Listening for the Summer: An early summer Playlist

So it’s that day, the unofficial start of summer here in the United States and it’s time to compile a list of tunes that will launch us headlong into the Month of June.

Open your ears.

1) “Downtown” Petula Clark (1964)

Ironically this song came on as I was starting to type this post. And given that it was a winter 1965 international hit, Something about the extended daylight hours of carefree activity makes this a more summery song to me. Summer is a time of “forgetting all your troubles and cares” (like having to plow snow or do taxes). So let’s all head downtown and dance.

2) “By The Time I Get to Phoenix” The Mad Lads (1969)

On the other hand, Summer is a season of travel, break ups and starting fresh on many stretches of life. High School and College Graduates leave their campuses and off into new lives. And into remarkably untested waters of expanded complexities of life. I think this Mad Lads version of the Jimmy Webb standard is better than Glen Campbell’s original hit. Thinking about how other people’s lives go on as you go on into a new path of life.

3) “Just Like In The Movies” Jackie DeShannon (1962)

And what is the summer without endless hours spent watching summer blockbusters and eating more buttered popcorn that one should dare. And what is summer without a bittersweet Romantic Dramedy? Well instead of wasting $11 ($15 for iMax) Basically skip anything with Katherine Heigl in it and listen to this Jackie DeShannon number, one of her first singles for Liberty in 1962.

4) “Never Forget You” The Noisettes (2009)

For the more Adult in theme of graduation and reunion, to all classes of 2010 I think this song is most appropriate. Or maybe I shouldn’t be pouring 17 year olds shots of Rum or Whiskey. I can’t help it, I’m almost 28 and have no kids. Sometimes I forget you don’t encourage alcoholism in the youth. Anyways. Gotta love the fact that this 1960s Girl Group resurgence that’s so big in England hasn’t died in 3 years yet. It leaves room for a lot of artists to breathe life into a fascinating genre.

5) “Only When I’m Dreaming” Minnie Riperton (1969)

Summer is that “Dream A Little Dream” season, so we need a sweet lilting ballad to caress our ears (or 50) to cast dream like states in twilight hours between now and Memorial Day, and this track from Minnie Riperton’s first Solo LP casts and enchanting spell. She said she wanted Bacharach/Warwick settings on steroids, and she got her magnificent dream.

6) “The Boy From Crosstown” The Velvelettes (1965)

One of the greatest non hits at Motown, done by The Velvelettes and The Marvelettes in two different versions then redone by Gladys Knight & The Pips is one of those songs that just sounds appropriate at summer BBQs and goes so well with Potato Salad, playing cards and communing under the Sun.

7) The Vogues “Magic Town” (1966)

Going back to the theme of launching into the great unknown that’s the signature in American Culture in early June, and given the current state of the national economy this song has a haunting resonance. In the last 30 years we expected certain things if we followed certain rules in society we’d make our way in the world. And a lot of times we ended up feeling empty, desolate and disenfranchised. Weird that this song, expansive and introspective all at once was from a similar turbulent era in America history.

8) “I Can’t Believe What You Say” Tina Turner (1965)

Along with the themes of the previous song, it seems this summer we can’t believe anything that anyone says, from our President, to political challengers to “the establishment” to corporate execs, to our own lives. Part of me thinks whenever we’re smelling bullshit this summer we need to sing this song in protest.

9) “A Brand New World” Freddie Scott (1963)

Ok enough gloom, doom and cynicism (for at least one song). Because scratch the surface of any cynic you’ll find a disillusioned romantic. And like Freddie Scott’s breakout hit “Hey Girl” he eventually got over his cynicism in song to get onto recording a cover of “I’ve Got A Woman”, but this splendid B-side is where the real faith in turning into peace and happiness lies.

10) “I’m Gonna Steal Your Boyfriend” The Teardrops (1965)

And worse comes to worse you can just start hunting around amongst your friends to see who is treating their loves poorly, get all balls to wall with it and steal away those poor neglected fools, and still maintain your moral high ground. You have my blessing.

11) “I’m The One Who Loves You” The Impressions (1963)

Or if that neglected person happens to be like, your best friend: What the hell are you waiting on. You better Jump!

12) “I’m Gonna Get You Yet” The Dixie Cups (1965)

Umm, I might have a theme running here. Oops.

13) “Function at the Junction” Shorty Long (1965)

Well, if it isn’t the season for reunions also, So appropriate is the clarion call for all “functions.” But who in the hell still serves Egg Fu Yung with BBQ? That sounds absolutely gross.

14) “Dear Uncle Sam” The Charmels (1966)

On this Memorial Day we think of people overseas, and how much we miss them. And wonder when they’ll actually make it back home. So here’s one of those Soldier Songs that pays appropriate tribute.

15) “Up The Ladder to the Roof” The Supremes (1970)

To Close out the playlist as we began, another song from winter that sounds so much better and a more appropriate activity during summer. You see the infinite starts opening up above you under clear warm skies. Here’s hoping everyone has a great Summer 2010.


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