Summertime is one of the most anticipated seasons , especially in the Northeast, where we deal with cold winters filled with snow and bitter temperatures. Summertime was filled with great memories as a child; hanging out with friends at the park pool, playing my drums to the radio, and in later years, going to concerts. In honor of the first day of summer on June 21, I thought I would list some of my favorite songs of summer.
There are a few criteria I use for this list. First, the song needs to have a summer feel, or mention summer in the song; it can’t be a song that was released only in the summer (like Huey Lewis and The News “The Power of Love,” which was released during the summer movie season). I first heard Bryan Adams’ “Everything I Do (I Do It For You) in the summer, and telling all the lifeguards at the pool that is was going to be a smash (they disagreed with me), but it doesn’t have a summer feel to it, even though I have summer memories of that song. Next, it has to have summer as the setting (Richard Marx’s “Endless Summer Nights” actually takes place in the winter time looking back on the summer-the same goes Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer,” in which summer is over which is why these are missing, or I’d put them on the list). There are many summer songs that people associate with the season, such as “Brown Eyed Girl,” “Summer In The City,” “In The Summertime,” and every Jimmy Buffett or Jan and Dean song (“Dancing In The Streets” is another). As great as these songs are, I want to try and escape the obvious choices , although it is hard not to include a few of them on this list, but maybe suggest a few songs that some may not put on their normal play list. With that in mind, here are some of my best summer song choices from the 1960s-today (In no particular order).
- “Getcha Back” -The Beach Boys (1985). I constantly mention this album by The Beach Boys as my favorite album they have done. This album has so many memories for me as a youth when it was released; spending my summer days playing my drums to the cassette, along with spending time with my best female friend, who was a big fan of the band as well. Any summer list has to have a Beach Boys song on it, and this one is my pick because it talks about reminiscing about the past when the narrator breaks up with the girl and tries to see if they can re-connect. Even though it doesn’t have the summer themes of a beach or surfing, it talks about a guy in his fancy car wooing the girl with his money. Summertime in my youth was filled with the couples breaking up at the end of school to have their summer flings or be free. This has many summer for me.
2. “Cruel Summer”-Bananarama (1984). This song has a darker feel of summer to it, filled with the hot streets and being left all alone for the season. This song actually was released a year earlier, but gained momentum when it was played in the movie “The Karate Kid” in the U.S., although it wasn’t on the soundtrack. Several other acts recorded it after, but the original is still the best. This is for those that need a song that’s not all sunny and beaches.
- “Goodbye” -Night Ranger (1985). A summer play list needs a power ballad on it, and this was my choice by Night Ranger. It is actually about the death of a relative of Jack Blades, but mentions the 4th of July in the lyrics. People mistake the song for a failed relationship, which is how good the lyrics are, that it can be interpreted as a failed summer romance. I like the guitar solo at the end of the song as well. I can picture this song played at a beach party at night for a slow dance.
- “Summer of ’69”- Bryan Adams (1984). This is one song that’s an obvious choice for the list, but it has to be on a play list. The Adams/Jim Vallance penned song is filled with reminiscing about the best summer of their lives (among other themes to it). Playing in bands during the summer was a big part of my life, so trying to get a band together and play out in the clubs is a familiar part of the song I can relate to. The song hit #5 in the U.S. gave Adams a bigger success than his last album. The song is filled with Drive Ins, being young, and working in the summer. Summer is all over this song.
- “Summer Nights” -Olivia-Newton John, John Travolta (1978). Another obvious choice for some, but how can this song NOT be on the list? “Grease” is one of my favorite movies of all time (no I won’t watch the remade “Live” show that was on TV due to my loyalty), and this song is one of the most sung song for karaoke ever. The song hit #5 in U.S. and is filed with summer romance, going bowling, visiting the arcade, and being at the beach. If this is not on your summer play list, your list is not complete.
- “Summer Nights”- Van Halen (1986). This track off of the first Sammy Hagar era Van Halen song is another song that must be on a play list. Hard Rock fans need to be represented as well, and this song has summer written all over it , with the lyrics “Summer Nights and my radio.” This was one of the first songs Hagar recorded with the band, according to his book. This song brings back the time friends and I would sit in the park and jam cassettes during the summer days, and this was one of the cassettes we always had on hand, just for this song.
- “Tender Years”- John Cafferty and The Beaver Brown Band (1983). This band is mostly remembered for the song “On The Dark Side” from the soundtrack for “Eddie and The Cruisers,” but this song was also released from the movie, and is a great summer ballad. The lyrics talk about a summer romance on the beach, or boardwalk (since the band is from New Jersey). A pop ballad with a great saxophone solo in it brings a throwback to the 1960s style music in ways without it sounding dated. I first heard the song when the band appeared on the TV Show “Solid Gold,” which was a favorite of mine, and it got a lot of local radio play where I live in Columbiana, Ohio. This is one of my favorite ballads form the 1980s and is one of the most overlooked from the time.
8.”Guess You Had To Be There”-Brian Wilson/Kacey Musgraves (2015). Most of this list has been from the 1980s, and I tried to get a few other decades in here as well. This song was from the Brian Wilson album “No Pier Pressure,” and has several interpretations to it- a relationship being failed, or just missing a great party (or both). Country fans will like this due to Musgraves’ singing (who is one THE best thing in Country Music today). Granted the song doesn’t mention summer directly, but the setting could be in the summer after a great beach party. This song may go against my criteria, but this is a great song to be played in the summer, with a swing feel to it that people missed when this album was released. A good feel good song with the melody.
- “Wasn’t That A Party”- The Rovers (1980). Another Country act (this song was a Country cross over hit) by the Irish/Folk singers The Irish Rovers, who had a big hit in 1968 with “The Unicorn.” This is a total party song, and I remember my uncle playing this song when deejaying at parties, and weddings. The song is filled with drinking, running down the road, and having the police called on them. The singer forgets half of the stuff that went on at the party as well. I’m not supporting these activities, but it has a good party vibe to it. The actions of the singers could usually be done in the summer (who has track meets and cuts down trees in the winter?). The song reminds me of a bunch of people hanging out by a bonfire trying to outdo themselves with crazy stuff. The song has humorous lyrics to it.
- “Lakeside Park”- Rush (1975). Classic Rock fans need their summer songs as well, and this is a Rush song that fits nicely. The song is not a 20 minutes epic, like some of their other songs, and talks about hanging out in the summer at parks (this one being in Canada where drummer Neil Peart hung out as a child). Even though singer Geddy Lee has stated he does not like the song , it’s a great slow grooving song that deserves on a summer play list. It even talks about the month of May, referencing Queen Victoria’s birthday.
- “Palisades Park”-Freddy Cannon (1962). The 1960s was filled with summer-filled songs, and this song gets overlooked at times. Written by Chuck Berris (yes the host of “The Gong Show”) this song talks about amusement parks, rides, and falling in love at the local festival. The song has references to roller coasters, hot dogs, and dancing to a local band-all things needed for summertime. The song was also recorded by The Beach Boys, Gary Lewis, and the Ramones, but Cannon’s is the best version. Berris wrote in his book that the money he received from this song helped him finance the TV shows he created. This was Freddy Cannon’s biggest hit, but he had other good songs as well.
- “Saturday In the Park”-Chicago (1972). What other season can people have picnics and parties in the park than summer? This song hit #3 in the U.S., written by Robert Lamm, who was watching film footage that he shot years earlier and created the song by what he saw. Sung by Lamm and Peter Cetera, the song talks about bands playing, people singing, ice cream, and more. This list covered pop, country, musicals, oldies, so why not throw in a song with lots of horns? The song is not a rocker, but a peaceful, mellow song (the listener does need a break time to time). The setting in this song is totally summer and filled with enjoying the outdoors.
13. “Anything But Mine”-Kenny Chesney (2005). This is a perfect song for either the end of summer or during, with all the fairs and festivals that go on. The song was written by Scooter Carusoe, who has worked with Rascal Flats, Dierks Bentley, and other acts. The video is focused more on the end of summer (the single was released in January) , but unlike Henley’s or Richard Marx’s songs about summer, this song’s setting could be at anytime. Even though us in Ohio like the line about the city of Cleveland, it’s actually the Tennessee city, not Ohio, but we can claim it anyway. Just like the John Cafferty song, this has the boardwalk carnival theme to it, along with the summer romance. This is one of my favorite Chesney songs, where I couldn’t see another act giving the song the special touch like Chesney, especially since he is known as the summertime guy in Country.
There are many other summer songs that I could have put on the list, from Country, Pop, and even Rap songs (which I will not do-I’m not a Rap fan, so no Will Smith songs here). These are a few songs that are obvious choices, but a few suggestions that you may not have thought to add. I tried to show a variety of genres as well. Maybe some of these will make it on your play list for this summer!
Feel free to send me your summer play list songs here, or follow me on Twitter @lovelylancel