LISTEN: These are the songs that defined the summers of our past

Nothing is as sweet as that song that captures the season forever, writes Olivia Kelleher

Oh for the halcyon days of summers past. When as a teenager you had your first crush on a totally inappropriate or unobtainable girl or boy.

In the midst of all the high drama, there was always that one song that summed up every feeling you ever had about love in a handy three-minute format.

Such is the magic of summer songs. Songs so evocative that you are immediately transported to another era when life was maybe that little bit easier or more innocent.

Author Cathy Kelly believes the yearning for a simpler life in a place of eternal summer is best summed up by Sheryl Crow’s ‘All I Wanna Do’. She says the singalong anthem is just the perfect song for this time of year.

“There is something so summery for me about the wonderful Sheryl Crow’s ‘All I Wanna Do’, that makes me want to drive down the road in a soft-top car with my hair streaming out behind me, singing at the top of my voice! Obviously, I do not have a soft-top car in this country but I do open the windows, and let the wind blow and sing.” Cathy maintains the song has the winning formula when it comes to summer tunes.

“It’s a combination of the lyrics and the melody: it’s summery — you can almost smell a hint of coconut sun-cream and the beach, and that’s when I start searching for my summer wardrobe (a very limited thing), which involves ancient leather flip-flops with teeny little beads sewn on, light-as-silk harem pants, a T-shirt and any number of hippie-ish necklaces. Now, that is summer.”

Author Hazel Gaynor is a fan of Wham’s ‘Club Tropicana’. She says the song is from a more innocent age when every girl believed that George Michael could indeed become their boyfriend.

“Nobody had any notion of his sexuality at that time. The beginning of the song starts with sound of crickets and then a car door and the sound of heels. It is almost like someone is coming towards you. And then you have that whole era of Pepsi and Shirley in their ‘Choose Life’ white T-shirts with their simple dance routines at the back. It was all just magical.” Hazel also has a soft spot for ‘Holiday’ by Madonna and remembers seeing her on Top of the Pops for the first time.

“I was amazed by her. With her lace fingerless gloves and her crucifixes. Sure who didn’t mimic her style. And it was all pulled together overnight.”

Author and actress Tara Flynn cites the The Style Council’s ‘Long Hot Summer’ as being among her favourites. She also has a fondness for any Beach Boys song, with a particular love for ‘God Only Knows’.

“Of course the Beach Boys remind you of summer and ‘God Only Knows’ is so life-affirming. It is about love going right and enduring love.”

Tara says she generally prefers summer songs that aren’t that sugary sweet. One of her top picks is Abba’s ‘Summer Night City’.

“I was a huge Abba fan when I was little. It was released just as a single and that was so special. I have so many memories with that song.”

Meanwhile, broadcaster with Cork’s 96FM, PJ Coogan, says the ultimate summer song has to be ELO’s ‘Mr Blue Sky’. “It’s a song which captures what summer is all about, but it was recorded in a basement in November. It is such a happy bouncy song. ELO just captured the atmosphere perfectly. Music has changed so much. We will never get a song like it again.”

PJ, who has worked as a DJ for many years, said he was always into music. When he wouldn’t rest as a ten-month-old his mum started putting on the old transistor radio to get him off to sleep. It worked a treat and a love affair with music was born.

One of the most memorable summer tracks for him is ‘I can hear your Heartbeat’ by Chris Rea.

“I used to go in to college with the radio strapped on to the bars of my bike. A tinny radio on the push bar going in to the summer exams. And that was just the song.” PJ says honourable mentions in the best summer songs also go to one hit wonder Paul Davis with ‘Sixty Five Love Affair’ and Pat Benatar’s ‘Invincible’. So what are the essential ingredients for a good summer song ?

I asked the late Gerry Ryan this question for a similar article a few years before he died and he chose ‘School’s Out for Summer’ by Alice Cooper.

For Gerry, summer was about one thing most of all — freedom from routine.

For younger people it is about having a break from the constraints of school. Or as Alice more memorably puts it:

School’s out for summer

School’s out forever

School’s been blown to pieces

No more pencils

No more books

No more teacher’s dirty looks



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