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Thu, Dec. 05

Just Chill: Best summertime songs

Photo by Les Stukenberg

Photo by Les Stukenberg

(tie)

"School's Out"

ALICE COOPER, 1972

This is summer's battle hymn, without a doubt. "No more pencils, no more books ... no more teacher's dirty looks ... " The lyrics highlight the most important things about summer. And even though I've been out of school for a while now, this song never fails to make me smile. It is the quintessential summer song because EVERYBODY can relate to it. And everybody wants to sing along. And dance. And again, maybe it's just me. But I doubt it. Because I've watched you all when the song comes on. And I know! AR

Another obvious choice here but hey, it was the summer after sophomore year in high school. This instantly became our anthem that summer. Halfway through our high school, a whole summer ahead of us, we didn't want to worry or care about anything! Every party we went to would have it blaring on the stereo, loud enough to be sure to annoy our neighbors AND parents. The guys would stand around like a bunch of idiots playing air guitar along with the stereo. With its classic rock beat and guitar riffs, only a complete musical geek wouldn't love "School's Out." DB

I was a teacher for 20 years, and I have to tell you, the teachers were even more eager than the students for school to be out; this was our anthem as much as it was theirs. When I hear it, it still conjures up feelings of that last day of school. Alice practically yells the chorus, kinda like the kids would holler on their way off-campus. DC

This is one of those songs that everybody knows, resurfacing every few years in movies such as "Dazed and Confused" but popularized more so through classic radio and TV commercials (sigh). It was Alice Cooper's first major hit single employing schoolyard rhymes and hard rock in a sing-along combo that's especially catchy and easy to yell when you're busting out on the last day of school. "No more pencils, No more books, No more teacher's dirty looks ... Out for summer." Alice Cooper is also a Phoenix native and still lives there, which is just one more reason to love the guy - I think he's a perfect choice to perform for the Centennial Best Fest. TO

(tie)

"Summertime"

BILLIE HOLIDAY, 1936

George and Ira Gershwin's 1934 song "Summertime," the aria from Gershwin's musical "Porgy and Bess," was never so poignantly performed as by Billie Holiday when she recorded it in 1936. It is Billie's rendition that first registered on American pop charts, opening the floodgate for a deluge of jazz and rock performers who later came to record this tune, including Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and even Janis Joplin. As great summer songs go, this one is the undisputed queen. It would be tough to find a longer-lived song that is more emblematic of this time of year. JI

"Summertime"

LOUIS ARMSTRONG and ELLA FITZGERALD, 1957

This is absolutely my number one song of summer. This song has been recorded by many different artists with many different variations, but this rendition remains my favorite. To me, Louis Armstrong's trumpet intro sets the stage for a slow segue from winter to summer and listening first to Ella's smooth vocals, then Louis's solo vocal chorus mentally transports me smack-dab in the middle of a scorching hot summer's day. If I close my eyes, I can hear the quiet in the heavy air, feel the whisper of a breeze touch my hair, and I get to that utterly lazy and complacent feeling only summer provides. AR

(tie)

"Night Moves"

BOB SEGER, 1976

"I woke last night to the sound of thunder ... " Wow. He puts you right there. Summertime as a teenager, working on mysteries without any clues. You just know the story he's telling could only take place in the summer, out past the cornfields where the woods get heavy, out in the backseat of my '60 Chevy. Growing up in AZ, with the summer thunderstorms, you could feel the lightnin' and wait for the thunder. And at some point, you could feel autumn closing in... DC

My favorite teenage summer love song, ethereal and intense by one of the greatest songwriters of all time, it was released as a single and also as part of the album of the same title in 1976. The listener is manipulated by Seger's masterful opening with just his vocals and an acoustic guitar. As a layer of bass and drums is added, the intensity increases, building with female backing vocals, electric guitar and keyboard. It builds to a crescendo of teenage lust about two-thirds through, then relaxes, giving the listener time to catch his or her breath before working its way back up to a great ending. A true masterpiece of emotion painted on a musical canvas. JN

"Windows are Rolled Down"

AMOS LEE, 2011

A summer playlist would hardly be complete without an ode to driving with the windows down. Amos Lee's alt-country gem, "Windows Are Rolled Down," is the crowning jewel of his 2011 album "Mission Bell" recorded in Tucson and featuring guest performances from Willie Nelson, Lucinda Williams and members of Tucson's own Calexico. Even in the dead of winter, when this song comes on, it's darn near impossible not to imagine the wind rushing through your hair on a long summer road trip to nowhere in particular. TI

"Maggie May"

ROD STEWART, 1971

I met my first girlfriend at the end of summer, 1971, on a family vacation. She lived two train rides away from my home. I rode the trains to see her on Sundays that fall, listening to the transistor radio, with the stupid little one-ear earphone. This song played over and over, eternally and romantically becoming cemented in my brain next to her name, "Angela." Ironically, the lyrics ended up being eerily prophetic, ("All ya did was wreck my bed, and in the mornin' kick me in the head ... Oh Maggie I wished I'd never seen your face ... ). Angela dumped me for a college guy right before Christmas. DB

"Like a Rolling Stone"

BOB DYLAN, 1965

The greatest rock 'n' roll song of all time! Dylan performed it for the first time during the summer of 1965 at the Newport Folk Festival, where he revolutionized the music world by "going electric" with members of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band backing him on stage. It was first released as a 6-plus minute single (unheard of back in those days of AM radio's "3-minute rule"), then almost immediately as the centerpiece of Dylan's equally iconic album, "Highway 61 Revisited." Forty-six years later and you still feel the excitement of those opening chords on organ as the first verse leads into "How does it feel...." JN

"Time of No Reply"

NICK DRAKE, 1968

Every summer, there comes a time when you realize it's almost over. The twilight of summer is Nick Drake's "Time of No Reply." This song sounds like the part of summer when it's still warm enough to take long walks in the hazy light of early evening, reflecting on the great times you had, but the light dies a little earlier and the nip of approaching autumn comes like Nick Drake's voice as he opens this song: "Summer's gone and the heat dies down." All good things must come to an end, but it's not necessarily a bummer after an Arizona summer. JI

"Blue Sky"

THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND, 1972

The second-to-last song on "Eat a Peach" whose recording spanned the summer of 1971 is impossibly irresistible in the finest collision ever of guitar symphony with summertime blue skies and "sunny days." Head-bobbing and cruiseability it's got. For a song that checks in at over five minutes, the Allmans keep the lyrics simple (there are almost the same amount of words in the lyrics in the whole song as are in this paragraph you're reading). "I'm just walkin' down the road/Early mornin' sunshine tells me all I need to know." The stage belongs to what would become one of the last guitar weaving sessions between Duane Allman and Dickey Betts. The result is a sublime experience perfect for summer's endless horizons and boundless optimism. SS

"A Roller Skating Jam Named 'Saturdays'"

DE LA SOUL, 1991

Some might pick the alternative hip-hop group's biggest hit, "Me, Myself & I," for this list, but "Saturdays," a song about, yes, roller-skating, harkens back to a time that never was - when you only worried about getting that pretty girl to smile at you at the roller-rink or skate park before her meathead boyfriend chased you down and embarrassed you in front of her and all her friends. You might not have gotten revenge that day, but hey, he's probably working at flipping burgers at the local fast-food joint now. JPW

"Rusholme Ruffians"

THE SMITHS, 1985

The Smiths are an unlikely bunch to appear on anyone's summer playlist, I grant you, but their song "Rushholme Ruffians" runs down some of the scenes you might expect to see on that great summertime tradition, "the last night of the fair." Lead-singer Morrissey deftly catalogues the typical goings on of this annual summer event in an uncharacteristically upbeat litany of incisive, if snide, observations. My favorite is "The grease in the hair of the speedway operator is all a tremulous heart requires." TI

"Heard It In A Love Song"

MARSHALL TUCKER BAND, 1977

Toward the late '70s, getting sick of disco and punk, many of us discovered southern rock, and Marshall Tucker was one of the finest. Sounds like a love song, right? Most of the lyrics are about leaving his woman (there is the southern in that southern rock I guess). ("Never said that I love you even though it's so. Where's that duffle bag of mine? It's time to go.") For me this is a great summer song because I have great memories of listening to it on tape in the car cruising the highways of the west for many summers after it came out. DB

"Fishin' Blues"

TAJ MAHAL, 1969

Fishing is as much a part of summer as picnics and ice cream, and Taj Mahal takes you down to his favorite fishin' hole to catch some catfish. It has a happy melody, a good feeling to it. You almost want to saunter to the river alongside Tom Sawyer, barefoot and full of anticipation for that first bite. DC

"Fuego"

MURDER BY DEATH, 2008

For a band that does so well the brooding tales of love gone wrong and murderous gunfighters seeking the partner that double-crossed them, Indiana cello-rock band Murder By Death proves surprisingly fluent in writing a song just about love - or in this case, "Fuego," singer Adam Turla's ode to pure, unadulterated lust. The chorus of the song is beautiful in its simplicity - "I want you," wails Turla in his Johnny Cash-like baritone over guitar, cello and piano, before the song comes to a crashing halt. JPW

"Ain't No Woman (Like The One I Got)"

FOUR TOPS, 1973

Things were really starting to look up for me in the summer of '73. I had started dating a girl toward the end of the school year. She graduated from high school that June. As this love song said: "Every day the sun comes up around her, she can make the birds sing harmony, Every drop of rain is glad it found her, heaven must have made her just for me, When she smiles so warm and tender, a sight for sore eyes to see." So the next year I went to college with her, then married her and we have been together ever since. Thanks, Pam! DB

"The Tide is High"

BLONDIE, 1980

Deborah Harry, the queen of punk, new wave and disco glam, still reigns supreme in my world. Blondie was playing CBGB's in the early '70s as a punk band before eventually turning up on American Bandstand in 1979, when they performed "Heart of Glass" and "One Way or Another." At the time, Blondie fell under attack by peers who claimed the band was selling out by going disco, but fans will tell you that a dance tune does not disco make. "The Tide is High" reminds me of the beach and all things summer, the synthesized trumpet chorus rolling like waves over white sands. Never mind if it's just about winning the heart of some slacker guy. TO

"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"

THE ROLLING STONES, 1965

Arguably the second-greatest rock song of all time, and also released during the summer of 1965, Keith Richards' opening guitar riff is one of the most recognizable sounds in all of recorded music. Keef claims that he wrote this song while asleep. He woke up one morning and noticed that the cassette tape in his portable tape recorder was full - full of an acoustic guitar laying down the fundamentals of the song, followed by 40 minutes of Keef snoring! He played it for Mick Jagger, who added some lyrics, and the rest is rock 'n' roll history. The ultimate song of teenage angst and rebellion, perfectly done by the bad boys from England. JN

"Spill The Wine"

ERIC BURDON & WAR, 1970

Name three great things about summer - strolls; hot weather; lying down in big fields of tall grass. The former Animals front man and War collect them all in the first two lines of this funk-Latin-R&B fusion and send them "caressing" all over you (insert breeze and shaded hammock here). The rhythm section of B.B. Dickerson (bass) and Harold Brown (drums, percussion) times its beat by margarita blenders, and the bilingual boy-girl vocals feel like leis around your neck deplaning on some fantasy island. Lead singer and vibe merchant Eric Burdon calls on everyone, even "crazy ones," to be "an overfed, long-haired, leaping gnome," at least for the summer. Alas, the whole lyric is a dream, not reality. But War's whole point is that in the summer, you shouldn't be able to tell the difference. SS

"Baker Street"

GERRY RAFFERTY, 1978

Having been born and raised in late 20th-century Southern California, this song is actually encoded in my DNA. Somehow, the slanty golden light of a SoCal summer afternoon is captured in the hazy psychedelic intro to this song. The lazy bongo-beat sounds to me like a barefoot run along the shores of Laguna Beach, and the sundown on the summer equinox is given a voice by Raphael Ravenscroft's epic saxophone line. I know it's not just me. Somehow, summertime just sounds like "Baker Street." JI

"Summer Mood"

BEST COAST, 2010

As I understand it, California is where they invented summertime, and it is manufactured there to this day. Many of the raw materials mined and refined in sunny CA - surf guitar, lustful longing and a tsunami of reverb - can be heard in this tune from retro-fab indie outfit, Best Coast. BC's sound epitomizes the sunny disposition of the Golden State. Even the cloudiest songs on Best Coast's self-titled 2010 release sound like they were forged in the balmy heat of a July monsoon and delivered in the trunk of a Woody to a Pismo Beach volleyball tournament. If you're putting together a hip summer playlist, you can't (and shouldn't) avoid Best Coast's "Summer Mood." TI

"Hot Rod Lincoln"

COMMANDER CODY & HIS LOST PLANET AIRMEN, 1972

Originally recorded in 1955 by Charlie Ryan, this classic "car race" anthem was made famous by Commander Cody in 1972, mostly because of the incredible guitar playing by Bill Kirchen. The basic song is about a hot-rodded 12-cylinder Lincoln engine built into an unassuming Model A Ford body that hits the road looking to race other seemingly bigger cars. But the Cody/Kirchen version of it incorporates an incredible number of dead-on imitations of other guitar players that are passed on by during the song's car race. Kirchen moves seamlessly and at light-speed from one classic guitar lick to another, leaving the listener grinning from ear to ear all the way through to the end of the race and the end of the song. JN

"Die Sonne Scheint"

DIE APOKALYPTISCHEN REITER, 2004

On the eighth day, (insert your favorite builder) created German metal and said: It kicks butt. And so it does. I really, truly like this song because it's not too heavy, the speed is perfect and I am (once again) the only one around here who understands the lyrics. But what I love the most is the dichotomy between the band's name, which translates to "The Riders of the Apocalypse" and the title of the song: "The sun shines," which is followed by a rather elaborate description of where exactly the sun shines from. I dare you to listen to it and not like it - even if you don't speak German. AR

"Stoned Soul Picnic"

LAURA NYRO, 1968

Another underappreciated singer/songwriter, Laura Nyro coined the verb "surry" for this song, just for the sound and feel of it - "it's a nice word," she reportedly told her producer. The 5th Dimension had a huge hit with it. And this song has all the parts: the summer groove, picnics, blossoms and honey, sassafras and moonshine and "stoned soul." You can't help but flow with it. Can you surry? DC

"Surf Wax America"

WEEZER, 1994

As terrible as Weezer's recent albums have been, their first two albums, when they were fine with being a garage rock band that loved the Beatles, Nirvana and The Beach Boys, were great. This song, featuring the catchy chorus "You take your car to work, I'll take my board. And when you're out of fuel, I'm still afloat" is as close as anyone has gotten to writing a good high-energy surf pop song in the last 40 or so years. It's just a shame their legacy has been soiled by schlock like "Beverly Hills." JPW

"Born to be Wild"

STEPPENWOLF, 1968

Are you kidding me? One of the greatest cruising songs of all time! And in the summer of 1968 we blared this one at our little junior high school parties, feverishly and awkwardly trying to make out with girls. We had no idea what we were doing, but it was the '60s, we were young and we felt "Born to Be Wild!" The rapid beat, soaring organ and guitar riffs and John Kay's soulful gravelly vocals were just infectious. I learned to play this song on my bass in my bedroom that summer, and I just couldn't stop playing it. DB

"Dirt Track Date"

SOUTHERN CULTURE ON THE SKIDS, 1995

I lived for a while in a small town in Wisconsin where Friday night entertainment during the summertime revolved around stock car racing out at the track. I'm a fan of local culture, wherever your locale (note that Coyote Springs has a most excellent dirt track out at the fairgrounds). "Dirt Track Date" (the album) was released in the summer of '95 but SCOTS has been around since '83. The band's dixiefried brand of swamp boogie is definitely best seen live. I saw SCOTS last about five years back at the Rhythm Room in Phoenix - I'm happy to say the fried chicken was still flying as fast out of the KFC box onstage as Rick's finger-lickin' guitar riffs. TO

"Where the Boat Leaves From"

ZAC BROWN BAND, 2008

I was shocked that this song didn't become a single from the Zac Brown Band's first album, "The Foundation." They probably just had too many other singles flying off of that album, because this is one of my favorite songs of theirs. They tend to either lean towards a bluegrass or reggae sound in their songs, and this song is definitely reggae-inspired. It's islandy, catchy, and will probably get you dancing (like it does to me). It was hard to choose between all the Zac Brown Band's songs, just because they have so many songs that are perfect to listen to in the summertime. Grab their CD, hit the lake, and turn it up! SE

"Calico Girlfriend"

MICHAEL NESMITH, 1970

"Calico Girlfriend" is over in a blissful two-and-a-half minute haze, not unlike summer itself. The song's acoustic theme gives Nesmith and his crack band - pedal steel guitar maestro Red Rhodes especially - a lightness that goes naturally with summer, but with a twist. It suggests summer nights, not days: "Starting a set of new rules/Watching the stars as they fall in." The entire song (Nesmith in concert years later called it "a punk rumba") has a rhythm that's shaken, not stirred, and its irresistible vibe catches the spirit of summer just right, as Nesmith encourages you to "softly drop out of the race" and join the fun. Tiki torches, patio lanterns, drinks with umbrellas. And if you've got a favorite summer hat, go ahead and wear it. SS

"Go All The Way"

THE RASPBERRIES, 1972

This song topped the U.S. charts at number 5 in the summer of 1972. At that time, I was a 10-year old German girl who spoke English very well and as a result was the only one of my peers who realized that this song's lyrics were indeed very naughty. While everybody (including myself) loved the catchy, infectiously fun dance tune, I took secret delight in the oh-so-unmentionable yet catchy, infectiously fun phrases that even my parents didn't understand. This song has been synonymous with summer for me ever since the first time I heard it. AR

"Summertime Blues"

EDDIE COCHRAN, 1958

I'm sure this ranks high on most people's summertime classics list, but Eddie Cochran holds a special place in my childhood memory bank. I found this song on one of my parents' compilation albums as a kid and loved to raise the roof with my off-key vocals, "Well, I'm a-gonna raise a fuss, I'm a-gonna raise a holler," na nana na, na nana na. What I now know to be a quintessential rockabilly classic (circa 1958) just meant good times to me, rockin' out on the black and red shag carpeting in the family room. TO

"Dixieland Delight"

ALABAMA, 1983

This song just makes me want to put on my denim skirt and boots and go out two-stepping. I have always loved this one ... It's not beachy like the other songs I picked, but it's more like the summers I'm used to spending, where there's no beach nearby. (Arkansas and Arizona aren't exactly known for their beaches.) And anybody who knows me knows the real reason why I love this song. I'm kind of crazy about cute little animals, and this song has a whole verse about little woodland creatures. I always enjoy singing that part really loud ... Especially the "chubby ol' groundhog" part. That just sounds cute! SE

"I Wish"

STEVIE WONDER, 1976

I lucked out in finding a copy of the "Songs in the Key of Life" double album at a local thrift store for $1.50, and though my first inclination was to pick every single song on the album for this list (except maybe "Village Ghetto Land," which is a bit of a downer), I decided just to pick one. "I Wish" is Wonder wonderfully capturing the hope of youth no matter their social circumstances - always a great topic for summer songs - and, as with everything else he did in this era, is backed by excellent musicianship, fantastic lyric-writing and a funky groove. JPW

"Blister in the Sun"

VIOLENT FEMMES, 1983

Violent Femmes' self-titled breakout album of 1983 sounds like it was recorded on the shaded porch of a clapboard shack in the middle of a scorching drought. Performed almost entirely on acoustic instruments, it has a rustic, hayfields of summer feel. The runaway hit from that album, "Blister in the Sun," has been a summer playlist favorite of mine for more summers than I care to admit. Kids who aren't kids anymore were pogo-ing to this tune all through the '80s. Every year, just before the end of the spring semester, college DJs wise beyond their years pull this song out and give it a spin before packing up their dorm rooms and heading off to their unpaid internships. TI

"Rockaway Beach"

RAMONES, 1977

Like a lot of early punk rockers, The Ramones had a simple formula, and what they lacked in skill they made up for in attitude. Ramones songs tend to be similar in theme and sound, but they all beg audience participation, with easy-to-remember lyrics that repeat. "Rockaway Beach" of course conjures the beach, with Joey, Dee-Dee, Mark and Tommy clad in black leather cruising Queens, trying to find a way to the water on a hot summer day. I missed a Summerfest show featuring the Ramones and Blondie on a double bill in the late '80s because I was starting one of my first jobs (Contempo Casuals for $3.33/hr!). One of the many blunders of my youth. TO

"Could You Be Loved?"

BOB MARLEY, 1980

To me, nothing says summer like a Bob Marley song. My Bob Marley "Greatest Hits" CD is worn out from being left out by the pool every summer, where I listen to it constantly. During college, my family started taking vacations to the Virgin Islands over the summers. When we'd visit St. Thomas, I used to lay in a hammock on the beach and listen to this song on my iPod with a piña colada in hand while watching the waves. It was absolute paradise, and listening to this song always takes me back to those carefree summers by the water. SE

"New Slang"

THE SHINS, 2001

As a young musician trying to get someone, anyone to watch my band's shows at Burt's Tiki Lounge in Albuquerque, I was, like most fellow musicians in the city, in awe of the Shins. Not just for the quick and almost unheard of success for a "local band" that they garnered, but also for their easy, Beatlesy pop tunes with just the slightest punk edge - which none of us could quite master. "New Slang" was a pop diamond in the rough, even if it did get picked up by McDonald's for an Olympics commercial, and eventually their success resulted in frontman James Mercer moving the band to Portland and firing all the original members. JPW

"Sunny Afternoon"

THE KINKS, 1966

This one takes me back to high school, and sets a lazy afternoon mood, with tales of ice-cool beer, sailing away on your yacht, and girlfriends running off with your car. Of course, I'd never been on a yacht, didn't have a car, and no one was yet telling "tales of drunkeness and cruelty" about me. It all happens "in the summertime ... " I still play this song, in E-minor if you're playing along. DC

"Feel Like Makin' Love"

BAD COMPANY, 1975

Well we will avoid the personal stories about my wife and myself on this one but this song does remind me of that summer very much. The title is the message, invitation, exclamation and declaration all in one. The contrast between the beat on the verses and chorus is distinctive: The beat is sweet and lilting during the verses. Then the driving, staccato beat during the chorus is well, conducive to "such activity," if you know what I mean. "Baby, When I think about you, I think about love." That just says it all, doesn't it? A great summer love song. DB

"Et Moi, Et Moi, Et Moi"

JACQUE DuTRONC, 1966

If the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" was the Summer of Love's frowsy West Coast hippie theme song, this song was the antidote. Sung entirely en français by French garage-rocker Jacques DuTronc, "Et Moi, Et Moi, Et Moi" should have been the Summer of Love's theme song for the better-groomed, beatnik intelligentsia of Manhattan. Whenever I hear it, I imagine myself in a previous life: a bohemian mod-girl in a miniskirt and go-go boots engaging in witty repartee with bearded off-Broadway actors and European models at an art party on the roof of Andy Warhol's Factory in midtown Manhattan during the hazy summer of '67. JI

"Jimmy James"

BEASTIE BOYS, 1992

Put it this way - the B-side to this late-summer early'90s Beasties' single is "Drinkin' Wine." The message on it and its hit flipside is unrelentingly sunny: "All I ever really want to do is get nice, get loose, and goof my little slice of life." They leave it to the beat and crunchy hip-hop to bounce your step with serious business. That's a foregone conclusion, thanks to shape-shifting samples heavily lifted from multiple Jimi Hendrix cuts (to whom the song's title pays tribute). This isn't quite lounging with lemonade summertime music, but its spirit is undeniably frolicking. "It's a brand-new morning/for such a long while/there's been such a longing/but now the sun is shining/let's roll back the awning." SS

"Across the Shields"

TORCHE, 2009

Torche emerged from the ashes of fellow sludge rock behemoths Floor but, unlike singer Steve Brooks' previous band, they managed to marry the uber-slow, almost impossibly heavy doom rock of their predecessors with a distinctive pop sheen that wouldn't be out of place on a Foo Fighters album. In "Across The Shields," the band strays into vaguely pop punk territory before running headlong into a crushing wall of guitars. The perfect soundtrack to a cookout in a place where sinners gnash their teeth, the doomed wail, and the heat is unbearable - yes, I mean the Valley. JPW

"Babies"

THE 1900s, 2010

First, I know I will always associate the summer of 2011 with The 1900s' "Babies" because it's my favorite song on a mix CD I play incessantly in my car. Second, it's a great summer song because the sheer happiness of it is reminiscent of a midsummer dance party/barbecue around the swimming pool where the grown-ups and kids all hang out together smelling like sunscreen and chlorine. As the sun goes down, the kids get out the sparklers and chase fireflies while the grownups all joke and laugh, lounging around on stylish patio furniture. It's at this party where "Babies"' lyrics come to life: "Everything is alright, everyone is on my side." JI

"Green Onions"

BOOKER T. & THE M.G.'s, 1962

Do I really need to explain why this is one of my summer picks??? Come on! Listening to this song one can virtually smell the suntan lotion. Or maybe I'm just weird, because I can. A funny story is how the song got its name. When asked by Jim Stewart, the sound engineer: "If we released this as a record, what would you want to call it?" Booker T. Jones' reply was "Green Onions". "Why 'Green Onions?'" Jim asked. Booker T: "Because that is the nastiest thing I can think of and it's something you throw away." I'm glad they didn't throw it away! AR

"Highway Star"

DEEP PURPLE, 1972

My good friend John Caucig received a white 1970 Pontiac Firebird for his 16th birthday that spring. I kept telling him he was my reeeeaaaaly good friend, so I could go cruising around our Chicago suburb with him, windows down, stereo cranked to maximum volume and this Deep Purple song blaring. We turned lots of heads, met lots of people (especially girls, of course) and had a generally great summer cruisin' to that tune and many like it. And of course, with that car, that song blaring with its rapid beat and our natural good looks, we were highway stars! A perfect summer cruisin' song for sure. DB

"It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere"

ALAN JACKSON & JIMMY BUFFET, 2003

What a fun summer song! This song came out when I was too young to drink, and I remember thinking, "It's 5 o'clock somewhere? What does that mean?" Haha! Now I definitely have some days when we're out on the road unloading our gear (ughh) and setting up for soundchecks, and I find myself saying, "Hey, it's 5'o'clock somewhere. I think it's time for a drink." I have always loved Alan Jackson, but you can't get much more summery than Jimmy Buffet, now can you? Another great song to listen to while you're relaxing outside enjoying an ice-cold beer on a hot day. SE

"Misirlou"

DICK DALE, 1962

Dick Dale's "Misirlou" is as integral to the origin of surf-rock as it is to the definition of summer itself. Even before Quentin Tarantino aptly repopularized this song in his 1994 summertime tour de force "Pulp Fiction," "Misirlou" was burning up the airwaves like heat rising from asphalt. Whether it's the torpid Arabian melody line or the red-hot trumpet break, "Misirlou" is an infernal wind blowing into town from somewhere out in the desert and bringing with it the dust, grit and sweat of the dog days of summer. TI

"U.S. Blues"

GRATEFUL DEAD, 1974

A tie-dyed red, white and blue flag-waving July Fourth perfecto in which the Dead reveals that all this time Uncle Sam has been "hiding out in a rock and roll band." Bassist Phil Lesh is a logical choice as America's Clark Kent alter ego of Uncle Sam, but stealing the thunder on this track from the "Mars Hotel" album is the hop-along boogie-woogie piano swarm from Keith Godchaux. The band that played as many live shows as any always went best with summer seats in the grass. "Wave that flag, wave it wide and high/Summertime done, come and gone, my, oh, my." SS

"Gobbledigook"

SIGUR ROS, 2008

Most songs by Icelandic group Sigur Ros are slow, doomy, atmospheric dirges filled with occasional unintelligible chanting by singer Jonsi Birgisson and his trademark use of a violin bow on his guitar. Not exactly summery stuff. What a surprise, then, to hear "Gobbledigook," the band's first single off their most recent album, "Med Sud I Eyrum Vio Spilum Endalaust," which is a positively bouncy acoustic guitar romp that wouldn't sound out of place at a boy scout campfire, except for the Icelandic vocals, of course. I challenge you to not want to sing along to the "La la la la la la la" vocal part that closes the song. JPW

"Seven Nation Army"

THE WHITE STRIPES, 2003

I know this panel is about songs rather than albums, but when White Stripes' "Elephant" was released in April of 2003, it became an instant favorite for our late night "after bars" that summer, sure to induce a dance craze like no other. "Seven Nation Army" is the lead track on the album, and the one that received the most radio play at the time, but "Elephant" is near perfect as a whole. Jack and Meg had been around since 1997 (this was already their fourth album) but "Elephant" is what jetted these minimalist Detroit rockers to superstardom. Pure genius, and one of my favorite summer albums ever. TO

"La Grange"

ZZ TOP, 1973

Inspired by John Lee Hooker's boogie guitar lick from "Boogie Chillen," Billy Gibbons mesmerizes the listener from the opening notes as he expertly plays the old blues riff through his Fender Stratocaster and Marshall amplifier, with Frank Beard's sticks hitting the snare drum's rim before Dusty Hill joins in on bass after the first verse. Released in 1973 as part of ZZ Top's "Tres Hombres" album, the song vamps on just one chord, through a couple of verses and a guitar solo, before releasing the tension and moving on to a couple of other chords. A great song for that long drive home on a hot summer night. JN

"Wouldn't It Be Nice"

THE BEACH BOYS, 1966

Because there always has to be a Beach Boys song on any summer song list, and if there is any way we can bump "Kokomo" off, we'll do it. All jokes about the worst song the Beach Boys ever recorded aside, "Wouldn't It Be Nice," the first cut on the band's seminal 1966 album, "Pet Sounds" captures the yearning of the young for "grown-up" love and happiness. And there are few beginnings to a song more instantly recognizable than the guitar/ukulele/accordion/mellotron lick that opens the song. JPW

"Summer in the City"

THE LOVIN' SPOONFUL, 1966

This song will probably be picked by everybody, but the special meaning for me is that summer I received my first transistor radio for my 10th birthday. (For those of you under 40, a transistor radio was a crude AM radio receiver, about the size of an iPhone today.) All day and under my pillow at night, I listened to top hit stations WLS & WCFL-AM in Chicago and became completely hooked on rock & roll. This was one of those songs that grabbed me that summer. Within two years, I was playing bass in my first garage band. DB

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