Compiled by Taylor Coe
Now that summer is finally here – dog-eared paperbacks and sunglasses dusted off and put to good use – it’s also time to figure out what we should be listening to as we loll about in the sun. While the media seem more concerned with which current pop hit will become the unofficial “Song of the Summer” (Pharrell’s “Happy”? Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy”?), here at OUP, we have instead zeroed in on songs from summers past. Ranging all the way back to 1957 (for Ella and Louis’s take on Gershwin’s classic “Summertime”) and all the way over to Germany (for Dutch television host Rudi Carrell’s fanciful ode to sommer on the North Sea), we have pulled together a diverse and inspired set of tunes to take along to the beach, or the Pizza Hut, or the New York City streets, or wherever you should find yourself this summer!
“Summertime” – Kenny Chesney
I’ve been to his amazing concerts at MetLife Stadium for the past three years and this song has been my anthem ever since. “And it’s two bare feet on the dashboard / Young love and an old Ford / Cheap shades and a tattoo / And a Yoo-Hoo bottle on the floorboard.”
— Leslie Schaffer, Special Accounts Sales Rep
“Summer in the City” – The Lovin’ Spoonful
Now that I live and work in New York City this song speaks to me. While the summer days are brutal and exhausting, the nights are wonderful. During the day we are tortured by sweltering sidewalks, oven-like subway stations, and loud construction noises, but at night the city cools off and comes alive again. There’s nothing I love more than drinks on a rooftop in the summer. In fact, I think that’s what I’ll do tonight.
— Christie Loew, Assistant Manager Accounts and Merchandising
“Summer of Panic” – Hanoi Janes
“Summer Bonfire” – Great Lakes Myth Society
“Summer Wine” – Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood
“Vacation” – the Go-Gos
The song that’s been my summer anthem since it came out in 2010 is Hanoi Janes’s “Summer of Panic.” The song’s frenetic pace, distorted and muted vocals, and a mix of old school chords with what Pitchfork reviewer Jayson Greene called “swarms of wiggling B-movie lasers” make for a psychotic surf music vibe that can’t be beat. It perfectly captures my love-hate relationship with summer, where I feel such pressure to have fun while it lasts, that it becomes panic-inducing. Its companion piece, Great Lakes Myth Society’s “Summer Bonfire,” might sound less fraught with anxiety, but only because some of the verses trail off, leaving you to supply the missing rhyme that, for instance, turns “electric” into “electric chair.” But for those times when I am able to relax, Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood’s “Summer Wine” is a must listen. Hazlewood plays the role of a cowboy whom Sinatra seduces, drugs, and eventually robs. Nevertheless, the languid tempo, their sultry vocal blend and the brass chorus somehow makes this odd song sound like a hot summer night. I am now considering that as my three favorite summer songs involve nervous breakdowns, capital punishment, and committing felonies, I might need a long summer vacation. There’s always the Go-Gos.
— Anna-Lise Santella, Editor, Grove Music/Oxford Music Online and Music Reference
“Jalapeno Lena” – Rockin’ Sidney
The Summer of ’88 was the first year I didn’t return home from college but stayed in Plattsburgh to live and work the summer away at two part-time jobs. In the morning I prepped at Pizza Hut, “makin’ it great.” That summer must have been around the time Dirty Dancing came out because the jukebox played “Time of My Life” by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes ad nauseum. To break up the nauseum, my fellow prepper, Snooze Warner, and I would play any random, little-known songs we could find in that jukebox. Then one day we stumbled upon “Jalapeno Lena” by Rockin’ Sidney and we thought it was brilliant. Whenever someone played “Time of My Life,” we ran out and played “Jalapeno Lena.” It has a killer zydeco beat that helped us beat the heat of the summer of ’88, a hot summer in Plattsburgh, NY only made hotter by “Jalapeno Lena” and the ovens of Pizza Hut.
— Purdy, Director of Publicity
“See No Evil” – Television
Summer vacations back from college were all about driving up and down the coast of Maine in my dad’s old beat-up convertible, blasting Marquee Moon and Fun House and Unknown Pleasures and Blank Generation on burned CDs. The disc cartridge was in the trunk, so if you wanted to put in something different, you had to pull over and get out. Whenever I hear those records, that’s where I go.
— Owen Keiter, Associate Publicist
“Everybody Loves the Sunshine” – Roy Ayers
“I Get Lifted” – George McCrae
Breezy and light, “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” gets to the core of a lazy day in the sweltering sun. As for “I Get Lifted,” if I had a drop top in the city, this is what I would blast driving in July.
— Stuart Roberts, Editorial Assistant
“Feel Good Inc.” – Gorillaz
One of the hit singles from the cartoon band Gorillaz, this was song of the summer in 2005! According to Wikipedia it is the only song by any one of Damon Albarn’s several bands (including Blur and The Good, the Bad, and the Queen) to hit the Billboard Top 40.
— Jeremy Wang-Iverson, Publicity Manager
“Wann wird’s mal wieder richtig Sommer” – Rudi Carrell
This German Schlager favorite is sung to the tune of “City of New Orleans” and became summer song of the year in 1975. And this video version from Carrell’s TV show isn’t to missed. The lyrics describe a singer nostalgic for heat waves that he used to experience on the North Sea. (!)
— Norm Hirschy, Editor, Music Books
“Coconut Grove” – The Lovin’ Spoonful
“Summertime” – Jason Rebello
“Long Long Summer” – Dizzy Gillespie
There are a few Lovin’ Spoonful songs I could have chosen – “Summer in the City” being an obvious one – but it is “Coconut Grove” that reminds me most of sitting on a beach at sunset. As for George Gershwin’s “Summertime”, there are so many versions that many of them are classics themselves. But when I first heard Jason Rebello’s arrangement from his 1994 album Make it Real, it felt so new and exciting. And then Dizzy Gillespie’s sound is sunshine itself! I could have picked any number of his songs for this playlist, but this is the track that I play when the sun comes out.
— Miriam Higgins, Music Hire Librarian
“Sweet Amarillo” – Old Crow Medicine Show
Not to say that I’m at all over the rollicking Dylan-Old Crow collaboration that is “Wagon Wheel,” this next 40-years-in-the-making tune is equally excellent. According to OCMS frontman Ketch Secor, Dylan’s management company sent the band a cassette with the song fragment along with a set of instructions for how Dylan wanted the song to be completed, and – voilà! – Ketch and company make Americana magic once again!
— Taylor Coe, Marketing Associate, Academic/Trade Books
“Here’s to the Night” – Eve 6
When I was in high school, I spent every summer up in the Santa Cruz Mountains, working at a small summer camp called Forest Footsteps. That camp will always hold a special place in my heart and to this day, I still consider my fellow staff members and the campers as my extended family. On the last night of each week, we had a camp-wide “Boogie” with all the kids where we danced to an assortment of classic oldies and fun summer tunes. The final song was always “Here’s to the Night” by Eve 6 and as soon as the first few notes played, everyone would circle up in the middle of the dance floor and put their arms around one another, singing and swaying together as a group. Even the most introverted kids would find their way into the circle, embraced by their cabin mates. It was a really beautiful way to wrap up the week and that song still brings a tear to my eye, in the best possible way.
— Carrie Napolitano, Marketing Assistant, Academic/Trade Books
“Steal My Sunshine” – Len
Nothing says driving around town with the top down like this song.
— Sarah Hansen, Publicity Assistant
“Sunny Afternoon” – The Kinks
“Lazing on a sunny afternoon . . .” Need I say more?
— Louise Bowler, Senior Marketing Executive, Journals
“Postcards from Italy” – Beirut
My favorite summer song is “Postcards from Italy” by Beirut. It has such a romantic, old-timey feel to it. Even its title oozes summer – when I hear “postcards” and “Italy” I think of sunshine, the Mediterranean sea, and, of course, gelato! It also helps that the opening bars are played on a ukulele – the quintessential summer instrument! Bellisima.
— Mary Teresa Madders, Marketing Assistant, Journals
“Endless Summer” – The Jezabels
“Miami” – Will Smith
“April Come She Will” – Simon and Garfunkel
The summer-ness of The Jezabels’ “Endless Summer” comes down to this: You’re sixteen and the summer holidays are never going to end. You can practically feel the sweat run down your back as you laze on the beach with your holiday romance. And of course there’s “Miami,” the quintessential summer tune by the great Will Smith. Bringing rap to the masses, this accessible classic will have even your nan nodding her head. Or maybe she would prefer the short but sweet Simon and Garfunkel tune “April Come She Will,” which, with a hint of that classic Watership Down soundtrack, offers a bittersweet metaphor of birth, life, and death. Perfect for a pensive summer afternoon.
— Simon Turley, Marketing Assistant, Journals
“Summertime” – Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong
This song lulls like a summer afternoon, rocking on the back porch watching the day go slowly, gently by.
— Anna Hernandez-French, Assistant Editor, Journals
Taylor Coe is a Marketing Associate at Oxford University Press.