22 July 2014

The hot sounds of summer - top 20 tracks* - and one of my favourite summer songs.

Many of these songs evoke hot summers of the past.  As the songs cover the past 60 years no doubt we won't remember them all, not even the ones which were current in our era.

Sunny Afternoon by The Kinks (1966): A little devil-may-care darkness in the English summer as Ray Davies spins the tale of a fallen, penniless aristocrat who's lost all his money and his girlfriend has fled back to her parents 'telling tales of drunkenness and cruelty'.  He lies back and sips a beer (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzU2owPegHE).

Little Fluffy Clouds by The Orb (1990):  British ambient house group sample single Rickie Lee Jones recalling the skies of her Arizona childhood.  The scattered 'ums' and pauses in her speech provide the perfect counterbalance to the mechanised beats (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHixChYgGRI).

Summer in the City by Lovin Spoonful (1966):  Two scoops of musical flavour in one song.  As the New Yorkers evoke the shifting day/night mood of the urban summer, you can feel the heat ricocheting off the concrete.  Pop legend has it that the lyrics are based on a school poem written by singer John Sebastian's brother (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m648v4s5sFc).

Les Fleurs by Minnie Ripperton (1970): The multi-octaved singer demurely assumes the persona of a flower: 'Will a lady pin me in her hair?' before the euphoric choir comes in, making you feel the sensory overload of a lone bee in a tropical hot house (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1kDd6yBQZ4).

Summertime by D J Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (1991): Will Smith waxes Proustian as the smell froma barbecue grill sparks nostalgia for formative flirtations while Jazzy Jeff spins a breezy sample of Kool & The Gang's 1974 song Summer Madness (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kr0tTbTbmVA).

Chelsea Morning by Joni Mitchell (1969): Bright and brittle, Mitchell awakes in the famous hyotel to see 'the sun through yellow curtains, and a rainbow on the wall'.   She would swelter beneath a more sinister sunshine on The Hissing of Summer Laws (1975) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXe95iTtci0.

Hot in Herre by Nelly (2002): Produced by The Neptunes: Produced by The Neptunes (Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo) this dance-floor steamer incorporates samples from Chuck Brown, Neil Young and Nancy Sinatra.  A backing singer politely warns hip hopper Nelly that the hat is forcing her to disrobe (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GeZZr_p6vB8).

Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles (1969): Bored by the grind of setting up the Apple label, George Harrison bunked off work and wrote this delectable tune wandering around with Eric Clapton's garden with an acoustic guitar, in April (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6j4TGqVl5g).

Sky Blue by Peter Gabriel (2002): Gabriel took 15 years to write this beautiful hymn to the wide azure, which was used on the sound track to the film about the forces relocaction of mixed-race aboriginals, Rabbit-Proof Fence (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSzZEj-jjF0).

Lazy by Marilyn Monroe (1954): In in There's No Business Like Showbusiness , Monroe yearns to be yearning, 'under that awning they call the sky...   With a great big valise full of books to read.'  Who doesn't.

Happy by Pharrell Williams (2013):  Repeating its title 56 times with more than 62 % of the song dedication to an earworm chorus (about 20% more chorus time than usual), this mood-lifter really does make you 'feel like a room without a roof' (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6Sxv-sUYtM).

Feeling Good by Nina Simone (1965): Simone's empowered version of this Broadway number was only released as a single after featuring in adverts for fabric conditioner and the VW Golf.  But any 'dragonfly out in the sun' knows what she means (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5Y11hwjMNs).

Summertime by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong (1957): All sultry swelter, Fitzgerald and Armstrong's version of the lullaby from Gershwin's 1935 Porgy and Bess is surely the best.  Her voice is sweet treacle, his rasping dry heat (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIDOEsQL7lA).

Time of the Season by The Zombies (1968): The lines 'What's your name?  Who's your daddy?  Is he rich like me?' are a nod to Gershwin's Summertime, which the band used to cover.  The unusual percussion of handclaps and exhalations make you want to spread out that picnic blanket (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vL4Zrap5lXo).

Sun is Shining by Bob Marley (1978): To the easy red, green and yellow reggae skank of the bass and aquamarine splashes of guitar, Marley sings: 'When the morning' gather the rainbow/Want you to know, I'm a rainbow too now.'  You need to kick your shoes off and dance barefoot (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBDVarvFqYI).

Looking Out My Backdoor by Creedence Clearwater Revival (1970): The irresistable slice of country rock belover by Jeff Bridges' character, The Dude, in the Coen Brothers' movie, The Big Lebowski, this song makes you want to fling wide the doors and windows with a carefree 'doo, doo, doo!'  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aae_RHRptRg).

Blister in the Sun by Violent Femmes (1983): Terrifically tense and twitchy, the Milwaukee band were probably singing about heroin addition, but modern listeneres are just going to remember this from the sound track to Grosse Pointe Blank featuring John Cusack's cool performance as the hitman in raybans (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2aljlKYesT4).

Higher than the Sun by Primal Scream (1991):  Bobby Gillespie declared this glorious, psychedelic splicing of dub, rock and dance the most game-changing record since Anarchy in the UK.  Close your eyes during that blissed-out saxophone solo and let your mind expand like a hot-air balloon.

Hundreds of Ways by Conor Oberst (2014):  'What a thing to be a witness to the sunshine!' sings the former Bright Eyes founder on this smart, funny spirit-raiser of a song.

The Warmth of the Sun by The Beach Boys (1963): The diaphanous harmonies of this bittersweet song of romantic rejection were recorded shortly after the assassination of JFK.  Brian Wilson said he wanted the band's music to provide 'a sonic oasis' for listeners to bathe in (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_TcWUslfvE).

*from Helen Brown in the Telegraph

And what about In the Summertime - Mungo Jerry : One of my all-time favourites (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvUQcnfwUUM)?

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