Memorial Day 2017
Rituals are important, they remind us of what is not trivial. So while there will be plenty of sales and BBQs this weekend there will also be parades and moments of remembrance. That’s appropriate given why we have Memorial Day in the first place.
Unofficially, it’s also the start of summer. Last year I kicked off the season with a baker’s half-dozen of tunes about soldiers and sailors. This year I’m going to switch it up.
Memory is funny. There are songs I swear were only heard between Memorial Day and Labor Day when I was a kid. That probably isn’t so, but it’s a nice conceit. And one I feel like indulging, so let’s get to it.
Summer Wind, Frank Sinatra (1966)
The perfect opening song used to set the stage for the perfect summertime movie. The Pope of Greenwich Village was released the first day of summer in 1984 and it focuses on the parts of New York I was spending all my time in. The neighborhood stores and blue-collar folks are sadly missing these days. The feeling remains.
Hello I Love You, The Cure (1990)
I swear that before the Hopkins/Sugerman book was published, right around this time of year in 1980, The Doors were a summertime band. Maybe the AOR stations would play “Light My Fire“ during the other 9 months of the year. But if you were hearing “Waiting for the Sun” it was surely a cloudy day in August, at least as I remember it. Truth be told, The Doors were never my band. So let’s listen to a cover by a group we don’t hear enough guitar from, The Cure.
California Girls, The Beach Boys (1965)
Is there any band that screams summer more than The Beach Boys? And is there any better example of a rhetorical question? The issue here is how to pick just one song from the group that helped define the concept of The Endless Summer. In the end it came down to two tracks and I opted for the travelogue.
Summer Breeze, The Isley Brothers (1973)
I am convinced The Isley Brothers perform musical alchemy. Here they transform Seals and Crofts’ treacly, 1972 MOR hit, finding a harmony-laden soul gem within. The video, from the late, lamented Soul Train, is notable for its mid-1970s fashions and Ernie Isley‘s wicked, Hendrix-inspired guitar solo. (Jimi was one of Ernie’s early teachers.)
Me and Mrs. Jones, Billy Paul (1972)
I’m not sure why this song screams summer to me. It can’t even be rooted in memory since the song was released in October and topped the charts in December of 1972. It could be the whole Gamble and Huff vibe means summer to me. Could it be a Philly thing? I don’t know and I don’t care because it’s just a great song.
Echo Beach, Martha and the Muffins (1980)
The beach loomed large as subject matter at the end of my high school years. And no one had a better seasonal hit than Toronto‘s Martha and the Muffins.I always thought the band must be winking at everyone with that “I Know it’s out of fashion/and a trifle uncool” line. I still like to play this on the way to the beach.
I Wanna be a Lifeguard, Blotto (1981)
I had high school friends who attended SUNY Albany and this band of alums and locals were a must. From the Ramones-like spoofing of a common last name to the lame-o costumes they were a distinctly acquired taste. Yet this is one of the sillier summer songs and consequently a fave. Maybe because my lab partner wound up working, for a while, in a shoe store it meant even more.
It looks cloudy out there, remember to use plenty of sunscreen!