Growing up in the 1960s, we looked forward to the Memorial Day weekend knowing cold weather was officially behind us and those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer were just around the corner.
That three-day weekend also signaled school was out, shorts were in, and the radio needed be cranked up high. Really high. Because the tunes blasting from our car and transistor speakers would become soundtrack of our lives from June till September.
Over that decade, we were
fortunate to have an amazing array of songs to accompany us while having fun in
the sun, cruising with friends, dancing, or maybe having a summer fling.
The best of those songs stay in our hearts forever and never grow old. I love “I Get Around” as much today as when I first heard it in 1964. They also bring back very vivid memories. I can almost hear the surf and smell the hot dogs sizzling when I listen to “Under the Boardwalk”.
Everyone has a cherished summer favorite. Here are a few of mine. Did I miss one of your classics? Let me know.
In the meantime, during this most unusual and worrying summer, please practice social distancing. And don’t forget he Coppertone.
My 60s summer picks (in no particular order.)
1. “The Twist.”
Chubby Checker’s catchy dance tune (originally recorded by Hank Ballard) was at the top of the charts throughout the summer of 1960. The dance became hugely popular because virtually anyone from kids to seniors could do it. It hit #1 in September and again in the winter of 1961. To my knowledge, it is the only song to hit #1 twice (using the original version).
2. “The Locomotion “by Little Eva
When the husband and wife songwriting team of Carole King and Gerry Goffin penned the song, they didn’t originally envision it as being an actual dance. Their baby sitter Eva Boyd recorded the song as a demo and later invented a dance she performed during personal appearances. It hit number one in July of 1962. After the song became a million seller, Little Eva gave up her babysitting job and bought a place of her own.
3. “I Get Around” by the Beach Boys
A single from the album All Summer Long, “I Get Around” is an irresistible mixture of surf guitars and doo-wop harmonies. The bass was played by a then-unknown studio musician named Glen Campbell. The song hit #1 in July of 1964.
4. “The Letter” by the Boxtops
At 1:58, “The Letter” was the last #1 hit to be shorter than two minutes. It was at the top of the charts during the entire summer of 1967 and finally reached the top spot in September. It sold over 4 million copies.
5. “Hot Fun in the Summertime” by Sly and the Family Stone
“First of the fall and then she goes back
Bye bye bye bye babe!
Them summer days, those summer days.”
Makes me think about going back to the University of Florida in September, saying goodbye to friends and home. What an exciting time that was for me.
6. “I Can’t Help Myself” (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch) by the Four Tops
This Holland-Dozier-Holland smash was the first Top 40 hit in England for the Four Tops. In the US, it hit Number One twice in the summer of 1965. It is one of the most popular Motown songs of the decade and for good reason. Try to listen and not sing along! The bracketed title 'Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch' appears only on certain oldie reissues of the single.
7. “Tossin’and Turnin” by Bobby Lewis
June 2, 1961 Bobby Lewis performed “Tossin’ and Turnin’” on American Bandstand. Within a few weeks it rose 34 spots on the charts to become #1. It stayed at the top for seven weeks and remained on the on the Billboard Top 100 for half a year. The lyrics talk about hearing the milkman at the door. The milkman may be a thing of the past, but this song never grows old.
8. “Summer in the City” by the Lovin Spoonful
During the summer of 1966 New York City experienced a brutal heatwave with temperatures that stayed above 90 degrees for more than 34 days. At the same time, the opposition to the Vietnam War was also reaching a boiling point with riots and protests breaking out across the country. “Summer in the City” was the perfect song for that moment in time. You can hear the street noise – car horns and jackhammers. You can almost feel the stifling heat. But New Yorker John Sebastian reassures us that “despite the heat, it will be all right.” The back of your neck may be dirty and gritty by day, but when the sun goes down, it is a different world.
9. “Under the Boardwalk” by the Drifters
Rolling Stone named it one of the top 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. No argument here.
10. “Sunny Afternoon” by the Kinks
Released in June of 1966, the singer laments getting busted by the taxman and losing his girlfriend (who runs off to her ma and pa in his car). Poor thing can’t sail his yacht so all he has left is an ice cold beer and a sunny afternoon. Not too bad, actually!
11. “California Sun” by the Rivieras
A catchy one hit wonder that is as fun to listen to today as was back in 1964. Three dances of the day are mentioned: the twist, the shimmy and the fly.
12. “Theme from A Summer Place”
|In the film, Sandra's hateful Mom wouldn't let her date Troy!|
The instrumental by Percy Faith was part of the score for the movie A Summer Place starring Troy Donahue and Sandra Dee. It was the top selling single of 1960 (stayed at #1 for 9 weeks) and became the top instrumental for the entire decade of the 60s. It was also the first movie theme to win a Grammy for Record of the Year.
13.“Turn Down Day” by the Cyrkle
In my mind, it is perfect song about enjoying the summer even though problems and worries may be around the corner. The song was released in 1966 when Vietnam was on the minds of many. The lyrics tell us “things that are waiting to mess my mind will just have to wait till tomorrow.” So enjoy the moment while you can, then face what you have to when you have to.
14. “Palisades Park” by Freddy Cannon
Written by Chuck Barris (of Gong Show fame) the song featured some fun amusement park sound effects, screaming riders and a distinctive organ. It peaked at #3 in June 1962.
15. “Summer Breeze” by Seals and Crofts
Okay, so it is a 70s song, but it’s my blog and I’ll choose it if I want to! It’s a great feel good song describing peaceful contentment as a man comes home from work to find his love waiting for him with “not a care in the world.” I love that the jasmine is in bloom and “July is dressed up and playing her tune.” A perfect snapshot of a summer’s day.