It’s the first day of summer, so what’s on your playlist for the start of the season?
It’s a good thing it’s also the longest day of the year, because The Music includes lots of songs that fit the theme. An hour or so on Top40Weekly.com turned up 80-plus charting singles with “summer” in their titles, just in the 1960s and ’70s.
That includes several songs that had been done and redone in multiple versions. The best example of that is the classic George Gershwin/Dubose Heyward song “Summertime,” from the musical Porgy and Bess. It’s been covered by Rick Nelson, the doo-wop group the Marcels (of “Blue Moon” fame) and the Fastest Lips in the World, Billy Stewart.
More recent, and more memorable for members of the ’60s generation, was Janis Joplin’s version. There’s also an instrumental, jazzified version from the mid-’60s by the Chris Columbo Quintet.
Ditto for “Summertime Blues,” written and originally recorded by dead-too-soon, early rock idol Eddie Cochran in the late ’50s. It was a hit for Blue Cheer in 1968, and for the Who a couple years later; Alan Jackson scored a country and western hit with it, and Brian Setzer covered it more recently.
Another classic from the late ’50s was “Summertime, Summertime” by the Jamies. No, seriously, if you’re of a certain age, you’ve heard it — a fast-paced, falsetto doo-wop thing.
Perhaps not as well known, but a hit for two different acts, was “One Summer Night.” The Danleers did it in 1958, and it was the last charting single for the Diamonds three years later.
If you want more doo-wop/soul/R&B summer, there’s plenty of that — especially songs by groups that had much bigger hits with other stuff. “It’s Summer” by the Temptations, “The Magic of Our Summer Love” by the Tymes (they of “So Much in Love” fame) and “My Summer Love” by Ruby and the Romantics are examples.
There are lots of other summer songs by acts better known for big hits. I draw a blank on “On the Beach (In the Summertime)” by the Fifth Dimension; ditto for Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon’s “What’s Gonna Happen When Summer’s Gone,” “(I Remember) Summer Morning” by Vanity Fare and Brian Hyland’s “Stay and Love Me All Summer.” Considering how bad “Honey” was, Bobby Goldsboro’s “Summer (The First Time)” probably should be avoided.
Then there are obscure songs by really obscure artists. If you really want to get down into the weeds, cue up “Happy Summer Days” by Ronnie Dove, “Summer Sun” by Jamestown Massacre, “Summer Means Fun” by Bruce and Terry, “Wonderful Summer” by Robin Ward, “Summer’s Comin’” by Kirby St. Romain and “Summer Set” by Monty Kelly and His Orchestra. And who can forget “Wombling Summer Party” by the Wombles?
There are songs that have the word “summer” in their titles, and there are songs that are quintessentially about summer, like “Summer Rain” by Johnny Rivers, the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City,” “Summer” by War, Mungo Jerry’s “In the Summertime” and Sly and the Family Stone’s “Hot Fun in the Summertime.” Seals and Crofts’ “Summer Breeze” fits in that category; the Isley Brothers’ cover of that song is tasty, but doesn’t quite have the seasonal feeling of the original.
I didn’t like it when it was popular — it wasn’t rock and roll — but “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer” by Nat King Cole could conjure up the feeling. No “summer” in the title, but Chicago’s “Saturday in the Park” is certainly summerish; I liked the band better before they went all pop, though.
There are summer-themed songs for just about every taste. Like lounge singers? Give a listen to Wayne Newton’s “Summer Wind” or “Summer Sounds” by Robert Goulet. Hot, limited-talent daughters of famous fathers? “Summer Wine” by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood.
Plaintive English songstresses with rock star boyfriends? Marianne Faithful’s “Summer Nights.” (Completely different songs with the same title? Faithful’s and the Travolta/Newton-John hit from the musical Grease.) Sixties English vocal duos? Chad Stuart and Jeremy Clyde’s “A Summer Song.” Sixties teen TV stars? “The Things We Did Last Summer” by Shelly Fabares.
Late ’60s San Francisco psychedelia? “Hot Summer Day,” from It’s a Beautiful Day’s wonderful debut album. Younger Baby Boomers can get all nostalgic over Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69.” But if they’re of a more dyspeptic attitude, they should listen to Blue Öyster Cult’s “This Ain’t the Summer of Love.”
If you’re looking for a summer place to be, your theme has been done — perhaps overdone. Percy Faith and His Orchestra recorded the best known version, in 1960, but it was covered by Dick Roman (whoever he was) in 1962, the Lettermen in ’65 and the Ventures in ’69.
If you want to cue up an album, you could go with Endless Summer, the 1974 Beach Boys “best of” compilation. It was released by the Boys’ former record label at a time when the band had somewhat fallen out of favor, having diverged from the surf music and hot-rod songs that built their brand, into more experimental styles and lame political commentary like “Student Demonstration Time.” The LP was a big success commercially, and renewed interest in the Boys’ ’60s hits.
“Summer” songs to save for later include Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer” and “Indian Summer” — same title, two different songs — by Audience and Poco. The former is about summer being over, or nearly so; hold off on that one, and maybe you’ll see a “Dead Head sticker on a Cadillac,” like I did last fall.
Indian summer, of course, occurs in the fall. Whatever you choose to listen to on this June 21, 2019, and between now and the beginning of autumn, I hope its from the archives of The Music. And I hope you enjoy it, and the season.