The summer doesn’t have to be about Club Tropicana and the Macarena. Here are some summer sounds to set the season off...
Summer in the UK is as much a state of mind as a state of being and as with the maintenance of any state of mind, music plays a huge role in this. Good summer songs number in the hundreds and what makes a great one is a matter of huge and ongoing debate but we’ve been ploughing through the back catalogues and selecting ten songs- some famous, some less so. Some of them reference summer directly while others simply convey the spirit of the season. Together we hope that they are your one stop shop to a state of summer.
Summertime- Billy Stewart
Gershwin’s masterpiece has been covered dozens of times and many of these could lay claim to being on this list. Billy Stewart’s 1966 cover does something that none of the other versions manage to do though. Without losing any of the emotion of the original, Stewart manages to make it groove. The result is classic 60’s big band soul but one based on an all-time classic summer song. The horn section in particular is something that should raise a smile on the rainiest of days.
A Real Hero- College and Electric Youth
This understated piece of electronica came to people’s attention as part of the soundtrack to last year’s magnificent (if uncompromisingly violent) film Drive. College combines modern electronica with an indefinable sense of the retro to create a piece of music that captures the essence of a warm evening with an effortlessness that few other songs can manage. It also generally manages to make you feel cool too which is no bad thing.
Drinking in LA- Bran Van 3000
Released at the tail end of the last century, Drinking in LA came to many people’s attention when it was used to advertise Rolling Rock beer (which while useful for putting out small fires or as an industrial lubricant, should not be ingested orally if you can help it) and suffered rather from overplaying. Revisited fifteen years later though, this effortless slice of Americana comes across as a very fine piece of summer music indeed- the perfect accompaniment to a summer afternoon that may or may not include a drink or two.
Slip into something more comfortable- Kinobe
This is a track that even if you are unfamiliar with the title is something that you will know the moment that the string section kicks in. One of the finest pieces of chillout music ever recorded, Slip into something more comfortable is the very essence of summer with the suggestion of the sea, sand and impossibly beautiful people wearing (or not) impossibly beautiful clothes. In a perfect world, every yacht should come with a copy pre-loaded.
California Waiting- Kings of Leon
Much of the output of the Kings of Leon conveys summer better than many bands but this effort from their first album when they were improbably young, unreasonably talented and it must be said incredibly hairy is perhaps their finest summer effort of the lot. If you aren’t transported to a world of golden sunshine, empty roads and the promise of a perfect summer stretching out in front of you, it might be worth working on your imagination a bit.
The Boys of Summer- Don Henley
The Eagles have been responsible for some great summer songs but it fell to founding member Don Henley to write the best of the lot once he had become a solo artist. This is a song that manages to be at once uplifting- literally the perfect partner to a hot day in the here and now- and wistful at the same time. Throw in a whiff of eighties perfect pop in the drums and keyboards and you have a period piece that is summer condensed into four minutes and forty nine seconds.
Alone again or- Love
I need to be very clear about this song that while I feel is it one of the very best summer records ever recorded, the album it is from, Forever Changes, is more magnificent still and can be listened to at any time. Alone again or is the first track and is eponymous with the summer of love and balances the optimism of the time with the underlying understanding that it couldn’t last. The complex instrumental and exceptional musicianship is something to be savoured and can bring the summer out of any day however grey.
Summer of ’69- Bryan Adams
This song is cheesy. Depending on your levels of cynicism, it might even be a bit naff. When you approach it in the right frame of mind though, this is an all-time great summer record that manages to be both immediately exciting (sufficiently exciting that you need to be careful listening to it when driving for fear of losing your license) but again laced with the sense of opportunities lost to time. The ‘involuntary air guitar’ quotient of this song is also a solid 13/10.
Mr E’s Beautiful Blues- Eels
Sometimes, the very best and most enjoyable summer days are the ones lost to a slight sense of aimlessness and simply revelling in the pleasure of not doing very much. The Eels have apparently made providing the backing track to this sort of day their life’s work and this laid back masterpiece is the perfect partner to a hot summer’s day. Some of the lyrics are decidedly off- beat but the central tenet- ‘It’s a beautiful day’ are rarely truer than when listening to this song.
Daft Punk- Get Lucky
The last song on the list isn’t yet a summer classic but I’m not going to bet against it becoming one. Daft Punk’s latest album Random Access Memories hasn’t completely won over the critics but the lead single is impossibly catchy. Putting Pharrell Williams and Niles Rogers on the same record was unlikely to result in anything other than a very listenable record and I can easily see this one being the sound of summer of 2013.
So there you have it, ten little sunny slices of wonderful music to make the summer a little bit more special. This list could have easily been double the length it is- there’s no Desmond Dekker, Beach Boys or Eddie Cochrane for starters but I hope these ten tracks bring a little summer to you wherever you are in the world.