Andy Sullivan: Against the Grain
Since Summer is in full swing, I figured, why not do a “best of Summer” feature? This week, Best Summer Songs of All Time. These are all subjective, of course. What some might consider best, others might have other opinions. This one in particular came from Rolling Stone’s digital magazine from May, 2020. They ranked 55. I don’t know how they decided on 55. I mean, 60 is right there.
I didn’t get to one that I knew until #52. “A Summer Song” by Chad & Jeremy”. Chad Stewart and Jeremy Clyde. They were a British group that got their start in 1962. They were still active up until 2015. #51 is a favorite of mine, “Island In The Sun” by Weezer. Lead singer Rivers Cuomo’s tender ode to splendid summer isolation, is about as happy as this guy gets. It’s a catchy tune. Give it a listen if you haven’t.
Fast forward to #48 for the next one I know-“Blister In The Sun” by Violent Femmes. Fun fact about this song-the catchy beginning riff of this acoustic tune is played throughout St. Louis Cardinals home games. The refrain is an acoustic riff and a clap at the end. So it’s fun for fans to get into.
“Saturday in the Park” by Chicago pops up at #47. The ‘70’s mellowness and chill vibe just screams summer. Since it’s a chill vibe, maybe it calls summer instead of screams. Skipping ahead to #44, “Sunny Afternoon” by The Kinks tapped into English music hall traditions with this jaunty wishful melody. Lead singer Ray Davies plays a kid busted by the taxman, scrapped by his girlfriend and left with no more than “my ice cold beer/lazing on a sunny afternoon in the summertime.
Fast-forwarding to #39 which transports us to 1988 with “IT Takes Two” by Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock. No, it’s not a cover of the Marvin Gaye-Kim Weston song. In the summer of 1988, writer-producer Rob Base penned the song in hopes of coming up with a song so fun everybody couldn’t help but jam to it. Mission accomplished.
The late ‘90’s. I believe 1999, brought our next song. “Steal My Sunshine” by one-hit wonder Len. This one is definitely in my ‘90’s Spotify playlist. Marc and Sharon Costanzo were thinking of Human League’s 1982 summer of ’82 smash “Don’t You Want Me” when they wrote this happy tune about sippin’ slurpy treats, fryin’ on a bench slide in the park and summer romance gone weird.
We go back to the year I was born (’79) for this next one. “Rock Lobster” by the B-52’s is #37. This song is a throwback to ‘60’s dance crazes. The surfed-up guitar part and singer Fred Schneider’s brilliant Jacques Cousteau gone bonkers lyrics made it a psychedelic beach rocker for the ages. Another 1979 classic, this one disco, makes the cut at #36: “Hot Stuff” by Donna Summer. This song has nothing much to do with Summer. If you’ve heard it, you know what it’s about. Number 35 on the other hand…
“Let’s Twist Again” by Chubby Checker is the original nostalgic party jam. Rock & Roll was just a few years old when Checker recorded the song. Martha and the Vandellas Heat Wave” was their second hist single that burned up the charts in the summer of ’63. Moving ahead to #32 is “Springsteen” by Eric Church. Eric’s 2012 hit about his Boss-loving girlfriend evokes nights of bittersweet nostalgia. “Good Times” by Chic dominated the summer of 1979 is all about getting down on steamy summer nights. Moving forward to #28 we find “Got To Give It Up” by Marvin Gaye. Sam Cooke’s “Summertime was next at 27. “Hot In Herre”(yes, I spelled that just like Nelly does) comes in at 26. The message is pretty simple, especially If you listen to the song. The same holds true with #25, “In The Summertime” by Mungo Jerry. This was a British Blues band, not just one guy. Don Henley’s song “Boys Of Summer” is next at 24. The Drifer’s “Under The Boardwalk” is at #23, followed by Jan & Dean’s “Surf City”, Snoop Dogg’s “Gin & Juice is at #20. “Sleepwalk” by Santo & Johnny at #19, Seals & Croft’s “Summer Breeze” at #18, Luis Fonzi’s “Despacito” checks in at #17. “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk with Pharrell Williams is at #16. Moving onto #13, we have another ‘80’s jam- “Cruel Summer” by Bananarama. The song was covered a decade later by Ace of Base. Don’t worry if you’re asking who that is.
#12 is another favorite of mine: “Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. Yes, long before Will Smith was an actor, he was a rapper. If you want to hear the story of how he came to get the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air gig, go watch the reunion special on HBO Max. “Vacation” by The Go-Go’s was just outside the top 10. Lovin Spoonful’s “Summer In The City” is at #10. Sly & The Family Stone’s “Hot Fun In The Summertime” clocks in at #9, followed by 1977 Punk classic “Rockaway Beach” by Little Steven’s Underground Garage staples The Ramones. “California Girls” by the Beach Boys was at #7. And apparently in Rolling Stones’ world, Drake’s “In My Feelings” beats The Beach Boys. Okay, guys, sure it does….
“School’s Out” by Alice Cooper(released May ’72) came in at #5. As we get higher up in the countdown, the songs either get more iconic or are up there because they’re played a lot. “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X(and Billy Ray Cyrus-RS didn’t feel the need to credit him with this song). #3 was Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues”. The 1958 anthem about teen boredom and angst has been covered by everyone from The Who to Alan Jackson. Jackson took the song to #1 on July 23, 1994-a feat that, believe it or not-Cochran’s original version never achieved.
Only in Rolling Stone’s world can Cardi B beat the likes of Alice Cooper, Eddie Cochran, and others. Her song “I Like It” with Bad Bunny and J Balivin takes the top spot. The song samples Pete Rodriguez 1967 classic “I like It Like That”. This has to the be the first #1 in history to namecheck Celia Cruz, Jimmy Snuka and Lady Gaga in the same verse. (www.RollingStone.com)
Hope you enjoyed this Summer countdown. If you want to hear any of these, go to the link and search this story. Or you can go on Spotify and just listen to the songs.