Don Zerilli Mooradian
Time slowed, warmed, sometimes boiled in the summer heat. Or it crashed with thunder and lightning, sparking old myths and primal fears. As a child and even young teen, summer was tucked comfortably between Memorial Day and Labor Day, offering a kind of suspended animation with few responsibilities and lots of hopes and expectations.
Into later teens, summer became more sensual. Even with part-time jobs and more responsibility, there was still time to daydream and grow in new directions.
Summer: brilliant sun, mysterious nighttime constellations, lake waves lapping at feet, exposed flesh freed from winter wrappings, mowed lawns, crystal clear swimming pools, meals grilled outside, the smell of suntan oil and more and more summer and summer.
As July ends, the season is half gone for most people. These days, many K-12 students go back to school mid-, even early, August. And for most adults, summer is one or two or maybe three weeks crammed into a crowded calendar.
Now, into retirement, my summer comes with few constraints. It sooths and lulls, yes. Yet, for reasons both obvious and hidden, summer seems to exist in a cooler clime, its radiance less long and more shallow.
Still, there are songs that bring back memories. I will share a few with you over the several days. Then, likely, summer will be gone.
One of my favorites are Summer Wind by Sinatra. Boomers, especially those in my tighter age bracket of “earlier” boomers, listened to music on AM radio where rock shared the charts with pop. As an example, Summer Wind was released in May 1966. It made it to No. 25 the week of Sept. 3, 1966.
It shared the charts that week with The Beatles (with both Yellow Submarine and Eleanor Rigby on the charts), Rolling Stones (Mother’s Little drug euphemism), a handful of other British acts, along with Motown’s Supremes (You Can’t Hurry Love), blues, instrumentals (Flamingo, Herb Albert), surf (the classic Wipe Out by The Safaris), soul, movie themes (Somewhere, My Love from Dr. Zhivago), folk (Stevie Wonder singing Blowin in the Wind), the utterly poetic (Dangling Conversation, Simon and Garfunkle), psychedelic, country (Eddie Arnold, Jim Reeves) Broadway (Summertime), jazz (Wade in the Water, Ramsey Lewis). At No. 16 was Guantanamera, a patriotic Cuban song by The Sandpipers. Dean Martin had a song on the charts and so did Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs.
I also found a little known group called Shades of Blue whose biggest song was Oh, How Happy. But for this week it was Lonely Summer. I knew the group because I worked with one of the guys at Thom McAn shoes at Wonderland in my hometown Livonia. The group was part of the “blue-eyed soul” phase.
In retrospect, I doubt you could find a better “shuffle” of music by picking any other random week in music. (Maybe you would need to add some rap and electronic and disco…maybe). But I had no idea that I would find the week Summer Wind first made it onto the charts so rife with musical diversity. This phenomenon lasted mostly from mid-1960s to mid-1970s. After that, music had shifted to the FM band and became very segmented by genre. I look back fondly on the days of the AM shuffle.
I have always said the difference between Sinatra and us mere mortals is that he could sing Summer Wind dressed in a full tux, standing on a hot beach and never break a sweat.
Another favorite of mine, from a few years earlier, was That Sunday, That Summer by Nat King Cole. It was recorded in May 1963 and reached No. 12 on the Billboard charts shortly afterward. At 14, I had already experienced the emotional exhilaration of young romance. The social and sexual mores of that year, on the very cusp of the sexual revolution, more resembled those of 10 or 20 or 30 years previous, which is to say, more like most of civilization going all the way back to the beginning. Most songs were simple and sweet, just like the times they reflected.
Chart 1966 http://www.billboard.com/charts/hot-100/1966-09-03
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