This morning the radio alarm woke me to the bouncy, upbeat-sounding strains of Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days.” I like the music, although I confess to some dislike/confusion with the lyrics. Are these people actually believing the best days of their lives were in high school, and everything is downhill from there? What a truly tragic view of life, if so!
Now I think I’m going down to the well tonight
Gonna drink till I get my fill;
And I hope when I get old I don’t sit around thinking ’bout it-
but I probably will.
Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture a little of the glory of-
Well, time slips away and leaves you with nothing, mister, but
boring stories of…
There’s a similar attitude displayed in the far more melancholy sounding “Those Were the Days.” Sung by Mary Hopkins, in a high and weakly quavery voice, it tells of youth spent in a tavern (of all places), where everything was wonderful and friendships were forever. Interestingly, from the mention of a “tavern” in the lyrics, rather than the more modern term “bar,” I get the feeling “Those Were the Days” is a much older song than “Glory Days.” Of course, by the end of the song (just as in the far more wryly amused “Glory Days”) the singer is lamenting how everything is no longer wonderful:
Those were the days, my friend,
We thought they’d never end,
We’d sing and dance forever and a day,
We’d live the life we choose,
We’d fight and never lose,
For we were young and sure to have our way.
What makes this weirdly interesting to me is the obsessive nostalgia on one’s youth — in specific, high school. The only thing I can figure is that these people in the songs were all the jocks and popular girls, who actually thought real life was going to be like high school. I wish I could find one, so I could ask them if they really thought that, and if the songs speak to them at all.
Personally I find the songs’ focus rather odd, especially since the high school years were some of the most unpleasant of my life. I was female in Texas: unwittingly too smart to fit in, convinced of her supposed ugliness, and too under-socialized to understand what was wrong. I remember being utterly determined to take my excellent test scores and my adequate grades, and go to a college out of state, so I could leave it all behind. I did so quite effectively — I now live in California, which is a huge ideological leap from the average viewpoint on Texas. I’d have to say, were I asked, that the last few years of my life have been the best ones, and I’m looking forward with pleasure to the next decade or so as well.