Summer Songs, Part Two

We’ll pick up today with summer songs, continuing from last week’s post that looked at the years 1968-70 as well as at 1972’s “Where Is the Love” by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway, the tune that sparked the idea.

So what about 1971? Well, that one’s easy. I spent most days that summer mowing lawns and cleaning floors at St. Cloud State and most evenings hanging around with Rick with a radio playing. And despite the Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar” and “Treat Her Like A Lady” by the Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose and a few other records, it was the summer of “It’s Too Late” by Carole King. As I wrote in a post a couple of years ago: “There are few sounds that pull me back in time as potently as the piano figure that opens ‘It’s Too Late’.” And as friend and commenter jb said in response to that post, that piano figure is “the sound of the summer of ’71 distilled to a few seconds.”

Having taken care of 1972 in last week’s post, we move on to 1973. Several records bring back specific moments from that summer when I prepared to leave home for the first time: Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome,” Dr. John’s “Right Place Wrong Time,” Billy Preston’s “Will It Go Round In Circles” and a pair of records by ex-Beatles, Paul McCartney’s “My Love” and George Harrison’s “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth).” But Deep Purple’s “Smoke On The Water” was just as present during that season. And it earns its place as the summer record of 1973 for that omnipresence and for one specific moment. Three years ago, I wrote:

Sometime during late July or early August of that summer, many of us who would spend the next school year in Denmark through St. Cloud State got together for a picnic at Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis. At one point during that evening, I was standing at the base of Minnehaha Falls – the waterfall that gives the large park its name – talking for the first time with a young woman who would turn out to be a very important part of my next nine months. Some distance away, another group of picnickers had a music source of some kind, and in that moment, those distant picnickers were listening to “Smoke On The Water.” Ever since, that opening riff puts me back at the base of Minnehaha Falls during the first tentative moments of a friendship that for a while became something else.

The first month of the odd summer of 1974 found me at home recovering from a still-unexplained illness, and for the rest of the summer I worked part-time at the St. Cloud State library. I also hung around with Rick and with folks from The Table in the student union as I tried to figure out how to fit my memories of my nine months away into the life I was resuming in St. Cloud. The music around me, as I look back almost forty years, seems as unsettled as I was that summer. There were some big hits and some good records: “Band on the Run” by Paul McCartney & Wings, “Sundown” by Gordon Lightfoot, “Rock the Boat” by the Hues Corporation, “Please Come To Boston” by Dave Loggins. But none of those sum up the summer, a season that seems to have been filled not only with relief that I was whole but with dissonance and odd angles and strange transitions. And the record from that summer that still feels both ways all these years later is Steely Dan’s “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.”

A year later, I felt like me again, going to school, working with folks I liked, spending time with friends from The Table and from elsewhere, playing some tennis and on one memorable evening, being hypnotized with several other patrons on the small stage of the Press Bar downtown. Music was all around me, from the jukebox in Atwood Center and from radios in many places, including my room, my car and the apartments and rooms of the several young women I dated that summer. I recall “Philadelphia Freedom” by Elton John, “Love Will Keep Us Together” by the Captain & Tennille, “The Hustle” by Van McCoy & The Soul City Symphony, “I’m Not In Love” by 10 c.c. and several more. But there are two countryish records that pull me back more potently to the summer of 1975, and they both play in memory from the boothside jukebox at the Country Kitchen: “Wildfire” by Michael Martin Murphey and “I’m Not Lisa” by Jessi Colter. Same companion across the booth?  Yes. Same night? I think so.

That’s a nice place to stop for today. I had no plans to make this a three-part series, but that’s where it’s gone. We’ll pick up the last couple of college years and whatever other summers stick with me sometime in the next week.

Edited slightly.

Tags: , , , ,

3 Responses to “Summer Songs, Part Two”

  1. Yah Shure says:

    A few years ago, I realized I had one of those “memory lapses” regarding which side (studio or live?) of the “Smoke On The Water” 45 snagged the airplay on KDWB that summer. The promo has the studio side starred as the A-side, but I *think* it was the live version I heard more. Any recollection, whiteray?

  2. whiteray says:

    Yah Shure: Having given a quick listen at YouTube, I’m going to say it was the live version that I heard most frequently. As well as listening to KDWB, I would have heard the record on other radio stations and on a jukebox here and there, so I’m not sure what KDWB played. But the live version is the one that resonates.

  3. Steve E. says:

    It was the studio side in Southern California, at least on KHJ.

Leave a Reply