"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Music Tuesday: Summertime Songs and "Sunny Afternoon" by The Kinks

With summer coming on us—especially after this past week’s hot and sunny weather beckoning a full summer glory—I was recently asked what the perfect summer song is.  So as in all things, I gave it some thought.  What would be the criteria for such a song?  I would say it would have to be bright, perhaps energetic, youthful, dramatize a summer activity.  I would say it would have to capture that feeling of getting out of school for at least two months and running out onto a sandy beach.  It would have to be rock and roll.  After all, summer exuberance means young, and nothing is eternally, and perhaps pathetically, young as rock and roll.  Mick Jagger famously said, “I’d rather be dead than singing ‘Satisfaction’ when I’m forty-five.  I think he was in his late twenties when he said it.  Of course, he’s seventy years old today, turning seventy-one this summer, and still singing “Satisfaction’ on their current tour.  As wrinkled as the Stones have become, they are still enslaved by youth. 

Can one do any better than Alice Cooper’s “School’sOut” for a summer song?  Great guitar riff, high energy, and in your face burst of childhood snootiness.  "No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers' dirty looks"    By the way you can hear this and all the songs I’ll mention on youtube.  The Wikipedia entry quotes Cooper on how the song came to him: "What's the greatest three minutes of your life?"  Cooper said: "There's two times during the year. One is Christmas morning, when you're just getting ready to open the presents. The greed factor is right there. The next one is the last three minutes of the last day of school when you're sitting there and it's like a slow fuse burning. I said, 'If we can catch that three minutes in a song, it's going to be so big.'"

Nothing smells of summer as a Beach Boy song.  Goodness gracious, I wouldn’t even know how to choose.  “Surfin Safari,” Surfin USA,” “Surfer Girl,” but if I had to pick the best Beach Boys summer song, I would go with “Fun, Fun, Fun.” 

Well she got her daddy's car
And she cruised through the hamburger stand now
Seems she forgot all about the library
Like she told her old man now
And with the radio blasting
Goes cruising just as fast as she can now 

And she'll have fun, fun, fun
Till her daddy takes the t-bird away
(Fun, fun, fun till her daddy takes the t-bird away 

Oh how can you have a summer and not be out cruising in a car, stopping at hamburger stands, radio blasting, and looking for fun.  Ah and memories of Ford Thunderbirds.  Do they still make T-Birds?  I think I saw one not too long ago and it looked disgustingly contemporary.   

Then there is Mungo Jerry’s, “In the Summertime,” a one hit wonder with a cool hook for a riff.   I think the lyrics makes this one: “In the summertime when the weather is hot/You can stretch right up and touch the sky/When the weather's fine/You got women, you got women on your mind/Have a drink, have a drive/Go out and see what you can find.”  Whoa, what did he just say, have a drink and a drive?  Boy did that come from a different era.  And then there are those misogynistic lyrics: “If her daddy's rich take her out for a meal/If her daddy's poor just do what you feel.”  The song might be carefree perhaps, but that’s a bit too uncaring for my taste.  Still it’s on the airwaves every summer.  

And how about Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues.”  Cool riff, and love that boss’s contrasting bossy voice, “no dice, son, you gotta work late.”  Yeah, I worked most of my summers when in school, and Cochran captures that feeling. 

Of course one has to mention, The Lovin’ Spoonfuls, “Summer in the City.”  No one captures that hot July—and around here we usually get a few days above 100F (39C) in July—day like this: “Hot town, summer in the city/Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty/Been down, isn't it a pity/Doesn't seem to be a shadow in the city.”  I don’t know what city they’re talking about, but I can swear it’s New York City. 

And when thinking of summer songs, one has to consider the one I mentioned above, The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction.”  I believe it stood at number one on the charts for four straight weeks in the summer of 1965.  It’s a bit more sophisticated than the other songs, but it still captures that raw youthful, summer energy with a great guitar riff—one of the greatest guitar riffs ever—over a hard driving rhythm.  And those lyrics of defiance, frustrated, rude, and adolescently brazen.  Here too there’s driving in a car, and some advertisement “that’s supposed to fire my imagination.”  "Supposed to" is teen snootiness.  There’s also the pretentiousness of a youth saying that the man on the TV “can’t be a man because he doesn’t smoke/the same cigarettes as me.”  Oh can’t you just see that high school kid smoking cigarettes around the corner thinking he’s now so ADULT.  And there’s that grandiose statement that’s at the heart of the song, “Hey hey hey, that's what I say.”  That really is a great summer song. 

Now if I were to have picked a song twenty years ago, I most definitely would have gone with the Stones’ “Satisfaction.”  Lord knows I had—and still have—a rebellious streak.  But now I’m over fifty, and perhaps I have to tone down my summer songs.  I don't strut and sneer like I used to.  So I’ve gone with this little classic, “Sunny Afternoon” by The Kinks as the perfect summer song.    Here’s a youtube clip.

Nothing I like to do better on a summer afternoon—actually more toward evening—than lay on a recliner on my deck, listen to the birds flying and chirping about through the trees in the backyards, with a cool beer or nice glass of red wine, and reading a good book. That is close to heaven. And how about these opening lyrics for a Conservative: “The tax man's taken all my dough/And left me in this stately home/Lazing on a sunny afternoon/And I can't sail my yacht/He's taken everything I got/All I've got's this sunny afternoon.” Bah, rebellion is over rated. Just give me limited government these days. ;)

What summer songs do you like?


  1. You strutted and sneered? lol
    The best summer music to me is the sound of the ocean. :) And good jazz.
    Here is a light Vince Guaraldi number done by George Winston, called It Was a short Summer, Charlie Brown.

  2. That was a really pretty piece. Thanks. Someone new to explore. As to strutting and sneering, well I was young and I guess it's all relative. More than some and less than others. ;)

  3. This song comes in pretty close to my favorite summer song. I know it for some time but never knew it belonged to the Kinks. Ingrid Lucia and the Flying Neutrinos is the version I heard first. They are New Orleans style group and there are also a couple other “summer songs” on their album “We Love the Pirates”.

    1. I tracked that Ingrid Lucia version on youtube and it's pretty cool! Thanks. :)