#30 – Lovin’ Spoonful – Summer in the City
In truth, “Summer in the City” is an oddity among the Lovin’ Spoonful’s more folkish cannon. Their other hits, “Rain on the Roof”, “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice”, “Nashville Cats”, “Do You Believe In Magic“, “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?“, and “Daydream” bend more toward the ballad end of the musical spectrum.
But if there ever was a tune that channeled the feel of 1966, “Summer in the City” is it. From the opening two note riff with explosive percussion accent that alert’s you to what’s coming next, the song is a perfectly constructed summer tune. Kama Sutra released it at just the right time, it peaked at number one for three weeks in August of ’66, and the band’s fan base totally accepted the hard-driving, electric rock, almost in total opposition to how Dylan’s adherents freaked out when he introduced an amplified guitar at the Newport Jazz Festival the year before.
Mark Sebastian, band leader, John’s younger brother was just 15 when he penned the poem that John and Bassest Steve Boone would help him craft into a hit. “All around, people lookin’ half dead, walking down the sidewalk, hotter than a match head,” juxtaposed with the reassuring, “At night it’s a different world.. despite the heat, it’ll be alright,” painting a vivid picture of what many of us were feeling that summer. It was hot. Air conditioning was not universally installed in every home. We watched “The Man From Uncle” and “The Avengers” on our first Color TVs. The Beatles were mired in controversy when John Lennon made his misunderstood “Jesus” remark. And we were listening to our favorite radio stations on our first transistor radios.
We didn’t yet fully understand what was going on in Vietnam and were more concerned with finding an auto show where we could see The Batmobile.
“Summer in the City” had none of the social consciousness that would soon populate the lyrics of the 45s we would buy. There wasn’t even a second verse. The jackhammer sound effects in the keyboard breakup strain reflected the speed at which life was being fired at us that summer.
It described a single moment in time, an innocence to which many of us wish we could return.