In the Summertime

4 Sep

Every year there seems to be a new Song of the Summer, a pop tune played  incessantly between May and August that reportedly captures the sparkle and sun of the season. This year’s is probably Carly Rae Jepson’s “Call Me Maybe.” Everyone from Justin Bieber to the Harvard University Baseball Team (and President Obama) have co-opted it at some point. That song is everywhere … except anywhere near me. I’ve dodged the bullet and haven’t heard the song once.

Instead, I’ve been steeped in the true songs of summer: the classic rock radio standards that just won’t die.

These are the songs I tune into when I’m cleaning house and need a beat. They are what our family listens to when we’re on a long car trip up north and our “alternative radio” options are country pop or Christian sermons. They are the background to yard work and block parties and barbecues. They are indestructible and inescapable and uncontroversial, like:

  • “Brandy” by Looking Glass
  • “Still the One” by Orleans
  • “The Pina Colada Song” by Rupert Holmes
  • Anything by a band with a three-word name (Grand Funk Railroad, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Three Dog Night)
  • Anything by a band named after a land mass (Boston, Chicago, Kansas, Asia)

Rupert Holmes: the master of subtlety

These songs survive, despite changes in taste and generation (and the fact that many of them weren’t particularly good to begin with).  I have memorized every damn lyric of these songs even though I’d rather be cool and sing along with The Kills instead.

It’s sad that the careers of some of the better artists have been boiled down to the one song that was able to break the Top 40. Thanks to Tom Petty’s “Buried Treasure” show for XM, which I access online as part of my Highway Companions fan club membership (yeah, I’m thatkind of slobbering TP fan), I know that The Romantics are much, much more than their deathless single, “What I Like About You.”  Yet if they ever play an outdoor venue or corporate gig, the audience will be in the beer tent until that song comes on – and anything they play after that tune will be ignored in the rush to get to the parking lot.

It’s a shame. Their song, “Out of My Mind (Into My Head)”  is a remarkable surprise. But you’ll probably never hear it on the radio unless you pay Tom Petty to bring it to you via satellite.

This all gets me wondering: if I were in a band that had marketable talent, would it be better to have had a song that will play forever in shopping malls and commercial radio as background music or to have less catchy, more critically durable material that requires a listener’s full attention and earns their respect?

It’s noble to say I’d want to be the latter, snob that I am. But I have to admit, it would be great to know that everyone, everywhere, just can’t get my song out of their heads.

Take it away, boys.

See you on the flip side …

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9 Responses to “In the Summertime”

  1. Roy Sexton (Reel Roy Reviews) September 4, 2012 at 10:21 pm #

    Love this assessment! Brandy, you’re a fine girl!

    • lpon45 September 5, 2012 at 10:02 pm #

      By the way, Roy, why am I not getting pinged whenever you have a new post? Just had to spend some time getting caught up and I want to stay on top of things!

  2. Jason Wendleton September 5, 2012 at 8:36 am #

    Oh man, I’ve been meaning to write a post about The Romantics! They were so great…but you’re right, people only know them as the “What I Like About You” band. That’s a shame.

    If I had a band, I guess I’d rather have the one song that gets played everywhere. You can still make great music (a lá The Romantics) but at least you’re getting heard/paid.

    My personal take on the song of summer of 2012: http://defendingaxlrose.com/2012/08/02/presenting-the-summer-jam-of-2012-slow-days-fast-company/

    • lpon45 September 5, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

      Thanks for the referral on Blonde Summer. (Side bar: how do you like Spotify? Even though I enjoy telling everyone what I’m listening to in general, there’s something offputting to have Spotify tell everyone I know on Facebook so I haven’t installed it.)

      • Jason Wendleton September 5, 2012 at 8:41 pm #

        I LOVE Spotify. It has probably save my marriage. See, I was buying 6-7 CD’s a week…now I pay $9.99 a month and stream everything.

        Do I like having it linked to my Facebook account? Yes and no. I find myself not listening to some stuff cos I don’t want it showing up on my FB account (yes, I know you can do “dark” but I’m too lazy to switch it, plus it doesn’t stay off forever). I love being able to “try” out new music/bands. That said, it bums me out that I have bought about 4 CD’s in the past year.

      • lpon45 September 5, 2012 at 8:45 pm #

        Good to hear your perspectives. I may give it another go. I tend to go to Pandora to hear new music and YouTube to find a song I’m trying to track down, after which I might buy it on iTunes. I still get a lot of CDs for birthdays and Christmas, though we’re running out of shelf space. Ah, the problems of a modern music fan …

  3. Pam Houghton September 6, 2012 at 10:02 am #

    I still love this song by The Romantics. My senior year of college, they played a free concert along the banks of the Red Cedar River. And…uuummm…that’s my one and only Romantics story. Interesting perspective on summer songs, overlooked songs and those songs we can’t get out of our head no matter how mediocre.

    • lpon45 September 6, 2012 at 10:14 pm #

      I saw a t-shirt at Dearborn Music which made a map of Michigan out of the names of dozens of Michigan-based bands. I think The Romantics were placed around Port Huron … anywhere near the Red Cedar River? 🙂

      • Pam Houghton September 7, 2012 at 9:00 am #

        Nah. It’s in E. Lansing, on MSU’s campus.

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