I got my first real six-string
Bought it at the five-and-dime
Played it till my fingers bled
It was the summer of ’69

Summer of 1969: Man has walked on the moon; the war in Vietnam rages on; second-wave feminism is gaining momentum in the United States as women fight for equal rights—all small matters compared to the greatest of love stories… When Boy Meets Guitar.

Me and some guys from school
Had a band and we tried real hard
Jimmy quit and Jody got married
I shoulda known we’d never get far
Oh, when I look back now
That summer seemed to last forever
And if I had the choice
Yeah—I’d always wanna be there
Those were the best days of my life

Mr. Adams is dedicated but surrounded by hacks. Jimmy, Jody—they’re not here for the right reasons. At least with no-fault divorce becoming legal in some states, Jody’s marriage could now legally end for no reason other than his wife not really liking him anymore, but it still probably wouldn’t be enough to bring him back to the band for at least a few years.

Ain’t no use in complainin’
When you got a job to do
Spent my evenings down at the drive-in
And that’s when I met you, yeah

Mr. Adams has established his work ethic. He is “living on a prayer,” “born to run,” and still tethered to the banality of earning a living wage. We zoom in on Mr. Adams working feverishly in that most destitute of suburban labor camps: the drive-in movie theater. Enter our femme fatale.

Standin’ on your mama’s porch
You told me that you’d wait forever
Oh, and when you held my hand
I knew that it was now or never
Those were the best days of my life

Oh, yeah!
Back in the summer of ’69

Our love interest—or should we say object, as only the men have names in this song—is pure and steadfast. But hark—is that far-off stare commitment? Or a catatonic fugue, triggered by the patriarchal expectations of her pending adulthood? Perhaps she remembers her Aunt Jean’s pestering—“When are you going to marry that nice man from the drive-in?” Looking into the middle distance, a hot fury burns in her chest—in 1969, our love interest can’t even get her own credit card.

Man we were killin’ time
We were young and restless
We needed to unwind
I guess nothin’ can last forever—forever, no!

If by “killing time,” Mr. Adams is referring to sex, then yes, our heroine is restless. She’s looking for birth control. Mr. Adams, a free-spirited artist, is one of those guys who “just doesn’t like condoms.” Our heroine forges her own prescriptions—it’s hard for unmarried women to get the pill in 1969.

And now the times are changin’
Look at everything that’s come and gone
Sometimes when I play that old six-string
I think about ya, wonder what went wrong

The times are changin’, but more doors are still open for our cis-gendered heteronormative Caucasian male narrator. While he’s been slinging burgers at the drive-in, our heroine has been applying to Ivy League schools, only to learn that in 1969, a mere fraction of these ivory towers admitted women. That slow whistle in the background? The sound of her dreams falling sharply to Earth. Wonder what went wrong?

Standin’ on your mama’s porch
You told me that it would last forever
Oh, the way you held my hand
I knew that it was now or never
Those were the best days of my life

Standing on her mama’s porch… our heroine tells him “whatever,” but Mr. Adams isn’t listening and thinks she said “forever.” She is not so much holding his hand as not pulling it away.

Oh, yeah
Back in the summer of ’69
It was the summer of ’69
Oh, yeah

The chorus, like the relationship, fades to silence. Our heroine stops returning his calls, unwittingly the catalyst for decades of heartfelt crooning. Blond men, they are so pretty when they cry. She worried he would turn violent with rejection, but plot twist: our narrator is Canadian.