Playlist: Ultimate Summer!

An oldies playlist for the warmer months


Ultimate Summer!

Rock and roll music has had a long affair with summertime... which is only natural, considering how the music's prime teenage demographic lives for the season. But no matter what your age, you can find something to help celebrate the beach, the weather, or just the lack of school with this more or less chronological mixtape, which scours Fifties, Sixties and Seventies AM gold to find the greatest summer hits.
(Click the song title to hear a sample clip; download the songs here at or through your own provider, and make yourself an iPod playlist or legally burned CD.)
  1. The Jamies, "Summertime, Summertime"
    A perennial favorite that captures the innocence of the season in a way few other songs can. It doesn't rock, but it doesn't need to.

  2. The bizarre Bonds sound does its duty here celebrating the end of the school year (without blowing the school to pieces, like some folks).
  3. Connie Francis, "Vacation"
    Connie's summer songs were the Grease before Grease, and the camp joys of this kicky little number can't be denied.
  4. Eddie Cochran, "Summertime Blues"
    The classic lament: how to maintain your teen freedom when school is out while remaining responsible? A rockabilly milestone.
  5. Chad and Jeremy, "A Summer Song"
    A wistful British Invasion tune that conjures up the sheer natural beauty of the summer months. Perfect for a walk in the park.
  1. Nat King Cole, "Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days Of Summer"
    Cole purists frown at it, but it's hard to deny the good vibes streaming from this tune. You can practically taste the picnic lunches.

  2. A surf favorite and a huge influence on punk, but this golden oldie is really just a tribute to the girls of the West Coast -- and the dances you can do with them.
  1. Martha and the Vandellas, "Dancing In The Streets"
    It only mentions summer in passing, but this Motown classic became synonymous with the season anyway -- a perfect utopian vision of a dancing world.

  2. As usual with Ray Davies, this song seems pleasant enough on the surface but brims with weirder impulses just beneath. Still useful for our purposes.
  3. The Lovin' Spoonful, "Summer In The City"
    The quintessential urban summer song, all sweltering rooftops and traffic. But at night it's a different world!
  4. Billy Stewart, "Summertime"
    A jazz-soul vocal tour de force only nominally set to the Gershwin standard. Bucolic and yet thrilling.
  5. Eric Burdon and the Animals, "San Franciscan Nights"
    The Summer of Love's warmest ballad, in more ways than one.
  6. The Beach Boys, "Good Vibrations"
    Of course the Boys did several songs mentioning summer and surf, but was there ever a more accurate aural painting of their gestalt than this?

  7. Perfect for your summer romance memories, and that rare ballad that mentions Sgt. Pepper.
  8. Sly and the Family Stone, "Hot Fun In The Summertime"
    Quite possibly the essence of the season wrapped up in one gorgeous mural, a triumph of production meeting passion.
  9. The 5th Dimension, "On The Beach (In The Summertime)"
    Works even better than "Stoned Soul Picnic" at capturing the reverie of summertime.
  1. Mungo Jerry, "In The Summertime"
    The skiffle revival's biggest and greatest hit, not to mention a timeless tribute to the slacker mentality.
  2. Seals and Crofts, "Summer Breeze"
    For those who like something jazzier than normal... either this or the Isley Brothers' famous version will set the mood.

  3. A note-perfect recreation of the classic Beach Boys sound, and a sign that the oldies revival was at full steam.
  4. War, "Summer"
    Appropriately Latin, as was the band's m.o., and deliciously lazy.
  5. The Danleers, "One Summer Night"
    Doo-wop's greatest summer ballad, one which conjures up images of balmy evenings (and sticky backseats).
  6. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, "Summer Nights"
    Well, why not? Broadway as it may be, it still wraps your fabled summer romance up in a nice little package of misty memories.