After last year’s annual edition of this summatime summatime summatime ritual, it was brought to my attention by astute readers that the previous eight years’ worth of selections had yet to include a single song by either Jimmy Buffett or the Beach Boys, who, if they didn’t first propagate the idea of summer and its languid pleasures, at least had a major hand in refining them for the modern age.
Shocked, I vowed to set things aright in 2021, both to give honor where honor is due, and pleasure where pleasure is desired.
So on this first day of summer, the summer after the summer that kind of wasn’t because nothing quite was during Pandemipalooza 2020, we are going to hear from both Mr. Buffett and Messrs. Wilson, Love, et al, along with the first repeat appearance in this series. That honor goes to Martha Reeves and her Vandellas, who will unfortunately not be “Dancin’ in the Streets” as they did in the Third Annual version of this series because of a serious “Heat Wave.”
Doesn’t seem to have slowed them down much, though. Evidence below.
Does Jimmy Buffett own a pair of shoes or long pants? Has anyone ever seen him in concert in, say, December?
Didn’t think so.
Island Jimmy of the Good Times seems to have been put on this earth to strum and grin and wave away all the dark impinging forces that would crumble our better nature. In Jimmy, we at least momentarily place our trust that the world can be a source of endless joy if we but push away from our walls of worry and join him in singing and boogying and grabbing an occasional liquid refreshment to help power us through the days we are given (summer days in particular).
It’s a privileged perspective, unmoored from, among other things, the vicissitudes of dumb blind luck that come with our genetic and cultural endowment, but there will always be an audience for it because there is a powerful case to be made that all humans are deserving of nothing less.
And on this solstice day after being shut in for a year and shut out of many of the joys mentioned above and much more, that case is perhaps more powerful than it has been for a very long time.
There are technically superior, visually more felicitous versions available of this iconic song by this surpassingly iconic group in pop music history, but there is a delicious weirdness to this version that I find utterly compelling. Part of it is the Boys’ youth—they all look about 16 here (except for front man Mike Love, who seems to have been born looking about 40).
The striped shirts and white bell bottoms, the bizarre dubbing, the outfits of the hangers-on, Love’s almost creepy countenance and hopelessly unhip dancing—all wrapped up in that deservedly famous Beach Boys sound—what’s not to marvel over and love?
(Please note a coding issue not revealed before publication here will take you from this site to You Tube to view the song; just hit the “Watch on You Tube” link when you click the arrow below, then your back button to return here.)
It’s a long way, in every way, from the beach cities of southern California (and Mike Love’s hips) to the streets of Detroit. The heat waves, for one, don’t quite compare.
But inside the studios of Motown Records, scores of recording artists generated all the best kinds of heat during a golden age that very much included Martha and the Vandellas.
It is impossible to accurately gauge the effect that black musical performers and the wildly popular Motown acts in particular had on the advancement of civil rights through the second half of the 20th century and beyond.
But this much is self-evident: For all of the setbacks that the cause of racial justice has continued to suffer, black music’s percolation into the totality of American culture has been dramatic and sustained. It is, at this point, wrapped indelibly into the very soul of America’s cultural expression, a long-running heat wave whose currents continue to add depth, dimension, and great good fun to every occasion upon which it bestows its grace.
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Elizabeth Haslam, whose photos (except for the books) grace the rotating banner at top of page.
Library books photo by Larry Rose, all rights reserved, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Beach ball by Raphaël Biscaldi, Annecy, France https://unsplash.com/@les_photos_de_raph
First concert I ever attended ( I was a late concert bloomer) was Jimmy Buffett. The enthusiasm, the music, the craziness, the pure joy of a Jimmy Buffett concert can’t be matched! In fact, today, Father’s Day, we are watching a live stream concert from the belly up venue in Solano beach. Wonder what it took to be one-of the small group invited to the event in person! Favorite song if I had to pick, “Pirate looks at 40, “ Or “He Went to Paris!” Buffett old school! And by the way. happy Fathers Day!
Nibblin’ on sponge cake, watchin’ the sun bake, all of those tourists covered with oil, smell those shrimp, they’re beginnin’ to boil, it’s like a heat wave, It’s burning in my heart, I can’t keep from burning, it’s tearing me apart, we’re waxin’ down our surfboards, we can’t wait for June, we’ll all be gone for the summer, we’re on surfari to stay.
Drought or not enjoy these days, they’ll always be our teenage years, we’ll be soakin’ up those Venice rays, now and then with a cheap stale beer.
Oh, by the way, happy father’s day!
“Summer’s here, and the time is right, for dancing in the street” another Martha and the V’s song
Not literally a summer song, but a tune that always brings back summer, is a regional hit by Cannibal and the Headhunters, called Land of a Thousand Dances.
Moon, you may have been underselling those guys and the song as a “regional hit,” methinks! Wasn’t connecting with the song’s title, but I know it well, as does just about anyone whose ears were cocked to their transistors in the mid-60s. Turns out it wasn’t original to them, however. Chris Kenner wrote & recorded it in 1962, taking it to #77 on the Billboard Top 100 charts. These guys—4 Latinos from East LA—made it into a bigger hit (#30) in 1965 by adding the “Na Na Na” hook, and they opened for The Beatles with it at Dodger Stadium that year, who called them the “Na Na Boys.” Then Wilson Pickett picked it up and made it a monster #6 hit (#1 R&B chart) a year later. Doesn’t have much of summer in it, though, since “doing the Watusi” and the “Fish,” etc. were pretty much year-round activities back then…
Karen, never had the pleasure of a JB concert—but I well remember playing the living hell out of that “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” album when it first hit the world. I daresay it succeeded in that change quest!
Robert, just those few lines remind me what great writing goes into all these songs. “Sponge cake/sun bake/tourists covered with oil”—evocative, rhythmic, poetic, and set to a crazily infectious tune. Not nearly as easy as it sounds to our ears!
Moon, Dancin’ in the Streets earned a spot in Annual #3. No better time than summer for scratching that itch, so it more than qualified! Meanwhile, how can I possibly resist anything by “Cannibal and the Headhunters?” I’ll give that a good look & listen!
So we just watched a live stream of jimmy from the belly up in solano beach. Mac macanally and michael utley. At 75 jimmy still does not disappoint. The pure joy in his music and the delight at playing to an audience after 18 months was so amazing. He played lots of his originals and we just sang along right from the couch. A great start to summer 2021.
Wish I’d been there, Karen! (Either Solano Beach, or your couch.) I’ll have to see if I can pick it up through one of the usual “platforms.” (I’ve really come to hate that word, and all the machinations required just to turn on a damn TV these days, but that rant is for another time, not when the blessings of a kinda-post-pandemic summer are upon us….) Happy wanderings to you & yours!
Drew — you had me until Jimmy Buffett.
Beach Boys, yes. Buffett — well, for me, a hard no.
Don’t know why I’ve never liked the guy’s music. I’m sure he’s a good guy, just could never stand his music. These days, I find myself veering nostalgic and in, fact, we honored our family Father’s Day gathering yesterday by playing a round of Beach Boys classics — such memories of junior high!
I’ve also re-discovered Frank SInatra (what a voice!) — so I would opt to sub out “Margaritaville” for “Summer Wind” (I mean, the word “summer” is even in the title ;-))
Susan, I pronounce myself shocked, shocked (!!) that you dislike Jimmy Buffett. Didn’t know it was possible for anyone to dislike Jimmy Buffett, aside from some perpetual sourpusses who are personally affronted at the sight of anyone daring to have (or talk about having) fun in life. (And I know you’re not in that crowd…)
I have used this occasion to get much better acquainted/reacquainted with him and have concluded that he is simply a great songwriter, period. Vivid and catchy poetics, dead-on, humorous evocations of the happy carefree life of which he is surely one of the world’s most persuasive proponents, crazy-good & infectious, hummable melodies—the guy is a one-man sing-along machine!
And a good guy, too, from all accounts. Politics in the right place, gives plenty to charity, has a natural, loving and expressive rapport with his audience, writes best-selling, critically well-reviewed fiction, short stories, memoirs and children’s books—hard to argue with that track record. But taste is taste, and sometimes there’s just no explaining it, I readily acknowledge!
As for Mr. Sinatra and “Summer Wind”—oh yes, one of the all-time great songs, swingin’ as can be, and featured on the very first rendition of this series—before I knew I was going to turn it into an annual affair! http://andrewhidas.com/songs-of-summer/
Also paid homage to the Chairman here, six years ago, on the occasion of his 100th birthday: http://andrewhidas.com/happy-centennial-frank-sinatra/
Happy Music Summer!