Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published November 23rd 2019
Summer is more than sweating
Just to make things clear – I live in Australia. To me (and all the people who live here), the season of Summer starts on December the first and runs through to the last day of February. Summer is a time, for us, of blistering heat, bushfires, days at the beach, barbecues, beer/wine, endless cricket, sunburn and air conditioners going at full blast. (Oh, and the associated blackouts…)
Therefore, it is time to look at things about summer. And, thus, we have a column about the best songs about summer!
Now, I need to make it clear, these are songs where summer is the central theme. Not just songs where summer is mentioned, or songs about a beach. And these songs celebrate summer and aspects of summer. A summer soundtrack as compiled by me would have a huge number of Beach Boys songs, a few by the Ramones, some Beatles… you know the drill. This is not a soundtrack to summer; this is songs about summer. Sorry, but I'm starting to confuse myself now, so I'll stop.
Okay, two I couldn't quite fit into the list to start with. 'Cruel Summer' by Bananarama (1983) is a depressing song about the worst of summer, and I just find it a tad off. 'Summer Nights' by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John (1978) from the Grease soundtrack is a fine summer song, but over-familiarity with it has reduced it to the level of an annoyance after so many years. Sorry.
The list, in year order!
'Summertime Blues' by Eddie Cochran (1958)
Let's set the wayback machine for wa-a-ay back! A song about not being able to enjoy summer because of so many other things in life getting in the way. Summer is supposed to be about fun, not all this rubbish! This is such a great song that has a sentiment that many teenagers can probably relate to. The Who went on to do an awesome job of it on the Live At Leeds album, but that is only one of the many cover versions. Still, there is just something about the original that is superb.
'Under The Boardwalk' by The Drifters (1964)
"When the sun beats down and burns the tar up on the roof…" From that opening line, the lyrics set the tone for a hot summer, where the only escape is in the shade under the boardwalk. The music invokes the laziness created by the stifling heat, but it is a celebration, because the singer would want to be nowhere else.
'Summer Holiday' by Cliff Richard (1963)
Before you start – I like Cliff Richard's music! Well, in general… But I do enjoy this song. When I was a kid, my father (a fan himself… surprise!) would have this song on a tape every time we went off for a summer holiday at Port Elliot or Victor Harbor, so to me it always invokes memories of the anticipation of a holiday in someplace a three hour drive away that never lived up to the dreams. And then The Young Ones used it as the theme and thematic device for their last episode in 1984. So, therefore, by default, it is brilliant.
'Summer In The City' by The Lovin' Spoonful (1966)
Another song where the lyrics really paint a picture of summer. Not on the beach, but in a city, filled with buildings and heat and sweat and discomfort. And then trying to escape it to have a fun summer. With that instantly recognisable opening – chord, bang!, chord, bang! – to the smooth chorus and harsh verses, this is a classic song that is just so wonderful.
'In The Summertime' by The Mixtures (1970)
Earlier in 1970, this song was first released by UK artiste Mungo Jerry, but at the end of that year, Australian rock act The Mixtures (infamous for their version of 'The Pushbike Song') released their version, and it is their version that I prefer. No, it is not parochialism – I genuinely like the sound they give it: a little more fun and, maybe because they live in Australia as opposed to England, they seemed to understand what summer actually is. (That is going to get me in trouble…)
'Here Comes Summer' by The Dave Clarke Five (1970)
Another cover version of a summer song, this a remake of the 1959 Jerry Keller hit. And, again, it's a celebration of the joys of summer. It may sound a little twee nowadays, but there is a joy and happiness in the lyrics that modern cynicism does not allow. A fun song.
'School's Out' by Alice Cooper (1972)
This is very similar in theme and tone to the previous song, but with one exception – this is angry. School has finished for the year and the students have summer to look forward to. The proto-heavy metal of the song gives it a dark edge and Cooper's fine delivery makes you worry about the place he lives come this summertime. While this could be considered a song about school (and I would also include it in that theme), it is also about hitting summer without anything tying you down. And it is a great song.
'One Summer' Daryl Braithwaite (1988)
A nostalgic song about remembering summers past and being with someone special, and hoping there will be the opportunity for it to happen again. The summer of 1988-1989, I had just finished high school and was about to start at university, and I reckon this song was everywhere. We played it and heard it and sung it at every opportunity. It took over the airwaves and we didn't care. This song is one of the songs that actually means summer to me.
'Summer' by Dragon (1989)'
Where I said 'One Summer' is one of the songs that says "summer" to me, this is the summer song in my head. I was 18 when it was released and it was my life at the time. In university, living life to the fullest, and just enjoying everything. And this song describes summer in Australia so well. It's really about looking forward to summer, but it is still my genuine summer song. I love this one; Dragon's latter output before Marc Hunter's tragic death is often overlooked, and songs like this show that this part of their career deserves more love.
'In The Summertime' by Thirsty Merc (2004)
Thirsty Merc are one of those Australian rock bands that should have done so much better on the world stage. When this song was released, the chorus was used on Australian TV everywhere, because, well, it was what we were thinking. A feel-good song. "Take me back to the sweet times / The hot nights / Everything is gonna be alright / In the summertime…" Listen to the song and try not singing that bit really, really loudly…
There we are – 10 songs that celebrate summer. I think these songs really do illustrate why summer is so special to so many people. And all of them are really good and so darn singable. Go on… I'll bet you sing along to at least one of these tracks. Or hum along. I would recommend turning this up really loudly so everyone in your office can join in. It's summer! Have fun!