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“There is danger in the summer moon above” The Happenings

August 22, 2014

Summer is nearly over. The kids in our neighborhood are back in school and the unofficial end of summer (Labor Day Weekend) is nearly upon us. (I realize that the “official” end of summer is September 21st but I have never felt that September was anything but a fall month). So in honor of the summer before it departs (sigh), I thought I would present my list of 20 favorite summer songs of all time.

But first, here are a few ground rules as to what I define as a “summer song”. I don’t count songs that happened to be recorded or charted during the summer months. Instead, the song must have “summer” or “summertime” or a summer month (i.e. “June” “July” or “August”) in the title OR in the lyrics to qualify. Also, to keep this manageable I have restricted it to songs recorded in the rock ‘n roll era (i.e. 1955 or later). I am sure that there are some great earlier era songs that I will be missing , but so be it. So here they are in order. Though not much separates #1 from #20:

1) Summer in the City – Lovin Spoonful – Mark Sebastian co-wrote this song for his older brother’s group. Since he was in the same class as my sister in high school at Friends Seminary in New York, I can’t help but feel very connected to this song. I love this song for its poignant lyrics which are all New York City and really remind me of my summers growing up … “back of my neck, getting dirt and gritty”….”All around, people looking half dead. Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head”. And the song is an uncharacteristic rocker given the normal folk rock sound of John Sebastian and the Spoonful. Great keyboards and electric guitar. In other words, it has it all.

(2) See You September – The Happenings” there is danger in the summer moon above”. Though not the original version, (the Regents did that in 1959), this rendition features the Happenings great voices and is a bit faster than the original. It is irresistibly catchy, both lyrics and music. Though certainly not a rock song, it was one of my early favorites ( and among my first 45 purchases) when I starting listening to WABC constantly in the summer of 1966.

(3) Sunny Afternoon- The Kinks ” lazing on a sunny afternoon in the summertime”–This song oozes summer laziness which all of us have experienced at one time or other. It doesn’t hurt that it is also, in my opinion, one of the Kinks best songs with an infectious guitar, bass line and tune.

(4) Hot Fun in the Summertime- Sly and the Family Stone–This is by far the best soul song about summer. A hard one not to love since it makes you feel really good about the summer (though strangely sad when you here it post-September).

(5) Summertime Blues- Eddie Cochran/ The Who–OK I cheated a bit on this one. I love Eddie Cochran’s original version with its late 50s guitar rhythms. But I also like the Who’s hard rock version (particularly their “Live at Leeds” recording) as well. So I put them both on the list tied at #5.

(6) Summer Rain- Johnny Rivers— I have always been a huge Johnny Rivers fan. I love his voice. This is a particularly good Johnny Rivers ballad, an original hit song with lyrics that had us all remembering the summer of 1967. “All summer long, we were dancing in the sand. Everybody just kept on playing Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band”. (At least, I remember experiencing the second part of that line from the summer of “67)

(7) Saturday in the Park- Chicago “I think it was the 4th of July”— This song captures the spirit of Grant Park in Chicago on a summer Saturday. But it just as easily could have been New York or any other major city in the 1970s with ” a man selling ice cream, and singing Italian songs”. It’s a great tune featuring Chicago’s always interesting brass arrangement.

(8) Surfin’ USA- Beach Boys “We’ll all be gone for the summer. We’re on safari to stay.Tell the teacher we’re surfin’
surfin’ U.S.A.” – One of several great Beach Boy songs about beaches and surfing. However, surprisingly one of just two that I could find that mentions summer. (The other is the song “All Summer Long”).

(9) A Summer Song- Chad and Jeremy– The best folk ballad about summer bar none. Its hard not to listen to it and not to imagine that its summer again “Trees swaying in the summer breeze; showing off their silver leaves”

(10) Beach Baby- First Class “Beach, baby beach, baby; there on the sand from July to the end of September.”– I really love this tune and how it waxes nostalgic about summer on the beach. It was a big hit in 1974 well after the peak of popularity of the Beach Boys , though it could have been easily done by them.

(11) Boys of Summer- Glen Frey– My favorite 80s summer song and a great rock song.

(12) Summer of ’69-Bryan Adams “Those were the best days of my life” – My second favorite 80s summer song.

(13) Magic- Cars ” summer it turns me upside down”– Another great 80s summer song.
(14) Everybody’s Talkin – Nilson “sailin’ on a summer breeze”– Just a really good song which reminds me of “Midnight Cowboy” and walking thru  NYC in the summer.
(15) Summer Breeze- Seals and Crofts “sweet days of summer, the jasmine’s in bloom”. A great duet about summer, though “Hummingbird” is still my favorite by them.
(16) Brother Love’s Travelin’ Salvation Show- Neil Diamond “Hot August night and the leaves hangin down. And the grass on the ground smellin – sweet”.  I love the way this song builds lyrically and musically from a sultry night scene to wild evangelism. This is possibly Neil’s best song IMHO.
(17) Bus Stop- Hollies “Please share my umbrella…All that summer we enjoyed it. That umbrella, we employed it. By August, she was mine”  Great Hollies song, featuring the great vocal harmonies of Graham Nash.
(18) Green Grass – Gary Lewis ” we will love the summer long”
(19) Turn Down Day – Cyrkle ” soft summer breeze and the surf rolls in”
(20) Summertime – Billy Stewart – The best rock era version of the famous Gershwin tune from Porgy and Bess. I like the original version better but the Billy Stewart arrangement is very interesting.

Near Misses/Honorable Mentions:

Master Blaster- Stevie Wonder “Everyone’s feeling pretty. Its hotter than July”

Summer- War

Hot Summer Day- It’s a Beautiful Day

Rain on the Roof – Lovin Spoonful  “caught up in a summer shower”

4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)- Springsteen

Theme from a Summer Place- Percy Faith

Hot August Night – Meatloaf

Cruel Summer- Bananarama

All Summer Long – Beach Boys

Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer – Nat King Cole

98.6 – Keith ” got spring and Summer rolling thru me”

Sorry I was never a big fan of these songs

Indian Lake- Cowsills

In the Summertime- Mungo Jerry

Endless Summer Nights – Richard Marx

Vacation- Connie Francis

Suddenly Last Summer- Motels

Ode to Billie Joe- Bobby Gentry ” was the third of June”

Summer Nights- Olivia Newton John/John Travolta

 

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So I am sure I missed a few and maybe some of your favorites?

From → Music 60s70s

2 Comments
  1. Robert Carey permalink

    Mark Sebastian wrote it for John’s band, no?

  2. David Gillin permalink

    Dave Alvin’s “Fourth of July” didn’t even get a mention?!

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