Five Summer Bummer Songs for July
Ah, summer. Though it officially started on June 21, it might as well have started in April, given our location. We're clearly in the throes of mosquitoes, an increase in daytime drinking, and temperamental rain. According to the fable of summer, this is the season to expose skin, drop ice cubes down your shirt, lie on the beach guiltless, and have a temporary and wonderful fling.
But summer has a wistful quality to it -- there are those memories of more
carefree seasons, and the resulting nostalgia is inevitably sad. More
than any other season, this one comes in a hot, sticky flash, then
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disappears almost immediately. It's too stereotypical a metaphor to even
mention, but with the fading of the sun comes a return to school, a
need for warmth, maybe even the end of romance. The end of summer can be
likened to the end of childhood.
That nostalgia's been penned in song for years, and though you might be drinking or tanning or soaking a watermelon with vodka, take a pause, get a little reflective, and listen to what these guys have had to say about bummers in the summer, starting with the least recent.
Donovan - Summer Day Reflection Song (1965)
"Jeweled castles I have built/With freak feelings of guilt/And the words stab to the hilt/Pick the flower and it will wilt/Cat's a-shifting in the sun."
Donovan muses about his own melancholy in the summertime while the image of the cat acts as a visual metronome at the end of each verse, keeping time for Donovan's thoughts. Then there's the eventual acceptance of whatever he's feeling: "Red kerchiefs sail and fall/Cat's a-smiling into me."
Love - Bummer in the Summer (1967)
Arthur Lee spends the duration of this track singing about the girl who broke his heart, presumably during the summer or right at its end: "In the middle of the summer I had a job bin' a plumber/Just to pass till the fall, it was you I wanna ball all day/We were walkin' along, honey, hand in hand/I'm a-thinkin' of you, mama, when you're thinkin' of another man." Ouch.
Mark Eric Malmborg - Where Do the Girls of Summer Go? (1968/1969)
Summer love is fleeting, and Mark Eric, who looked like a babe and sang like a Beach Boy, knew what that longing felt like. Perhaps the saddest line from this excerpt is the last one: "Where do the girls of the summer go/When the wind turns cold/Where do the girls of the summer go/I would like to know/Every June they come and fill the days with fun and nights with pleasure/But as the summer fades/No one stays here in September."
Jonathan Richman - That Summer Feeling (1992)
No song encompasses yearning for the past better than this one. Jojo, as he's wont to do, meditates on the blithe, buoyant days of the season, only to remind listeners that someday, that sweetness will be but a memory: "When there's things to do not because you gotta/When you run for love not because you oughta/When you trust your friends with no reason notta...If you've forgotten what I'm naming/You're gonna long to reclaim it one day/Because that summer feeling is gonna haunt you one day in your life."
Yo La Tengo - Beach Party Tonight (2003)
If you Google the lyrics to this song, you'll get two different interpretations: a song that goes either "I want to go back to the time when I was seven" or "I want to go back to the time that I was sailing." Either way, "Beach Party Tonight" -- which is on the aptly titled Summer Sun -- sounds nothing like a beach party. Instead, it's reminiscent of a happier time -- homesick and slow and dreamy. It's good for daydreaming on the beach but preferably in autumn.
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