By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
The song remains the same as the time and place you first heard it. Music isn’t just in the background, it drives the action. Singer-songwriter Jeremy Toback recalls ”summer dusk shows at the John Anson Ford Theater, where somehow Jane‘s Addiction and X melted into the warm evenings like Barber’s Adagio for Strings.“ And It‘s O.K.’s Ellen Rooney‘s life was changed when Snakefinger played at the old Music Machine in West L.A. ”I was out of my body and out of time, dancing and sweating, and I and everyone there got the equivalent of a tent-revival baptism. I can’t listen to ‘Picnic in the Jungle’ without feeling the cool night air on my drenched hair as I walked to my car feeling like I had just returned from another planet.“ It‘s hard to imagine how even the most melancholic autumn-leaves-type song (Rod Stewart’s ”Maggie May“) or blithe spring ditty (”Springtime for Hitler,“ ”The Sound of Music“) can ever match the pagan, physical catharsis of summer music.
To folks living in colder latitudes, California itself symbolizes summer, as Irish writer Anthony Daly rhapsodizes about Roy Ayers‘ ”Everybody Loves the Sunshine“: ”Apart from it being a tasty lovers’ song, it reminds me of California, when me and my friend Peter and two girlfriends did the Route 1 drive via Big Sur. a Now you‘ve got to remember that we Irish folks aren’t exactly blessed with sun-kissed skies nor shorelines. So when it came on the tape, as we buzzed around the curves of that mountain road and the sun beat down on our asses, well, I cried and so did Peter. The girls, however, laughed at us two saps.“
Silver Lake‘s Betsy Palmer (Satan’s Cheerleaders, Sacred Miracle Cave) grew up California dreamin‘ from a distance. ”The summer I was 16, I hung out with this girl named Lisa. She drove a red convertible and smoked cigarettes. We used to cruise down the blocklong, one-way, one-light Main Street of our little upstate New York dairy-farming town. We’d be blasting Nikki & the Corvettes‘ ’Summertime Fun,‘ pretending we were cool, doing the handclaps, singing along, wishing we were the cartoon girls on the cover, in the red Corvette, going down Hollywood Boulevard. We did have the striped shirts, tight jeans and crimped hair, at least.“
Tammy Faye Starlite of NYC’s satirical country band the Angels of Mercy says, ”Summer to me is pink tube tops and short-short Levi‘s cutoffs (no coats!), roller skating at twilight, hoping all onlookers catch a flash of nethermost fur.“
While summer is often associated with the escapism of songs like Seals & Crofts’ ”Summer Breeze,“ it‘s also the time for sounds of protest and revolution. Songwriter Rickie Lee Jones says, ”The definitive summers were beaches and surf shirts and bare feet and going out and not having to tell anybody. In Phoenix in 1968, the song was ’Keep On Running‘ by the Spencer Davis Group. But the definitive summer song must be ’Hot Fun in the Summertime‘ by the almighty Sly & the Family Stone. In Kansas City, Missouri, in August 1970, ’Ohio‘ by Neil Young was on the jukebox at some redneck barbecue, and I played it in defiance of all the people around me, or so I felt. I am always there again when I hear it. Summer is about defiance, in a way, something in the air.“
Felicia Dominguez, editor of Loca fanzine, writes, ”Being an American-born Mexican, I guess it’s in the blood to want to make compilation tapes for cruising. The best one I ever made for hot summer nights in the car was inspired by and taped during the L.A. riots in ‘92. As the city burned and a curfew was imposed, I worked on a two-hour tape, with selections from N.W.A, Public Enemy, James Brown, Sly Stone, the Staple Singers, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and Isaac Hayes, finishing it off with Ice T’s ultimate ‘fuck you’ to the LAPD, ‘Cop Killer.’ It was the perfect soundtrack for that summer, one of the most tragic times in the city I can remember.“
Tony Reflex, lead singer with L.A. punk band the Adz, points out that touring during summer isn‘t always a beach. ”Summer is Texas: noisy mosquitoes feeding on your neck and hands while you swelter in a cum-stained TV-free hotel room in Corpus Christi after playing a gig in a dive that reeks of pissbeervomitfuck, and where the patrons promise they can ’get you whatever you need,‘ and do. Summer is Salt Lake City: desolate, hot and flat forever, with lots of dry white stuff on the ground outside of town and the rousing cry of the locals, ’This place is fucked, but I live here anyway.‘“
Other hot-weather horror stories: The Muffs’ Kim Shattuck recounts how summer heat once caused drummer Roy McDonald to pass out onstage midset at CBGB (”I looked back to see two legs sticking up from the drums“), while filmmaker--Dead Fairy singer Lisa Ferguson‘s infatuation with an unnamed band ended when she once saw the musicians in the unforgiving heat of a daylight show at the Sunset Junction.