Twisted Systems

    The Lasting Memories of Hit Summer Songs

    Issue 165

    Another summer is now here, and I’m reminded about how, growing up, songs that were hits during the summers of my youth helped to define and more importantly remind me of past summers and the good times I connect to them.

    1963

    In the summer of 1963, my parents rented a bungalow in Mountain Lodge Park, about 50 miles north of Manhattan off Route 17.

    To the many New Yorkers who know that area, part of that drive also included passing by a huge roadside restaurant called the Red Apple Rest. You didn’t want to miss the signs leading up to it because, as a family, someone would need to use the bathroom, or you’d stop to get lunch. The signs were big and told you you were 1,000 feet from the Red Apple Rest, then 500 feet from the Red Apple Rest, then 100 feet from it…

    It was kind of like a culinary rite of passage.

     

    Red Apple Rest.

     

    After that it was another hour or so to Mt. Lodge Park.

    I was 11 years old that summer. It was the summer that Jackie Kennedy lost her baby and it seemed that we all mourned with her.

    It was also the summer that I carried a transistor radio everywhere and where I would sit for hours in a tree house I built, listening to my favorite radio station: WABC.

    The summer started off with a bang with one of the most unbelievably inappropriate hits that was ever broadcast: “If You Wanna Be Happy” by Jimmy Soul. The song is about the benefits of marrying an ugly girl. The premise being that the girl would be so grateful that she would cook and clean the house happily every day and remain totally faithful, as opposed to the disadvantage of marrying a pretty girl, who would leave you for the next guy and break your heart.

    The song is so happy and poppy and I’d never bothered to pay attention (nor did anyone else, apparently) to the lyrics much. I remember my friends and I singing the chorus, however, when we were riding the IRT train on our way to a swimming pool uptown.

    “If you wanna be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pretty woman your wife, so from my personal point of view, Get an ugly girl to marry you.” At the end of the song there is a conversation between Jimmy and one of his other singers. Here it is verbatim: “Hey man, I saw your wife the other day. Man, she sure is ugly.” “Yeah, (Jimmy replies), but she sure can cook!”

    What an insane message to an 11-year-old (boy or girl)!

    That song, along with the Tymes’ “So Much in Love,” followed by “My Boyfriend’s Back” by The Angels, were the soundtrack of that summer.

    When I hear any of these songs, it takes me back to the summer of 1963 in Mountain Lodge Park and the treehouse.

     

    Perhaps the greatest memory of the summer of 1963, however, was that it came between three monumental events (at least in the mind of this 11-year-old):

    The October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, in which we were all ultimately relieved that the world was not consumed by a nuclear war (remember the bomb drills when we had to shelter under our school desks?)

    The assassination of president John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.

    Five weeks later, the release in the US of the Beatles’ “I Want To Hold Your Hand” on December 26, 1963, which went to Number One the following week and further fueled the Beatlemania that followed.

    It really is hard sometimes to remember a time when the Beatles were not affecting the entire cultural zeitgeist of our lives. That is what the music that summer brings me back to.

    1964

    I was at the Ten Mile River Boy Scout camp in Narrowsburg, NY, with my trusty transistor radio always under my pillow.

    The songs that summer were:

    “Rag Doll” – the Four Seasons

    “A Hard Day’s Night” – the Beatles

    “Where Did Our Love Go” – the Supremes

     

    It should be noted that all of these acts are now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!

    1965

    Back to Ten Mile River scout camp in July. My parents rented a house in Ocean Beach, Fire Island, for August.

    “I Can’t Help Myself” – the Four Tops

    “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” – the Rolling Stones

    “I Got You Babe” – Sonny & Cher

    “Satisfaction” was the Rolling Stones first Number One song, 18 months after the Beatles arrived, contrary to most memories!

     

    1966

    I’m back in Fire Island for the entire summer.

    “Strangers in the Night” – Frank Sinatra

    “Hanky Panky” – Tommy James and the Shondells

    “Wild Thing” – the Troggs

    “Summer in the City” – the Lovin’ Spoonful

    “See You In September” – the Happenings

    “You Can’t Hurry Love” – the Supremes

    As you can see, the summer of 1966 was pretty volatile in the world of Top 40 radio in New York!

     

    1967

    “Can’t Take My Eyes off You” – the Four Seasons

    “Windy” – the Association

    “Light My Fire” – the Doors

    “All You Need Is Love” – the Beatles

     

    I was attending the Shaker Village summer camp in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. My bunkmate was Ben Chaney, the brother of slain civil rights worker James Chaney. It was the summer of my political awakening. This was the summer that FM radio began to gain prominence for rock listeners, and the path to my pop music soundtrack memories took a decidedly different trajectory.

    Although never reaching Number One in the US, “A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum is my song of the summer of 1967, and the entire Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was my album of the summer. That does seem fitting, as that album really ushered in, for most of us, the album as the creative voice of an artist not an under-three-minute single.

    Where were you?

    Do you remember the songs you grew up with?

    Were they important?

    I want to read your comments and memories.

    All songs are listed in chronological order from the last week of June to the first week of September of their respective years. All chart listings courtesy of WABC Musicradio 77.

     

    Header image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Patrick Gruban.

    10 comments on “The Lasting Memories of Hit Summer Songs”

    1. I remember every song on your list, but the one I really remember is from 1967. It’s the version of “Wild Thing” performed by impressionist Bill Minkin. On one side he did Wild Thing as Everett Dirksen, and on the other side he was Bobby Kennedy. A friend’s big brother had a pool table in his garage that summer and played the record over and over. It was the funniest thing in the world to a 10 year old. It is drilled into my memory in kind of a bad way after all these years!

      P.S. I Googled the record before I posted and found that it was produced by Chip Taylor aka James Voigt — Jon Voigt’s brother and Angelina Jolie’s uncle. Small world.

    2. In ‘65 a good bet I too was summering on Fire Island, though in Seaview, not OB. My aunt and uncle owned a home. When their home was being constructed, the builders built on the wrong lot. It all got worked out, but a crazy faux pas. To tie my FI experience back to your post, for several years Cousin Brucie and family rented right beyond my relatives’ house. You couldn’t see him because of the vegetation, but you could hear him loud and clear. It was like your transistor radio suddenly came to life. Not sure I’ve ever heard anybody speak so fast.

    3. My summers in northern PA were spent listening to WKBW. The 50,000 watt flagship voice of the Buffalo Bills! I’m a bit younger so my transistor radio days started in 1967. I do remember listening to the World Series in 1967 and 1968. Cardinals/Red Sox and Cardinals/Tigers if I recall correctly.
      In ’67 I remember The Letter by the Boxtops and, regrettable, Snoopy vs The Red Baron by the Royal Guardsman along with those you mention.
      In ’68 it was Hey Jude, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay, and I Heard it Through the Grapevine plus countless others. 1968 was a great year for music.
      I worked with Steve Mortkowitz as a programmer at IBM in the 80s so I have give his old band a shout out. The 1910 Fruitgum Company and Simon Says. Steve was the bass player and is sadly deceased.

    4. Triggered great memories. Thanks, Jay Jay. I still have a very worn 45 of “If You Want To Be Happy” by Jimmy Soul, which I thought was pretty funny— and still do, though I recognize its political incorrectness.

    5. I was one of those kids who took a transistor radio to the beach and listened to WABC-AM. One of my most distinct summer memories was hearing Richard Harris’ “MacArthur Park” endlessly. One time we were on my father’s boat (a 16-foot Wellcraft; we weren’t rich) and the song came on. I remember him going on and on about what a crappy, meaningless song it was. Meanwhile, I thought it was great. I had no idea what the lyrics meant and didn’t care!

    6. Jay Jay, I’m older than you but am fascinated by the number of songs from the ’50s and ’60s still utilized in commercials and movies. Of course the latter makes sense for a story from that era.

      Currently on TV I see the “I Only Have Eyes For You” commercial every evening. That was a big favorite when released.

      Shoop, shoop!

    7. Hey Jay Jay,
      My best memories of summer is in the late 70’s, at the Mad Hatter and Night Club in East Quogue, and OBI East etc… Of course listening to my favorite band Twisted Sister! Along with Rat Race Choir and Zebra and other long forgotten bands. I still tell people about those days 40 years ago even now living in California. Thank you for your articles and I just finished reading Twisted Business, what a great story and inspiration.
      Scott

      1. Scott, if it was during the early to late 1970s we might have been at some of the same shows. Tuey’s, the OBI North, South and East, the Mad Hatter, that floating barge place in the Hamptons, Rumrunner’s, Malibu, Solomon Grundy’s, Key Largo, Sundance (or whatever the name of that country music bar was) and on and on. What a club scene in those days! Our band, the Lines, played a lot of them from around 1979 through 1981.

    8. Frank,
      Also the Boardy Barn and Hot Dog Beach! My cousin took me to The Barge when I was too young to be there. We must have crossed paths, no place better than growing up on Long Island listening to the great live music.

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