Summertime Blues: Songs As Sad As The Season
"The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to the place where he arose..."
So reads the prologue to Ernest Hemingway's 1926 treatise on the horrors of existential dread. In the book, Jake Barnes and a band of entirely unlikeable expat misfits flit around the globe, from Paris to Pamplona. A tour of Europe might sound like the ideal summer vacation, but for Barnes it's a chance to contemplate death and his own failing manhood while watching bulls get slaughtered by bullfighters with memories of World War I still running deep. Rocks Off had the SADs real bad this year. It was, after all, the worst winter Houston had seen in three decades. Perhaps, like us, you're looking forward to summer. The temperatures have yet to hit the triple digits, the humidity hasn't kicked in, school is just finishing, and you've got the whole long lazy season to look forward to. Or so you think. Just wait until the malaise kicks in. Wait until it gets too hot to move. Wait until your ass cheeks start sticking to vinyl seats, you've watched every daytime rerun of Law & Order and you've had your fifth summer cold thanks to your over-air-conditioned office. Wait until you're so fucking bored with summer you can't stand another minute of it. Then wait until you realize summer is EIGHT MONTHS LONG in this city.
Think you'll find relief at the beach? Not bloodly likely. And let's not forget that experts are predicting a more active than usual hurricane season. It's easy to make the case that summer is the saddest season of the year. Eddie Cochran was right. Just look at all the seemingly gauzy pop songs whose cheerful beats and tones underplay morose or maudlin lyrics or backstory. The Beach Boys are a perfect example of this. How can you take a song like "The Warmth of the Sun" at face value while knowing that Brian Wilson was slowly and silently going crazy? Below, seven more songs for the Summertime Blues. Come August, you'll know what we mean.
"Suddenly Last Summer," The Motels: Talk about Southern Gothic. The song is based on a one-act play by Tennessee Williams about a young woman in unrequited love with her cousin. When the cousin dies mysteriously, the girl begins to go insane. Her aunt, mother of the dead boy, threatens to lobotomize her while trying in vain to cover up her own son's homosexuality and the true, horrifying cause of his death. Ruminate on that next time you're hanging out at the pool. "Cemetery Gates," The Smiths: With lyrics like "A dreaded sunny day, so I'll meet you at the cemetery gates/ And we're born and then we live and then we die," the existentialism is thick. By the way, Keats, the Romantic poet mentioned in the lyrics, died at the ripe old age of 25 from tuberculosis. Pleasant! "Summer Rain," Johnny Rivers: You know how, in Grease, Danny Zuko and Sandy Olsson sing the song "Summer Nights," about their three-month fling and the fact that they thought their love would never be compromised by the end of August? Love is fleeting, and you have to appreciate it while it lasts. That's basically what this Johnny Rivers song is about, but, you know, worded better.
"Cruel Summer," Bananarama: This song basically has one stanza and then the chorus is repeated ad nauseum, and since you already know the words (don't lie) we don't need to explain this one to you, But we do want to know, why are so many of these sad summer songs from the '80s? "It's Summertime," The Flaming Lips: During summertime, look inside and all you'll see is a self-reflected inner sadness. Look outside and you'll recognize it's too damn hot to leave the confines of your cool, dark house. "California Dreamin'," The Mamas and the Papas: Okay, so this song is actually about winter, but can you imagine how harsh a Houston summer would have to be that you'd rather go to California instead? "Summer's Almost Gone," The Doors: Truly, the saddest thing about summer is that it must always end. We have to go back to work, the weather has to get cold again, the pool has to be winterized. Living in Houston extends that season somewhat, but for a few months at least everyone has the chance to try and recapture the aimlessness of their youth and the recklessness of a vernal romance. But the again, the sun also rises, and sets each night. Ask us how we feel about it in December.
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