PENN & THROPIST PRESENT

Summersongs

In good vibrations, miss thropist on April 29, 2012 at 6:08 pm

smiling sun

Well what do you know? It’s April, and the sun is shining, plus the weather is sweet. Here comes the sun, little darling, which clearly makes everything all right. The sun has got his (or possibly her, or its) hat on. Hip-hip-hip-hooray indeed!

Oh no wait-

 

None of that seems to be true for more than five minutes at a go! Instead it’s grey and cold and wet and generally discouraging almost all of the time. And I’m not a fan of such wintery weather.

I suggest we perform a group sun dance, and to get us on our way I’ve prepared a suitable playlist. Here are ten of my favourite songs about summer. Let’s all play them loudly with our windows wide open while we move and grove, in a bid to get the sun to stick around.

And if it doesn’t work, at least you’ll get to have a fun fight with your neighbours!

DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – ‘Summertime’

I don’t like to make broad sweeping statements, because there’s always exceptions and complications in any situation. But one adage that I am willing to stand by consistently is this: Will Smith is always great. As someone who’s seen all of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, sat through some dreadful movies for him (Wild Wild West and Hancock spring to mind especially) and is always happy when one of his songs come on shuffle, I feel fully equipped to make such proclamations. ‘Summertime’, an extremely laid back song which samples Kool and the Gang’s ‘Summer Madness’, is pretty much the pinnacle of such awesomeness. Quite frankly if listening to it doesn’t make you happy you’re either too young to be allowed to be in charge of your own tastes, or there’s something seriously wrong with you.

Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong – ‘Summertime’

This classic is from George Gershwin’s jazz opera Porgy and Bess, which features other fun gems like the sacrilegious ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’. ‘Summertime’, which really does sound like an actual folk song, became a jazz standard, and you can’t do much better than Ella and Louis’ version (from their Porgy and Bess album). Still, if you’re looking for variation it’s not exactly hard- The Summertime Connection has over 31,000 recordings in their collection, and lists over 48,000 known public performances (and growing!). And they’ve got links to covers in a plethora of languages, including this lovely chant in Occitan. The song also inspired the Sublime track ‘Doin’ Time’, which sounds like a nice relaxed summery song, even if it is actually all about adultery and feeling trapped. Good times!

The Isley Brothers – ‘Summer Breeze’

While this song was originally recorded by Seals and Crofts, their version sounds tacky and cloying, possibly due to the use of a toy piano on the track, and the Isley Brothers version is at least a billion times more pleasant to listen to. It’s soulful and evocative, and I don’t think it’s possible to not feel blissed out when hearing it. I sincerely don’t think it can be bettered, but there’s plenty of attempts like Jason Mraz’s twee pop-rock take, Type O Negative’s metal cover and Aphrodite’s jungle reworking. But even after listening to every single variant of the song I’m pretty sure you’ll want to go back to listening to The Isley Brothers’ one. Cos it’s the best. Empirically.

Percy Faith – ‘Theme From A Summer Place’

Oz from Buffy the Vampire Slayer once said that the way for a girl to impress him involved a feather boa and this song (and implied that he couldn’t talk about it in more detail in public). I’m pretty sure that he wasn’t joking, and not because I can’t imagine that anyone would be cavalier about anything as serious as feather boas. This song is awesome! And it is actually a theme from the movie A Summer Place (not the main theme, it’s a lurve theme for two of the characters). Percy Faith’s version shot to the top of the charts in 1960, but it’s been covered by others too- some of whom added lyrics, including Cliff Richard! His version is eminently laughable, so enjoy.

Moonpools & Caterpillars – ‘Summertime’

This is simply a fun, thumping intensely summery pop-rock song from ’90s California-based Filipina band Moonpools & Caterpillars. And it was featured on the soundtrack of one of the greatest films of time: The Baby-Sitters Club (come on, it starred a young Rachael Leigh Cooke and Larisa Oleynik, amongst others, have either of them ever been in anything sub-par? If they have I’m choosing to ignore it). The former lead singer of the band, Kimi Ward Encarnacion, has an adorable lifestyle blog, called California Pixie, with lots of brightly coloured pictures and smiles, and their fans still seem exuberant about them. Exactly what you’d expect from a band who managed to make the sound of distilled sunshine!

Don Henley – ‘The Boys of Summer’

This is a single from former Eagles frontman Don Henley’s second solo album, and I can only really describe its sound as…shimmery. If the black and white video (which won several awards, FYI), directed by fancypants French photographer Jean-Baptiste Mondino, didn’t make it clear enough, the song deals with themes of nostalgia and ageing. The Ataris’ pop-punk cover is a more upbeat version that’s plenty of fun (although not a patch on their ode to Claire Danes, ‘My So-Called Life’), and there’s also a truly awful version by DJ Sammy with vocals by some Dutch bint called Loona. You may want to pour bleach into your ears to cleanse them if you accidentally listen to it, but I suggest you resist that urge because that doesn’t sound entirely safe, and listen to some Eagles instead. Here’s ‘Already Gone’, cos it’s great.

Incubus – ‘Summer Romance (Anti-Gravity Love Song)’

This wonderfully chilled but still funky tune is my favourite from Incubus’ second studio album S.C.I.E.N.C.E. (which apparently stands for ‘Sailing Catamarans Is Every Nautical Captain’s Ecstasy’, obviously) and anyone who disagrees may have recently received a head injury, and you probably ought to be concerned about them. Although their later albums tend to have a cleaner, tighter sound I enjoy the messy mish-mash of styles on this album and its predecessor Fungus Amongus (c’mon, what’s not to love about ‘You Will Be A Hot Dancer’?). But if you’re looking for something a teeny bit softer, there’s also this lovely acoustic version of ‘Summer Romance’.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – ‘Long Hot Summer Night’

 I have a mildly irrational aversion to anything that refers to summer nights because I’m reminded of the caterwauling-heavy number from Grease, y’know, the one that’s called ‘Summer Nights’. (Why is there so much screeching?! The Glee cover is genuinely less aurally offensive.) But, I’m willing to put that aside in order to listen to Electric Ladyland. ‘Long Hot Summer Night’ could almost run the risk of being buried, given that it’s on the double album featuring ‘Crosstown Traffic’, ‘All Along The Watchtower’ and ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’, which have all been released as singles and are some of the best-known and most-beloved Hendrix songs. But this song is fantastic too, and clearly part of the perfect soundtrack to a summer night!

Billy Joel – ‘Summer, Highland Falls’

This ballad, off of Turnstiles, is probably my favourite Billy Joel song (although I am also very partial to ‘Big Shot’, and maintain that it’s the perfect accusatory alarm tone), ‘Piano Man’ and ‘Uptown Girl’ don’t even get a look-in on the grounds that they’re far too schmaltzy. He wrote it while living in Highland Falls, New York (a village, perhaps not wildly different from the one where he was raised, Hicksville- I kid you not- which is also in New York state), and the lyrics have nostalgia written- in large and underlined letters- all over them. You can listen to him doing a solo version of it, and explaining why he wrote it (with references to manic depression) , as well as kvetching entertainingly about the weirdness of Los Angeles, on this Billy Joel Q&A post.

LFO – ‘Summer Girls’

This is still one of the most entertaining songs, not just of weird ’90s pop, but of all time. It was written by LFO (aka Lyte Funky Ones, which I don’t feel was an acceptable name even in the decade that sense forgot) frontman Rick Cronin (with some help). The lyrics are basically an amazing series of non-sequiturs like ‘New Kids On The Block had a bunch of hits, Chinese food makes me sick’ and ‘Call you up, but what’s the use, I like Kevin Bacon but I hate Footloose‘. That’s lyrical genius right there. They also seemed to be doing some solid public relations work for Abercrombie and Fitch at the time, but the video seems like an expose of dreadful ’90s fashion now, compounded by the fact that one of them, I think it’s Brad but I couldn’t swear to it, is blinking rapidly in abject confusion throughout. Eminem mocked it on ‘Marshall Mathers’, but really I can’t see why you’d need to, just let the song stand for itself!

What other songs can we use to try to coax the sun out? Suggest away in the comments!

  1. OH MY GOD. LFO! I forgot about that. Thank goodness you brought it back for us to enjoy fully once more.I think ‘Sunny Afternoon’ by the Kinks is my favourite, because it really sounds like what it’s about…so I have to skip that track if it’s not sunny when I play the album.

    Yay for this post, made me feel more summery!

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