It’s Labor Day Weekend, which means summer is just about over. I thought for this MBIP Record Party I’d showcase some summer songs to end the summer season. As I was Googling around to find some summer songs, I found a list at Rolling Stone, so I’m putting up their top six. And here they are!
Number Six: “Hot Fun in the Summertime" by Sly and the Family Stone
“Hot Fun in the Summertime” was actually released at the end of summer, it came out in August of 1969 shortly after the band had played at the Woodstock Festival earlier that month. It was written and produced by Sly Stone and was somewhat of a departure from their previous soul and funk singles. It made it to number two on the Billboard Hot 100 in the fall of 1969. The Beach Boys covered this song on their 1992 album, “Summer in Paradise.” They didn’t get quite the chart success that Sly and his family had, in fact when the album was released it sold less than 10,000 copies and is currently out of print. It should be noted that Brian Wilson didn’t appear or have anything to do with that album that many people refer to as the low point of The Beach Boys musical career.
Number Five: "Rockaway Beach" by The Ramones
The Ramones aren’t a band that generally spring to your mind when thinking about summer songs, but “Rockaway Beach” is a classic summer tune. It was written by Dee Dee Ramone and was the second single released from their “Rocket to Russia” album which was released in November of 1977. The first single from that album was the equally catchy, “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker,” but both singles stiffed. One of the reasons often cited for the Ramones lack of hit singles is that punk rock was getting a bad name at the time with all the spitting, violence and throwing up that got associated with it. Radio wasn’t friendly with punk rock and The Ramones got lumped into that genre, which is a shame, because they had some great songs. To my ears they were always more pop than punk, but I’m deaf in my left ear, so take that for what it’s worth.
Number Four: "California Girls," by The Beach Boys
In my opinion, as humble as it may be, the first 26 seconds of “California Girls” is some of the most amazing music ever recorded. It also marks a shift in The Beach Boys music as Brian Wilson was getting more and more into new sounds in the recording studio. The lyrics were written by Mike Love and continue in the Beach Boys sun and fun vein, but things were going to change soon as Brian Wilson met Tony Asher and those two started working on the next Beach Boys album, “Pet Sounds.” This single was released in July of 1965 and is the first Beach Boys song that has Bruce Johnston singing on it. Bruce Johnston replaced Glen Campbell in the Beach Boys touring band and started recording with them in the studio on this song. Brian Wilson’s father, Murry advised Brian not to include the orchestral introduction, wisely, Brian didn’t take his advice.
David Lee Roth covered this song in 1985 and Beach Boy Carl Wilson sang background on it along with Christopher Cross. Ironically it reached the same chart position that the original by The Beach Boys did, number three on the Billboard Hot 100.
Number Three: "School's Out" by Alice Cooper
“Scool’s Out” was released with perfect timing in May, 1972 and was the first hit single for Alice Cooper. The song was written by all five members of the band. Its definitely become a summer anthem which transports you to that magical last day of school before the summer starts in all its glory. Cooper is quoted as saying that he thought if you could capture that feeling of the last three minutes of the last day of school in a song, “it's going to be so big.” Well he did and it was!
Number Two: "Summertime Blues" by Eddie Cochran
“Summertime Blues” was released in July, 1958 and was written by Eddie Cochran and Jerry Capehart. It was originally scheduled to be the B-side of a single with a song called, “Love Again,” being the A-side. That song was written by 17-year-old, Sharon Sheely, who would soon become Cochran’s girlfriend. “Summertime Blues,” ended up being the A-side and it was a huge hit that established the 19-year-old Cochran as a rising star in the world of rock ‘n’ roll. He had other hits with the songs, "C'mon Everybody" and "Somethin' Else", but his career came to an end when he died in a traffic accident in a taxi in the U.K. Cochran’s girlfriend, Sharon Sheely and fellow rock and roller, Gene Vincent were also in the cab, but they survived the crash.
The Beach Boys recorded a cover of “Summertime Blues,” on their first album, “Surfin' Safari,” which came out in 1962. Other bands that covered “Summertime Blues” include: The Who, Blue Cheer, Joan Jett, Brian Setzer and Olivia Newton John.
Number One: "Dancing In The Street" by Martha and the Vandellas
“Summer’s here and the time is right, for dancing in the street,” is definitely an iconic line for one of the best known summer songs recorded by Martha and the Vandellas. It was their biggest hit single and it was written by Marvin Gaye, William "Mickey" Stevensonm and Ivy Jo Hunter.
On the surface, the song is an innocent ode to summertime and dancing in the streets, but it ended up embroiled in a bit of controversy when civil rights riots started happening and organizers like H. Rap Brown started using the song as an anthem for the demonstrations happening in the streets. Martha Reeves countered the controversy at the time by saying, “My Lord, it was a party song.” The song was later covered by Van Halen and Mick Jagger and David Bowie for the LIve Aid charity event.
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