Just a year ago, London was literally broiling in a weeks-on-end heatwave that left tempers flaring as we realised, once again, that this city really doesn’t do well in heat. This summer has been rather different so far, after a very wet June that has rather left us miserable.
/Tuesday Ten/373/Summer’s Kiss
But this week, finally, the summer proper arrived, although maybe we can hope for it to be a little cooler than last summer (we Brits are never happy, right?). Last year, I looked at songs dealing with the heat on /Tuesday Ten/337, this year, co-incidentally /Tuesday Ten/373 looks at songs about the summer.
I wasn’t looking for songs that invoke summer for me (I’ve also done that before, way back ten years ago on /Tuesday Ten/070), I was looking for songs about the summer – both good and bad – and not necessarily in Britain, either. As always nowadays, the suggestion thread got very long indeed, with a huge variety in the styles of songs suggested, which also sprawled across the last fifty years of music (and considerably more than that in some cases).
Thanks to everyone who suggested one song, or more in some cases. There were 181 suggestions, with 143 unique songs and eight of which I’d used before. 72 people suggested songs, and as ever there were more than then that I wanted to use (but I’m as ruthless as possible in keeping it to ten).
A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook.
Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound. Otherwise, as usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending, e-mail me, or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).
The photos used here come from my recent trip to Athens and Hydra in Greece – here’s the full set.
/Sumer is icumen in
/1000 Years of Popular Music
I’m fairly sure that this is the single oldest piece of music I’ve featured on my Tuesday Ten series (it dates from sometime in the mid-thirteenth century, apparently), although a one-time featuring of Hildegard of Bingen is even older than this. The song, a piece that welcomes and celebrates the arrival of spring and summer (although I’m sure it’s more complicated than that), is perhaps best-known for it’s use in an amended form in the climactic sequence of The Wicker Man, where Sergeant Howie finally, horrifyingly, realises his purpose. Richard Thompson’s take comes from an intriguing premise – his answer to a magazine’s question as to what his favourite songs of the past millenium were, and his answers went from this to Britney Spears in one concert and album!
Will Smith is such a huge movie star these days, that it’s easy to forget that he had a relatively successful musical career in his younger years too, that predates his breakthrough role as the lead in (the still quite great) The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. And sure, he might have had other hits, but his musical career will perhaps always remembered for this glorious song, that is little more than a gentle ramble through younger men and women hanging out across a number of set-pieces in an American summer, but somehow it manages to evoke your summer memories regardless – those endless summers of school holidays, random adventure, scratch sports games, young romance or just quiet solitude, but most importantly before most of us really had any responsibility to concern us.
/Steal My Sunshine
/You Can’t Stop The Bum Rush
Rather categorised as a one hit wonder (even if they don’t see it as one), this one, and I certainly couldn’t tell you a single other Len song if my life depended on it. But any band that release just one brilliant song is sometimes quite enough, and like the previous song, this is a song that only gets played when the sun is shining, and that’s because this song glows. It has a mellow, rolling rhythm, and a sweet titular hook, even if I’m fucked if I know what they are on about. But I don’t really care what it’s about. This a lovely song to kick back in the summer too – or get wasted to, as it was excellently used in the marvellous film Go that recently turned twenty.
One of the brighter, energetic indie bands of the late 80s, perhaps, the all-female band otherwise known as Fuzzbox had a number of snappy singles, but perhaps none of them were quite as enduring as this four minutes of sunburst. This is a song imploring the listener to cast aside the grey of their regular life, for some time in the sunshine (quite why it’s pink I’ve no idea, but there are some awfully pretty sunsets that involve pink in some places we’ve been…), and having some fun. That’s what summer is about, right? Shed the boring and do things that excite you while the weather is good.
I’ve long been a fan of this rugged, alt-rock band from Boston, Mass., whose often weary, sad rock songs struck a nerve with teenage me that many other bands never quite managed – and when I returned to one of their albums for the first time in some years recently, I realised I still knew all the songs and most of the words, too. One of those songs was this one, a lament for a summer (and possibly a woman) that has slipped away, with little of note to show for it. I can think of a few of those, for sure, where nothing quite worked as planned.
Jane’s Addiction don’t seem to get the credit they perhaps deserve as unlikely trailblazers of the early-nineties alt-rock boom. They’d all but imploded by 1991 (and later reforming a few times, hence me finally seeing their thrilling live show in 2009), as everyone else hit paydirt, but their early material was often anthemic, blistering rock – and certainly their best-remembered songs almost all are. But their more laid-back balladry is also worthy of note, such as this languid, leisurely song from their outstanding album Nothing’s Shocking, that simply seems to describe an afternoon with a partner in a summertime park, as they do very little and the buzzing life of the park swarms around them. We’ve not yet spent a weekend afternoon in Finsbury Park, but there’s time and opportunity yet.
/Weekends and Bleak Days (Hot Summer)
/Voices of Animals and Men
As occasionally happens thanks to the suggestion threads that often inform these posts nowadays, I’m introduced to songs I’ve either never heard or been unaware of. Here’s one of those, from a band who hark from the East Midlands, with a song that seems very, very English in the way it deals with summer. It is a song of trying to enjoy the often short British summer, even if that means bunking off work – or just enjoying the long evenings while you can. Too often, the British summer is one of missed opportunities from no fault of your own.
/Eff The Sun
/Sega Lugosi’s Dead
Every year the same memes appear about goths in the summer, and here that idea is pretty much expressed in song, but with added reference to gamers too. While I’m one that actually enjoys the summer – although I do admittedly wilt somewhat when it gets too hot, as I am reminded swiftly every time I head to more southerly points in Europe – a number of my friends really don’t enjoy it at all, and much like the characters in this song, I’m sure they’d like to hibernate with really good aircon for the duration of the summer.
/Summer on the Underground
/’A’ vs. Monkey Kong
One thing about living in London is that you experience the Urban Heat Island effect in full force (research here, more on Wired here), and one thing that I’m not missing this summer is having to commute into the City of London – although ironically my old route into Moorgate by train is finally getting air-conditioned trains introduced this year! Remarkably, there is a song about this, as pop-punk band A (ah, the hilarity of a band name that’s almost impossible to search for without qualifiers) nail the unpleasant, sticky nature of getting the Tube in particular in the summer. I’m sure I’m hardly the only one who changes their routes to ones that might have a chance of air-cooling in some way, rather than say having to use the Central Line, across the summer months.
/I Can’t Forget
/I’m Your Man
Finally this week, an artist who perhaps wouldn’t automatically be associated with the summer. But, part of our summer thus far has very much involved the spirit and music of Leonard Cohen. We were on Hydra in Greece the other week while the Leonard Cohen fan meet-up was happening on this tiny island – the island made his home in the sixties, and where he famously met Marianne – and it was a charming, quiet place, unexpectedly for a Greek island as the summer began a place where it was easy to get away from the small throngs of tourists if you wished to. That, and the pace of life was considerably more relaxed than that in Athens, where we’d been before! Anyway, this song is one of looking back and reminiscing, and the last verse, where summer ends and fades away like his memories, I can’t help feeling is a nod back to his time in Hydra, from a perspective of over two decades later.