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California: Summer Songs and Summer Vacations


Summer is approaching, and that means vacation. For me, summer ignites a feeling of euphoria and celebration that was built in during school years, when summertime was a long three-month reprieve from school, a full quarter of the year. When summer came it was like crossing a threshold into heaven. And there were always songs to proclaim the arrival of summer, and capture that feeling of celebration.

We’ll go swimming every day
No time to work just time to play
If your folks complain just say
It’s summertime

Even when I got old enough to work summer jobs, that feeling of summer freedom stuck with me. It was a different mindset, a break from the school routine. Even when I had a job, there was always travel, and I seized every opportunity. Summer is when everyone travels. Summer is almost synonymous with vacation travel.

What great anticipation it was when summer approached! When that last day of school finally came, the doors flew open and the kids burst out like an explosion. When you’re school age, three months is a long time. When school let out it felt as if you were looking at an expanse of time that stretched to infinity.

Those summer vacation memories are packed into the songs of summer. When you hear those nostalgic records, the memories come pouring in fresh, as if you were transported back to those times.

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy,
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high…

The songs bring back images and tactile memories of summers past, the sunshine and warm air, the smell of fresh grass, ocean breezes, whatever cluster of impressions are connected to that sound in your own summer memories.

Some of the songs are about summer things. Others are summer songs because that was when you heard them, when they moved you and became a part of you, and branded themselves on that moment and the place where you were.

No records ever embodied summer more than those of the Beach Boys. They were all about the teenagers’ experience of summer in California.

Coming from the landlocked middle of the country, I dreamed longingly of California. Los Angeles was the ultimate fairytale land, where dreams come true. Hollywood, the movie industry, the recording industry, heavenly weather, beaches, mountains … Disneyland! It seemed like paradise.

The surfing songs, “Surfer Girl” and “Surfin’ USA”; the car songs: “Little Deuce Coup” and “Shut Down” echoed across the country. Those of us trapped inland experienced…

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