The Meaning of Mac DeMarco’s “Salad Days”

Mac DeMarco live at Parklife Festival 2015. Photo by Gobinder Jhitta.

Mac DeMarco’s Salad Days inspired an entire generation’s worth of bedroom artists to try their hand at the slacker rock he does so well. His second full-length album, Salad Days was released on April 1st, 2014 — a Tuesday, which means that Mac purposely chose April Fool’s Day to release his album. The fool crafted all 11 songs in his apartment, and upon its release he became an indie hero for college kids everywhere.

Of these 11 songs is “Salad Days”, title track and the album’s opening vibe. Between laid-back bouts of jangly guitar, DeMarco sings about the how the good old days are over, and at this point he’s just going through the motions. This struck a chord with many dejected youths, myself included, and “Salad Days” became the anthem of trying to get by in a life that really isn’t so bad, but feels bad, man.

Still, you can feel your youth slipping away from you, and you know there’s nothing you can do about it, other than remember the good old days and lament the passing of time. Mac DeMarco felt that, too:

As I’m gettin’ older, chip up on my shoulder
Rollin’ through life, you roll over and die

La-li-la-lala
La-li-la-lala
La-li-la-lala
Oh-oh-oh-oh

Missin’ Hippie Jon, salad days are gone
Rememberin’ things just to tell ’em so long

First verse and “la-li-la”s from Mac DeMarco’s “Salad Days”.

This “Hippie Jon” he sings of is actually named after his friend, Jon Lent, whom at the time Mac was sad about losing touch with. Jon later joined the band, but ended up being fired in 2021 after Mac learned of some sexual assault charges he had from 2018, which he also plead guilty to that year.

Mac wrote Jon’s name into a few of his songs, including “Me and Jon Hanging On” off 2012’s Rock and Roll Night Club. Although, I imagine we won’t be hearing anymore references to Jon in Mac DeMarco’s music, as the two are no longer associated ever since Mac learned of Jon’s sexual assault charges.

It’s also worth noting that the Modern Lovers song “I’m Straight” is about a “Hippie Johnny”, and this is apparently where Mac was inspired for the lyric, aside from his former friend Jon.

Oh, mama, actin’ like my life’s already over
Oh, dear, act your age and try another year

Always feelin’ tired, smilin’ when required
Write another year off and kindly resign

La-li-la-lala
La-li-la-lala
La-li-la-lala
Oh-oh-oh-oh

Salad days are gone, missin’ Hippie Jon
Rememberin’ days just to tell ’em so long

Chorus and second verse to “Salad Days” by Mac DeMarco

In the chorus, Mac sings of his mother’s disappointment in his lifestyle. She tells him to act his age and try to do better going forward, and he simply brushes it off and tells her that he’s still got plenty of life to live. Mac feels the passing of time and chooses instead to bury his head in the sand and ignore it, which is supported by the head-in-the-clouds vibe that the song emits.

Overall, Mac DeMarco’s “Salad Days” is a feel-good tune that serves to remind us not to take life too seriously, even if sometimes growing up gets annoying. Listen below.

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