Songs of summer evoke breezy, easy days
The idea is to create a summer songlist, a suggested iPod program if you will, that not only evokes summer, warm weather, sunny days and the beach, but also maybe a hint of our own special corner of the world.
For the last 40 years, people have been making these kind of lists and cramming them with classics from the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, etc., which is fine, but California isn’t the only place where the sun shines in summer or you can find a nice beach, or enjoy a cool boat drink.
So we’re going to eliminate some of the cliche songs, but still maintain a few undeniable perennials, while also crafting a new list for 2008, with some New England flavor.
Has there ever been a list like this that didn’t include the Beach Boys’ “California Girls” or “Surfer Girl,” Jan and Dean’s “Surf City,” Van Morrison’s “Brown-Eyed Girl,” or the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City?” All cool songs, but done to death. Let’s take some less obvious choices.
“HERE COMES THE SUN” by the Beatles. Something about this song’s rich melody evokes a lazy summer’s sunrise, and it just makes you look forward to the day.
“PIPELINE” by Dick Dale, with Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1987. Quincy Point’s own surf-guitar king is usually cited for “Miserlou,” but this cover of the Chantays’ 1963 hit, for the “Back to the Beach” movie soundtrack, is a rip-roaring tidal wave of guitars, as Vaughan joins one of his idols.
“WIPEOUT” by the Surfaris, 1963. It’s a common choice, but has any rock song ever encapsulated thundering surf better than the cascading drums on this instrumental?
“CALIFORNIA SUN” by the Rivieras. Another surf music chestnut, but who can resist that chorus: “We’ll have fun, fun, fun, In the warm California sun.”
“HOT FUN IN THE SUMMERTIME” by Sly and the Family Stone. Sly’s 1969 funk classic manages to be languid and lively at the same time, not to mention a sensual soundtrack.
“SUMMERTIME” by Billy Stewart. Gershwin’s standard becomes a joy-ride of vocal improvisation in this impossibly funky groove.
“I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW” by Johnny Nash. Gentle Caribbean rhythms, a bright melody, and Nash’s infectious energy make this song a wonderful harbinger of good times ahead.
“THE SUMMER WIND” by Frank Sinatra. Mr. Ring-a-Ding-Ding really swings here, and the song flows along so smoothly you feel like you’re sailing on your own sloop.
“TAKE IT EASY” by the Eagles. Still the quintessential song of summer romance, happy and carefree – and probably brief.
“BOYS OF SUMMER” by Don Henley. A solo Eagle takes a slightly more mature look back at lovin’ and leavin’ ‘em. Wistfully, but not regretfully.
“ESCAPE (THE PINA COLADA SONG)” by Rupert Holmes. OK the 1979 hit is one of the silliest songs ever, but catchy as heck, and isn’t that sort of the point to a day on the beach? Limit your intake of such boat drinks, lest you end up in a Don Henley song.
NEW TAKES ON SUMMER SUN
“SOAK UP THE SUN” by Sheryl Crow. Can you beat the sheer vitality of this 2002 song? You can imagine Crow strutting down the beach in her bikini telling everyone to chill out.
“HOT WEATHER BLUES” by the Love Dogs. This woozy 1998 shuffle shifts into a vibrant jump blues, and its chorus – “It ain’t hot weather that makes me stick to you!”– spells beach party romance to us.
“EGYPT BEACH BLUES” by the Martinson Brothers. You want local color? How about a Quincy surf rock band inspired by South Shore haunts? Whatever happened to these guys anyway? This tune’s heartbreakingly warm and wistful melody is superb, and their clean and clear guitars are also topnotch on “Unknown Surfer,” both from the “If Everybody Had an Ocean” CD from circa 1997.
“LITTLE TOWN” by Kevin Connolly. The feel of living on the South Shore in summertime permeates this folk-rock song, title cut to this Marshfield native’s 1996 album. And another song on the same CD, “Lucy Falls in Love,” wonderfully depicts the comic misadventures you can find walking your dog on a summer day.
“TOO MUCH SUNSHINE” by Bellevue Cadillac. This breezy tune from Hull’s Doug Bell, part of the band’s 2006 “Love All-Ways” album, has a terrific theme about seizing the moment, and not “wasting too much sunshine waiting for a rainy day.”
“SUMMER OF LOVE” by John Fogerty. A six-string centerpiece on Fogerty’s 2007 “Revival” album, this tune affectionately revisits the bygone days of Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, with some Hendrixian brain-curdling guitar lines.
“TIDE OF TREPIDATION” by E.S.T. A bit of jazz for some rumination by the sea, and this 2004 cut from the Swedish fusion trio nicely evokes a tentative, test-the-water dip, before surging into a gloriously invigorating plunge. Even more poignant, when you know pianist Esbjorn Svensson died this June in a scuba accident off Stockholm.
“CHANGES IN LATITUDE, CHANGES IN ATTITUDE” by Jimmy Buffett. No doubt we’ve all heard “Margaritaville” innumerable times, but this tune with its theme of just changing your head space by changing your scenery, is the essence of summer; take a vacation in your mind.
“BOAT SHOES” by Peter J. This South Shore native used to spend some of his spare time as an assistant hockey coach for Duxbury High, while also crafting an Internet music career. His “Living on Island Time” CD is a big Internet hit, and this song, subtitled “(I Wanna Be a Millionaire),” declares he could get to like that permanent vacation thing. (www.peterjcd.com.)
“GIRLS IN THEIR SUMMER CLOTHES” by Bruce Springsteen. Just a nice, warm and buoyant cut from The Boss’ last CD, “Magic,” which can be appreciated by girl-watchers and girls alike. What better facet of summer is there?
“CAN’T STOP THE SUN” by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. This is deliberately placed last, as a bookend with the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun,” for Petty’s tune from 2002’s “The Last DJ” album carries a definite Fab Four tone. The theme is that whatever may happen, no one can take away the sun, or your dreams, and that’s as soothing a way to conclude a day at the beach as we can imagine.
The Patriot Ledger