Carlock: Silver Beach suits ‘Boys of Summer’

Published 9:07 am Thursday, July 26, 2012

During the sweltering heat wave most Americans endured through the end of June and early July, I started envisioning some image of milder weather through song. Being a Cancer of the first order and forever shipwrecked on the Isle of Sentimentality, the lyrical sentiment of Don Henley’s “Boys Of Summer” did the trick for me. I also thought of this track because it was the work of one of my mentors, the late Grammy Award-winning producer/engineer Greg Ladanyi, whose birthday was July 6. There I go being sentimental again.

Every time I hear it, the song’s lyrics sound as if they were written by someone who grew up near Silver Beach. The first verse perfectly captures a late September drive near the water:

“Nobody on the road, nobody on the beach, I feel it in the air the summer’s out of reach, Empty lake empty streets the sun goes down alone, I’m driving by your house though I know you’re not home.”

This song was one of Ladanyi’s’s high-water marks as a producer, co-produced with Don Henley and Danny Kortchmar, co-written by Henley and Mike Campbell of Tom Petty’s band. Ladanyi’s mixing was also phenomenal, and this song is just one of the many examples of that. From the opening measures, you know you’re going to hear something unique as the dry 1/4 note hi-hat and sidestick snare samples multiply with the aid of delays into interspersed 1/8s. Greg was a master of using multiple delays to create space or, in the case of the “crying” guitar effect at 2:46 and 2:57, delays used as incredible mood setting effects — in this case, supporting Campbell’s musical arrangement and making the listener feel Henley’s isolation from the girl he yearns for while she indulges carefree in seasonal summer flings.

“But I can see you, your brown skin shinin’ in the sun, you got your hair combed back and your sunglasses on baby, I can tell you my love for you will still be strong, after the Boys Of Summer have gone”

The song’s video, directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino, hammered Henley’s ever-so-serious persona into a black-and-white icon ready for the then-new MTV generation. In a black jacket and black crewneck T-shirt, a stubble-faced Henley played steely-gazed narrator in tight medium upshot, framed by moving cityscape. Trading off with Henley throughout the video are projected films of lovers running and kissing passionately on the beach and clean video shots of a Henley-esque young boy playing drums with slow, horizontal camera pans — leading us to conclude that her pattern of loving him between other conquests had been happening for quite a while.

Every time you hear this song, remember and enjoy the extreme talent of Ladanyi, a guy born in Elkhart, Ind., and raised on the beach of Venice, Calif., who said to “find the passion in the music that you’ve made. Make sure it’s affecting them (people hearing your works in progress). If you’re not doing that, then start over and do it again.” Yes. START OVER. Famously, Ladanyi pushed to have “Boys of Summer” rerecorded from start to finish because Henley’s vocal performance wasn’t inspiring enough in the key of Dm. He solved this by changing the key to Ebm after much resistance from the players who called their work “finished.” Legendary session arranger and producer David Paich was called in blind to consult on which key Henley’s vocal sounded better in, not understanding why the eyes of all participants were boring through him as he listened. Paich supported Ladanyi’s lone opinion saying the higher key was better for Henley’s vocal so the “finished” track was recut. From scratch. The result was a pop masterpiece still alive nearly 30 years later. This is the way lasting art of any kind is made. Happy Birthday, Greg Ladnayi, and thank you.

Dave Carlock is a 25-year veteran of the entertainment business whose work as a recording engineer and producer, touring musician, and songwriter made him Googleable. His continuing work as an Independent Content Creator of Sound and Image has earned him a Grammy Award certificate, two Platinum Record Awards, and a Paragon Award in advertising. Currently, he brings national and international artists to make records and music videos at his production studio in the Benton Harbor Arts District.