (more or less). Perhaps, wistfully nostalgic.
    I don't pretend to know Don Henley's mind, but, judging from the songs he's written over the years, he's felt pity, wistfulness, and nostalgia for a lot of things...sometimes all at once!

    (I'm a big Eagles/Don Henley fan. :D)
     
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    Sparky Malarky

    Moderator
    English - US
    Another way to interpret this is that sometimes people, especially young people, adopt symbols or terms that make them feel included as part of a group. When these symbols are assimilated into mainstream culture they lose their attraction. They are no longer cool.
     

    ewhite

    Senior Member
    USA/English
    Sorry, Rusita, but I'm with the other bettor. Judging by the lyric snippet, we can't even be sure the Cadillac is the narrator's, or if the Cadillac is shiny and new or a battered old behemoth.
     

    JustKate

    Moderate Mod
    My "bet opponent" thought I was overthinking and it was a simple decal of a rock group on a car:)
    Then you definitely win. The choice of "Deadhead sticker" - not to mention "Cadillac" - is indoubtedly significant. Why else would they cause the little voice to say "Don't look back"? Anyway, there's nothing simple about the way Grateful Dead fans feel about the Dead.

    Edit: EWhite, the lyrics don't explicitly say it but the entire theme of the song makes it clear that he's not talking about a battered hunk of a Cadillac. If it were just an old car, it wouldn't have been worthy of notice - it would have been just a bumpersticker on an old car. What makes it notable is the contrast of a luxury automobile with this symbol of semi-hippiedom.
     
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    Miss Julie

    Senior Member
    English-U.S.
    Then you definitely win. The choice of "Deadhead sticker" - not to mention "Cadillac" - is indoubtedly significant. Why else would they cause the little voice to say "Don't look back"? Anyway, there's nothing simple about the way Grateful Dead fans feel about the Dead.

    Edit: EWhite, the lyrics don't explicitly say it but the entire theme of the song makes it clear that he's not talking about a battered hunk of a Cadillac. If it were just an old car, it wouldn't have been worthy of notice - it would have been just a bumpersticker on an old car. What makes it notable is the contrast of a luxury automobile with this symbol of semi-hippiedom.
    There is almost always a deeper meaning in all of Don Henley's lyrics.
     

    Surefire11b

    New Member
    English
    Maybe I’m just overly simple but to me it feels like the song is about a semi-recent end to a relationship. The woman he is referencing drove a Cadillac with a Deadhead on it. So he sees this car and tells himself not to look back.
     
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