Songs of our Summers

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Music is full of summer songs. “Summer In The City” by the Lovin’ Spoonful; “In the Summertime” by the otherwise forgotten Mungo Jerry; George Gershwin’s “Summertime” – the list goes on and gets bigger every year. But you probably have at least one song that, when you hear it now, reminds you of a particular summer in the past. You may not remember the actual year without looking up the song, but I bet there is a song, somewhere, that will still take you back to that blindingly hot summer when you were 15 and fell in love – or in the lake – or in with the wrong crowd. And it may not have the word “summer” in it – it probably has nothing whatever to do with the season. But it was in the air and some corner of your brain stored it away as the unofficial soundtrack of that summer.

Here in the Soundcheck Workshop we’re putting down our hammers and drills for a moment to share some summer musical memories. I actually have several songs that remind me of different summers, perhaps because I am so very, very old. A number of these are in today’s podcast. But one that isn’t is the first summer song I can remember: “Soul Makossa” by Manu Dibango. Not that I knew it was by Manu Dibango. All I knew was that this incredibly funky song started emerging from radios on the streets of New York in the summer of 1973, with its chattering saxophone line and a guy chanting “ma-ma-ko, ma-ma-sa, mako-mako-sa.” Because that song would eventually go on to be quoted by Kanye West, Rihanna, Eminem (twice), and countless others, I have heard it on occasion over the years, and it never fails to bring me back to those long summer days spent playing ball in the street and listening to the radio. - John


I spent the summer of 1994 as a cellist in orchestra camp. Well, it was pretty serious for a camp. The Young Artists Orchestra at Tanglewood is six weeks of practicing, rehearsing, practicing, performing, and - practicing. But my musical memories of that summer are hardly out of the repertoire. The RA on my floor lived in a Nirvana t-shirt. And the cook who prepared our meals was a serious Primus fan. He loved to indoctrinate, and I loved to listen. One night, I snuck off with a group of French horn players to see a Phish concert. Yep. But the song that reminds me the most of that summer is “Jane Says” by Jane’s Addiction. It didn’t come out that summer – it came out about 6 years before. But I will forever associate it with long night walks in the woods with my section-mate Charles and a motley crew of orchestra players. Charles would hoist his boombox high up on his shoulder, blast “Jane Says,” and we would just walk, silent, through the cool Berkshire summer night. Sometimes we sang along. - Gretta


I turned 14 in the summer of 2000 - and as we’ve learned on Soundcheck, the music you’re into at that age stays with you forever. As a girl who a) had no older siblings, b) avidly absorbed MTV's "TRL," and c) fell in and out of love weekly, my taste was a little embarrassing. Okay, completely embarrassing. But I’m going to be totally honest - the song that will always bring summer to mind is Nine Days’ “Revolve.” The Long Island band’s “The Madding Crowd” came out in May of that year, and by the time I bid adieu to middle school, this CD had taken up permanent residence in my Sony Discman. The big hit “Absolutely (Story of a Girl)” reeled me in - but it was the deeper tracks, like “Revolve,” that held the most meaning for me. It’s not a moment in my musical past that I’m particularly proud of... but listening to this sentimental power pop now, I’m transported back to that carefree summer of gossipy sleepovers and cautiously co-ed pool parties where the girl/boy ratio was at least 3 to 1. - Katie


Neutral Milk Hotel released “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” in February 1998, so I’m probably stretching the definition of summer song with this pick. But I didn’t hear the album – or its incredibly rocking, incredibly sad signature track, "Holland 1945" – until I returned from a spring study abroad trip. Once I did, it was about all I listened to that summer. - Joel