Saturday Single No. 353

We’re in the sweet spot of summer here on the East Side. Almost every evening, the Texas Gal brings back from the garden more zucchini, more cucumbers, more wax beans and purple beans (she tells me that the purple beans, as odd as they look, turn a more standard green upon cooking) and more cherry tomatoes. Many larger tomatoes, not yet ripe, hang green and heavy on the vines.

We already have six or seven bags of steamed broccoli florets in the freezer, and four quarts of a cabbage/potato dish seasoned with bacon and onions came out of the canner last weekend. I demolished most of two loaves of whole wheat zucchini bread in the past week, and the Texas Gal is digging more potatoes this morning.

And in the category of non-edibles, we have acorns. Something odd happened a year ago – we lean toward a late freeze after an early spring – and the thirty-four oak trees in our yard produced no acorns that we saw. Every other year, when August came around, we’d step on acorns as we crossed the lawn, we’d feel them fall on our heads as we sat in our lawn chairs, and they’d crunch under our feet as we made our ways down the sidewalk to the mailbox. Last year, there was none of that. Just this week, as I got the mail one day, I heard acorns crunch under my feet on the sidewalk. We are in the sweet spot of summer.

So here’s a random six-song jaunt through the two hundred or so mp3s in the RealPlayer with “summer” in their titles. At the end, we’ll choose one.

Stevie Wonder sings, “Summer soft/Wakes you up with a kiss to start the morning off.” The album track is on his 1976 album, Songs In The Key Of Life. It’s a plaint to the impermanence of all things including time, I think. Wonder sings near the end of the tune, “You find it’s October/And she’s gone, and she’s gone/Summer’s gone/You’ve been fooled by April/And he’s gone . . .”

“Summertime Girl” by Salt Water Taffy starts with some rough-edged guitar licks and cowbell and has some wah-wah sliding in soon enough, all of that setting the stage for something that might have come from Mountain (“Mississippi Queen”). But then the 1971 record – a cover of the Trade Winds’ 1965 single on Red Bird – morphs into stacked-vocal choruses celebrating a summer romance. The other stuff keeps going in the background and between verses though, giving “Summertime Girl” a distinctly split psych-pop personality. It all works, somehow.

One of the first album tracks I ever heard by the Doors was “Indian Summer” from 1970’s Morrison Hotel. The brief and moody track was on a tape a friend made for me during high school of an hour’s worth of KQRS, a Twin Cities’ FM station he could get and I couldn’t. It’s one of my favorite Doors’ tracks, but it’s more suitable for late September or October, so we’ll just listen this morning, and then walk on.

Isolation, I guess, is the theme that Melanie’s working with in “Summer Weaving” from her 1971 album, Stoneground Words. “Weave me a summer flight into a music that I’ve loved and haven’t known/Weave me a summer night into a winter fire for I’m very far from warm.” All that sounds nice, but in the end, Melanie – with her voice as plaintive as I’ve ever heard it – concludes, “And when it comes right down to it, we’re really quite alone/Unless we want someone to own and run the life we live.” A pretty song, but not a happy song.

Jazz flautist Herbie Mann’s 1961 album At the Village Gate offers just three long tracks in its brief playtime: A side-long version of George and Ira Gershwin’s “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” an eight-minute take on “Comin’ Home Baby,” and a ten-minute workout on the classic by the Gershwins and DuBose Heyward, “Summertime.” I like a little Herbie Mann, but there are times for his long takes, and as nice as his sinuous “Summertime” is, I don’t think Saturday morning is one of them. We’ll see.

“She’s like a summer flower. I watch her by the hour,” sing the members of the late 1960s group West. “I need to love her all the time. She’s on my mind.” Well, all right. The track “Summer Flower” comes from a self-titled 1968 album of covers the band released on Epic. The country folk-ish feel of the tune is nice but bland. And I’m not even sure whose tune the band is covering, as Google searches for those two bits of lyrics come up empty.

I wouldn’t have thought it likely when the first notes came out of the speakers, but the Salt Water Taffy record works better for me than any of the others this morning. Maybe it’s because I don’t know it as well as the others, or maybe it’s that odd combination of heavy and light. I’m not sure. I found the record in the massive Lost Jukebox series I’ve mentioned frequently, so I know little about Salt Water Taffy. The notes at YouTube give a little more information, but even without that, it’s easy enough to offer “Summertime Girl” by Salt Water Taffy as today’s Saturday Single.


One Response to “Saturday Single No. 353”

  1. Mikelj3 says:

    Hey Buddy, I was a weekender & FT production director at WTRY (Albany, Schenectady & Troy, NY) in 1969 and this song knocked on a door in my memory that was slammed shut many years ago. Nice to hear this piece of fluff again. Thanx!

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