Summertime

Two recent posts on the RNR Report, one on the return of the summer posting schedule [ah, I do wish I had summers off again] and the mix tapes got me thinking about summer songs. And there are a ton that have the word summer in them [proved by a search on Amazon]… a few off the top being Summer in the City by the Lovin’ Spoonful [sorry, still do no think they are RNR Hall of Fame worthy], lots of people doing Summertime from Porgy and Bess, the best rock version being Big Brother and the Holding Company’s version on Cheap Thrills, Summer by War [more on that in a minute], Summer Nights from Grease, Sly and the Family Stone’s Hot Fun in the Summertime… just to name a few.

Anyway, it put me in the reflective mood thinking about how certain songs get associated with summers, especially your summers as a kid. For example, certain songs remind me of summers spent in the state parks of West Virginia when we lived there: Band on the Run by Paul McCartney and Wings, Miracles by Jefferson Starship and Grand Funk doing The Locomotion. And there’s certain songs I associate with summers with my grandparents when I was much younger like Do It Again [remember AM radio?] by Steely Dan, Dead Skunk by Louden Wainwright, Tie A Yellow Ribbon by Tony Orlando and Dawn, Hooked on A Feeling by Blue Suede and a terrible song called Playground in My Mind by Clint Holmes that was an AM hit in Pittsburgh one summer…

There’s also been some stinkers that get played every summer like Summertime, Summertime by the Jamies {I think, you know the onewhere they sing ‘Summer time, summer time, sum sum summer time’ with some thick East Coast acccent} and In The Summertime by Mungo Jerry. Geez what schlock!

Then of course there are the standards for summer like the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean and all those beach and car songs. I submit that a good War ‘Best of’ collection should be essential summer gear. All those great songs that just seem to be a soundtrack to the 1970s summers: Why Can’t We Be Friends, Cisco Kid, Low Rider, Summer, Spill the Wine, All Day Music, City,Country,City… talk about old school jams!

My high school years [1982-1985] are also dotted with classic summer songs like Magic by the Cars, Photograph by Def Leppard, Centerfold [and Love Stinks from the previous summer] by the J Geils Band, Who Can It Be Now by Men at Work, Jessie’s Girl by Rick Springfield, Cheap Sunglasses by ZZ Top, Tom Sawyer by Rush, Whitesnake’s Slow and Easy, Van Halen’s cover of Pretty Woman, Knocking at Your Back Door by Deep Purple … but those days we were getting into albums. We’d pile into someones car and go running around blasting Van Hal en, Sammy Hagar [pre-Van Hagar: remember Three Lock Box and Standing Hampton?], Led Zeppelin, ZZ, Whitesnake’s Slide It In, Don’t Say No by Billy Squier, the whole Pyromania record, Rebel Yell. Judas Priest’s Defenders of the Faith [Freewheel Burning still gets the old blood pumping!]…

The last summer I remember ‘summer music’ was the summer of 87: working in a record store and still young enough to not give a hoot. There were a few hot records that year: Faster Pussycat’s debut, Whitesnake [the one where Coverdale fired John Sykes and hired Adrian Vandenberg and Viv Campbell and they’d do all the Tawny Kitaen videos], Aerosmith’s Permanent Vacation, Metallica’s 5.98 EP of covers, Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet [I still hate it because I heard it so many times], the Cars under-rated Door to Door, Prince’s Sign O the Times, GNR’s Appetite, REM Document, Def Leppard Hysteria, U2 Joshua Tree, Replacements Pleased to Meet Me, Dwight Yoakum’s Hillbilly Deluxe…. what did I do that summer besides drink beer, play sand volleyball and listen to music? Oh, and go to work and listen to more music…

In the years since, sense of summer, other than the hot of Texas, has lost its meaning. There’s very few albums I still associate with summer since: the Smithereens Green Thoughts, Los Lobos Colossal Head, Superchunk’s Foolish… a few years ago I made a Summer Tape; actually I made all the Four Seasons in honor of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons… I just dug it out again to review and there’s not bad stuff: the War, Big Brother, Car Jamming by the Clash, Pulling Mussels from a Shell by Squeeze, White Lies by Jason and the Scorchers, Rockaway Beach by the Ramones, Iggy’s Lust for Life, Pretenders’ Night in My Veins, The Kings great from the summer of 1980 The Beat Goes On/Switching to Glide, Jimmy Buffet’s Livingston Saturday Night, AM Radio by Everclear…

Is there still something about summer we can all remember, days when you had absolutely nothing to do and had all day to do it? Summer days you’d play sandlot ball and hang out and ride bikes and play and play and play and not have a care in the world?

So next time you catch yourself staring into space in your cubicle or you’re driving home by some kids playing ball or riding bikes that are out for the summer, just kind of ask yourself how long the tape of your summertime memories would have to be and what songs you’d have to put on there…