Monday, 1 July 2013

Summer Hating - 15 summer songs for the English Rain

Summer, balmy weather, holidays abroad and the concept of the Summer Read for lazing around on deckchairs and not having to engage your brain. All concepts which are pretty anathema to me. I don't holiday anymore, I write, but even when I did I took those books that demanded my full concentration which i could never give them during the daily hurly burley of normal life.

So with that Mr Scrooge in mind, here are some songs not celebrating summer in an overly optimistic way like the Travolta/Newton John song from the film "Grease".

1) "School's Out" - Alice Cooper
Remember when you couldn't wait for your schooldays to end? That last summer before the plunge either into University and overwrought romantic drama after drama and essay crises after essay crisis, or the full  lunge into the workaday world. Either way that's why the carefree, responsibility-free days of school don't seem quite so bad in hindsight "school was the happiest days of my life" etc. And all the time that last extended summer holiday punctuated by the anxiety of waiting for your exam results to determine your fate... I dunno, maybe Alice Cooper wasn't too bothered whether he passed woodwork or business studies exams or not, cos he knew he was headed foe the top anyway.

2) "Summer Wine" - Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazelwood
Summer wine? More like copious narcotics to judge by the lyrical content. But you gotta love it anyway! Not to be confused with the awful cover version by Lana Del Ray and her *Boyfriend In The Band* scenario. He ain't no Lee Hazelwood that's for sure.

3) "Long Hot Summer Night" - Jimi Hendrix
Now Jimi may have been as high as a kite, but his guitar and almost spoken word delivery conjured up a vision of cities in the summer that are totally inhabitable ("Crosstown Traffic" anyone?) Of course the Hippie Summers of the late 60s of festivals and flower children messed things up for all progressive politics and culture ever since, but you can't fault them for trying.

4) "Summer babe" - Pavement
When Pavement came around, everyone was hot about how different and trailblazing they would be. But to me they were the logical extension of West Coast bands from Creedence Clearwater Revival through The Tubes to American Music Club (and today's BlackRebel Motorcycle Club). Maybe it's the vocal delivery. They are to rock what MacSweeneys is to literature. I still like them though! Just think head honcho Stephen Malkamus' solo stuff is way more interesting.

5) "Here Comes The Summer" - The Undertones
Short, stripped down & to the point. The rush of the delivery as you change out of your scholl uniform and into a t-shirt and shorts and pelt out into the garden to the paddling pool. But as with most undertones' songs, you just know that holiday romance is going to end badly. Most of The Undertones' songs invoke the summer somehow, probably because of their indefatigable upbeat optimism in the delivery of the songs.

6) "Hot Fun In The Summertime" - Sly And The Family Stone
This song almost, almost breaks me out of my curmudgeonly carapace and doff the peak of my sun hat in the direction of the bright star in the azure sky. What a fabulous arrangement of the band on stage too. They don't make them like this anymore. Thanks Britain's got talent...

7) "Celebrated Summer" - Husker Du
Husker Du's songs were always a world of pain,so even when singing about the summer their faces were fully grimaced, attacking their guitars with the full fury of those spurned at the beach cos they're in Speedos when everyone else is in Nike.

8) "Indian Summer" - Beat Happening
We'll be lucky to even get an Indian Summer in this rain-soaked season we've had so far (though as I type this today is sunny and warm). Calvin's vocals were always suffused in the it's too hot to really go for it vein, even though I believe they came from Washington State which has very cold winters. REM covered this song, so it must be cool. Beat happening the best band you probably never heard of.

9) "Holiday in Cambodia" - Dead Kennedys
From summer listlessness to its complete obverse. All the rage fuelled punk of the Dead Kennedys singing about Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge when at the time most of us struggled to locate Cambodia on a globe, let alone understand what was happening there in the isolationist state.

10) "Long Summer Days" - EMF
This band got lots of stick because they were part of the Madchester dance/rave scene, even though they came from the country bumpkin land of Gloucestershire. I don't care what anyone says, "Unbelievable" was a great song, but yeah it's probably true, to judge by the evidence of this, they took every recognisable element of the scene and stitched it together to form an identikit band. Oh well. They're unbelievable!

11) "Holiday"- Happy Mondays
And so to the real thing! For their latter career, all year round was one long holiday and let's not forget the multi-car-crashing, drug binge stay in Barbados the band had which probably brought their record label Factory to its financial knees. This song just drips holiday from its first notes. But then it turns...

12) "Sunshine" - Mos Def
Over its classic summer sample Def lays his bleak litany of disappointment and cynicism. Wonderful juxtaposition.

13) "Holidays In the Sun" - Sex Pistols
"Cheap holiday in other people's misery" and there we have misery tourism in a nutshell. Do they still offer holidays to drug-fuelled ghettos and active warzones? I find this troubling.

14) "The Holiday song" - Pixies
Kim Deal just left the Pixies recently. Hasn't Black Francis ballooned up? The last band I ever saw live before I retired from moshing.

15) "Summer Jam" - The Cool Kids
See in the US you can probably get away with an outdoor jam, but here in soggy old Britain you've no chance! (Yes I know the band are rehearsing indoors here, but feel that vibe!)


Li said...

Puts me in mind of the "mix tapes" I used to create as a kid. I spent hours sitting by the radio waiting for those opening notes so I could hit the "record" tab. (I could never seem to get through on the phone lines to make a special request.)

Tim VanSant Writes said...

Just saw a link to this performance by Florence + The Machine of "Dog Days Are Over" and thought of your post.