Call me old head, I would definitely accept that. I was not born in the eighties for nothing. Even if I were born in the nineties, or hell, twenties, I would still love the oldies. It is a good thing my momma was (and is) a radio fan and music lover! Compiled my playlist for summer based on my taste, you may find something nice too.
Sunny Afternoon – The Kinks (1966)
A little devil-may-care darkness in the English summer as Ray Davies spins the tale of a fallen aristocrat whose girlfriend has fled back to her parents “telling tales of drunkenness and cruelty”. He lies back and sips an ice cool beer.
Little Fluffy Clouds – The Orb (1990)
British ambient house group sample singer, Rickie Lee Jones, recalling the skies of her Arizona childhood. The scattered “ums” and pauses in her girlish, bohemian speech provide the perfect counterbalance to the mechanised beats.
Summer in the City – Lovin Spoonful (1966)
Two distinct scoops of musical flavour in one song. As the New Yorkers evoke the shifting day/night mood of the urban summer, you can feel the heat ricocheting off the concrete. Pop legend has it that the lyrics are based on a high school poem written by singer John Sebastian’s brother.
Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison (1967)
A mainstay of campfire singalongs because everybody can join in with the cheery “sha-la-las” of the chorus, this song saw Morrison discovering the mystical, pastoral imagery of rainbows and waterfalls that he would take into his next album Astal Weeks.
Les Fleurs – Minnie Ripperton (1970)
The multi-octaved singer demurely assumes the persona of a flower: “Will a lady pin me in her hair?” before the euphoric choir comes in, making you feel the sensory overload of a lone bee in a vast, tropical hot house.
Summertime – DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (1991)
Relaxed and charming, Will Smith waxes Proustian as the smell from a barbecue grill can sparks nostalgia for formative flirtations while Jazzy Jeff spins a breezy sample of Kool & The Gang’s 1974 song, Summer Madness.
Chelsea Morning – Joni Mitchell (1969)
Bright and brittle, Mitchell awakes in the famous hotel to see “the sun through yellow curtains, and a rainbow on the wall …” She would swelter beneath a more sinister sunshine on The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975).
Hot in Herre – Nelly (2002)
Produced by The Neptunes (Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo) this dance floor steamer incorporates samples from Chuck Brown, Neil Young and Nancy Sinatra. A backing singer politely warns Southern hip hopper Nelly that the heat is forcing her disrobe.
Here Comes the Sun – The Beatles (1969)
Bored by the grind of setting up the Apple label, George Harrison bunked off work and wrote this delectably jangly tune wandering around Eric Clapton (BDM)’s garden with an acoustic guitar. It was still only April.
Sky Blue – Peter Gabriel (2002)
It took Gabriel fifteen years to write this beautiful, sophisticated and expansive hymn to the wide azure, which was used on the soundtrack to the heartbreaking film about the forced relocation of mixed-race aboriginals Rabbit-Proof Fence.
Lazy – Marilyn Monroe (1954)
In There’s No Business Like Showbusiness, Monroe reclines into this Irving Berlin number from 1924. She yearns to be yawning, “under that awning they call the sky…with a great big valise full of books to read.” Who doesn’t?
Lovely Day – Bill Withers (1977)
When Breakfast Radio sends this song into your kitchen the bassline all but pours you a coffee and butters your toast. It is so laid back that Withers stretches that long “daaaay” note over 18 seconds.
Happy – Pharrell Williams (2013)
Repeating its upbeat title 56 times with over 62% of the song dedicated to an earworm chorus (about 20% more chorus time than most modern hits) this international mood-lifter really does make you “feel like a room without a roof”.
Boys of Summer – Don Henley (1984)
“Nobody on the road, nobody on the beach …”. This guilty pleasure from the 1980s is actually sung from the perspective of a man alone in the winter, as the husky-voiced Eagle looks back on a lost summer love.
Feeling Good – Nina Simone (1965)
Incredibly, Simone’s empowered version of this Broadway number was only released as a single after featuring in adverts for fabric conditioner and the VW Golf. But any “dragonfly out in the sun” knows what she means.
Summertime – Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong (1957)
All sultry swelter, Fitzgerald and Armstrong’s version of the lullaby from Gershwin’s 1935 musical Porgy and Bess, is surely the best. Her voice is sweet treacle, his rasping dry heat.
I’m on Fire – Bruce Springsteen (1985)
You can see the smoggy heat haze across the summer highway as Springsteen sings about waking up “with the sheets soaking wet”, asking the object of his affections to cool his “bad desire”.
And She Was – Talking Heads (1985)
David Byrne says he wrote this song about a girl he knew who used to take LSD in a field next to the Yoo-Hoo drink factory. The synths shimmer as guitars shine as he describes her floating above sunny suburbia.
California Soul – Marlena Shaw (1969)
With the big, brassy, blissed-out arrangements worked out by Shaw playing the piano down the phone to producers because she couldn’t get a babysitter, this is a ridiculously lush hymn to a dreamworld of sun and surf.
Time of the Season – The Zombies (1968)
The lines, “What’s your name? Who’s your daddy? Is he rich like me?”, are a nod to Gershwin’s Summertime which the St Albans band used to cover. The unusual percussion of handclaps and exhalations make you want to spread out that picnic blanket.
The Future’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades – Timbuk 3 (1986)
Daft and cocky, this blast of adolescent optimism from the American post-punk band takes you right back to the days when school was OK, although an EP featured a darker version with the verse: “Blowin’ up the lab/ Blowin’ the professor/ Torn between two evils/ I always pick the lesser”.
Up on The Roof – The Drifters (1963)
Gerry Goffin and Carole King paid tribute to the “tar beaches” on top of American city high rise buildings in this dreamy song about escaping the “rat race noise”. And The Drifters’ urban gospel sound does it dreamy justice.
Sun is Shining – Bob Marley (1978)
To the easy, red, green and yellow reggae skank of the bass and aquamarine splashes of guitar, Marley sings: “When the mornin’ gather the rainbow/ Want you to know, I’m a rainbow too now.” You need to kick your shoes off and dance barefoot.
Looking Out My Backdoor – Creedence Clearwater Revival (1970)
The irresistible slice of country rock beloved by Jeff Bridges’ character, The Dude, in the Coen Brothers’ movie, The Big Lebowski, this song makes you want to fling wide the doors and windows with a carefree “doo, doo, doo!”
Walking on Sunshine – Katrina and the Waves (1985)
Throw off the duvet, fling open the curtains, break out some star jumps. There’s just no way to resist the Day-Glo luminosity of this pounding beat and the aerobic enthusiasm of Kansas-born, Norfolk-raised Katrina Leskanich.
Blister in the Sun – Violent Femmes (1983)
Terrifically tense and twitchy, the Milwaukee band were probably singing about heroin addiction, but modern listeners are just going to remember this from the soundtrack to Grosse Pointe Blank featuring John Cusack’s hilariously cool performance as the hitman in raybans.
Higher than the Sun – Primal Scream (1991)
Singer Bobby Gillespie famously declared this glorious, psychedelic splicing of dub, rock and dance, the most game changing record since Anarchy in the UK. Close your eyes during that blissed-out saxophone solo and let your mind expand like a hot-air balloon.
Hundreds of Ways – Conor Oberst (2014)
“What a thing to be a witness to the sunshine!” sings the former Bright Eyes founder on this smart, funny blessing counter of a song. Pings of African guitar and warm swells of horn.
The Warmth of the Sun – The Beach Boys (1963)
The diaphanous harmonies of this bittersweet song of romantic rejection were recorded shortly after the assassination of JFK, Brian Wilson said he wanted the band’s music to provide “a sonic oasis” for listeners to bathe in.
The Last Good Day of the Year – Cousteau (1999)
With a golden, syrupy trumpet riff and vintage guitar strum, the Bacharach-inspired London band (who did better abroad than in the UK) makes you want to hang onto every last second of the season while it’s still “fragrant with scents of returning”.
Hope you enjoyed the trip down memory lane and found some nice ones for summer. Come back soon!
Thanks for reading!