Chris Uggen's Blog: summer songs

Sunday, August 07, 2005

summer songs

note: this post has been updated and expanded.

For a seasonal diversion, check out VH-1's poll of top summer songs. At the top (?) were the Stones' Satisfaction, Sonny and Cher's "I Got you Babe," the uber-creepy “Every Breath You Take” by The Police, and the Commodores' cloying “Three Times a Lady.” Are these summer songs? [No.] Shouldn't summer music be exuberant, jumping off the radio with punched-up midrange? [Yes!] I'm partial to power pop and r & b this time of year, but good summer songs burst out of every genre. Thematically, they are often geared to young love, or adolescents escaping school, or both. As I did my first long August run today, awaiting the ice, the snow, and the TC marathon, I considered my summer 2005 favorites. This, of course, brought to mind the long list of summer songs below (asterisks mean a local tie marks the artists as "one of us"). A tough prerequisite for summer songs is that they actually be in heavy rotation on commercial radio. This narrows the field quite a bit, but Klosterman has convinced me that there are no "guilty" pleasures -- it doesn't take a great band to produce a great summer song.

Summer 2005: The Envelope Please.

1. Catch my Disease, by Ben Lee [I was backstage in Pomona...]
Toy piano, campfire-strummed guitar, and joyous choruses. My 2005 winner, hands-down.

2. Mr. Brightside, by The Killers [She's touching his ... chest]
Gobs of punchy midrange and a clever bait-and-switch in the lyrics. Well-crafted.

3. Beverly Hills, by Weezer [wah-wah-wah-wah, wawawawa]
The song didn't grab me (No, I'm not going to link to a video with Hugh Hefner. It doesn't even work as irony), but the wah-wah guitar solo is indelible. Here's the tab:

D----10-8-8986------10-----------10-8-8986-8-8-6-- x2

4. B.Y.O.B., by System of a Down [Why do they always send the poor?]
OK, protest songs don't usually make good summer songs, but some can do both: "Everybody is going to the party, Have a real good time, Dancing in the desert, Blowing up the sunshine." Green Day and Anti-Flag have stepped up their games in addressing the war, but System seems to have pushed themselves well beyond their past work.

5. Sugar, We're Goin' Down, by Fall Out Boy [I'm just a notch in your bedpost But you're just a line in a song]. One for the kids. Johnny Loftus' allmusic review put it best: they "simultaneously acknowledge and deconstruct the mushy emo soliloquy." Simultaneously acknowledging and deconstructing is harder than it looks...

Here are a few blasts from summers past:

2004: Jerk it Out, by Caesars [Swedepop: it's easy once you know how it's done]
2004: Hey-Ya, by Outkast [lend me some sugar, I am your neighbor]
I Believe in a Thing Called Love, by The Darkness [ooh! guitar!]
Swing Swing, by All-American Rejects [swing, swing from the tangles of]
2003: Where is the Love? by Black-Eyed Peas [addicted to the drama]

2003: Heavy Metal Drummer, by Wilco [playing KISS covers, beautiful and]
2003: Ocean Avenue, by Yellowcard [sleeping all day, staying up all ni-ight]
2002: Days go By, by Dirty Vegas [you are still a whisper on my lips]

2001: Put a Little Love in It, by Ike Reilly [before it brings you down]
2001: Lady Marmalade, by Aguilera, Pink, Lil Kim, and Mya [voulez vous coucher]

2000: California Stars, by Wilco [beneath a bed of California stars]
1999: Singing in my Sleep, by Semisonic [singing up to a Capulet]

1999: Nineteen, by Old '97s [finish up with high school, headed for a state school]
1998: Flagpole Sitta, by Harvey Danger [i'm not sick but i'm not well]
1998: La Femme D'Argent, by Air [
beautiful bassline]
1998: Sex and Candy, by *Marcy Playground [like disco lemonade]
1997: Impression that I Get, by Mighty Mighty Bosstones [never been tested]
1997: MMMbop, by Hanson [mmmbop, ba duba dop ba do bop]
1996: What I Got, by Sublime [i
don't get angry at the bills I have to pay]
1994: Fantastic Voyage, by Coolio [slide, slide, slippity-slide]
1994: Loser, by Beck [gettin' crazy with the cheese-whiz]
1993: Insane in the Brain, by Cypress Hill [insane in the membrane]
1992: Give it Away, by Red Hot Chili Peppers [lucky me swimmin' in my ability]

1992: Teen Angst, by Cracker [what the world needs now]
1991: Shiny, Happy, People, by REM [shiny happy people holding hands]
1991: Unbelievable, by EMF [
say to me i don't talk enough but when I do I'm a fool]
1991: Around the Way Girl, by LL Cool J. [i need that around the way girl]
1990: Groove is in the Heart, by Deee-Lite [dance and have some fun, dig]
1989: Mayor of Simpleton, by XTC [never been near a university]
1988: Sweet Child O' Mine, by Guns N' Roses [she's got eyes of the bluest skies]
1987: Just Like Heaven, by The Cure [kissed her face and kissed her head]
1985: Raspberry Beret, by *Prince [something about the clouds and her mixed]
1984: Love is the Law by *The Suburbs [written on the wall, for everyone to see]
1983: Blister in the Sun, by The Violent Femmes [let me go wild]
1983: Atomic Dog, by George Clinton [
1982: Mexican Radio by Wall of Voodoo [eating barbecued iguana]
1982: We got the Beat by The Go-Gos [jump BA-yack!]
1981: Don't You Want Me? by The Human League [a waitress in a cocktail bar]
Upper Mississippi Shakedown, by *Lamont Cranston [got my car runnin']
1980: Crazy Little Thing Called Love, by Queen [ready Freddie]
1979: Cruel to be Kind, by Nick Lowe [love is bona fide, but that don't coincide]
1978: I Wanna be Sedated, by The Ramones [can't control my toes]
1978: Le Freak, by Chic [Nile Rodgers' chicka-chicka rhythm guitar]
1977: Car Wash, by Rose Royce [keep those rags and machines humming]
1976: Summer, by War [eight track playin' all your favorite sounds]
1976: Do Ya, by ELO [just to get a look to feel to touch her long black hair]

1975: Love Rollercoaster, by Ohio Players [say what?]
1974: Fox on the Run, by Sweet [O.K.! (O.K. O.K.) - you think you got a pretty face]
1972: Go all the Way, by The Raspberries [hold me close, don't ever let me go]

1972: Summer Breeze, by Seals & Crofts [blowin through jasmine in my mi-i-ind]
School's Out, by Alice Cooper [we got no class, and we got no princi-pals]
1971: Bang a Gong, by T-Rex [you've got the teeth of a hydra upon you]
1970: Venus, by The Shocking Blue [on mountain top, burning like a silver flame]
1970: Hawaii 5-0, by The Ventures [the drums, the guitars, and Jack Lord's hair]
1969: Cinnamon Girl, by Neil Young [i could be happy the rest of my life]
1968: Chain of Fools, by Aretha Franklin [chain-chain-chain...]
1967: Sweet Soul Music by Arthur Conley [
do ya like good music?]
1967: Little Bit o' Soul by Music Explosion [lot more kick with a little bit o soul]
1966: Pushin' too Hard, Seeds/Psychotic Reaction, Count 5/Dirty Water, Standells
Sunny Afternoon, by the Kinks [can’t sail my yacht- taken everything I got]
Dancing in the Streets, by Martha & Vandellas [swaying, record playing]
1965: Mr. Tambourine Man, by The Byrds [my boot heels to be wanderin']
1964: Surfin' Bird, *The Trashmen [pa pa ooh mow mow]
Wipeout, by the Surfaris [deedeedeedeedeedeedeedee]
1962: Liar, Liar, by *The Castaways [make a little effort, try to be true]
1961: Runaway, by Del Shannon [I wah-wah-wah-wah-wonder]
1960: Summer Wind, by Frank Sinatra [it lingered there... to touch your hair]
1960: Walk Don't Run, by The Ventures [the original]
1959: La Bamba, by Ritchie Valens [una poca de gracia, arriba y arriba]
1959: C'mon Everybody, by *Eddie Cochran [house is empty and folks are gone]

Hmm. Feels like I'm just barely scratching the (very white, very male) surface on this one. Any ideas? It could be an age, period, or cohort effect, but I could really feel the love for songs on one part of the list (you too? or did I mess up the songs from your favorite summers?). So, I guess I'll go with it and wallow semi-publicly in the nostalgia. I could have listed 50 songs from my pre-teen mid-1970s AM radio days, delivered in style by Tac Hammer and True Don Blue of KDWB. This was the soundtrack for the night games of the boys and girls of Ruby Drive. We played on the street from about suppertime to dusk, in the few precious summers squeezed between dependent childhood and the invidious distinctions and style choices of adolescence. Then somehow the stakes got too high and our tastes narrowed considerably. That's it! Tomorrow I'm definitely pushing some mid-seventies Sweet and War through the car speakers -- maybe Love is Like Oxygen or All Day Music -- to see how it holds up against some '05 Ben Lee and The Killers.


At 9:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 3:09 PM, Anonymous The Happy Little Elf said...

Catch my disease is funny

Mr. Brightside is kinda funny

Beverly Hills is...uhhh...

At 3:13 PM, Anonymous Fall Out Boy Girl said...

sugar we're going down should have been number 1, WWAAAHHHHHH! why did it have to be number 5! WHHHYYY!! ok, im done now.

At 3:15 PM, Anonymous chris said...

fall out boy would have been ranked much higher but I'm so old and out of touch that I can't discern the true future of summer music.

At 9:18 PM, Anonymous sarah said...

I would contend with the thesis that summer music should be exuberant. While I have nothing against such, I must say that this sweltering weather as of late has caused me to reflect on several summers past spent in the Deep South where all things move more slowly. Sometimes summer is something you have to lay into, slow down for, let the top down. I'm also given to pulling out the classics since I have absolutely no knowledge of current popular music. So my theme song this summer has been one by the Greatest Band of All Time (of course, I have no strong opinion on this subject): Dear Prudence (the sun is up, the sky is blue, it's beautiful, and so are you...). Now there's one to throw on and watch the clouds go by...

At 9:51 PM, Blogger christopher uggen said...

Nice, Sarah. Perfect summer vibe. Since you mentioned the South, I've always been partial to the Allmans' (Dicky Betts') "Blue Sky." Simple, sweet, and approporiately (that is, slowly) paced. Plus, anything by The Band seems to work in the heat, esp. the Levon Helm vocals...

At 12:46 AM, Blogger athena said...

I also, am a seasonal music listener. Although I have never heard anyone else say that they were too.

Folk-60's : Spring
R & B-Blues : Summer
Folk-Country : Fall
Rap-Heavy Metal : Winter

Good Blog

At 2:37 PM, Anonymous chris said...

Thanks, Athena. Sounds like a good schedule! I guess I like blues and r&b in the hottest nights of the summer too, now that I think about it, but I like to go a little more minimalist (e.g., downtempo) when snow blankets us in Minnesota.

At 2:51 PM, Blogger Jessica said...

Cool list!

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