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Songs in the Key of Summer

Lazy days, crazy nights

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The sun, the beach, convertibles with their tops down, lazy days and crazy nights. Spring and summer have been depicted, dissected, wished for, worshiped, and honored as much as any musical subject (with the possible exceptions of sex and drugs).

Here's a look at some of the rock songs that best depict the (mostly) bright side of the warm weather days of misspent youth.

"Summertime Blues" - Blue Cheer

Island Def Jam

Quick. Name a band or artist who hasn't covered this classic that originated with Eddie Cochran in 1958. Blue Cheer's hard rock version is one of the best (with T Rex and The Who in a tie for second).

Watch a 1968 performance of "Summertime Blues" by Blue Cheer

"Keepin' the Summer Alive" - Beach Boys

Beach Boys - Keepin' the Summer Alive
Capitol Records

No self-respecting list of songs about summer would be complete without at least one song by The Beach Boys, for whom summer provided the basis for a musical genre unto itself. If "Keepin' the Summer Alive" seemed more rock-oriented than the '60s Beach Boys, it was probably because it was co-written by Randy Bachman (Bachman Turner Overdrive) and the Boys' Carl Wilson (who also sang lead.)

Watch a Beach Boys performance of "Keepin' the Summer Alive" in 1980

"Summer (Can't Last Too Long)" - Asia

Geffen Records

Remember how we couldn't wait for summer, and how quickly it zipped by once it finally arrived? "I'll be making the most of summertime, crazy nights and lazy days ..." sums it up pretty well.

Listen to Asia's "Summer (Can't Last Too Long)

"Summer of '69" - Bryan Adams

Geffen Records

"That summer seemed to last forever ... those were the best days of my life." Evenings at the drive-in and hours spent in a high school rock band give Bryan Adams' "Summer of '69" its nostalgic (with a rock touch) charm.

Watch the music video for "Summer of '69" by Bryan Adams

"The Boys of Summer" - Don Henley

Geffen Records

The theme is a little bit melancholy, but Don Henley's summertime imagery is quite vivid, as in "Your brown skin shinin' in the sun, you got that top pulled down and that radio on ...". An electronic sound like a sea gull completes the imagery.

Watch "The Boys of Summer" music video

"Summer In the City" - Lovin' Spoonful

Buddha Records

"Hot town, summer in the city ..." was the anthem for hot July nights in the summer of 1966 when it was a #1 single by The Lovin' Spoonful. It makes the back of my neck feel dirty and gritty just thinking about it.

Watch a 1966 Lovin' Spoonful performance of "Summer in the City"

"Summertime" - Billy Stewart

Geffen Records

"Fish are jumping and the cotton is high ..." suggests a "summer in the country" counterpoint to The Lovin' Spoonful's homage to hot weather. Billy Stewart's rendition -- the album version with more scat and a hot sax not heard on the radio single -- is the best. Nothing says summer quite like "Brrrrrrrrrrrr-up-ch-chuck-chuck-chooka-chuck-chuck...hooh!"

Watch a Billy Stewart performance of "Summertime" (the single version)

"In the Summertime" - Mungo Jerry

Pop Records

Billy Stewart didn't have anything on these guys when it came to making vocal sound effects. Their first #1 single was imminently sing-alongable with lyrics like "Da da da dee da doo dee da dee da dee da da." They also had a solid list of great ways to waste your time "when the weather is fine ... " like swimming in the sea, driving fast, drinking, and having "women on your mind."

Watch Mungo Jerry perform "In the Summertime" in 1970

"Hot Fun in the Summertime" - Sly and the Family Stone

Epic / Legacy

The best version of this often-covered summer song about a "county fair in the country sun" is the one recorded by Sly and the Family Stone shortly after their performance at Woodstock in 1969. The fact that "them summer days" caused English teachers to cringe just made it that much more popular with a generation of rebellious youngsters.

Watch Sly and the Family Stone perform "Hot Fun in the Summertime"

"Daisy Summer Piper" - Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell
Photo by Henry Diltz, courtesy Special Ops Media

This is easily the best song about summer that you've never heard. Joni Mitchell wrote, but never recorded it, nor, as far as I can tell, has anyone else. It may be obscure, but the imagery is memorable:

Daisy summer pipers come to town
Piping people out of doors
To see the magic all around
Listen now you'll hear his sound

Stare into a mirror pool
And laugh so princely vain
The skies become kaleidoscopes
With no two turns the same

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