Tuesday, June 25, 2013



The family vacation in
1968, moving to Florida 
in 1975, and the first time 
kissed "that girl" in 1980. 
Many of my life's most 
magical memories have 
played out during those 
lazy, hazy, crazy days of
summer. And they always 
seem to be set to music. 

I grew up with an unbridled obsession with Top 40 radio. Hence, up until 1975, my "Summer Jams" all consisted of an eclectic mix of the days' hit singles — ah yes, The Hughes Corporation's "Rock the Boat" — now that truly was a great jam! However, my perspective changed in 1976. That's when my hell-raising, motorcycle-riding, cigarette-smoking, girl-chasing, teenage buddy Ronnie Burns introduced me to KISS' landmark LP, Destroyer. "Summer Jams" suddenly had a whole new flavor.

There have been many others over the years. In the summer of '77, everyone at my beachside junior high school was required by law to own a copy of Fleetwood Mac Rumors. And when I first experimented with drugs in high school during the summer of '78, The Rolling Stones' Some Girls  provided the soundtrack.

"Summer Jams" are personal. They enhance the mental snapshots that we keep tucked away in our private photo albums along with the physical Polaroids from the trip to Gatlinburg and that cookout when Uncle Hank fell into the pool. And they aren't limited to just iconic blockbusters. Although Journey's billion-selling Escape album ruled the roost in my world during the summer of '81, Cheap Trick's considerably less successful One On One cassette tape remained glued in my boombox throughout the "dog days" of '82.

As with many of my life's great romances, I've never known exactly with whom I'd be dancing from summer to summer. Would she be the innocent blond from next door or the crazy brunette with the Xanax issue who's visiting from Cleveland? In that regard, my "Summer Jam" possibilities also have been endless and varied. I was hooked on the arena rock sound of the Vinnie Vincent Invasion's All Systems Go in '88. However, just one year later, I couldn't get enough of alterno darlings, 10,000 Maniacs'  Blind Man's Zoo.

Aside from the birth of my son, the '90s  sucked completely. NO FUN ALLOWED — PERIOD! And I desperately was seeking at least ONE amazing post-grunge jam to give me hope that the entire decade wouldn't be a total loss. Then, there it was — snappy and happy — No Doubt's Tragic Kingdom. Yes, the decade was nearly salvaged in the summer of '96.

But I'm an old man now. I mean, like I'm turning 51 this year. Yikes — that's  really old! And in a day when the names of top-selling "music" "artists" seemingly all start with "Lil," I'm having difficulty connecting. My last truly fabulous and memorable "Summer Jam" was Blue October's Foiled, way back in '06. In fact, given the current very shallow summer (gene) pool, I've now introduced a new category — the Throwback "Summer Jam." Hey, let's bring Get the Knack back around for another spin!

Fortunately, I'm more focused on people than on music these days. My experience as a camp youth leader in 2012 provided me with my greatest summer memories ever. And I'll soon be headed out once again with a crew of teenage peeps from Merritt Island, Florida as we converge on Camp Kulaqua in Gainsville for a week's worth of non-stop summer fun and fellowship. I just hope they'll let me bring my boombox!

So how about you? What are some of your favorite summer memories and jams?

-Christopher Long
(June 2013)

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  1. Never forget when KISS's Destroyer came out. We were the first in line at Turtle's Records and Tapes. It did not disappoint!

    1. Creston, you'll ALWAYS be the King of the Night Time World!

  2. Disappointed that the Ramones and the Clash never made your summer jams list. I can't say that I associate any specific song to the summer, but my memory connects "Billy Don't Be A Hero" and "Run to Me" by the Bee Gees to my family's trips from Brooklyn to New Hampshire for the summer. This year its a battle between "Q.U.E.E.N" by Janelle Monae and anything off the new Daft Punk album.

    1. Actually, The Ramones' "Pleasant Dreams" record was a fierce competitor in 1981 -- I even saw them in concert for the first time that summer. As for the modern age, I agree -- the new Daft Punk record is snappy indeed.

  3. Brings back SO MANY memories ....which I can't talk about. For legal reasons.

    1. Understood, Robyn. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. While I agree 100 percent with the list you have created here, but, I'd like to add.... Summers 1980 to 1982 were the years of Summer Songs, well, for me anyways... 1980 Rush's Album "Permenant Waves" had brought us the greats "Spirit of the Radio" and "Freewill". And 1981 there were too many to mention them all, but I'd highlight Rush's "Moving Pictures" with songs like "Tom Sawyer", and "Limelight". Also in 1981 was Billy Squier's "Don't Say No" with greats like "The Stroke", "In the Dark"...etc..etc... In 1982, I'd say The Scorpions "Blackout" was the vinyl of that summer.. Then to fast forward only a little to 1987, Whitesnake's self titled album... I wore that cassette out.... Then 1989 R.E.M's cd Green... Although the 90s brought some decent music, it will never be like the greats of the 70s and 80s..


  5. Yeah, man! Billy Squier's "Don't Say No" and The Scorpions "Blackout" -- truly EPIC "Summer Jams." Thanks, Vince!