Friday, 27 June 2014

The Lovin' Spoonful 'Summer In The City'

Chart Peak: 1
The follow-up to 'Daydream', this track made No. 8 in August 1966. It was also an American No. 1 and was originally a poem written by John Sebastian's brother.
One of my favourite summer tracks, mainly because it's so ambivalent. Sure we're all pleased to see the summer when it first arrives but after a few days isn't there a little part of all of us that starts to get a bit tired of the heat as we pack ourselves onto trains and spend our days in offices and classrooms? That was of course even more the case in the days before widespread air-conditioning in Britain. Matthew Sebastian neatly sums up the physical manifestations of summer days "Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty" and hints at the impatient mood that can sometimes develop: he then contrasts this with the pleasures of a summer night, when the world seems a lot more open and welcoming. I went for a walk to the park after 9pm just the other day and it was great that it was still light enough to see then.

The song is greatly improved by its musical setting, even if they do have to sing it twice to make it up to a commercially viable length. John Sebastian's staccato electric piano part gives the song a hook before the rest of the arrangement kicks in, and there's a palpable contrast between the tension of the "day" verses and the lighter, more open-sounding "night" bridge. Like 'Lazy Sunday', it's also a great sound effect track, with the subtle use of jackhammers and traffic noises representing the irritation without actually becoming irritating themselves. For me the only flaw of the track musically is that they seem to run out of ideas at the end, sounding like they're going to a big finish that never arrives and fading almost as if they're shy.

Available on: Summer In The City - The Collection

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