Thursday, July 10, 2014

Songs of Summer

Here we go!  This is my entry in the Songs of Summer bloghop, hosted by the Armchair Squid, Suze, and yours truly.  (I'm posting early, but not as early as Yaz Pistachio did...)  The goal is for each of the participants to post about 5 of their favorite summer songs, so between us we can swizzle up an awesome mixtape of tunes to carry us through the fall and winter.


I wonder if summer memories tend to overlap strongly with coming-of-age (high school?) memories.  I could have filled this list, and several more, with songs from just a couple of pivotal years.  You'll see those years represented below, no doubt, but I did try to stretch a bit both backward and forward in time from the days of Bueller and Spicoli.  :-)

1. Under the Boardwalk, by the Drifters.

I grew up just 20 minutes from the Jersey shore, so for me the idea of "summer songs" pretty much requires something that gets sand in your shoes.  It took me a while to figure out which sunny, beachy song would help me get this theme out of my system.  I could've chosen anything by the Beach Boys, of course.  Springsteen's Jersey Girl hits close to home, but the lyrical protagonist is kind of a jerk. The Ramones' cover of California Sun is awesome, but I only discovered it a few years ago.  Nah, I've got to go with this 1964 classic.  It's never gone out of style.  This is the prototype, the patriarch, the Ur-beach-song, for me.

2. Magic, by the Cars.

Okay, now let's jump into history.  It's June 1984.  Junior year of high school is ending, and little do I know that this will be the summer that changes everything for me.  More on that in a bit.  All I know in June is that some strange things are going down.  My best friend -- who normally was as straight-laced and nerdy as me -- was rebelling against the system and about to go to summer school for his transgressions (speaking truth to power, I still say).  I'd just had my first "real" kiss, after the Junior Prom, and was about to start working my first "real" summer job.  Life was feeling pretty topsy-turvy.  So, when I saw Ric Ocasek walking on water, crooning about how summer turns him upside down... and is like a merry go round... I knew I had my theme song for the coming months.

Twisted, under sideways, down.

3. Rock Lobster, by the B-52's.

Ah, but did I really know what life had in store?  Not quite.  Fast forward to August 1984.  I left my summer job early because I got into a three-week program for future scientists at a local college.  Even my nerdy, D&D-playing friends joked that I was nuts to voluntarily go to anything resembling schoooooool during the summer.

Suffice to say, going away to that program was a defining moment in my life.  For one thing, it helped me discern what I could, should, and would do, career-wise.  That was huge, but it wasn't the most important thing.  It put me in a dorm with 99 other kids who, more or less, were just like me.  Have you had this experience?  The realization that "These are my people," which feels both like a weight being lifted, and like an urge to close your eyes, fall backwards, and crowdsurf?  Down, down, down...

At a weekend dance party, one of these 99 fellow weirdos put on this weird record by a weird band I'd never heard of before, and whose crustacean-ish song I still don't claim to understand.  To this day, though, it brings me back to that time.

4. Your Love, by the Outfield.

I went on to my senior year of high school a changed Cygnus, and graduated in 1985.  Then came college in the fall, which found ways to keep blowing open my doors of perception even beyond what I've mentioned already.  New friends, new things to learn.  And I also had Philadelphia as a playground -- a big city to explore with those new friends.  In early 1986, we got the spring fever bad, and started making firm summer plans probably around March.  I earned some of my worst grades in college in that spring semester, but our many walking trips to the museums... parks... bookstores... oh, anything and everything... of Philly were worth cutting class for.

This silly pop song by a British one-hit wonder band was peaking along with our wanderlust, and I remember sitting back in the dorm room, playing it over and over on vinyl 45 with my two best college friends.  That song (whose lyrics, for some reason, I never cared to think one whit about) cemented those friendships and helped build us into the adults we wanted to be.

5. Nightswimming, by R.E.M.

I'm not sure if I have a coherent story about this one.  It was released in 1993, and I most associate it with a trip I took to a conference in Quebec in 1996.  Ten years after that Philly spring, I was a graduate student about to defend my PhD thesis and (finally!) go out into the real working world.  This trip was to a drop-dead gorgeous lakeside resort (Lac a la Truite, St-Michel-des-Saints), and we swam and kayaked on that lake in between talking science in the conference rooms.  It's still one of the only times when I've stood with my colleagues under a sparkling night sky and talked about life, love, and stellar astrophysics.  I don't know... something about this song just meshes with that moment.

Nightswimming
Remembering that night
September's coming soon
I'm pining for the moon
And what if there were two
Side by side in orbit
Around the fairest sun?
That bright, tight forever drum
Could not describe
Nightswimming

It's been interesting... and a bit scary... to use music to go deep into autobiography, here.  Apologies if I've blathered too much about peak experiences.  There were of course lows to match the highs, but summer isn't the time to focus on them.

Now, go (blog) hop around to see the other participants, good people!

41 comments:

  1. I thought of Magic! And Rock Lobster! I actually forgot I'd thought of Rock Lobster by the time I wrote the post and Magic came to me after the fact.

    I love reading memories associated with certain songs. It's a wonderful road map for autobiography. 1984 has a bigness about it, doesn't it?

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    1. I knew 3 out of 5 of your songs, but didn't consider any of them in this context. This has been quite the interesting trip into autobio-land, hasn't it? Yesterday, as I finished writing this up, I thought "Hmm, if I ever do write my autobiography, I think I'll organize it around songs, like this."

      I can't be objective about the bigness of 1984. :-)

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    2. Objectivity is way the hell overrated. ;)

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  2. Another thing I forgot: a runner up, from this very summer. Who knows what memories might be tagged to it in a decade or more?

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  3. I graduated a couple years sooner, but I remember those tunes. Think that was one of the Cars' biggest albums.
    Thanks for hosting the blogfest!

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    1. I wore out my "Heartbeat City" cassette, and eventually bought it again used. :-) Thanks for stopping by, Alex.

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  4. Great list and I love the stories you attached to each. Finding "my people" took me a long time, too. In fact, it's something I've had to do over and over again every time I've moved and it always takes me a while. But they're always worth the wait.

    When I started thinking about this project, I started with specific summers that were important to me as you did. It is only now, and in preparing for a bloghop in August, that I've realized I could have probably done my entire post on the summer of 1986. Maybe next time...

    So funny that you and Suze both chose Outfield songs!

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    1. Cool... maybe we'll have to do this again and each decide to focus on a single year. Maybe a bullet list of 12 items -- one for each month -- with the blogger free to mention songs, movies, TV shows, and/or other pieces of cultural effluvia?!?

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    2. Hmm... interesting idea. I'm always happy to start planning the next project. Something in August, perhaps?

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  5. Fun list! But man, oh man -- that "Rock Lobster" especially brings back a lot of fun memories of college. That song and "Private Idaho" from their next album were party favorites and were guaranteed to get a group of inebriated kids dancing wildly around apartments and knocking over furniture. Ahh, yes... Good memories. :)

    Thanks!

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    1. Ha! I'm not sure which "collapse down on the floor" song came first for me: Rock Lobster's "down down down" or Shout's (Otis Day & the Knights!) "little bit lower now" ? :-)

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  6. The Outfield! How could I forget that one? It would be on everyone of my top lists. I loved that song, but like you - I never really thought about the lyrics.

    We should do a blog hop about songs we thought were love songs...but weren't exactly...

    Great list - thanks!
    Cherdo
    www.cherdoontheflipside.com

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    1. Yeah, who is Josie, and why is she on a vacation far away?

      Love songs that aren't love songs? Or maybe songs that on the surface don't seem to be love songs, but really are? (I'm thinking of Joni Mitchell's Yellow Taxi...)

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    2. I always boycotted that Outfield song because I can't *stand* the thought of using love!

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    3. We don't choose the songs of summer... they choose us. :-)

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  7. Ah yes--Magic by The Cars was MADE for summer! Did you hear the guitarist from The Outfield died earlier this week?

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    1. Oh no! I didn't hear about it, but I now see: John Spinks -- the main songwriter -- passed away on July 9. So sad; only 60.

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  8. Music is the best way to go into an autobiography. It makes a great back drop for interesting stories.

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    1. You bet, Samuel. Movie-makers know this secret. Most novel writers probably do, too, but the copyright rules for quoting lyrics in books seem to be pretty draconian.

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  9. Thanks for the awesome post. Loved The Drifters! I have had that moment of connection, too, but as a female scientist it often comes when I'm in a session/meeting with other women scientists. As a girl I attended a summer-long WISE (women in science and engineering) workshop that really gave me roots, and a sense of YES!, so I can relate to your story quite easily.

    I love how memories are evoked by song, and how mood can be manipulated by it, as well! Some days I just NEED certain music to keep me going, you know?
    Veronica
    http://vsreads.com

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    1. Hey, a fellow scientist! I'm curious what you do, V. The grad student I'm advising right now has been involved with WISE, and with various outreach projects to speak with girls in inner-city schools.

      Needing good music to keep it goin'... I hear you. My Sirius/XM car receiver broke last week, and I'm not enjoying my commutes to work...

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  10. Any song by the Cars takes me back, but all these songs ar e throwback jam. Excellent list for the bloghop Cynus.

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    1. Thanks, Maurice... a throwback jam, I love it.

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  11. Class of 1985, baby! My grades slipped a bit in '86 too---totally worth it. You did a beautiful job of tying in your bio w/ music, and I enjoyed story.

    There is no need ot understand the Lobster.

    I've got my proverbial cigarette lighter lit & waving for Nightswimming. Looove that song. Thanks so much for co-hosting this very fun fest. Now I'm going to listen to REM several hundred times...

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    1. 1985! :-) The theme song of our senior prom was "Tender Years" by John Caferty & the Beaver Brown Band. You hadta be there. :-)

      REM... I don't think I've blogged about the time I was walking down a street in Glasgow, Scotland, and the street musician saw me, and started playing "Man on the Moon." I swear, I don't have "Yes, I am a rocket scientist" tatooed on my forehead, but I guess I look the part.

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  12. I can't believe I forgot about Under the Boardwalk. My mom loves that song and played it for me often when I was a kid. This is a really cool list and some cool memories. Thanks for sharining.

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    1. I'm going to have to do some digging about Under the Boardwalk. I swear that I remember Bill Murray doing a funny version of it in some movie or TV show, but I haven't been able to find it...

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  13. I enjoyed your stories about the songs. Thanks for hosting.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Thanks, Janie! This has been tons of fun.

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  14. Oh, I'm on board with your choices. The Cars, REM, The B-52's. Good stuff. :)

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    1. Yours are pretty great, too... heading over to comment.

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  15. Love this playlist, and the accompanying stories. I wonder if all of us 80s kids have a Nightswimming story ... I know I do. I agree that the Cars is one of these ultimate "summer" bands. Everything they did, practically.

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    1. REM could evoke quite the universal vibe, couldn't they?

      And it's true... it's hard to think about listening to the Cars, say, a week before Christmas. :-)

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  16. Like Stephanie, this 80's kid has a nightswimming story too! I really like your choices for Songs of Summer, great stories and memories too. And hey, we both chose 'Magic'! The Cars were such a fun band, iconic 80's. Thank you for co-hosting this bloghop!

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    1. Great minds... well, you, me, and Ric Ocasek. :-)

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  17. The B-52s have blown everything else out of mind! Rock Lobster, that's all I can think about now. Engagingly distracted :-)

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    1. Cool! And I think "engagingly distracted" is certainly an interesting state to be in. I'm on my way with my 2nd cup of coffee...

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  18. You've come up with some great songs, and great stories to go along with them. The only song I knew here is "Under the Boardwalk," but I enjoyed listening to your other choices, too. The video for Rock Lobster is a hoot.

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    1. Thanks, Susan. The B-52s always looked like the party followed them where ever they went. :-)

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  19. Great choices! I think I'll go listen to R.E.M. again...
    How neat that you've got a Quebec connection!

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    1. Thanks, Deniz! Sorry to have missed your summer song choices last week... I'm liking the mostly-new-to-me Britpop!

      Quebec was great... I've only been there twice, but loved every bit of it.

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