6 Classic Summer Songs

The sunshine spills through a serene blue sky. The clouds have curdled beneath the heat, transforming into mere wisps of thread. The relaxing summer breeze blows against your tender cheeks, burnt to auburn in the untrammeled heat. The sands sifts and sticks belligerently to your toes. The smell of ocean salt permeates the air. Classic summer songs fill your head. Nostalgia fills your soul and younger years beckon.

Let us hearken back to that time and recollect fondly on six classic summer songs that remain firmly ensconced in the swaying of this season. Your radio, or Ipod, or compact disc player, or record player, soulfully beckons.

Summer of 69″ – Bryan Adams (1984)

In 1984, Bryan released what would become a summer anthem, bespeaking the nostalgia of young love. The plot of the song, roughly, goes as thus:

A young adolescent, during the peak of his prowess, impetuously forms a band with several of his schoolmates and friends. Dreams loom large. The world seems a playground. His eyes cannot gape wide enough at the possibilities of the future.

These waxing emotions wax ever-larger for this young man, on a sweltering summer night at the drive-in. Bryan Adams dictates:

“Ain’t no use complaining

When you got a job to do

Spent my weekends down at the drive-in

And that’s when I met you, yeah!”

A girl intervenes, restless and starry-eyed. Promises are exchanged, memories made, all during the summer of 1969. An electric shock of life, promulgating memories that will linger long after one’s youth has withered. The best days of our lives.

“Standing on your mama’s porch

You told me it would last forever,

Oh, and when you held my hand,

I knew that it was now or never.

Good Vibrations” (1966) – Classic Summer Songs

What band is more associated with the beach, than the eponymously named “Beach Boys”? Born and bred in Southern California, the Beach Boys originally consisted of five musicians: Brian Wilson, Stan Wilson, Carl Wilson, Mike Love, and Al Jardine. Not enough is made of their eclectic mixture of rhythms, their originality, or their staunch musicianship – The songs are too catchy to get lost in the imaginations that produced them.

“Good Vibrations,” along with many others, remains a seminal summer classic. Again, it’s a hominem to the playfulness of summer. The summer is, after all, a symbolic time representing vibrancy. What better way to explore that theme than record a song entitled “Good Vibrations.”

The premise of the song is simple: As with “Summer of 69,” boy meets girl, and she engenders good vibrations in the iteration of a doo-wop melody, with the mounting refrain:

“I’m picking up good vibrations,

She’s giving me excitations (oom bop bop)

I’m picking up good vibrations, (good vibrations, oom bop bop)

She’s giving me excitations (excitations, oom bop bop)

Good, good, good vibrations (oom bop bop)…”

Under the Boardwalk” (1964)

Who hasn’t taken a stroll along the pier during the summer? Or, along a boardwalk adjacent to the sea? Fastidious, simmering concrete meets the softness of the rolling waves. The machinations of urbanity mesh with the ceaselessness of nature.

What an ideal setting to relax, enjoy the fragrance of the seaside and all manner of delectable snacks. “Under the Boardwalk,” by The Drifters, describes elaborately the picturesque nature of a jaunty summer day, in pleasant company.

“From the park you hear the happy sound of the carousel

You can almost taste the hot dogs and french fries they sell, yes you can

Under the boardwalk, down by the sea, yeah

On a blanket with my baby is where I’ll be.

Out of the sun

(Under the boardwalk) We’ll be havin’ some fun

(Under the boardwalk) People walking above

(Under the boardwalk) We’ll be fallin’ in love

(Under the boardwalk) Yeah (boardwalk)

Here Comes the Sun” (1969) – Classic Summer Songs

We’ve all heard of The Beatles. They’re likely the most transcendent rock/pop group of the 20th century. We can count their number off-hand, as perfunctorily as our morning routine: John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

Let’s give poor, misbegotten George, the Lost Beatle, his due by lauding his inspiring track: “Here Comes the Sun,” released in 1969. This beautiful composition references the stark contrast of the frigid winter, with the warmth of summer, embodied in his “little darling,” a catalyst for hope. This “little darling” or “sun” is a powerful metaphor, as it could allude to almost anyone who draws sunshine into your life, redirecting you from the cold melt of beleaguered sorrow.

“Little darlin, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter

Little darlin, it feels like years since its been here

Here comes the sun, doo-doo-doo-doo

Here comes the sun, and I say

It’s alright

Little darlin, the smile’s returning to their faces,

Little darlin, it seems like years since its been clear

Here comes the sun

Here comes the sun, and I say

It’s alright.”

“Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay” (1968)

Peaceful, serene, contemplative, wayward, fickle, mournful. In “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,” Otis Redding writes a song emitting an architecture of emotion, with an undulating narrative. The song is contrary in nature, the lyrics seemingly at variance with the melody.

Redding describes a figure emigrating from Georgia to San Francisco, with little at his disposal aside from himself. The future seems vacuous, or at the very least unpredictable. The past is written with certitude, a fate this person no longer wishes to acquiesce to.

His solution? Identifying a modicum of peace, sitting at the bayside, whimsically wasting time, pondering his future. Beneath a new sun on the West Coast, he’s lonely, he’s penniless, he’s “wastin’ his bones.”

Still, he’ll remain at the dock of the bay, waiting for a propitious tide to come his way.

“Look like nothin’s gonna change

Everything still remains the same

I can’t do what ten people tell me to do

So I guess I’ll remain the same, yes

Now I’m just gon’ sit, at the dock of the bay

Watchin the tide roll away, ooh yeah

Sitting on the dock of the bay

Wastin time.

“All Summer Long” (2007) – Classic Summer Songs

Is this apostasy? Including a Kid Rock song on a list purportedly honoring “the classics.”  It seems fatuous. Not enough time has trespassed between the present and 2007. Yet, I’ll cling to my assertion: It remains a pantheon summer classic, reminiscent of Bryan Adam’s “Summer of 69,” inclusive of all the appropriate shades and strokes of summertime. An ode to adolescence, languidly lying around a summer lake, fooling around with friends.

Kid Rock reflects on 1989, caught as he was then, and perhaps still, somewhere between a boy and man. It’s an indulgent, hedonistic song, rife with poignant images and descriptions of Dionysian behavior. We were all teenagers once, weren’t we?

“Splashing through the sandbar

Talking by the campfire

It’s the simple things in life, like when and where

We didn’t have no Internet

But, man, I never will forget

The way the moonlight shined upon her hair.

We were trying different things

We were smoking funny things

Making love out by the lake to our favorite song

Sipping whiskey out the bottle, not thinking about tomorrow

Singing Sweet Home Alabama all summer long

Singing Sweet Home Alabama all summer long.”

The “turn” at the end of the song is a combination of melancholy and admission. Sadness, because the seasons change. Summer turns to Autumn, the leaves wither, the ground proceeds to frost. But those hubristic days, remain, hollowed in memory to return to whenever we require them.

“Now nothing seems as strange as when the leaves began to change

Or how we thought those days would never end

Sometimes I’ll hear that song and I’ll start to sing along

And think man I’d love to see that girl again.”