Hotter Than July: A Summer Playlist

Putting together a summer playlist that has staying power is harder than it seems. A few shades too breezy and it veers toward unbearable lightness; a few shades too serious and it becomes leaden and ponderous. In what follows below, I’ve abandoned any attempt to follow a coherent pattern or unifying theme. In short, although I have no idea how to define my summer, I think I know what it sounds like.

Hold Steady, “Constructive Summer”

Craig Finn searches for reasons to believe in the Church of St. Strummer, while Mouldy guitars recall Hüsker Dü’s “Celebrated Summer” and mighty mighty Boss-tones echo Springsteen’s early days as a little hoodrat. Prayer theme: the “annual reminder that we can be something bigger.”

Dick Dale and the Del-Tones, “Misirlou”

The former Richard Monsour does his Lebanese father proud. Call it surf-rock if you want, but I prefer to think of it as oud-inspired heavy metal.

Tinariwen, “Cler Achel”

While journalists love the storied biography of these Touraeg rebels from Mali, it’s the music that continues to fascinate. The explosive “Cler Achel” leads off 2007’s Aman Iman (Water is Life), which ranks among my favorite albums of the Zeroes.

Magic Sam, “Magic Sam Boogie”

Whether you come from Chicago or Timbuktu, the extra hours of daylight are perfect for a little West Side soul.

Blitzen Trapper, “Wild Mountain Nation”

Only in Portland will you find a modern urban pastoral jam. But unlike Phish or the Dead, they know how to jam econo.

Marty Robbins, “El Paso”

The ultimate gunfighter ballad has everything I could want in a summer song: lonesome travelers, love, sex, murder, and hot hot heat. Cutting to the chase: “My love is stronger than my fear of death.”

Vampire Weekend, “Mansard Roof”

Haters, get over yourselves. It’s inauthentic, it’s insubstantial, and I couldn’t care less. Put on those docksiders and dance your Shins off.

The Kinks, “Sunny Afternoon”

Ray Davies soaks up the sun in a summer anthem made for recession years: ‘Save me, save me, save me from this squeeze.”

Eddie Cochrane, “Summertime Blues”

My first civics lesson: “I called up my Congressman and he said quote/ I’d like to help you son but you’re too young to vote.” Honorable mention: Flying Lizards, The Who.

Graham Parker and the Rumour, “Heat Treatment”

Even before he contracted mercury poisoning, Graham Parker’s idea of a summer love song was to channel Van Morrison and croon about cannibalism and indigestion. Tag line: “Let’s get out while the getting’s good.”

Martha and the Vandellas, “Heat Wave”

This isn’t summer music for poolside lounging. It’s summer music for opening up the fire hydrants and dancing in the streets.

Ramones, “Rockaway Beach”

The late Joey Ramone was a medical miracle. Unlike his only West Coast peer, Brian Wilson, he could spend endless summers on the beach without the slightest hint of tanning.

Love, “Bummer in the Summer”

Back in the day, before we had Cee-Lo or Prince or even Sly, Arthur Lee let his freak flag fly higher than anyone’s.

Stevie Wonder, “Master Blaster (Jammin’)”

At the tail end of an astonishing run of classic soul sides, before he turned himself into a Rose Bowl float, Stevie delivered the goods on this timeless Marley tribute. Sadly, the line about peace in Zimbabwe may need a bit of revision.

Replacements, “Can’t Hardly Wait”

Paul Westerberg turns impatience into an art form. “I’ll write you a letter tomorrow, tonight I can’t hold a pen.”

Billie Holiday, “Summertime”

I can’t claim to have heard all 2600 versions of this Gershwin standard, but this is my favorite so far. How it got in the hands of the nutcases who made this video will remain a mystery.

About Roger Moore

rocklobster3.JPGRoger Moore is a writer and musical obsessive who plays percussion instruments from around the world with an equal lack of dexterity. An environmental lawyer in his unplugged moments, he has written on subjects ranging from sustainable development practices to human rights and voting rights, as well as many music reviews. A native Chicagoan, Roger lives in Oakland, California with his wife Paula, who shares his Paul Weller fixation, and two young children, Amelia and Matthew, who enjoy dancing in circles to his Serge Gainsbourg records and falling asleep to his John Coltrane records.

Roger Moore’s Musical Timeline

1966. Dropped upside down on patio after oldest sister listened to “She Loves You” on the Beatles’ Saturday cartoon show. Ears have rung with the words “yeah, yeah, yeah” ever since.

1973. Memorized all 932 verses to Don McLean’s “American Pie.”

1975. Unsuccessfully lobbied to have “Louie Louie” named the official song of his grade school class. The teacher altered the lyrics of the winner, the Carpenters’ “I Won’t Last a Day Without You,” so that they referred to Jesus.

1977. After a trip to New Orleans, frequently broke drumheads attempting to mimic the style of the Meters’ Zigaboo Modeliste.

1979. In order to see Muddy Waters perform in Chicago, borrowed the birth certificate of a 27 year-old truck driver named Rocco.

1982. Published first music review, a glowing account of the Jam’s three-encore performance for the Chicago Reader. Reading the original, unedited piece would have taken longer than the concert itself.

1982. Spat on just before seeing the Who on the first of their 23 farewell tours, after giving applause to the previous band, the Clash.

1984. Mom: “This sounds perky. What’s it called?” Roger: “ It’s ‘That’s When I Reach for My Revolver’ by Mission of Burma.”

1985. Wrote first review of an African recording, King Sunny Ade’s Synchro System. A reader induced to buy the album by this review wrote a letter to the editor, noting that “anyone wishing a copy of this record, played only once” should contact him.

1985. At a Replacements show in Boston, helped redirect a bewildered Bob Stinson to the stage, which Bob had temporarily confused with the ladies’ bathroom.

1986. Walked forty blocks through a near-hurricane wearing a garbage bag because the Feelies were playing a show at Washington, D.C.’s 9:30 Club.

1987. Foolishly asked Alex Chilton why he had just performed “Volare.” Answer: “Because I can.”

1988. Moved to Northern California and, at a large outdoor reggae festival, discovered what Bob Marley songs sound like when sung by naked hippies.

1991. Attempted to explain to Flavor-Flav of Public Enemy that the clock hanging from his neck was at least two hours fast.

1992. Under the pseudonym Dr. Smudge, produced and performed for the Underwear of the Gods anthology, recorded live at the North Oakland Rest Home for the Bewildered. Local earplug sales skyrocketed.

1993. Attended first-ever fashion show in Chicago because Liz Phair was the opening act. Declined the complimentary bottles of cologne and moisturizer.

1997. Almost missed appointment with eventual wedding band because Sleater-Kinney performed earlier at Berkeley’s 924 Gilman Street. Recovered hearing days later.

1997. After sharing a romantic evening with Paula listening to Caetano Veloso at San Francisco’s Masonic Auditorium, purchased a Portuguese phrasebook that remains unread.

1998. Learned why you do not yell “Free Bird” at Whiskeytown's Ryan Adams in a crowded theater.

1999. During an intense bout of flu, made guttural noises bearing an uncanny resemblance to the Throat Singers of Tuva.

2000. Compiled a retrospective of music in the nineties as a fellow at the Coolwater Center for Strategic Studies and Barbecue Hut.

2001. Listened as Kahil El’Zabar, in the middle of a harrowing and funny duet show with Billy Bang, lowered his voice and spoke of the need to think of the children, whom he was concerned might grow up “unhip.”

2002. During a performance of Wilco’s “Ashes of American Flags,” barely dodged ashes of Jeff Tweedy’s cigarette.

2002. Arrived at the Alta Bates maternity ward in Berkeley with a world trance anthology specially designed to soothe Paula during Amelia’s birth, filled with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Ali Akbar Khan, and assorted other Khans. The project proved to be irrelevant to the actual process of labor.

2003. Emceed a memorable memorial concert for our friend Matthew Sperry at San Francisco’s Victoria Theater featuring a lineup of his former collaborators, including improvised music all-stars Orchesperry, Pauline Oliveros, Red Hot Tchotchkes, the cast of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and Tom Waits.

2003. Failed to persuade Ted Leo to seek the Democratic nomination for President.

2005. Prevented two-year old daughter Amelia from diving off the balcony during a performance of Pierre Dorge’s New Jungle Orchestra at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival.

2006. On a family camping trip in the Sierra Nevadas, experienced the advanced stage of psychosis that comes from listening to the thirtieth rendition of Raffi’s “Bananaphone” on the same road trip.

One thought on “Hotter Than July: A Summer Playlist

  1. Tinariwen – the find of the summer, thanks for that.

    For me this summer has been about revisiting Bongo Fury and The Fall, plus some mystery called Tunng, which I’m still trying to figure out.

    As tempting as the surf tracks are, El Cerrito is victim of the classic East Bay Arctic syndrome – cold and grey day after day. So “Eskimo” is actually more apropos than “Endless Summer.”

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