30-Day Music Prompt: reminds me of summer

I worked as a customer service representative at Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield in from February 1989 to March 1990. I mostly hated it.

steel wheelsContinuing with the 30-Day Music Prompt:

A song that reminds me of summer – There are lots. References are to the Billboard (US) pop charts, unless otherwise indicated.

Walking on Sunshine – Katrina and the Waves, #9 in 1985. After the 2005 hurricane, I always thought the group name was most unfortunate.

I Wanna Be A Lifeguard – Blotto. Albany’s own appeared on MTV on its very first day, back when they actually played music videos.

Then there are all the songs with the word “summer” in them:
In the Summertime – Mungo Jerry, #3 in 1970. This skiffle song was Jaquandor’s pick

Summerfling – k.d. lang, 2000. Lots of strings

Summertime, Summertime – the Jamies, #26 in 1958, and #38 in 1962. An irritating little song I loved while growing up.

Summertime – Billy Stewart, #10 pop, #7 soul in 1966. There are LOTS of versions of this Gershwin classic. On one of those Red, Hot, and Blue albums featuring the composer that I own, there are five or six iterations. I picked this one because I really liked it, but my former office mate Anne despised it.

Hot Fun in the Summertime – Sly & the Family Stone, #2 for three weeks pop, #3 for three weeks soul in 1969 – lawd, at the end I feel like I’ve gone to church. One of the reasons I bought that wonderful greatest hits album; an alternate ending

A song that reminds you of someone you’d rather forget

I’m having difficulty with this. But there’s an album that reminds me of a place I’d rather forget.

I worked as a customer service representative at Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield in from February 1989 to March 1990. I mostly hated it. If you don’t know why, I need to write more about that period.

But I got along with the other reps. I discovered that, for the Christmas gift exchange, I was to get something for this woman named Karen. As it turned out, Karen had selected me.

So we talked about music we mutually liked, and we came up with the Rolling Stones. The band had released Steel Wheels in August 1989, so I bought it for her and she for me.

I’m picking the first two singles because the titles reflected my feeling of being at Empire:

Mixed Emotions, #5 in 1989

Rock and a Hard Place, #23 in 1989

Summer song: Summer, by War

Vocalist and founding member of War Howard Scott said that they were “cranking out gold records when” the Beastie Boys “were still in diapers.”

War was a long-running funk-rock band from southern California, who was commercially viable, at least into the 1990s. Eric Burdon, formerly of The Animals, was the lead vocalist on their first hit, Spill the Wine, back in 1970, but others took the reins shortly after that.

On the Billboard 100, the very peaceful tune called Summer, which was appropriately released on June 21, 1976, debuted on the chart on July 10 and spent 16 weeks there, eventually getting to #7. On the soul charts, it also started moving on July 10, and spent 14 weeks, reaching #4. It was declared a gold record, selling over 500,000 units.

Here is Summer, by War. The band “is not happy about being slighted for a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The band was nominated but lost out… War is most annoyed about losing a spot to The Beastie Boys.

“Vocalist and founding member of War Howard Scott told TMZ, ‘We were cranking out gold records when they were still in diapers. How could the Beastie Boys get in before us when they sampled War’s music on their first album?! I’ll eat their platinum records!’ and added, ‘Felt like I was kicked in the back of my britches.'”
Sad to read about the death, at the age of 68, of composer Marvin Hamlisch. Writer Mark Evanier said: “I can’t recall ever hearing a bad word about Marvin Hamlisch, not even from Theater People… He was the guy who wrote the tunes for A Chorus Line, after all. And so many other fine works. The first time I saw him or heard his name was when he was Groucho’s pianist for those sad one-Marx shows near the end of the comedian’s career.” To paraphrase a song of his: Nobody did it better.


Summer Songs: Summertime

The summer songs are over, as the season begins to fade…

I’ve long been a sucker for those Red, Hot, and Blue albums. Not only are they generally great compilations, but they aid AIDS research.

At some point, I purchased By George & Ira: Red Hot on Gershwin, which I was quite fond of. Some critics complained about the multiple versions of a few songs, but I love the way Nina Simone’s version of I Loves You Porgy segues into Bill Evans’ instrumental take, e.g.

There are four versions of Summertime. The first is by an unlikely participant on this mostly jazz album: Janis Joplin [listen], who, according to one reviewer, “will certainly get the listener’s attention as she twists and turns the lyrics in a raspy interpretation.” Of course, as it’s probably the first version of the song I owned, from Cheap Thrills, the Big Brother and the Holding Company album, I have a particular fondness for it. Of course, she died in 1970 at the age of 27 from a drug overdose.

Though a quite different take, I also loved the Billy Stewart version [listen]. I realize it’s the trilling of the tongue bit that I found so entrancing (and one of my former co-workers found it so irritating; she wouldn’t allow me to play it if she were around). His “Summertime” was a Top 10 hit on both the pop and R&B charts in 1966. He died in a car crash in 1969 at the age of 32.

A more traditional jazz version came from The Stan Getz Quartet [listen]. Getz died in 1991 at the age of 64 from liver cancer.

Charlie “Bird” Parker [listen] performs the final version of the song. He too died young, at the age of 34. “The official causes of death were lobar pneumonia and a bleeding ulcer but Parker also had an advanced case of cirrhosis and had had a heart attack.”

The summer songs are over, as the season begins to fade…

Summer Song: Summerfling by k.d. lang

Kathyrn Dawn Lang was born on the 2nd of November, 1961 in Consort, Alberta, Canada, which means she turns 50 this year. For reasons more complex than I need to note here, I always associate the country singer turned chanteuse with an ex of mine.

Anyway, this is a lovely song from k.d. lang’s 2000 Invincible Summer album, Summerfling, which came out well past the time I broke up with my ex.

Summer Song: It’s Summer by the Temptations

The song marks the last recording of Paul Williams, who would die the next year.

I REALLY loved the Temptations, and even more so after they stopped being primarily the background singers for David Ruffin, who left the group in 1968. They became more a five lead-vocal group, under the production leadership of Norman Whitfield, who, with Barrett Strong, wrote most of their songs in this period.

While primarily doing psychedelic soul at this point, the Temps recorded, on the 1970 album Psychedelic Shack the ballad It’s Summer [LISTEN!]. I’m not a big fan of songs that involve a lot of talking rather than singing. But I was a big fan of the bass voice of Melvin Franklin, so I rather liked this. It also appeared as the B-side of the #3 single Ball of Confusion.

After some personnel changes, involving the departure of Eddie Kendrick and Paul Williams, the Temptations released the 1972 album Solid Rock, which featured the re-recorded It’s Summer [LISTEN!], which obviously swipes from the Gershwin brothers. The remake had been released as a single back in the summer of 1971, where it only went to #51 on the pop charts. The song marks the last recording of Paul Williams, who would die the next year.

Maybe because I heard the Melvin version first, I still prefer it to the remake.

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