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Hot Town, Summer in the City

Car tunes to turn up...and up...and up

There’s a slew of groups on Facebook called some variety or other of “When I’m Looking for an Address I Turn Down the Sound on the Car Radio.” When I first saw one I laughed because I do it too. I’m thinking of starting a group called “When a Song Comes on the Radio That I Like I Turn Up the Sound But Don’t Turn It Down When It’s Over and Then When Another Song Comes On That I Like I Turn It Up Again…and Again…and Again.” And I wonder why my hearing’s bad.

And now that it’s summer, there are certain tunes that come on the radio (or CD player, or iPod) that I still do the same thing for. Summer songs. Feel-good, turn-up-the-radio songs. Like the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City,” an actual summer song which peaked at number one on the Billboard Top 40 Charts in July 1966. No, I wasn’t old enough to drive, but I was old enough to sit in the front seat whenever possible, within arm’s reach of the radio knob. (Sorry, Mom.)

It’s significant that “Summer in the City” really was a summer song. Say “summer song” and many will mention a Beach Boys tune—they all just seem like they should be summer songs. But “Fun, Fun, Fun” was being played in February 1964; “Good Vibrations,” late October 1966; “Sloop John B,” April 1966; and “Barbara Ann” was about as far-removed from summer as you could get back in January 1966. That being said, as soon as I hear the intro to “Sloop John B” I’m reaching for the volume control.

The Beatles had a song or two which are on my list: “A Hard Day’s Night” (July 1964); “Ticket To Ride” (May 1965—close enough); “Paperback Writer” (June 1966); and “Hey Jude” (September 1968). As did the Rolling Stones: “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (June 1965); “Honky Tonk Women” (July 1969); and “Miss You” (June 1978). Just to prove I’m not into old-fart music exclusively, not everything on my list was issued on black vinyl 45s (or eight-track tapes, for that matter). Whenever I hear Terrence Trent Darby’s “Wishing Well” from May 1988, or Tears For Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” from June 1985, it’s the same thing. Erasure’s “Chains of Love” (Sept. 1988); the opening bars to “Hello City,” which was the first track on the Barenaked Ladies first album, Gordon, released in July 1992; and “Let Her Cry,” by Hootie and the Blowfish from July 1994.

All that being said, and as much as I love my iPod (and the CD player in the old Buick when it works right), there’s still something special about hearing an old summer favorite on the radio. Yeah, I know, there’s the commercials, “newscasters” reading stories right out of the day’s newspapers, weather over and over again when all you really need to do is look out your window, and did I mention Fucillo commercials? But it’s special being surprised by hearing your favorite makeout song; the “first dance song” from your wedding; or the song you heard as your spouse left the house for good (finally!). Sure, you’ve got all that stuff on your iPod, but you know it’s coming before it starts playing. Setting it to “shuffle” doesn’t matter. You know it’s there and you’ll hear it sooner or later.

Buying an iPod Touch: $199. Burning your own CD with all of your faves: next to nothing. Driving home from work in a really crappy mood and hearing Billy Idol’s “White Wedding” on the car radio, and cranking it: priceless!

Read “You Auto Know” every other week in Artvoice and more often on AV Daily at Plus check out Jim’s bolog:

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