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Leif Zurmuhlen

Every Time I Hear That Song
Summer tunes that bring back special summer memories
By Jennifer Schulkind

It was last July, and the sun was starting to heat up my friend’s relationship with her boyfriend. They spent many summer nights talking and kissing at the docks near their houses. One night she did a little advance planning and brought a blanket and her favorite Dave Matthews Band CD. A few hours into the night, her CD player malfunctioned and began to repeat the same song, “Lover Lay Down.” She accepted the defect as a sign and let the music take over. She will never forget that summer, and she continues to remind me of that night whenever we hear the song.

A song can become forever linked to the memories of past summers, and can have the power to re-create the warmth of the sun on our faces even in the midst of a winter snowstorm. The situation in which a song is first heard—during a summer sunset, a first kiss, or when you’re just having a good time with friends—can make an ordinary song special.

What can be more fun then peeling off suffocating clothing and jumping into some cool water? R.E.M.’s “Nightswimming” can certainly help invoke the memories of skinny-dips past and prepare you for some late-night fun this summer. One friend loves this song particularly because it talks “about September coming soon and how important it is to enjoy the summer before it fades.” She listens to it regularly every summer, and (perhaps as a direct result) has trouble staying clothed on hot summer nights. The fleeting summer months are hard to hold on to, and any song that reminds us to take advantage of each beautiful day is a perfect candidate for a great summer tune.

Slightly older acquaintances conjured up summer recollections from their youth, naming songs by bands like the Beach Boys, or my dad’s personal favorite, “Summer in the City” by the Lovin’ Spoonful (who are they, anyway?). For him, the song is a reminder of his youth and the summer days spent on crowded Long Island beaches. Although these selections are a little outdated, they had the right idea; it’s all about having fun.

Driving around—listening to music with the windows down, tanning just your left arm ’cause it’s hanging out the window—is a timeless summer activity. Echo and the Bunnymen’s “The Cutter” reminds a friend of doing just that. “I moved to Albany and I had my mom’s Dodge Omni to spin around in. My best friend and I would drive to Lark Street; the best thing was driving down Lark Street listening to music.”

Another friend will always associate Bob Marley’s “Lively Up Yourself” with driving around in his new car that he was able to buy after winning $500 in a Super Bowl pool. The car came with a Bob Marley tape, which was by no means his favorite. He was forced to listen to the tape’s four live songs repeatedly when it got jammed in the player. “Over the course of the summer, I began to associate it with my first car, my sunroof and driving around in the summer.”

Teenage antics are often highlighted by appropriate and encouraging music that will forever conjure up memories of reckless summer days. “As soon as I heard the words ‘summer songs,’” says a coworker, “the rubber-ball bass lines of Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good” bounced into my head. The music, the lyrics, the whole thing is pretty stupid, but it was a hit in the summer of ’78 and played nonstop during a memorable teenage Cape Cod vacation with friends. And its nonchalant goofiness fit our exploits that week—which is about all you need to know about them.”

Dave Matthews Band reminds many of my friends of summer. “Stay” features the lyrics: “We were just wasting time/Let the hours roll by/Doing nothing for the fun/A little taste of the good life.” There’s nothing like a song that encourages us to relax and enjoy summer’s lazy days.


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