Saturday, May 11, 2013

What is the Soundtrack of Summer for You?

For me, there are two main songs that just sum up Summer for me. Whenever I hear them, on the radio or on the CD player or whatever, they just make my brain click and say, yeah, summer's REALLY HERE. One is Summer Breeze by Seals & Crofts, from 1972. The other one is Ventura Highway by America. Summer Breeze's affinity for summertime is obvious due to the name. But Ventura Highway's connection to summer is a little more arbitrary. Sure you can drive the highways pretty much any season of the year in California, with the hood down and the wind in your hair. But here in the Midwest, that is pretty much a summer-only pasttime. I'm sure you could, theoretically, roll down the convertible roof in December and pretend you are sleigh-riding with Dobbin wearing his jingle bells, but people will look at you funny. (VERY funny. But only till the nice men in white jackets take you away...) Summer to me when I was a teenager (or a little-bit-younger “tweenager”) was hopping on my bike to the library, or over to the lakefront to lie out on the sand for awhile and just watch the waves breaking along the shoreline while other people sat down to a picnic lunch or fed the birds. It was the smell of suntan lotion and lake water and burgers cooking on a grill in the park. It was silly love songs on the radio that sat on your beach blanket while you worked on the tan or read a paperback novel. The same radio perched on a bench while you did yard chores for mom, or picked flowers from the garden, or helped hang laundry out to dry on the clothes line. Another radio sat on the grass tuned to the ball game while dad painted the garage or washed the car. Come to think of it, a big part of summer was the portable radio, not a boom box, not a CD player, not an iPod thingie. By “radio” I mean not just the physical gadget with one dial for volume and another one for tuning in to various stations – but also the institution once known as Top 40 Radio, something that many people sneer at nowadays but which brought me in contact with sounds I would never have been exposed to without it. In the decade when every band seemed to have a distinctive sound, they were all well-represented on that Top 40 Radio Station – no matter which particular station was your favorite. Not gonna spend time bashing how a lot of bands now seem to have imitationitis, with a side of cloned-production values – although that seems to describe how they sound to me now. I'm just gonna say, it was as if a thousand sound-flowers bloomed, and all of them seemed to have a hit record out. From the tough-as-nails wail of Grace Slick, to the bubblegum crooning of Olivia Newton John, to the torch rock of Linda Ronstadt, to the synchronized soul of Smokey Robinson or the Supremes or a dozen other Motown groups, to the Mamas and the Papas singing about California Dreaming, to Elvis singing 'bout those Suspicious Minds or that far-off Promised Land. A thousand sound-flowers bloomed and it was all good. VENTURA HIGHWAY (From the chorus) Ventura Highway in the sunshine Where the days are longer The nights are stronger than moonshine You're gonna go I know (I know I know I know I know) 'Cause the free wind is blowin' through your hair And the days surround your daylight there . . . SUMMER BREEZE See the curtains hangin' in the window in the evenin' on a Friday night A little light a-shinin' through the window lets me know everything is alright (chorus) Summer breeze makes me feel fine blowing through the jasmine in my mind Summer breeze makes me feel fine blowing through the jasmine in my mind See the paper layin' on the sidewalk a little music from the house next door So I walked on up to the doorstep through the screen and across the floor (chorus) Sweet days of summer the jasmine's in bloom July is dressed up and playing her tune And I come home from a hard day's work and you're waiting there not a care in the world See the smile a-waitin' in the kitchen food cookin' and the plates for two Feel the arms that reach out to hold me in the evening when the day is through (chorus)

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