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Big Words: The Sweet Sounds of Summer

by Big Daddy Graham

I do a once-a-week music podcast titled “Big Daddy’s Classic Rock Throwdown” and if I say so myself it’s a fun show. Mullica Hill’s guitar-playing comic Spins Nitely is my co-host, and we usually have a third guest sitting in. It’s a podcast so you can listen to any of its episodes anytime you want, but it airs live every Thursday night at 9 p.m. from Wildfire Studios in Collingswood.

The title of the show can cause problems. What qualifies as “classic rock?” Well, I decided that anything before the Beatles is an “oldie.” So Elvis Presley doesn’t qualify, yet “Suspicious Minds,” one of the King’s most triumphant tunes ever, comes out the summer of ‘69, which is pretty much when the Beatles are breaking up. See the problem?

Then I decided that any song that is still popular after 20 years qualifies as “classic” doesn’t it? Rock bands like Nirvana, Green Day and Pearl Jam should get their due. But boy did I discover that there are classic rock purists who want nothing to do with those bands. Blasphemy!

I want to thank Matt Cord of WMMR and Ray Koob of WMGK who I will email to see if their stations currently, or once did, play songs by a particular artist if I need to back up an argument.

With July here, one of my show topics this month will be “The Top 10 Classic Rock Summer Songs.” With apologies to Will Smith’s “Summertime,” which obviously does not fit the format, here they are. These are songs that somewhere in the lyrics mention summer, or it appears in the title. They are listed in iPod alphabetical order, so don’t think I’m ranking one song over another. It was hard enough breaking it down to 10!

Alice Cooper once said that the two most exciting moments in a kid’s life are Christmas morning and the last day of school. “If I can capture that feeling in a three-minute song, I’ll produce a classic.” He sure did. Released in May of 1972, it became Alice’s biggest hit ever and I still have the “school desk” album cover it came in.

I easily could have made a list of the Top 10 Beach Boys Summer Songs since they are responsible for more awesome summer tunes than any other band in music history. “Do It Again” is the Boys at their rocking best. Sun, surf, girls, fun, this track has it all. I saw them on the Wildwood beach on July 4 some years ago and it doesn’t get any more perfect than that, does it? Do you know I have an autographed portrait of Brian Wilson hanging in my Sea Isle house? How cool is that?

Who didn’t work on their “moves” in the summer? And I’m not talking moves on the basketball court or baseball diamond. I once waited till the night before we went back to school, the last night of freedom, to make my move on Rita DiMucci. But better late than never since it’s a night I’ll never forget. Not that I got past second base. But it was a start. “Working on our night moves in the sweet sweet summertime.” It’s Seger’s first national hit and the song was released at Christmas!

First of all, can I complain about the stupid use of parentheses in many song titles? Just call the song “Sandy” for Chrissakes already. Springsteen is another artist who has many songs that make me think of summer. “Drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain” from “Jungleland” comes to mind, but “Sandy” is the real deal. It’s got it all. Fireworks, the tilt-a-whirl, the boardwalk, and seashore bars. Even her name, Sandy, was a great choice.

It bugs me that this is the youngest song on this list, being released in the summer of 1985. While today’s pop stars and rappers are still writing beach and summer songs, the current batch of rockers have apparently more important seasons and topics to write about. C’mon, get with the program.

Summer’s famous for losing your inhibitions and has there ever been a song that captures innocence lost better than this masterpiece? Well, maybe “Hotel California” another Henley classic. It was a well that Henley drew from often and the fact that this song was released in October, after the summer of ’84 was over, was not by accident. One of the best videos ever produced on top of it.

Why is it that every Doors song reminds me of summer, yet only half of their albums were released that time of the year? The album this underappreciated gem comes off of, the amazing Waiting For The Sun, was released in July and it sure sounds like it. It’s smoldering. If you’re not familiar with this cut, download it. “Where will we be after the summer’s gone?” So many friends made in the summer. Some last. Some don’t.

Released in 1966, it’s the oldest song to make the list and it barely has anything to do with summer. Ray Davies, the brilliant songwriter behind the Kinks, uses the lyric to complain about taxes. Seriously, that’s what this song is about. But it has this incredibly catchy, hummable melody that fits with “Lazing on a sunny afternoon in the summertime” and almost 50 years later no one can resist singing it when they hear it.

Released in July of ’66, this is not about summer at the Shore. Or at a picnic. This is a city summer song that sounds as if it came rising like steam off the streets of Camden. No song recorded by anybody ever captured heat and grime and sweat and humidity like this baby. “Doesn’t seem to be a shadow in the city.” Some of you may think the Lovin’ Spoonful are an “oldies” band and not “classic” rockers, but they’re in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and despite all their other terrific hits, it was this scorching song that put them in there.

There’s nothing about the Who that reminds me about summer at all, but I love them and I just had to get this song on there. A big hit for them in the July of ’70.

OK, I know, your personal favorite classic rock summer song might not have made it. Feel free to email me to make your arguments, but just know this: No song makes me think of summer more than Louis Armstrong’s “Hello Dolly” and I had to leave that off here because it’s not a “classic rocker.” When I was a kid I used to travel to Wildwood by bus with my mother and the bus would stop at this diner in Collings Lakes. It was a scheduled stop and the owner of the joint would play “Hello Dolly” on the jukebox and accompany the song with a real trumpet. I never hear that song today without excitement brewing in the pit of my stomach with the realization that I may be on my way to the Shore!

So bring your beats to the beach, crank up that volume, and start singing. “It’s summertime and the living is easy.” Just don’t forget the sunscreen. And the beer.

Big Daddy Graham is a renowned stand-up comedian and overnight personality on SportsRadio 94WIP. Check out his new podcast, Big Daddy’s Classic Rock Throwdown, at

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 4 July, 2014).
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