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.
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).
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.)
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.
"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.
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.
"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.
"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)
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."
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.
Few people can touch Joni Mitchell's ability to set a mood and create a vivid picture with words and music. "The Hissing of Summer Lawns" is a classic example.
He put her in a ranch house on a hill
She could see the valley barbecues
From her window sill
See the blue pools in the squinting sun
Hear the hissing of summer lawns