As of today, we’re forty-two percent into our summer. And in my opinion, until August 3 when we step onto the sun splashed summit, plant a couple of prayer flags and begin the darkening descent toward autumn, it's an opportune time to soak it all in.
It's the sights, it's the smells—nothing permeates our senses like summer:
Jumping through the sprinkler and skidding along the soaked brown grass.
Blowing the wrapper off a popsicle, your anxious tongue gluing itself to the icy crust.
The aromas of coconut sun screen and salty air filling the car as you troll for a parking spot at the beach.
But more than anything else, it’s the music. Nothing yanks me by the scruff and hurls me into the Dr. Emmett’s DeLorean faster than an old summer tune.
The other day I popped on the old classic rock station while piloting our gangrenous Kia through West Seattle’s narrow thoroughfares. The song playing was “Beautiful Girls” by Van Halen, and for the next three minutes, only muscle memory and an urgent bladder navigated the car homeward, since my mind had taken a sharp left at 1978.
I found myself on the shores of Lake Tapps, a man-made reservoir in the shadow of Mount Rainier, fed by its silty glacier water. Go ahead and hold up your thumb and forefinger. Yep, I'd say it was about that cold.
On one of my many lazy days spent there during that summer of Van Halen, my friend Corey and I found ourselves living an actual beer commercial. As we floated on inner tubes out in the middle of the lake, two girls slowly approached, paddling a raft. Gesturing to a cooler, on of them asked if we wanted to share a twelve-pack of Rainier and drift around a little.
Why, yes. As a matter of fact, we would.
Corey always had a way about him. How can I put it? Let’s just say the pizza guy tended to show up on the porch even when Corey didn’t order anything.
Even though summer pop songs elicit powerful nostalgia, not all of these emotions are positive. One night during 1976 while playing Kick the Can with the neighbor kids, I felt the urge to relieve myself. Knowing that my parents wouldn't let me go back out if I went in the house, I opted to use an alternate organic source.
Okay, I peed into a shrub. The song I remember pulsing through my head, just before a kid named Howard shoved me into my own filth midstream, was “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” by Elton John and Kiki Dee.
I retreated to my house, ashamed and itchy, forever tying the essence of juniper berries and urine to two smartly dressed Brits.
“Shout,” a 1985 summer release by Tears for Fears, also dredges up some early-Twenties angst. I know I’ve droned on a lot about my ex-girlfriend, but dating her during college was like registering for an extra twelve-credit class in “I-can’t-believe-how-much-I-hate-you-but-sure-I’ll-be-right-over-with-some-wine-and-cheese-nips-ociology.
If you remember the Tears for Fears video, the guy is standing on the edge of a cliff, singing and looking pissed. Okay, that was exactly how I felt, except I don't remember singing or having the other three guys in the band lip syncing at my ten-o’clock.
Speaking of old MTV videos, they always seemed to have a hard time figuring out what to do with the drummer. The three other guys could stand out in the field with their acoustic guitars, but the drummer had to either bob his head and look cool or play a saw or something. Poor guy.
Anyway, that’s enough of my long-winded stories. Here are a few other summer pop tunes that have throttled a pressure point or two in my central nervous system since I started listening to the radio around 1973. Is there some cheesiness? Absolutely, but we can’t always control when songs and events become permanently intertwined, right? The list goes until 1992, when CDs and digital music usurped a lot of my FM radio listening:
1973—“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”—Elton John
1974—“Seasons in the Sun”—Terry Jacks
1976—“Afternoon Delight”—Starland Vocal Band
1977—“Telephone Line”—Electric Light Orchestra
1978—“Just What I Needed”—The Cars
1979—“My Sharona”—The Knack
1982—“Stone in Love”—Journey
1983—“Safety Dance”—Men Without Hats
1984—“Sister Christian”—Night Ranger
1985—“Don’t You (Forget About Me)”—Simple Minds
1986—“Your Wildest Dreams”—Moody Blues
1988—“Sweet Child o’ Mine”—Guns-n-Roses
1989—“Angel Eyes”—Jeff Healy
1990—“Janie’s Got a Gun”—Aerosmith
1991—“More Than Words”—Extreme
1992—“Hunger Strike”—Temple of the Dog