All you need is a good dose of vitamin sea. –author unknown
So much of that great summer vibe revolves around water. Whether you’re fortunate enough to live near the coast, spend weekends at the lake, or just have access to a pool…summer requires water (and a lot of it!) The surfy sound of “Rock Lobster” by the B-52s fits perfectly into my summer playlist for all the right reasons. This 1970s tune has a catchy new wave sound, lots of nonsensical beach/ocean references, and its chorus just goes on and on (and on!)
“Rock Lobster” was written by two original band members and released two different times. The first rendition was a little over four minutes long while its second release comes it at around seven minutes! The song is a staple of any B-52s set and enjoyed chart topping success worldwide…listed at No. 147 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The song remains popular today thanks to its appearance in current shows like The Family Guy (among others) and its also featured on the video games Just Dance 4 and Rock Band 3.
I love this song for so many reasons…its whimsical throwback beat that never goes out of style, the call and response vocals between the men and women in the group, and for its marathon run time! The B-52s have always been one of my favorites (especially for karaoke 🙂 ) Plus, you can’t go wrong with a summer jam whose popularity has spanned almost 50 years!
Up Next: SONG 11…”just close your eyes and I’ll take you there.”
Summertime…it’s all fun and games…until it isn’t. No one dreams of having a bad summer and yet they still exist. But if summer isn’t all sunshine, thank heaven for quirky 80s songs that make the bad days bearable! Here’s where “Cruel Summer” by English pop group, Bananarama, comes in. Added to my summer music countdown for it’s easy chorus and spunky sound, it just screams summer…and then some.
The song actually debuted in 1983, but became a hit on the U.S. pop charts in 1984 thanks to the movie, “The Karate Kid.” The lyrics tell the story of one stuck in a miserable, hot city AFTER a bad breakup. Ouch! Unlucky in love, and unsure what to do next, the singer is mired in a hopeless situation. Shot on location in New York City during a record heat wave, the group didn’t have to do much acting. Unaccustomed to oppressive city temps, the girls share that they simply wanted to shoot the video in NYC because they hadn’t been there before and may have bitten off more than they could chew. Group member, Siobhan Fahey, details the misadventures of the video shoot in her book, “I Want My MTV.”
I was nine years old when this song was all the rage. I remember the ratty hair, big belts and overalls and did my best to emulate the look! And of course, I remember singing this song…over and over (and over.) Today, I sing this song in an attempt to bring back the 80s…AND to torture my kids, of course 🙂
Probably not the first song that comes to mind when one puts together a summer playlist, “Island in the Sun” by Weezer made the list simply for its juxtaposition of bliss and melancholy. When I hear this song I think of summer longing…a desire to escape not necessarily because you’re in a bad place, but simply because. It’s a love song of sorts…two people who get away for what seems like a never-ending vacation where there are no worries, no cares and no responsibilities. Sounds like a summer destination to me!
Making the song extra catchy is its straight-faced “hip, hip” background vocals and the almost monotone lyrics. Not Weezer’s most famous song, still it did manage to earn a place on several music charts overseas. Also interesting, the band made two (very different) videos for this tune in 2001. The first depicted a Mexican wedding where the traditional festivities carried on around the band as if they didn’t exist. The second video shows the band interacting with wild animals at a refuge (actually somewhere in California although they do a good job making it look like Africa.) The latter, receiving the most air time on MTV. Personally, I love the wedding–those deadpan faces among the happy-go-lucky bride and groom get me every time!
This mellow, California vibe is perfect for a lazy, daydreaming sort of summer day. The kind of day where if you’re lucky enough to own a hammock you can “wish” yourself away to your own personal island in the sun.
College radio. It’s not for the faint of heart! Ok, I’m not trying to be dramatic but the eclectic nature of college radio makes it barely palatable for a large chunk of the “listening” population. That being said, I still find myself tuning in occasionally for the sheer randomness that it offers. I “worked” at my college radio station…sure it was in the news department, but the news is flanked by programming and a lot of that programming is music after all. This opened the door to a wide variety of music genres and styles and for whatever reason (at least for me) it opened the door to a gem of a group called Sly and the Family Stone.
By the time I “discovered” them, a greatest hits CD existed…and boy did I love it! Optimistic, upbeat, socially progressive, soulful, it quickly became one of my favorites and “Hot Fun in the Summertime” stood out above the rest. I’m not sure what I like better…the way the song builds, the creative use of strings or the horns (probably the horns.) The song just oozes good times. I found it interesting to learn that this tune actually came out in August of 1969…at the end of summer. Sly and the Family Stone performed it as part of their set at Woodstock helping to propel them to stardom and push the song to the No. 2 spot on Billboard Hot 100. The song is also listed on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 of all time and is considered by many to be a “summer anthem.”
Jamming out to this song reminds me of summertime in good, ol’ Lawrence, Kansas…cruising up the hill in my little red car blasting the CD (I’m sure my music choice turned a few heads!) I was tickled to learn years later that the group hailed from the San Francisco area…my absolute favorite city for summertime fun! I still enjoy their greatest hits collection today and if you listen closely you just might see me blasting their music again…this time in my red swagger wagon! Not as cool, but just as fun.
Sometimes the best vacation is a staycation. –author unknown
I love the movie, “The Wizard of Oz,” for many reasons…but especially for the line,”there’s no place like home.” It’s just so true. Of course, one never knows just how much they love home until they move away. At least that’s how it was for me. That’s why this next song made my summer music playlist. I can remember coming home to visit my parents and my dad blasting this song on repeat FOR HOURS AND HOURS in the garage. The funniest thing was that no one complained. In fact, there were many times that I caught family members singing along!
“Heaven” by Los Lonely Boys came out in the summer of 2004. I was in my late 20s, married with one child…and I was pretty much anything but hip. But there’s something about this song that just makes you feel cool–regardless of age. “Heaven,” written by a trio of brothers from Texas, captures a laid back summer vibe with its infectious chorus. Peaking at No. 16 on the Billboard Top 100, the tune went on to No. 1 on the adult contemporary charts for 16 weeks. Interestingly enough, the song also registered on the country music charts, too. The song eventually led to two Grammy nominations and one win in 2005. Their biggest hit to date, this song set the tone for so many that summer.
It doesn’t take much for me to remember that afternoon at my parent’s house. It’s always a party when we visit! Lots of family, food and laughter. I can still see my son (a toddler at the time) working his dance moves outside in the garage with my dad. Whenever I hear “Heaven” it puts a smile on my face and I am grateful for both summer and a place to call home!
Up Next: SONG 7…”That’s when I had most of my fun….”
I could never in a hundred summers get tired of this. –Susan Branch
“Steal My Sunshine” by Len hit the airwaves during my first summer as a resident of sunny California. The song was all things Golden State–feel good, shiny, pop inspired, retro and contemporary fun–imagine how surprised I was to find out that it was the product of a Canadian group! This little goodie hit the pop charts in 1999, but takes some of its great music flavor from both the 70s and the 80s. Besides all that, who doesn’t love a song whose music video features an orange moped posse?
While crawling through my Bay Area commute, I recall scanning through my radio presets only to discover this song playing simultaneously on two stations! Whaaaat? Both the pop and the alternative station spinning the same tune, whoa–this song must be special! So I turned it up and quickly added another song to my list of favorites. “Steal My Sunshine” was inspired by a night at a rave, helped reunite an estranged brother and sister, and almost didn’t make it make it onto the group’s CD (fortunately it was retrieved from its hiding place…under the cowriter’s bed!) All of this makes for quite the story behind a song that landed in Billboard 100’s top ten and on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “Best Summer Songs of All Time.”
This catchy song was still receiving plenty of airplay when I finally had an opportunity to visit Los Angeles that fall. It was the perfect background music for a trip to Venice Beach, celebrity sight-seeing and soaking up all things California. Today you can still find it on a number of summer playlists…including mine. All the more reason to love a song that enjoys elite “one-hit wonder” status as it “perfectly captured that warm, lazy feeling you get when late summer still seems like it could last forever,” at least according to Stylus Magazine (2007.) And I think they’re right on.
The official start of summer begins in just a few days, but I’ve been listening to this jam continuously since April! “Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince was a chart topper in 1991. Back then, I was a self-involved high school student and summertime was my time 🙂
When you’re a teenager summer means staying up late, sleeping in, pajamas all day, and ice cream for lunch…behavior completely unacceptable for adults (?) And what would summer be without friends? Back then my BFF and I made a pact to go out every single night…and in our small town that meant cruising Main street. Never mind that we were the only car out on a Tuesday night. Never mind the miles we burned (or the gas we wasted.) Never mind how crazy our parents thought we were. We had each other AND our music…and one of those songs was this one.
A summer playlist staple, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince won a Grammy for Best Rap song that year. The tune also topped out at No. 4 on the Billboard charts and was eventually rereleased as a new remix in 2012. (A little different from the original by fun nonetheless!)
Twenty six years later, “Summertime” still represents all of the highlights of my teenage life between May and August. Sunglasses, flip flops, no place to go and all day to get there. There were cook outs, afternoons at the pool, backyard volleyball, water fights, cruising, river parties, friends and of course, boys. And even when I managed to grow up a little and snag some part time work…SUMMERTIME was always my full-time job.