Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Flipside -or- Steal My Sunshine

After the first, oh, five or six days of any Summer vacation I was the type of kid who would get bored and generally ornery. Of course, I always looked forward to Summer as much as anyone else, but then once it happened, I never had any plans, anything especially fun to do, and thus, I ended up playing a lot of video games, and watching a lot of TV - things I did when I wasn't on vacation, just more of them. Periodically something noteworthy would happen, but generally Summer was like Democratic Party since Oswald: the lesser of two evils. This feeling disippated a bit as the years went on and I accumulated interests and ways of indulging them, but Summer has, and probably always will be, a season of unbridled ambivalence (which, now that I think about it, makes it very little different from any other season. Fuck.)

Fine, anyway, read this as an off topic update on the ongoing saga of the Search for the Summer Jam of '07. Stylus recently ran an article which pitted Bob Seger's "Night Moves" against Bryan Adams's "Summer of '69". I can't speak for "Night Moves", unfortunately, but "Summer of '69" is really something worth talking about seriously and at length. As Stylus's Andrew Unterberger correctly points out, "Summer of '69" catches a wistfulness that borders on downright depressing that seems, to me, to be at the heart of the Summer experience.

This wistfulness, sense of regret or painful nostalgia is a phenomenon about which I personally had forgotten until I listened to "Summer of '69" a couple of weeks back and, consequently, felt fucking downright depressed, though only briefly. How can someone say, "those were the best days of my life" as many times as Mr. Adams does with a straight face and not simultaneously need to fight an urge to slam their face into the nearest stationary object? That is to say, I wasn't depressed for me, I was depressed for him, but still, depressed.

On the other hand though, "Summer of '69" is, without a doubt, a quintessential Summer Jam. How can these two truths be mutually valid? In other words, how can a Summer Jam be depressing?

There are a number of recent, and not so recent, examples of Summer Jams that at least hint at the same feeling that "Summer of '69" is a manifestation of. Ideally, Stylus would've compared it to Don Henley's "Boys of Summer", perhaps the most successfully nostalgic Summer song, and, I would argue, Summer Jam, of all time. Bob Seger may have come first, but Don Henley pretty much cristalizes the whole thing with that song, which is maybe why no one has been able to come close to recording what I'm calling the Summer Metajam since.

Bear with me now. What is it that Don and Bryan, and I guess Bob, are singing about in these songs? Ok, yes Summer. And sex, the past, sure. What it all boils down to, though, is that these are songs about the Summer Jam, in that the Summer Jam encapsulates the delirious, unconcious joy of heat, freedom and youth that all of these songs are nostaligically looking back at. In all cases, the Summer Jam is as vivid and meaningful in retrospect as it was at the time, but life has moved on - as Don said, "the boys of Summer have gone". These are Summer Jams about the Summer Jam.

And maybe I'm getting in over my head here. The only point I wanted to make is that, while the essence of the Summer Jam lies in its ability to express the one-sided, naive enjoyment of fun made possible by Summer, nothing is quite that simple. I'll leave you with two, I believe, poigniant examples:
"I'd call you up, but what's the use? I love Kevin Bacon, but I hate Footloose."
- Rich Cronin of LFO, in regards to a "Summer Girl" with whom he shared an intense but brief Summertime relationship that he now must regrettably put behind him, as he must all pleasant memories, as well as actor Kevin Bacon and his starring role in a future distopia film about a town in which dancing is outlawed.

"Of course you can't become if you only say what you would've done, so I missed a million miles of fun. I know it's up for me if you steal my sunshine."
- Len's Marc Constanzo on the pitfalls of losing Summer's innocence, or failing to realize its immediate importance.

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At Fri Jul 13, 05:45:00 PM, Blogger Ryan said...

i find the dyad of summer jams at the center of your column are more summer jams ex post facto--I think a true midsummer jam does not declare its season in song but simply deliciously--and totally--exemplifies its season without unnecessary touchstones on bittersweet nostalgia, or, dare I say, malaise. summer is supposed to be the full throttle of nature, if you will--and the busting sense of life combined with the heat and stickiness are really probably better represented by a "dirty I got your money," at least for the rough and ready crowd. I also think that a "she's the one" by the beta band provides the steady uplift of long daylight, maybe a "how high the moon" for summer nights, or, ideally, a selection from alan lomax's "georgia sea islands" for the archetypal agrarian past that we should have eternally built inside summer but that we're rapidly losing.

I personally think you did right with "surrender" by cheap trick, but I think the bottom line is the whole thing's a bit of a rorschach test.

At Mon Jul 23, 09:57:00 PM, Blogger Doug said...

Yeah, Rorschach knew what was up.


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