Thursday, July 13, 2006

Summertime, And The Livin's Easy

Apparantly a water pipe broke at my office, so I'm here with no fucking air conditioning. Insane. And yet, I love summer. Even when it's too hot and I'm bitching and irritable, I'm pretty much happy. I'd rather be too hot than too cold, at any rate (I grew up in South Florida, so I consider anything below 50 to be uninhabitable by humans, whereas it has to get up to about 95 for me to even start complaining about the heat).

So, anyway, this is a list of my top 15 Summertime Albums. Why 15? Why not?

1. The Ramones - Rocket to Russia. How could it possibly be anything else? The Ramones are the band that I most closely associate with summer (possible exception: Fishbone), and this is their best album. Not only does it contain the best mix of classic punk anthems (Cretin Hop, Teenage Lobotomy, I Don't Care, Sheena is a Punk Rocker, etc.) offset by jangly pop tunes like Ramona and Locket Love, but the combination of Beach Boys-inspired tracks like Rockaway Beach and Here Today, Gone Tomorrow* with covers of Surfin' Bird and Do You Wanna Dance? give it a great beach party feel. Although I always thought it was a shame that they'd already used California Sun on their previous album.

*actually, listening to it now, I realize that Here Today, Gone Tomorrow is more an imitation of the Phil Spector girl group sound, but I've always associated it with the Beach Boys.

2. The Go Go's - Beauty and the Beat. If I had to pick just one perfect summer song, it would be We Got the Beat. That song just sounds like a convertable full of girls on the way to the beach drinking wine coolers or Slurpees. Everything about it--the Ramones-like beat, the surf guitars, the giddy girl harmonies--screams summer. And the rest of the album is pretty great too.

3. Angry Samoans - Back From Samoa. Early 80's punk rock is the music that I most closely associate with summertime. So instead of clogging the list up with Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerks, Redd Kross, Agent Orange, Nip Drivers, X and Minutemen albums, I'll just pick this one to be the representative.

4. Fishbone - Truth and Soul. This is a tough one, because I actually prefer their first album, and that one is also a great summer album, with it's wet ska sound that reminds me of waterslides. But this is the one that I most closely associate with summer, maybe because it contains almost every type of music I associate with summer: punk, funk, ska, reggae, classic rock. In particular, the Sly Stone-like combination of smooth harmonies and funky beats on "Ghetto Soundwave," and the 70's rock pastiche "Mighty Long Way," so accurate that you swear you grew up hearing it on the radio (I finally figured out that it sounds like the guitar riff from Steeley Dan's "Reelin' in the Years" grafted onto Thin Lizzy's "The Boys are Back in Town").

5. Mungo Jerry (s/t). This is the album with "In the Summertime"--you know, "In the summertime/When the weather is high/You can stretch right up/And touch the sky..." The whole album is great, though. Reminds me of Tom and Huck playing on the banks of the Mississippi. And always takes me back to one lazy Saturday in college when me and my friend Doug were driving around in his car, smoking dope and drinking wine, listening to this album, driving down to the lake where we hit on girls that were probably too young for us to be hitting on...good times.

6. The B-52's - Cosmic Thing. The universal soundtrack to the last summer of the 80's. Hits all the moods of summer, with the catchy pop of "Roam," the odes to laziness in "Dry County" and "Dead Beat Club," the dance party hits "Love Shack," "Channel Z" and "Cosmic Thing," and the dreamy, cool-dusk-at-the-end-of-a-long-day, waiting-for-the-lightnin'-bugs-to-come-out feeling of "Topaz" and "Follow Your Bliss."

7. Hillbilly Frankenstein - Hypnotica. Another Athens band. Nothing specifically summery about this, it's just the type of old-fashioned rock-n-roll that sounds great in hot weather.

8. V/A - Dazed and Confused OST. OK, it doesn't contain the movie's opening track, Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion," and it uses the radio edit of "Slowride," which cuts off the awesome jam at the end, but aside from these two complaints (easily fixed in the digital age), it would be difficult to come up with a better combination of 70's party rock tunes to crank out at your holiday BBQ or while cruising the burger joint in your camaro. Especially necessary because it has "School's Out," the essential kick-off-the-summer rock song. Although it would be nice if it had "Suffragette City." And "We're an American Band." And "Frankenstein." (The movie takes place in 1976, so that eliminates Van Halen, AC/DC and "Ballroom Blitz")

9. Jonathan Richman - Jonathan Sings. Jonathat may have written more great summer songs than any other artist. This one doesn't have "Roadrunner" or "The Beach," but it does have "That Summer Feelin'," "That Kinda Music (is the Kind I Like)," "Those Conga Drums," and "Stop This Car."

10. Bob Marley and the Wailers - Babylon by Bus. I guess this pretty much speaks for itself. This album reminds me of people dancing in front of a bonfire on the beach at night, as opposed to the Exodus album, which has a lot of the same songs, but makes me think more of a cool breeze wafting through the house on a summer morning.

11. Buena Vista Social Club (s/t). More great tropical sounds.

12. Talking Heads - Naked. Another great tropical album. I especially like "Totally Nude," a song that makes you feel the humidity, and "Mr. Jones," a great sipping-cocktails-by-the-hotel-pool song.

13. Van Halen (s/t). You gotta have one loud guitar rock album on the list, and nobody cranks it out like the brothers Van Halen. And Dave has that surfer dude persona that fits with a day at the beach. It's a tough choice, because the second album is probably beachier, and the third album is probably better, but the first album seems like the best combination.

14. People Under the Stairs - Original Sound Tracks. Since I'm living in L.A., I should have something on the list with a more urban sound, and how can I have a list of summertime albums with no hip hop? This album reminds me of the way L.A. cools down when the sun sets after a hot day. Great to chill out in the dusk between the hot day and the night of partying.

15. Beck - Guero. Another good L.A. album. "Earthquake Weather" is a great track for those days when it's just too fucking hot (like today), and you don't even want to move.

Bonus Round:
v/a - Posh Hits vol. 1
v/a - Rodney on the ROQ, vol. 2.

A couple bonus 80's punk records. These two comps on the Poshboy label have lots of fast, melodic, catchy punk tunes with a little bit of surf guitar sound to them. Posh Hits kicks off with The Circle Jerks' original recording of "Wild in the Streets," one of my favorite summer punk songs (and far superior to the version on the album of the same name), and also has Red Cross' Beach Party tribute "Annette's Got the Hits," The Simpletones' stoner anthem "I Like Drugs," and Agent Orange's killer "Everything Turns Grey." Rodney on the ROQ has Agent Orange's surf instrumental "Mr. Moto," Black Flag's "Rise Above," The Minutemen's "Search," and Geza X's "We Need More Power."

Top 10 Summertime BBQ Albums:

1. Rolling Stones - Exile on Main Street
2. Bo Diddley's Greatest Sides
3. Willie Nelson - Willie and Family Live
4. BB King - Live at the Regal
5. Dirty Dozen Brass Band - Buck Jump
6. Allman Bros. - Eat a Peach
7. v/a - Chess Blues Box Set (see also: Stax Story, Sun Records 50th Anniversary Collection, History of Trojan Records 1968-1971)
8. Fuck, it's too fucking hot to think...

Well, you get some idea. Once I start, it's hard to stop, because the list of music I love is only a little bigger than the list of music I love to listen to in the summer. But you get some idea of what I think is summer music (although there's more--for instance, I definitely associate Miles Davis' 70's fusion albums with warm weather, and certain songs by REM (Green Grow the Rushes, Flowers of Guatemala), Robyn Hitchcock (Acid Bird) or XTC (Summer's Cauldron/Grass) have a great summer-y sound, even though they also have many winter-y sounding songs). So what isn't great summertime music? The Velvet Underground, Patti Smith, Television, Pere Ubu, Husker Du, Sonic Youth, Joy Division, Bauhaus, Black Sabbath, post-Barrett Pink Floyd, The Cure, The Smiths. I think Led Zeppelin take the prize for having music that sounds equally great in any weather, which may account for their popularity.

Coming up: favorite summertime movies!


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