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Monday, July 9, 2012

Here & Now Picks: Best Songs For Summer

The Who in 1975. The band is a summer favorite of Here & Now’s Alex Ashlock.

Literary critic Steve Almond recently stopped by to play for us what he’s listening to this summer — Everything from Chuck Prophet’s “Summertime Thing” to Anglique Kidjo‘s take on “Summertime.”

We put that question to Here & Now staffers, who describe what music in the summer means for them.

Producer and director Alex Ashlock: : The Who’s “Who’s Next”
Every song on The Who’s “Who’s Next” makes me think summer. “Baba O’Reilly,” “Bargain,” “Behinds Blue Eyes,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” During the summer of 1971,  I saw The Who at the Mississippi River Festival in Edwardsville, with my girlfriend, Tanya.  And I remember playing another song on that record, “The Song Is Over,” over and over and over again the night that summer ended, the night before we had to go back to school.


Managing editor Chris Ballman: “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding, (1968)
I remember it as a teen, playing all the time on the radio while fishing off a railroad bridge over the Manasquan River in Point Pleasant, New Jersey – down the shore.  Also, of course – “Fourth of July, Asbury Park” by Bruce Springteen and “Under the Boardwalk” by the Drifters.


Technical director Doug Shugarts: “The Summer Knows,” by Bill Evans

My favorite is “The Summer Knows,” as recorded by jazz pianist Bill Evans. Michel Legrand wrote this song for “Summer of ’42,” a film about a young man vacationing on Nantucket who falls for a woman whose husband is fighting in the war. Evans’s style of playing befits the story and season.


Arts and Culture Emiko Tamagawa: “Summer Breeze”  by Seals and Crofts
Seals and Crofts “Summer Breeze” might be cliché now, but it’s still a lovely song. There’s also Thin Lizzy “The Boys Are Back In Town.” When I was much younger I’d hear it and  I’d listen for the lyric “The nights are getting warmer, won’t be long…’til summer comes.  Now that the boys are back in town” and just know summer was just around the corner! And Wilco’s “Heavy Metal Drummer” for me has that nostalgic feel that Steve talks about with lines like “I sincerely miss those heavy metal bands/we used to go see on the landing in the summer.”


Producer Kevin Sullivan: “American Pie,” by Don McLean
 It may sound like a cliché these days, but I remember this song blaring, as I drove to the Eastern Shore of Maryland with my friend’s family in the backseat of their aging, behemoth of a station wagon. To this day, this song reminds me of driving to the beach with all the promise of a summer stretched out before me.


Radio and new media producer Jill Ryan: “The Roots of Chicha,” Psychedelic Cumbias from Peru

The music that I love to hear in the summer is chicha, it’s from Peru, and it’s a variation on the cumbia music that comes from Colombia and Panama.

I first heard it while backpacking through Peru and Ecuador one summer, when I spent the better part of a month on one local bus or another. The drivers loved to play this music, you could also hear it drifting out of open windows as you walked through villages.


Intern Joe DeNatale: “Dancing Days” by Led Zeppelin___

“Dancing Days” is off of Led Zeppelin’s “Houses of the Holy,” one of my favorite summer albums.  That song in particular is pure hippie nostalgia, but the record is full of a ton of different sounds, from the tireless “Song Remains the Same” and the delicate “Rain Song,” to the funk-induced “The Crunge” and the reggae-pop “Dy’r Mak’r.” I can’t imagine hearing it in 1973!


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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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