Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer

Summer Music: Part 1

NOTE: I started this post awhile ago, but I've taken so long that summer has almost passed me by! I heard kids were already going back to school this week, crazy!
Well, I've been caught up in all the fun things that a Californian summer has to offer. I suppose, before summer is truly over, we should do a little two-part series on Summer Music. In this next batch of songs, each of the lyrics mention those footloose and fancy-free activities of summer.

As a kid, I remember my mom having this Best of Nat King Cole LP, and my sister and I particularly loved the song "Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer." Reaching #6 on the pop charts in 1963, this was one of his last big hits, two years before his death in '65 (while smoking three packs of cigarettes a day may have continued to his golden baritone, it unfortunately shortened his life as well). Being one of the first black Americans to host a TV variety show, Cole's distinct, mellow voice continues to maintain worldwide popularity. Here's some excellent color footage from a BBC TV special in that summer of '63.
Becoming an international star in the late 1950s thanks to Dick Clark, American rock and roll singer Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon found his biggest success with the 1962 hit "Palisades Park." Released as a B-side, this song broke in when a Michigan radio DJ played it by mistake, and by March of '62, it peaked at #3 on the charts. Written by Chuck Barris, this up-tempo tune was a tribute to New Jersey's Palisades Amusement Park, which later closed in 1971. Complete with the distinctive organ part and amusement park sound effects, this is likely a performance from America Bandstand, a show where he made a record 110 appearances!
A popular recording artist and teen idol of the early 1960s, New York-based Brian Hyland is known for his "puppy-love pop" and pre-Bubblegum sound. In August of 1960, he scored his first and biggest single at the age of 16 with "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini," written by Brill Building duo Vance and Pockriss. This novelty song about a shy girl wearing a revealing bikini at the beach was a #1 hit in the US and was popular in other countries, reaching #8 in the UK. At a time when these bathing suits were too risque' to be mainstream, bikini sales took off after the release of this song, and it is considered to be one of the earliest contributors to the acceptance of the suit in society. More from Brian Hyland in our next post.
Although the life of this next artist was tragically cut short at 21 in 1960, his guitar playing had quite a lasting influence on rock music, so I figured I'd include his summer-related tune. Being one of the first rock and roll artists to write his own songs and overdub his tracks, Eddie Cochran was known for capturing teenage frustration and desire in the late '50s and early '60s with rockabilly songs like "Summertime Blues." Originally a B-side single, this classic tune peaked at #8 on the US charts in September of 1958 and #18 in the UK. It has been covered by many artists including The Beach Boys, The Who (a staple at their concerts in the early years), and Brian Setzer, who portrayed Cochran in the 1987 film La Bamba (great soundtrack, by the way). Here's a great live performance by one of the first true rock and rollers!

And since that last tune was technically not from the '60s decade, here's another cover version that was. The San Franciscan psychedelic blues-rock band Blue Cheer recorded their version of "Summertime Blues" in 1967, which peaked at #14 on the Billboard charts. Although it is not as widely recognized as The Who's version, it was more distorted with a more intense guitar sound and is ranked among the 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time. It is the actually the first heavy metal song to make the pop charts, well before "Born to Be Wild" and "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida." Here's a great intro by the late Dick Clark who didn't shy away from any type of music. 
To complete this rather varied post, I absolutely must include the band that epitomizes the sounds of summer, our good ol' Beach Boys. Released in March 1963, "Surfin' USA" was their first big hit, peaking at #3 on the Billboard, while taking its parent album to gold record status. At this time, Brian Wilson began using double tracking to achieve fuller-sounding vocals, thus creating The Beach Boys' own unique sound. Set to melody of Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen" (which he does receive co-writing credit for),
"Surfin' USA" mentions nearly every hot surfing spot at the time, mostly in California including the local beach I grew up going to, San Onofre. From the 1964 concert film known as the T.A.M.I. Show, here's a classic live performance where the girls just can't get enough of these guys. Surf's up!

No comments:

Post a Comment