Why sixty-seven? Who knows? Maybe it’s just whimsy on our part. Or maybe it’s our warm memories of the Summer of Love – which was, of course, 1967. Or, just maybe, sixty-seven represents the number of summers that have come and gone since that day so many years ago when the soldiers, sailors, and flyboys who helped win World War II started returning home and creating the generation of Americans we continue to write for and about on this site.
This is by no means meant to be anyone’s idea of a definitive list (and it’s also in no particular order other than how we like to listen to them). But it is a list of songs anyone should feel justified in downloading onto their iPod, smartphone or laptop. So with that, we offer you this cool number of very cool songs to help you get through the hottest season of all – which, as you might suspect, also happens to be our favorite time of year.
1. Theme from The Endless Summer (Sandals)
From a cult documentary about surfing whose iconic poster adorned just about as many teenage bedroom walls in the Sixties as Farrah Fawcett’s would some ten years later.
2. All Summer Long (Beach Boys)
In a ground-breaking movie almost eclipsed by its landmark soundtrack, this is the song George Lucas picked to play following the chilling final few seconds of silence at the end of American Graffiti, during which we are told, yearbook-style, exactly what the fates had in store for the four central characters.
3. Hot Fun in the Summertime (Sly and the Family Stone)
Just maybe, the single finest summer song ever recorded.
4. All Day Music (War)
Summer may be War’s most famous song of the season, but make no mistake; this is the most sun-kissed, note-perfect one the group ever laid down.
5. Rockaway Beach (Ramones)
We can’t help but chuckle at the mental image of a pasty-white, leather-clad Joey, Dee Dee and the rest of the boys catching rays and bird-dogging babes on the working man’s Riviera, just a stone’s throw from Brooklyn.
6. Summertime (Sublime)
Gershwin sampled with respect, admiration, and just the right amount of contemporary cool.
* Not available on Spotify
7. California Sun (Rivieras)
Two words: surf punk.
8. Groovin’ (Rascals)
A summer song so transcendent it can still make even a tone-deaf man in the dead of winter want to don a pair of shorts and flip-flops.
9. Follow the Sun (Del Shannon)
One of the most underrated and beautifully crafted rock songs in the canon of a legend who served as Godfather to just about every angry young man from Michigan who ever picked up a guitar in earnest.
10. All Summer Long (Kid Rock)
A wonderful mash-up of Warren Zevon and Lynyrd Skynyrd from one of Mr. Shannon’s most diligent disciples.
11. See You in September (Happenings)
Inspired arrangement of a throwaway Tin Pan Alley tune first released by the Tempos in the summer of ’59.
12. School’s Out (Alice Cooper)
“Well, we got no class…and we got no principals.”
13. That Sunday, That Summer (Nat “King” Cole)
Many would take Cole’s cheesy, nostalgic and hopelessly bouncy, Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer, but we’ll take this achingly beautiful, if somewhat dated little gem off his same 1963 album.
14. Cruel Summer (Bananarama)
A catchy summer breakup tune that like so many pieces of 80’s pop culture seemed to be asking, if only indirectly, the question of the decade: what’s in it for me?
15. Summertime (Billy Stewart)
Gershwin deconstructed and re-imagined by one of the most talented, daring and criminally overlooked soul artists of his or any other day.
16. Theme from Summer of ‘42 (Peter Nero)
A simple but evocative little melody that seemed written as though intended to be played on some scratchy old 78 RCA Victrola.
17. Summer Breeze (Seals and Crofts)
We love the harmonies, hook and even the toy piano; we just could have done without all the cosmic pop existentialism and quasi-eastern mumbo jumbo, especially that line about “blowing through the jasmine in my mind.”
18. California Nights (Lesley Gore)
Along with Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows, one of two hits that a young, budding songwriter named Marvin Hamlisch would compose for Gore.
19. Sealed with a Kiss (Brian Hyland)
When first recorded by the Four Voices in 1960 , the song failed to chart; but this one subsequently shot into the Top 20 three different times, once by Garry Lewis and the Playboys, once by Bobby Vinton, and, of course, this definitive version by a young crooner from Queens.
20. I Live for the Sun (Sunrays)
After Murray Wilson was fired by his sons, this is the knock-off group he founded and sought to mold into the heir-apparent to the Beach Boys’ throne.
21. Under the Boardwalk (Drifters)
If the five boroughs of New York were to ever adopt a collective theme song of summer, official or otherwise, this one would no doubt be it.
22. Summertime Thing (Chuck Prophet)
A song whose attitude and laid-back vibe would make even the hottest summer day seem somehow cool.
23. Summer in the City (Lovin’ Spoonful)
Likely runner-up in the five boroughs of New York summer theme song competition.
24. The Boys of Summer (Don Henley)
While there was no doubt that Henley could bludgeon one with heavy handed metaphors, in this particular case the song was so damn good it didn’t really matter.
25. In the Sun (Blondie)
Two newer, completely different songs were subsequently released using the exact same title, but we’ll take this incarnation by the then-queen of CBGB and all things new wave.
26. Surfin’ USA (Beach Boys)
A school’s-out-for-summer clarion call like few songs have ever sounded.
27. In the Summertime (Mungo Jerry)
A song that took ten minutes to write and eventually became, by some estimations, the single largest-selling summer song ever released.
28. Kites are Fun (Free Design)
A brother-and-sister trio from Buffalo who caught lightning in a bottle and produced a minor pop classic, the downloading of which should become mandatory for every man and woman of a certain age and social background.
29. Pipeline (Chantays)
Arguably, the definitive surf guitar instrumental – which is ironic, because the song originally had a different title, and was renamed only after a band member saw a documentary on surfing the Hawaiian pipelines.
30. Sunshine Girl (Parade)
A sun-bleached minor hit from one of Phil Spector’s team of talented but largely anonymous house producers.
31. Let’s Go Away for a While (Beach Boys)
One of the most underrated nuggets off the legendary Pet Sounds; and a song that, like so much of the album, is meant to be listened to all alone and in the dark.
32. Surf City (Jan and Dean)
Much like Surfin’ USA, a song that when released in the summer of ‘63 made millions of young men across America dream about a magical sun-filled mecca where it was possible to surf all day, cruise all night, and where there were – and we swear this on our mother’s graves – “two girls for every boy.”
33. Too Darn Hot (Mel Torme)
We have little doubt that if the remarkable Cole Porter were alive today this one would have been titled Too Damn Hot.
34. Stranger on the Shore (Mr. Acker Bilk)
A haunting melody that captures as few others ever have the inverse of summer love; summer solitude.
35. San Francisco Girls (Return of the Native)
A long forgotten, somewhat trippy tribute to Haight-Ashbury and the Summer of Love by a bunch of guys hailing from, of all places, East Texas.
36. Lazy Day (Spanky and Our Gang)
A band whose insidiously catchy pop melodies no self-respecting rock n’ roller would admit to liking – but somehow always secretly did.
37. Summer Nights (John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John)
Much like Lucas discovered with American Grafitti or Herman Raucher did with Summer of ‘42, nostalgia is at its most potent when married to one’s memories of summer, especially those summer nights.
38. Vacation (Connie Francis)
Exhibit A as to why as an ever-expanding segment of the marketplace, by 1964 America’s record-buying and transistor-toting teenagers had grown ripe, if not downright desperate, for Beatlemania.
39. California (Beach Boys)
The boys have recorded more famous, and even iconic, summer songs than this under-appreciated Al Jardine composition off their Holland album; we’re just not sure they’ve ever recorded a better one.
40. Summer (War)
A naively innocent and incredibly laid-back summer gem; one that flits about with a delicious, slightly spicy barrio vibe.
41. Walking in the Sand (Shangri Las)
No list of great summer songs would be complete without this amazing little Shadow Morton opus, complete with its echoed vocals and slightly foreboding seagull effects.
42. Theme from A Summer Place (Percy Faith)
We still contend that of all the brilliant aspects of Godfather II, the casting of Troy Donohue as Connie’s lazy, spineless, gold-digging boyfriend was among the most inspired.
43. A Summer Song (Chad and Jeremy)
To think that some parents used to hear songs like this and dismiss them as long-haired noise.
44. Dancin’ in the Street (Martha and the Vandellas)
Forget (I Heard it) Though the Grapevine, Stop in the Name of Love, or even My Girl; this bugle call to the army of kids all across America may just have been the defining moment in Motown history.
45. Wonderful Summer (Robin Ward)
We can’t put our finger on it, but the girl-next-door quality of Ward’s voice somehow embodies the combination of innocence and limited shelf life that remains essential to any great summer romance.
46. Summer Wind (Frank Sinatra)
A Johnny Mercer classic that with each passing year manages to gain both stature and standing among even the most hardcore Sinatra aficionados.
47. So Much in Love (The Tymes)
A cappella doo wop soul music, summer style – with some mood-establishing sound effects thrown in for good measure.
48. Summertime Blues (Eddie Cochran)
The Who’s live version from Leeds may have rocked harder, but it still has to take a back seat to Cochran’s blistering original, a rockabilly paean to raging hormones, parental autocracy and, above all, smoldering teenage frustration.
49. Grazing in the Grass (Friends of Distinction)
One would have to look long and hard to find a more potent example of how lyrics and an arrangement can be layered upon a well-known and established instrumental to create an entirely new and different listening experience.
50. Vacation (Go-Go’s)
If any group adopted the Beach Boys mantle by taking SoCal’s youth culture and making it accessible, relatable and desirable to kids across the country, it just might have been these five girls whose light, bouncy and infectious sound became, at least for many of the MTV Generation, the sound of summer.
51. Sunny Afternoon (Kinks)
We suppose it’s always nice to have Ray Davies around just to remind us that subversive humor and bitter irony don’t necessarily have to take summers off.
52. Summertime (DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince)
The biggest hit ever for rapper Will Smith and his DJ buddy from Philly who some two decades ago were almost single-handedly responsible for lifting hip-hop out of the ghetto, cleaning it up, and earning it the soccer mom seal of approval all across America.
53. Summer Sun (Jamestown Massacre)
The Seventies: never was so much ear candy given so much air time to such little consequence.
* Not available on Spotify
54. Summer Samba (Walter Wanderly)
One of the most ubiquitous yet anonymous melodies of all time; elevator music on summer vacation.
55. Warmth of the Sun (Beach Boys)
A summer anthem written by a troubled genius on the night of November 22, 1963, when on the road and all alone in his hotel room, Brian Wilson sought to make sense of the sudden and shocking manner by which his president was taken from him.
56. Cool Runnings (Bunny Wailer)
What would any list of summer songs be without at least one infectious example of ganja-toking, sun-splashed Reggae?
* Not available on Spotify
57. An Occasional Man (Jeri Southern)
Two decades before women declared themselves liberated, this forgotten little gem took traditional sexual roles, placed them on a secluded tropical island, and flat-out shredded them to pieces.
58. Walkin’ on Sunshine (Katrina and the Waves)
As light as cotton candy, as fun as an amusement park, and as addictive as crack.
59. Summer Rain (Johnny Rivers)
Wonderful little song that oozed sincerity, but honesty compels us to report that Sgt. Peppers was never issued as a single and, therefore, never on a jukebox.
60. Suddenly Last Summer (Motels)
The group’s Only the Lonely dusted off and re-packaged as a summer re-run.
61. Wipeout (Safaris)
What Smoke on the Water is to fledgling guitarists, this one is to all would-be drummers.
62. Summertime (Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong)
We’re not sure there’s a definitive version of Gershwin’s timeless mood piece from Porgy and Bess, but this satin and sandpaper rendering comes pretty damn close.
63. This Summer (Squeeze)
A terrific little pop tune by a band that made a career of turning out terrific little pop tunes.
* Not available on Spotify.
64. Lonely Surfer (Jack Nitzsche)
A pipeline marriage of teenage melancholy and classic surf guitar.
65. Heat Wave (Martha and the Vandellas)
One of the most on-point and under-appreciated lines in all of pop music: Could this be the devil in me, or is this the way love’s supposed to be?
66. Walk Don’t Run (Ventures)
Bob Bogle, one of this group’s co-founders, is, arguably, one of the most influential yet anonymous guitarists in the history of rock and roll.
67. Son of a Son of a Sailor (Jimmy Buffett)
We suppose Buffett’s always had at least one eye on the cash till, but at this point in his career at least he had the decency to not be so patently obvious about it.