And with the arrival of June 21st (I know, I'm about two weeks late), we had our Summer Solstice, the ringing in of a season of tanktops, random road trips, beach excursions, ice cream stops, barbeques, and fun-loving music to capture our hearts for the next three months. Presented to you here are five memorable songs associated with the season.
5. Sublime's "Summertime"
Bradley Nowell's genius came and gone in a tenure with Sublime that delivered a collection of amazing albums, including 40 oz. to Freedom and the self-titled Sublime records. Pairing up with the hip-hop group Pharcyde, Sublime crafted Summertime, a song featured in various Tony Hawk video games and the opening screen to 2K Sports' MLB 2K7. There are two versions of the song that exist, one with Pharcyde, one without. In the sans-Pharcyde edition, Bradley Nowell shines with tight lyricism juxtaposed with a lulling, head-bobbing beat that consumes you. Nowell, much like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Kurt Cobain before him (who, ironically, all died at the age of 27), succumbed to drug addiction, a fate looming over British songster Amy Winehouse.
4. Don Henley's "Boys of Summer"
Much like the success of Paul McCartney with Wings, Sting's break from the Police, and Peter Gabriel's cleaving from the supergroup Genesis, Don Henley tasted glory after his on-again/off-again stint with the Eagles. Lesser bands, including the likes of the Ataris (who, in their own right, are not half-bad), have attempted to cover Henley's greatest 80's triumph, "The Boys of Summer," an electronic, synth-infused track with a hook that centers around listless summer love that one has hopes of continuing long 'after the boys of summer have gone.' The image of a hottie's 'brown skin shining in the sun' still resides in the hearts of those who appreciate Henley's indelible stamp on the music scene. Shame on the Ataris for exchanging 'Black Flag' for 'Dead-Head' in the lyric 'out on the road today / I saw a Dead-Head sticker on a Cadillac.' If there is anything bands of today can learn, it's that you do not, under any circumstance, adulterate classic lyrics with obscure punk rock references (especially if you are the Ataris, who are hardly the punk outfit that the Sex Pistols, Ramones, and the Clash were).
3. Bryan Adam's "Summer of '69"
As a point of reiteration, bands of today need to stay away from impressionable classic rock. A number of groups have desecrated Bryan Adams's summer anthem about starting up a band with your 'first real six-string,' a deeply-affecting tune that pines for good times lost; namingly, the strain time has on adolescent friendships and relationships. What always bothered me about this timeless track was the fact that Adams bellows about the unforgettable year that was 1969 when, looking at things logistically (Mr. Adams was born on November 5, 1959), he was living this so-called racy life at THE AGE OF NINE. I guess 'Summer of '76' doesn't have the same ring to it that Adams's original title does, so he gets a pass there.
2. Frank Sinatra's "Summer Wind"
Michael Buble, a talented crooner? My apologies, Buble lovers, but there is no Buble following without the influence of the Chairman of the Board, Ol' Blue Eyes, Mr. Frank Sinatra (or, if you believe in events depicted in Mario Puzo's The Godfather, Johnny Fontaine, who won a part in a Hollywood picture through the severing of a horse head). Sinatra's lends his velvety voice to "Summer Wind," one of some 1600+ tracks he recorded, none of which he wrote. Regardless of not putting pen to paper, Sinatra was legendary, as his voice defined America's Golden Age of the 1950's and 60's. "Summer Wind" tells the story of summer romance come and gone like the passing of a summer breeze, an all-too-familiar theme of both the good and bad the summer can fleetingly offer to those who get fully engulfed by the season's passing fancies. Sing on, Frank!
1. Mungo Jerry's "In the Summertime"
When I think Mungo Jerry, I immediately ponder their delicious tune "In the Summertime," a song heavy on the piano tickling, the use of mouths as percussive devices, and the development of a downright playful melody, complete with mutton chops and 'sound philosophy.' "In the Summertime" epitomizes the very notion of a 'feel-good song,' one heightened by harmony and playful folk lyrics. Mungo Jerry had the 'top-down, cruising down-the-boulevard' kind of feel in its grasp when they recorded this track, one that stands the test of time (and one that has opened the door for a new generation of listeners with its inclusion in the Wedding Crashers soundtrack). One hit wonder or not, Mungo Jerry penned the perfect song that captures the summer vibe from beginning to end.