August 10, 2007

Retro Friday: Blowing Through the Jasmine in My Mind

These are the dog days. All week, the temperature in Central Virginia has licked one-hundred degrees—and of course that meant the heat index registered at around Hell’s Eternal Fire. In short—it’s been hot, and many of you are suffering just like me. So, for Retro Friday, a few cool songs about summer.

Summer Breeze – Seals and Croft

Jim Seals and Dash Croft released this song in 1972. It remains their seminal song and one of the quintessential songs about songs in my book.

Turn Down Day – The Cyrkle

This band was discovered by Brian Epstein, better known as manager of The Beatles. In fact, John Lennon provided the unique spelling of the band’s name. In 1966, they scored two nice hits—this one and their better known “Red Rubber Ball.” However, the band disbanded the next year. However, band member Tom Dawes wasn’t done with fame—he went on to pen the famous “plop plop fizz fizz” jingle for Alka-Seltzer.

Palisades Park – Freddy Cannon

Game-show host Chuck Barris wrote this song. Barris of course hosted “The Gong Show” and wrote the infamous “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” in which he claimed to have been a CIA assassin. Check out George Clooney’s great film of the same name staring the supremely underrated Sam Rockwell as Barris. This song was originally a B-side for Freddy Cannon in 1962 but the song caught on in Flint, Michigan and took off from there.

California Sun – The Rivieras

No wonder The Rivieras dreamed of that warm California sun—they came from South Bend, Indiana. The band only released three albums before their split in 1966. However, they are most notable as being one of the last American rock acts to score a hit in 1964 before the British Invasion. When I was eight or so years old, my dad bought me a cassette of classic surf songs that included this song. I’ve loved it ever since.

I Live for the Sun – The Sunrays

This band was managed by Murray Wilson, father of Carl, Brian, and Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys. Though this hit was their biggest, reaching #51, it remains a little-know gem with fantastic lead vocals and harmonies. Check out this surprisingly comprehensive site on the band.

Remember (Walking In the Sand) – The Shangri-Las

Little known fact: Billy Joel played piano on the original demo of this song. This was the Shangri-Las first hit in 1964, before their “Leader of the Pack.” The over-wrought drama of the lyrics fits perfectly with the stunning vocals.

Will You Love Me Tomorrow? – The Shirelles

The Shirelles were the very first girl group to score a hit on the Billboard Hot 100. They scored a string of hits—many of them covered too many times to count—in the 1960s. Truly one of the powerhouse groups from the era who remain as indelible today. Rolling Stone named them #76 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All-Time and this song was named #125 on the magazines list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All-Time.

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