Nearly two weeks ago on our drive up to the airport, my top 40 music lovin' little sister (who's at the top of her forties, I might add) proclaimed the five-month-old worldwide reggaeton hit "Despacito" both her favorite song AND The Song of the Summer. That conversation was immediately followed by inquiries from a couple of friends asking me what my Song Of Summer 2017 might be. I replied that I honestly had none. Then, as if on cue, Spotify weighed in with Your Summer Rewind, a personalized playlist of 30 tracks from the last few years. The playlist is an amazingly accurate sonic snapshot (the data don't lie) as I remember it - regular viewers know that the past two Summers have been hard - and has also proven to be a surprisingly uplifting listen over the past few days, whether it be in the rolling thunder of The Blueberry, standing here at my desk in front of the Klipsch PC speakers or out by the pool, softly blaring from the vintage-styled, modern-sounding Marshall Acton. Here are ten more songs that have distracted and delighted me over the last few summers, according to Spotify's data mining:
Digital Underground's "Same Song" came on the heels of the group's seminal concept album Sex Packets and was the lone bright spot on the soundtrack to the dreadful film Nothing But Trouble but can also be found on the group's straightforwardly titled This Is An EP Release. The song features a crazy good synth organ solo from The Piano Man aka Gregory Jacobs aka Shock G aka Humpty Hump and one of the earliest and still greatest verses about being famous from a then still un-famous Tupac Shakur.
The riff that runs throughout "Sweet Child Of Mine" is absolutely irresistible though singing along with Axl as he screeches his lovelorn lyrics is my favorite part of the song. In particular, the "where do we go?" breakdown where we wail and wail until we one of us can wail no longer. Having seen G'N'R three times at the peak of their powers in 1988-1992, this song was and always will be a highlight for me.
Why is "That Lady" here? Besides being an absolute stone-cold classic Summer song of the highest order, you mean? Well, I'll tell ya. After nearly three months of not owning a vehicle following the death and subsequent charitable donation of our family minivan in December 2013, we decided we were gonna buy a Volkswagen CC. It was a given that the car would drive well and come with desired safety features so it would be all about creature comforts. After the second test drive in a brand new 2014 CC, which I found a little cramped, I spotted a blue Passat glimmering in the bright sunlight across the lot, in the used area. It was a 2013 model with the nice SEL trim package, including a powerful V6. It also had possibly illegal dark tinting, crazy low mileage, and a Fender-branded audio system that absolutely BOOMED in the best possible way. Drove it, love it, bought it, named it The Blueberry. Before taking off on the 26-mile journey back home, I paired my iPhone 5 and pulled up my music library. The song I selected to christen my maiden voyage, wholly inspired by the beautiful woman who made it all possible, was "That Lady".
If you don't like "Grazing In The Grass" it's going to be difficult if not impossible for us to get along on any level. Glorious cowbell, soulful sunny horns, and a relentless piano groove make this one a no-brainer. This could have easily been the breezy sing-along version by Friends of Distinction with the amped-up horns; I'm an equal opportunity mover and groover. Or grazer.
It is difficult if not impossible for me to be a country music fan nowadays. I have to self-asterisk or over explain. Or just quietly shake my head as a single tear rolls slowly down my cheek. I grew up on the classic country music of the Fifties, Sixties, and Seventies; it was the only music recognized and played in nearly all of the trailer homes of my relatives as well as their pick 'em up trucks. And, mixed in with the glorious pop, rock and soul records of the Seventies I regularly played on the jukebox at the Cow Talk during Summers spent in Navasota, Texas, were some of my most favorite country songs. Thomas Rhett's "Something To Do With My Hands" is not one of those songs. By all metrics, it should not appeal to me as a bonafide, Texas born and bred country music fan from way back. Still, I love it. Unfortunately, Rhett lost me as a fan of the music he has created in the five years since 2012 when "Something To Do With My Hands" came out. Of course, in that time he has become a huge star. For the moment, I'm back on board with his latest, pop-tastic track "Craving You" - it ain't country music to my ears but it's cool.
Cut from the same bar napkin is Eric Church's "Drink In My Hand". I don't drink and I don't smoke but Lord help me I'm a sucker for tracks like these about working hard all week, hating the boss man all the while and being a simple man by any means necessary. Church kept me interested for a bit longer than Atkins but I'm curious to see where his next release and the one after that takes his music.
You were given ample advance notice that we wouldn't be able to get along if you didn't like "Grazing In The Grass" and also that I was an equal opportunity grazer. Here's unequivocal proof of the latter. That's right - two versions of the same song made the Summer Rewind thirty song playlist. What can I say? I can dig it.
Another skidding, swerving to avoid a head-on collision of a segue follows with the music of Planet P aka Tony Carey and this awesome track from 1983. One of the rarest, most meaningless distinctions I can give a song is to designate it solely a "day" or "night" song for purely personal and inexplicably contradictory reasons. "Why Me?" is a song for after the Sun goes down here at The Hideaway.
Imagine if you can the song "Why Me?" after it drank a few Red Bulls and ate a couple of Hostess Sno Balls. It would all be sped up, hyper and jittery - and I think it would sound a lot like "Acid Rain" by Liquid Tension Experiment, the next song on the playlist. Have a new pair of headphones you wanna audition? Play "Acid Rain". Got a new speaker system you wanna show off? Punch up "Acid Rain". The song demos extremely well in The Blueberry and before all you speed metal freaks start suggesting additional harder/faster/better tracks, please accept this blanket "No Thank You" from your boy HERC.
Day 47 of Summer In Stereo was all about the Elton John/Kiki Dee duet "Don't Go Breaking My Heart". And my first kiss. Both are among my most treasured Summer memories ever. Few songs - Frankie Valli's "Grease" and Survivor's "Eye Of The Tiger" are other examples - positively reek of Summer for me the way this one does. If it was a candle at Bath & Body Works, I'd buy a dozen.
Come back for the final ten tracks next time!