The Ultimate Guide to Retro Summer Music

An in-depth guide to summer oldies music and songs

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Summer is just a season to many of us, especially those not old enough to still be in school. But for the generations that created and sustained early rock and roll, summertime was much more important than that: before technological advancements made year-round indoor comfort a reality, Americans used June, July and August to get out and see the world; for others, it was a chance to form crucial early experiences, usually those involving the opposite sex.

Hence, summer became a major theme in the works of rock's early superstars.

Summer Songs

As you might imagine, summer oldies were designed to be as warm, happy, natural, and pleasing as the season in question. Taken together, most of these big hits therefore flow together quite well, even those from different eras. And later in rock's development, the season became an extended metaphor for the baby-boomers and their new dream of nature, love, and brotherhood.

  • Top 10 Summer Oldies Albums A list of the best summer oldies music CDs and compilations of all time, including surf music, soul music, drag music, and shag music, and featuring all the big hits as well as some obscurities.
  • Playlist: Ultimate Summer 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 AM gold to find the greatest summer hits.
  • Summer of Love Oldies The world's first "be-in" in San Francisco, held in January 1967, became a clarion call for young people all over the world to join the scene, and a hundred thousand college students did just that, traveling to California that year to experience the "Summer of Love."
  • The Beach Boys: The Warmth Of The Sun review As a compilation of great Beach Boys summer songs, this disc is scattershot at best, although it does feature several relatively obscure tracks that fit the bill as well as the hits do. On the other hand, it's well chosen enough to work as a great Beach Boys mixtape.

    Summer Lifestyles

    America's postwar affluence and might, combined with the rise of the automobile and the resultant new mobility of a generation, made summer a time in which anything could happen, when the highway system stood as a yellow brick road to opportunity and love could pop up at any bend in the road.

    • Top 10 Road Trip Oldies Albums┬áThe Road Trip, like rock and roll, is a uniquely American invention; the automobile itself represented the American dream -- freedom on wheels, the invention that allowed people to reinvent themselves. Millions took to the road, buoyed by that sense of possibility, and rock and roll was the soundtrack.
    • Summer Romance Oldies The beauty, joy, and pain of the summer romance lies in its (often unspoken) brevity -- a fling that you know can't last. The oldies of rock's early years often focused on this subject from the teen's point of view, but it can also represent a full-grown man or woman's first brush with infidelity.
    • Top 10 Wedding Oldies Songs June is often considered the best month for weddings, and so here's a list of oldies that fit the bill... not just oldies that get a lot of play at weddings, or oldies that mention weddings, but a little bit of both.

      Surf/Hot-Rod Music

      With the extra downtime afforded by the country's new superpower status, Americans began to take advantage of new technologies and the natural beauty of their surroundings, resulting in hobbies that were based on thrills and danger, and an accompanying musical style that took advantage of another recent innovation: the electric guitar.

      • Surf Music and Hot Rod Music FAQ Got a question about surf music or its cousin, hot rod music? Ever wondered how Dick Dale got that sound? Why vocal and instrumental surf music is so different? What separates surfers from hot rodders?
      • Yes, he's that "Misirlou" guy, the King of the Surf Guitar. But there's more to the story than that, a fascinating look at the development of a genre that incorporates several near-death experiences, a painstaking process of technical invention, and a bunch of happy accidents.
      • Profile: The Ventures They popularized the fuzz box, helped invent surf music, brought up entire generations of guitar gods, had five albums on the charts at once, and sold more records in Japan than the Beatles. Not bad for a couple of Pacific Northwest construction workers.
      • Profile: Beach Boys One of the more tragic and bizarre tales in rock and roll history, the Beach Boys were nonetheless triumphant in providing an American counterpoint to the Beatles' musical experiments.
      • Profile: Jan and Dean Surf's most famous duo, an act who, unfortunately, have become known more for their near-tragic history than for their impressive contributions to music. Find out how Brian Wilson and Jan influenced each other and whether "Dead Man's Curve" was prophetic.

      Shag/Beach Music

      The necessity of getting near the water when the hot weather hit led many kids of the postwar era to indulge their newfound love of rhythm and blues while remaining on the beach. As R&B morphed into the smoother, warmer sounds of soul, these aficionados developed an entire mellow (and often inebriated) beach lifestyle that is still thriving today.

      • Shag Dance and Beach Music FAQ Frequently asked questions about shag dancing and beach music, including the story of how the postwar phenomenon evolved into a national pastime. Read about the bands past and present, the dance itself, the clubs, the competitions, and where to get the music.
      • Profile: Chairmen Of The Board The Chairmen of the Board, featuring the timeless talents of leader General Johnson, became heroes to the Carolina shag/beach music scene and dominated early-Seventies R&B with smashes like "Give Me Just A Little More Time" and "Pay To The Piper."
      • : Sweet Soul Serenade Like your soul music sweet, with strings, bells, horns, or just a sunshine mood? Most of these songs fit one or more of those descriptions, tracing the development of pop-soul and providing the "beach music" scene with many perennial favorites.