Friday, July 11, 2014

Songs of Summer


It's not often bloggers are invited to turn DJ, so of course I had to jump at the chance. First I'll set the summer stage: I grew up in a small, weird town nestled in between the Rio Grande and volcanic mountains reaching nearly 11,000 feet, so my summers were spent clambering up and down steep cliff paths, camping by the muddy brown river, poking into cool, breathing caves, and getting horribly sunburned because elevation + nobody believed in sunscreen yet. My mom's family was from Philadelphia, so we'd also sojourn back to my grandparents' little Philly rowhouse and to their littler beach bungalow in Ocean City, NJ. I got my big-city summer memories (hopscotch in alleyways, sitting on stoops, walking through the giant heart in the Franklin Museum, nights curled in the window frame whispering to the girl across the alley) and beach-bum memories (paddleball, frisbee, returning horseshoe crabs to the sea, sand in the bathing suit, bellyboarding, sucking on water ice).


For my first Ultimate Summer Song, I present "So Alive" by Love & Rockets. This song totally defined the summer I graduated high school. It actually seemed to be about me and my friends, about our final summer at home, about summertime and frenetic adolescence and pressurized possibility itself. I remember graduation day, driving around in my brown Honda Accord with my friend Krista, blasting this song as loud as my speakers would play it (that car had a good stereo, too), singing at the top of our lungs till we nearly went hoarse. This is the first song that sprang to my mind when I read about the Songs of Summer idea.


Fast forward a couple summers later. I'm visiting my aunt and uncle in LA, and my aunt, also a writer, introduces me to one of her critique partners ... who happens to be a former Miss Universe. "If you don't have any friends in the area, I have a gorgeous son who could take you out for a night on the town," she says. Well, twist my arm. I expected her son, who was indeed gorgeous, to be barely tolerant of me—forced as he was by mom to chaperone this hick kid around. But he was rather keen, it turned out, and we had a bit of a whirlwind weekend together. (My aunt and his mom were very amused. I think they got a contact high from us.) Michael's dad was a Hollywood producer and he had all sorts of cards and passes and whatnot in his wallet, so I was able to get into places I shouldn't have, being still (barely) underage. I ordered a glass of white wine at the Hard Rock Cafe and felt terribly grown up. We walked down the Sunset Strip holding hands. He kissed me on the corner of Hollywood and Vine, which apparently was meaningful in some way I didn't understand. We petted the stars at the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He took me up on the bluffs and we looked out over the sparkling city. It was a very romantic few days, and ended at just the right time before we could get real about anything. And as I was listening to the Kinks a lot that summer anyway, my selection above will be forever associated with those few days, my Cinderella Weekend in Hollywood.



This song is less associated with one summer than with summer in general. I listened to the Indigo Girls a lot throughout college, as one does, and my best friend and I would bust out with harmonized a cappella versions at the slightest provocation, which sounds more charming than I suspect it was. The Girls were kind enough to include our state on most of their tours, so I got to see them perform live a number of times. They were amazing in concert. I wonder if they're still touring?



Summer 2006: Skipping way forward. I have two kids now, and this is maybe the first summer they are really listening to the music I'm always playing and holler-singing along with on car rides. The Fountains of Wayne releases a new album, and as it happens, it's pretty kid-friendly. Lyrics aside, anyway. ("Stacy's Mom": we'll just hum along with that one.) This track was one of our favorites.



Finally, I bring you a song I hear every day, the song that Alt Nation (my favorite SiriusXM channel) seems to have decided is THE Song of Summer, consider the heavy rotation it gets. Listen and you will hear why. It has that perfect blend of major chords, simple lyrics, and a cheery message. You don't want to listen to this song in the depths of winter, you'll throw things at the stereo. But poolside, with an icy-cold Stella Artois? Perfect. I will always associate this song with Summer 2014, with New York City and World Cup soccer, my sweet son just tipping into adolescence and my brilliant daughter getting set to apply to college.

Happy summer, everyone. May these be the best days of your life.



24 comments:

  1. "Best Day of My Life" shares all the hopes and dreams of summer Stephanie! A rockin' list.

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  2. My daughter, old soul that she is, was really into the Kinks for a little while.

    Great list, Stephanie! I love your Hollywood & Vine story - very sweet.

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    1. It was my aunt who got me into the Kinks. One of those bands whose music never seems to get old, or feel dated.

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    2. Compared to the more polished British bands of the era - Beatles, Stones, Who - the Kinks are just so delightfully weird. And "Lola" truly is an under-appreciated rock 'n' roll masterpiece.

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  3. HI! I enjoyed your Summer mix -- nice blend of stuff, here!

    And I do like and hear "The Best Days of My Life" all over. But I do still smile about Alt Nation. I mean, c'mon -- how "Alternative" is a song that's been used in a TV commercial for Lowes and so many other places on TV in the US and around the world?

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    1. Seriously! I was just thinking that the other day. The "Alt" thing is pretty meaningless anymore. I mean, NPR's All Songs Considered program has "alt" music too, and there's zero overlap with Alt Nation. Alt Nation is pretty poppy. But it's the most indie thing I can find on Sirius ...

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  4. I never know the names of current bands, but I love that American Authors song and something tells me I won't be forgetting their name.

    Enjoy the summer...and the college applying. It's not so bad--especially when the smarty-pants students hardly need us to help them with stuff anymore.

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    1. "...especially when the smarty-pants students hardly need us to help them with stuff anymore." I am counting on that! She enables my parental laziness, I tell you. Glad you enjoyed the AA song!

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  5. What a fun list, old and new school hanging out together. I'm new to Hey Julie, but it's still nice. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. All of the Fountains of Wayne music is pure fizzy pop; good summer stuff. Glad you enjoyed it.

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  6. I like your recounting of the Cinderella Weekend, Steph.

    I've been meaning to sample the American Authors song. Glad to have finally given it a listen on Words Incorporated. :)

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    1. Thanks! I dug through my journals to get song inspiration (I included in all my datelines whatever song I was listening to) and found the whole weekend recorded in great detail. I'd forgotten a lot about it. Glad you enjoyed American Authors! They have a couple bouncy tunes I like.

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  7. Good stuff! At first, I thought I was gonna have to say all of these songs were new to me, but woo HOO! I'm familiar with the last one. Like it, too. And I really like that deep raspy voice in that Love and Rockets song. Reminds me a little of the guy who sings for Nine Inch Nails. (without the angst)

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    1. I can hear that similarity. I was a big NIN fan, too, back in the day. :)

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  8. Quite the assortment! What year is that Kinks song? I couldn't place it.

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    1. I had to Google it, but apparently the Kinks song came out in 1972.

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  9. I heard that Best Day of My Life on the radio the other day--I thought it was Imagine Dragons! Sounds like music has decided a sound that works now... It's a good sound, at least. That song is in a commercial of some kind...

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    1. I thought it was Imagine Dragons, too! The intro sounds so much like "It's Time," another great summer song. What I like about ID is that while they have an overall sound, each song on that album is pretty unique. Don't know about AA yet, I've only heard two of their tracks.

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  10. What interesting stories with your songs. I want to go out with that son. I suppose he's taken by now.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. I wonder whatever did happen to him! He was studying economics at UC Berkeley, so I'm assuming he did very well for himself, especially with his connections. Probably married some gorgeous movie star. :)

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  11. What a fabulous starry romance! Also laughing because lyrics and children aren't always a clever mix :-)

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    1. No kidding! I was just listening to that new Hozier song with a bunch of teenage boys in the car, and as soon everyone stopped to listen to the lyrics things got awkward. :/

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  12. Ooh, great choices, especially the first three! It's fun to have romantic weekends to look back on.

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