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Archive for July, 2019

Although technically and by calendar we’re less than two weeks into summer, this, right now, is really the apex of summer.

You agree with me, don’t you? I mean we haven’t been bludgeoned by a series of really hot days; we’ve got two more relatively relaxed months sprawled out in front of us; and, most important, everybody loves the Fourth of July.

So it’s fitting, I think, that we raise a toast to the joy of summer. And what better way than to dig deep into the record bin and pull out some of the great Oldies that connect us to summers long past?

So, here we go, with five summertime classics.

Summertime Blues by Eddie Cochran

Wikipedia describes this inimitable song as being “about the struggle between a teenager and his parents, his boss and his congressman.” It’s a bravura performance by Cochran, who sang both the vocal and bass vocal (“no dice, son, you gotta work-a-late”) and played all the guitar parts. His girlfriend, Sharon Sheeley, was one of the hand clappers.

It was released in August 1958 and peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in September 1958. The song is ranked No. 73 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. In my personal rankings, it’s in the Top 10.

The song was released when Cochran was 19 years old. He died two years later when a speeding taxi driver crashed his cab in England and Cochran was ejected from the car. Also in the car were Sheeley and singer Gene Vincent, who both survived.

Eddie has a little slice of immortality through this song, though, and here it is

**

Theme from A Summer Place by Percy Faith & His Orchestra

The song was written for the 1959 film A Summer Place, starring Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue. It was recorded for the film as an instrumental by Hugo Winterhalter, a famous orchestra leader in his own right, but it was Percy Faith’s version that went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960 and stayed there for nine weeks.

Here it is…

**

School Is Out by Gary U.S. Bonds

Like Bonds’ song Quarter to Three, this song has a get-up-and-go, garage-band feel. It went to No. 5 in 1961. (Quarter to Three hit No. 1 a year earlier.)

The song has some tremendous lyrics, including these in the first verse…

I can root for the Yankees from the bleachers
And don’t have to worry ’bout teachers

and the chorus…

(School is out) Everybody’s gonna have some fun
(School is out) Everybody’s gonna jump and run
(School is out) Come on people don’t you be late
(School is out)

Here it is…

**

Summer in the City by The Lovin’ Spoonful

Upbeat and driving, this song captures both the oppressive part of summer…

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
All around, people looking half dead
Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head

And the alluring part…

But at night it’s a different world
Go out and find a girl
Come-on come-on and dance all night
Despite the heat it’ll be alright

The song features car horns and jackhammer noises during the instrumental bridge, reflecting the sounds of a chaotic, urban street. It topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for three weeks in August 1966.

This YouTube version has been viewed more than five million times.

**

See You in September by The Tempos — and also by The Happenings

This is a seminal song of the tenuousness of teenage romance…The boy and girl are madly in love when they part at the train (or bus) station at the end of the school year, but will the mutual ardor survive the three achingly long months of summer? There’s a good chance it won’t because — oh, yeah — “there is danger in the summer moon above.”

The song was first recorded by the Pittsburgh group The Tempos and peaked at No. 23 in the summer of 1959. The most successful version was recorded by The Happenings, out of Paterson, NJ. It hit No. 3 in 1966.

…I’ve always preferred The Happenings’ version, mainly because it gets more airplay on the Sirius-XM than The Tempos’ version, but I found today there’s a raging YouTube debate on the issue.

The Tempos’ arrangement has a nice calypso beat, is slower and thus more accurately reflects the possibility that the boy will lose the girl “to a summer love.” (I wonder, though…couldn’t he just as easily find a summer love and dump her?) The Happenings’ arrangement is catchier, and I like the background singing a lot better.

Both versions are outstanding, though, and have us looking down on the train-station scene, wondering — like the anxious singer — what the summer has in store.

Here’s the version by The Happenings.

And here’s the one by The Tempos.

Happy Fourth, everyone, and enjoy summer at its peak!

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