The first day of summer is Wednesday.
Don’t you think it’s high time that you hauled your collection of summer songs out of storage?
A century ago, this was quite a chore. Some of Thomas Edison’s earliest phonograph records were about as hefty and rotund as manhole covers.
Lugging the summer songs up from the root cellar was widely considered to be among the most onerous spring tasks of the pre-Industrial Age.
It ranked right up there with reupholstering the horses, refracting the goats and recapitulating the chickens.
As you can see, I am quite an expert on preindustrial life.
The point is, people worked for their summer songs back then. It’s not like today where people can access their summer songs by pressing a whatsis on their doohickeys.
As you can see, I am quite an expert on contemporary music storage devices.
Among the most onerous spring tasks for feature writers is lugging their best summer songs lists up from the bottoms of their filing cabinets.
New to many lists this year is Call Me Maybe by a Canadian recording artist named Carly Rae Jepsen.
On a popular, user-generated, online dictionary that shall remain nameless, the entry for this song is the equivalent of 11 printed pages.
In contrast, the entire careers of country legend June Carter Cash and blues legend Bessie Smith only merit seven and nine pages, respectively.
Career retrospectives of Carole King and Carly Simon, however, eke out a pair of wins with 12 and 13 pages, respectively.
Evidently, the release of Call Me Maybe marks an important moment in music history, one that will reveal its nature in the fullness of time.
We just need to give the whole matter careful consideration, something the girl in the song sure doesn’t do when she gives her phone number to a total stranger.
Whatever you thought about Call Me Maybe the first time you heard it or whatever you think about it now that you have heard it more than the pope has heard Holy God, We Praise Thy Name, you have to admit it is a perfect summer song. It is infectious, slight, life-affirming and wasn’t designed to last forever (which is why it probably will).
Lists of best summer songs tend to be pretty ponderous affairs, heavy on boomer faves like Mungo Jerry’s In the Summertime, the Lovin’ Spoonful’s Summer in the City, Martha and the Vandellas’ Dancing in the Street, and Chicago’s Saturday in the Park.
These are all rightful stalwarts in the classic rock canon and some of them are even historically and sociologically noteworthy.
But if they don’t mean anything to you, don’t feel bad.
A summer song doesn’t become significant to you because a critic has consecrated it.
It becomes significant by staging a stealth attack on your psyche while you are otherwise occupied by all the especially good things that tend to happen to many of us during summers.
One of my favorite summer songs was playing on the radio the summer after my senior year in high school.
It’s Kajagoogoo’s Too Shy.
The year was 1983 and Kajagoogoo’s lead singer was Limahl, a man who was widely celebrated for his avant-garde mullet (Hedgehog in the front, party in the back!).
I was in love for the first time that summer, and had as much hope for a long relationship as Limahl had for a long career.
Alas, we were both deluded.
To be fair, Limahl did defy the odds and become a two-hit wonder.
But I’d be the first to admit that his place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is far from secure.
What of it?
Every time I hear Too Shy, I am instantly transported back to the summer of 1983.
Nobody should ever feel the need to apologize for a song that has the power to accomplish something like that.