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 the palylists's last ten songs that have distracted and delighted me over the last few summers, according to Spotify's data mining:
Just about this time last year, I finished counting down My 100 Favorite Songs from 1979. Coming in at number 19 was Jefferson Starship's "Jane". Though there is nothing remotely Summer-ish about this rocking track, surely I'm not the only one who finds it Summer-y? It barely squeaked onto KLPX's Memorial Day countdown at number 496.
One of the greatest old-school trunk rattlers ever, "Going Back To Cali" has aged surprisingly well even as it nears its thirtieth anniversary later this year with the rest of the Less Than Zero soundtrack. Definitely one of the greatest Summer cruising songs ever recorded.
"Let Me Love You" popped up on shuffle of a new music playlist last August and instantly struck a chord with me. So many sounds and sonic textures going on, it has become a favorite on all of my listening platforms. Is it considered EDM like everything else on the radio today? I don't know. When I describe it, I say "tropical chill" almost like reggaeton.
Another "night" song I enjoy is "A Girl Like You" by Edwyn Collins. It has a very atmospheric sound, conveying chill with an edge of danger or a retro-rocking blues with a hidden switchblade of menace. Looking deeper into Collins career led me to his funky beginnings in the band Orange Juice.
Does anyone like to be told to have a nice day? The overused exit greeting often comes off as disingenuous, ill-timed or both. Given the rough edges and gruff nature of Kelley Jones voice, when Stereophonics sing the annoyingly pleasant "Have A Nice Day", it strikes me differently depending on the kind of day I've been having. Sometimes, the song is a world-weary hand reaching down to lift me up and, other times, it's an impossibly light confection, the perfect sugary glaze of a great day.
Coming in at just under two minutes, Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Scuttle Buttin'" makes a great opening jam. It always sounded like there was so much going on in the song, that his fingers must be flying all over the frets and sure enough after watching a few live performances, I know my ears were not deceiving me - Vaughan works hard in this quarter mile drag race of a guitar workout but makes it look easy. There's even one video, from a performance in Japan I think, where he's puffing on a pipe the whole time.
The only act to notch two different songs in the playlist is Tony Carey's Planet P Project. 1983's "Why Me" was further up the list but coming in here near the bottom is "What I See" from the 1984 double-disc concept album Pink World. Carey has built a typically deep and dense track, layered with instruments and voices and sounds, but then he laces it with a lyrical dread, a fear of both the known and, even more importantly, the unknown. This ain't your typical happy Summer fare, y'all. Another preferred "night" track for this listener.
By the time "Draggin' The Line" hit the airwaves in the Summer of 1971, Tommy James was a music biz veteran of barely 24 years old, with a string of more than a dozen Top 40 records up to that point but trying to escape an unbearable situation with his record company. When I started noticing music just a few years later as a seven-year-old, I associated the sound of this song with "Indian Reservation". Still kinda do.
The silly series of seven beach party films starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello from 1963-1965 are some of my all-time favorites to watch over and over. I really enjoy the ersatz surf music, randomly appearing Motown or British Invasion acts and the anatomical charms of the aforementioned Annette. "Muscle Beach Party" (written by Gary Usher, Roger Christian and some guy named Brian Wilson) is surprisingly only heard very briefly in the background of one scene in the film of the same name, performed off-camera by Dick Dale & the Del-Tones. Gary Usher released his version of the song with his studio-only group, The Super Stockers, while both Frankie and Annette released dueling albums titled Muscle Beach Party with their takes on the track and though I don't think she can sing a whit (or a lick), I absolutely adore Annette's reading of the lyrics.
Speaking of movies I've watched repeatedly, I first heard "Never Be You" in the film Streets Of Fire back in The Summer of 1984. Though it was Laurie Sargent's voice heard in the film, the soundtrack album featured Maria McKee in her place, singing the song written by Tom Petty and Benmont Tench. Roseanne Cash says she was asked to record "Never Be You" with Petty himself and a studio band in consideration for the film's soundtrack back in 1983 but confesses "it never got right, and there were some legal problems." Still, she kept thinking she would record the song her way and in the Fall of 1984, she finally did, just in time to include it on her fifth album Rhythm & Romance. Upon its release as a single, Roseanne Cash's "Never Be You" became the first Number One Country Single of 1986. Despite my love of all things related to Streets of Fire, Cash's emotional version remains my favorite. (Listen to her original 1983 version of the song HERE.)
Here's the whole playlist:
Here's the whole playlist: