"Summer Nights" (John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, 1976)
Nostalgia is most potent when it taps into memories of summer, especially those summer nights.
"Summer in the City" (The Lovin' Spoonful, 1966)
Complete with honking cars and pounding jackhammers, this No. 1 single makes you feel what they city's like when the sidewalk is hotter than a match head. But then the sun goes down and it's a different world....
"In the Summertime" (Mungo Jerry, 1970)
Frontman Ray Dorset claims he wrote this song in 10 minutes. However long it took, the result was the best-selling summer song of all time. Although the single peaked at No. 3, over the years it has sold more than 30 million copies.
"Surfin' USA" (The Beach Boys, 1963)
A school's-out-for-summer clarion call set to the tune of Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen." When the original single was released. Brian Wilson got the sole songwriting credit, which caused a rift. But the Beach Boys later ran into Chuck while they were on tour in Europe, and he told them he loved the song.
"Groovin'" (The Rascals, 1967)
Released in the spring, back when they were the Young Rascals, this laid-back tune set the tone for the Summer of Love.
"Summer Breeze" (Seals and Crofts, 1972)
We could have done without that line about "blowing through the jasmine in my mind," but the harmony matches the season perfectly.
"Dancing in the Street" (Martha and the Vandellas, 1964)
Because summer's here and the time is right. Just listen.
"Walkin' on Sunshine" (Katrina and the Waves, 1983)
As light as cotton candy and as much fun as an amusement park, this song makes you feel good.
"Summertime" (Janis Joplin, 1969)
Pearl's sultry interpretation of the George Gershwin classic captures the season when the living's easy.
"Summertime" (DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, 1991)
The biggest hit ever for rapper Will Smith and his DJ buddy from Philly won a Grammy for the hip-hop duo. Pure summer magic.
"School's Out" (Alice Cooper, 1972)
"Well, we got no class … and we got no principals." What could be better?
"Surf City" (Jan and Dean, 1963)
Written in collaboration with Brian Wilson, who instantly conjured up a teenage guy's summer fantasy with opening line of the song: "Two girls for every boy."
"Saturday in the Park" (Chicago, 1973)
Founding member Robert Lamm wrote this song after spending an afternoon not in Chicago but in New York's Central Park, where summer means singers, steel drum players ... all kinds of street performers. We think it was the Fourth of July.
"Vacation" (The Go-Go's, 1982)
The light, bouncy sound has all the spirit of the Go-Go's on waterskis, which is exactly what you see at the end of this video.
"A Summer Song" (Chad & Jeremy, 1964)
It's all about that feeling you get when the end of the season means the waning days of a summer romance. Ringo Starr first heard this wistful song as a panelist on a BBC music show and judged it "a miss" that might appeal to Americans. It did: "A Summer Song" became Chad & Jeremy's biggest hit.
"The Boys of Summer" (Don Henley, 1984)
Another fading summer romance, but this one serves as a metaphor for a generation passing from youth into middle age (summed up by that line about "a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac").
"Rockaway Beach" (The Ramones, 1977)
A guitar-driven wall of energy from the seminal punk band. Still, we can't help but chuckle when we try to picture pasty-white, leather-clad Joey, Dee Dee and the rest catching rays and bird-dogging babes on the working man's Riviera.
"In the Sun" (Blondie, 1976)
"Surf's up!" hollers Deborah Harry at the start of this B-side to "X Offender," Blondie's debut single. It's a simple song about fun in the sun with a retro surf-music sound that's nonetheless distinctly new wave.
"Under the Boardwalk" (The Drifters, 1964)
Listen to this seaside classic, and you can almost taste the hot dogs and French fries they sell.
"Misirlou" (Dick Dale, 1962)
From the King of the Surf Guitar, it's the music that plays over the opening credits in 1994's "Pulp Fiction." Great movie, great summer sound.
"Summertime Blues" (The Who, 1970)
Eddie Cochran's rockabilly original was a paean to raging hormones, parental autocracy and smoldering teenage frustration. But the "Live at Leeds" version by The Who rocks even harder.
"Cruel Summer" (Bananarama, 1984)
Singer and co-writer Sara Dallin said this song was meant to reflect the season's "darker side." Bu it's the catchy tune that gives it an indelible place in '80s pop culture.
"Summer Wind" (Frank Sinatra, 1965)
A much-covered Johnny Mercer tune that—like "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)"—Sinatra made his own.
"See You in September" (The Four Seasons, 1967)
The 1966 single by the Happenings was more popular, reaching No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, but we like the upbeat version by those Jersey boys,
"Sealed with a Kiss" (Brian Hyland, 1962)
There are multiple versions of this song too, by artists ranging from Bobby Vinton to Garry Lewis and the Playboys. Here is the Top 10 hit that really drove home that pledge to meet in September.
"Sunny Afternoon" (The Kinks, 1966)
Ray Davies' satirical portrait of the tax man's victim—who just wants to "live this life of luxury, lazing on a sunny afternoon ... in the summertime"—has lost none of its bite. Interestingly, the Kinks frontman says that, at the time he wrote this song, he was listening exclusively to two things: Frank Sinatra's greatest hits and Bob Dylan's "Maggie's Farm."
"Grazing in the Grass" (Friends of Distinction, 1968)
Sprightly lyrics layered over a well-known instrumental to create an entirely new song. Sure is mellow—and yes, we can dig it.
"Suddenly Last Summer" (The Motels, 1983)
Singer Martha Davis said she wrote this new wave hit about the pang you feel the moment "you know summer is ending when you hear the ice cream truck go by for the last time and you know he won't be back for a while."
"Heat Wave" (Martha and the Vandellas, 1963)
This was a Top 10 hit for both Martha and the Vandellas and Linda Ronstadt. But as much as we love Linda, you can't beat the original, especially when Martha Reeves sings the line that gets us every time: "Could this be the devil in me, or is this the way love's supposed to be?"
"Hot Fun in the Summertime" (Sly and the Family Stone, 1969)
This is, quite simply, the quintessential summer song.
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