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James Ferragut, Published June 27 2010

Ferragut: Summer music nostalgia

I get nostalgic in the summer. It’s because longing for these three hallowed months starts in January. But then it’s here. In a blink of the eye we’re immersed in the warm routines of summer.

It wasn’t until last weekend that it really felt like summer. Everything is green and blooming. The lake life is back. Mosquitoes have launched their first attacks. And though it’s almost July, like true northerners, we’ll take what we can get when we can get it.

Summer is a gift as elusive as the butterfly. Since we never have enough summer, we tend to hold it in high regard. Heck, we might even mythologize it.

I associate summers with seasonal music. It was the soundtrack of easy livin’ when I was a teenager. Summer music was more evocative of that season than any other time of year. Thank the Beach Boys, but they were just the gateway band for summer songs. I could start a list a mile long of great summer songs: Feel the heat from the Spoonful’s “Summer in the City,” Van’s “Brown Eyed Girl,” “Hang on Sloopy” by the McCoys. Those songs are in a never-ending hot rotation on any oldies station.

I loved the “one-hit wonders.” The hits from garage bands that that were as elusive as summer itself. And in the ’60s, the one-hit-wonders ruled. Do you remember these?

Question Mark & the Mysterion’s “96 Tears,” “Ma Belle Amie” by the Tee Set, “Come on Down to My Boat” by Every Mother’s Son, “I Cannot Stop You” by Cherry Slush, “Pushin’ Too Hard” by the Seeds, “Western Union” by The Five Americans, “She’s About a Mover” by Tex Mex kings Sir Douglas Quintet, or Billy Stewart’s brilliant, staccato scat version of “Summertime,” “Dirty Water” by the Standells, “Talk Talk” by The Music Machine.

The world has changed from those innocent summers of the 1960s. The chances of an entire generation getting carried away are slim to none. Back then radio stations ruled and every teenage kid in the country was listening to the same 40 songs at the same time. We were united by the music, and when a beloved artist broke with a new tune, it was a huge event.

I’ll never forget hearing Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” for the first time on a Thursday night. I was mesmerized. I sat in my grandparents’ living room the very next cool, rainy day in Hibbing, Minn. (ironically Bobby Z’s hometown). I was listening to Duluth’s WEBC patiently waiting, song after song, hour after hour until finally at 4:10 in the afternoon, Mike Bloomfield’s organ riff started the magic before Dylan wailed, “Once upon a time you dressed so fine …”

The station played the six-minute version that day. (Most stations had to fade it out after 3 minutes, do a commercial break and fade in the song’s second half!). The waiting was endless, but the payoff was bliss.

So, we’re now in the season. My summer songs are coming from bands like Band of Horses, The National and Rogue Wave. These aren’t one-hit wonders, but every bit as obscure as Question Mark ever was.

And hey, if you have a favorite one-hit wonder … send me an e-mail.


Ferragut is a marketing executive and contributor to The Forum’s commentary page.