Monday, June 16, 2008


Meatballs, Are You Ready For the Summer?
War, Summer.
The Woods, Love Me Again This Summer.
The Beach Boys, Your Summer Dream.
Bob Dylan, In the Summertime.
Les Paul and Mary Ford, In the Good Old Summertime.
Al Green, Summertime.
Sidney Bechet, Summertime.
Roy Richards and the Soul Vendors, Summertime.
Gene Vincent, Summertime.
Antonio Vivaldi, L'Estate: Presto.
Astor Piazzolla, Verano Porteño.
Woody Herman, Summer Sequence (Part 2).
213, Another Summer.
The Pogues, Summer In Siam.
Ethel Waters, Heat Wave.
Alec Wilder, Footnotes to a Summer Love.
Guitar Wolf, Summertime Blues.
Roger Miller, In The Summertime (You Don't Want My Love).
Victoria Williams, Summer of Drugs.
Grant McLennan, Late Afternoon In Early August.
Marianne Faithfull, Summer Nights.
The Shangri-Las, The Sweet Sounds of Summer.
The Motels, Suddenly Last Summer.
Michael Jackson, Farewell My Summer Love.
Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, Summertime Is Past and Gone (fragment).

I surrendered myself to the mere joy of being alive. How the sunlight blazed and danced in the roadway--the leaves of the gum trees gleaming in it like a myriad gems! A cloud of white, which I knew to be cockatoos, circled over the distant hilltop. The thermometer on the wall rested at 104 degrees despite the dense shade thrown on the broad old veranda by the foliage of creepers, shrubs, and trees. The gurgling rush of the creek, the scent of the flower-laden garden, and the stamp, stamp of a horse in the orchard as he attempted to rid himself of tormenting flies, filled my senses. The warmth was delightful. Summer is heavenly, I said--life is a joy.

Miles Franklin, My Brilliant Career.

I often pulled my hat over my eyes to watch the rising of the lark, or to see the hawk hang in the summer sky and the kite take its circles round the wood. I hunted curious flowers in rapture and muttered thoughts in their praise. I loved the pasture with its rushes and thistles and sheep-tracks...I wandered the heath in raptures among the rabbit burrows and golden-blossomed furze. I dropt down on a thymy molehill or mossy eminence to survey the summer landscape...I marked the various colours in flat, spreading fields, checkered into closes of different-tinctured grain like the colours of a map.

John Clare, The Natural World.

And then, thought Clarissa Dalloway, what a morning--fresh as if issued to children on a beach.

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway.

In a somer seson, whan soft was the sonne,
I shope me into shroudes, as I a shepe were;
In habite as an heremite unholy of workes
Went wide in this world, wondres to here.

William Langland, Piers Plowman.

A yellow-headed, gold-hammered, sunflower-lanterned
Summer afternoon: after the sun soared
All morning to the marble-shining heights of the marvellous blue
Like lions insurgent, bursting out of a great black zoo,
As if all radiance rode over and roved and dove
To the thick dark night where the fluted roots clutched and grasped
As if all vividness poured, out poured
Over, bursting and falling and breaking,
As when the whole ocean rises and rises, in irresistible, uncontrollable
motion, shaking:
The roar of a heart in a shell and the roar of the sea beyond the concessions of possession and the successions of time's continual procession.

Delmore Schwartz, "The Mounting Summer, Brilliant and Ominous".

But when the artichoke is in flower, and the clamorous cricket
sitting in his tree lets go his vociferous singing,
that issues from the beating of his wings,
in the exhausting season of summer;
then is when goats are at their fattest,
when the wine tastes best,
women are most lascivious, but the men's strength fails them.

Hesiod, Works and Days.

In this hot weather I like to walk at times amid the full glow of the sun. Our island sun is never hot beyond endurance, and there is a magnificence in the triumph of high summer which exalts one's mind. Among streets it is hard to bear, yet even there, for those who have eyes to see it, the splendour of the sky lends beauty to things in themselves mean or hideous...Deep and clear-marked shadows, such as one only sees on a few days of summer, are in themselves very impressive, and become more so when they fall upon highways devoid of folk. I remember observing, as something new, the shape of familiar edifices, of spires, monuments. And when at length I sat down somewhere on the Embankment, it was rather to gaze at leisure than to rest, for I felt no weariness, and the sun, still pouring upon me its noontide radiance, seemed to fill my veins with life.

George Gissing, The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft.

Into the skies, one summer's day
I sent a little Thought away;
Up to where, in the blue round,
The sun sat shining without sound.

William Brighty Rands, "The Thought".

Nature marches in procession, in sections, like the corps of an army. For the last two days it has been the great wild bee, the humblebee, or "bumble," as the children call him. As I walk, or hobble, from the farmhouse down to the creek, I traverse the lane, fenced by old rails...Up and down and by and between these rails, they swarm and dart and fly in countless myriads. As I wend slowly along, I am often accompanied by a moving cloud of them....What is the meaning of this plenitude, swiftness, eagerness, display? As I walked, I thought I was followed by a particular swarm, but upon observation I saw that it was a rapid succession of changing swarms, one after the other.

As I write, I am seated under a big wild cherry tree--the warm day tempered by partial clouds and a fresh breeze--and here I sit and long, enveloped in the deep musical drone of these bees.

Walt Whitman, Specimen Days.

At present the waters are turbid and swollen from recent rains; but if the present hot weather lasts, the water will run down very fast...but we shall cross in due time, and, instead of attacking Atlanta direct, I propose to make a circuit, destroying all its railroads. This is a delicate movement and must be done with caution. Our army is in good condition and full of confidence; but the weather is intensely hot, and a good many men have fallen with sunstroke. The country is high and healthy, and the sanitary condition of the army is good.

Letter from Gen. William T. Sherman to Gen. Henry Halleck, 6 July 1864.

Summer 1903

Summer 1940

Summer 1972

Summer 2003

July winds up its business there in town.
The vacancies of avenues will crown
The coming and majestic month of fire
In which the summer's engines will wind down.

John Hollander, "The Tesserae (I)".



Right now, folks, we're gonna suspend the narrative and show how people are coping with the oppressive heat.

People are taking cold showers.

Sticking faces in ice-cold, water-filled sinks.

Heads stuck in refrigerators...

A young kid cracks an egg on Sal's Cadillac. The moment the egg hits the car hood it starts to cook. The kid looks directly INTO THE CAMERA and smiles, then looks up to see Sal, mad as a motherfucker, chasing after him.

Spike Lee, Do The Right Thing (shooting script).

I can hardly face a summer in town--heat, dust, sleeplessness, exposure to the contagion of other people's beastliness: a kind of hell (formless suffering). If I accept any of the dozens of invitations extended to me, I am afraid I will be overwhelmed by the positive effects of my new impressions...For the time being I am chained to this particular window sill and my workbench by having monstrous expenditures and a dwindling income.

Letter from Boris Pasternak to Marina Tsvetayeva, 5 June 1926.

"Oh dear, I'm so hot and thirsty--and what a hideous place New York is!" She looked despairingly up and down the dreary thoroughfare. "Other cities put on their best clothes in summer, but New York seems to sit in its shirt-sleeves."

Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth.

If I only knew where my damn analyst was vacationing. Where do they go every August? They leave the city. Every summer New York is filled with people who are crazy till Labor Day.

Woody Allen, Play It Again, Sam.

Summer, until today, burned thought
Away like dross, refined or stunned
Into a life mask golden blind
The face fixed upward with eyes shut;
On either lid a rose-red coin was put;

And upon water rapt and sheer
A single eye of fire held sway;
A single rower just off shore
Could sit becalmed day after day,
A world from oar to dripping oar...

James Merrill, "The Day of the Eclipse".

To try and work Carlyle was determined enough. He went nowhere in the summer, but remained at Chelsea, leaving his wife to take a holiday...Other cocks--not it is to be hoped, Mr. Remington's--set up their pipes in the summer mornings. 'Vile yellow Italians' came grinding under his windows. He had a terrible time of it; but he set his teeth and determined to bear his fate...

Sitting alone in his Chelsea garden he meditated on his miseries, in one letter eloquently dilating on them, in the next apologizing for his weakness...The cocks were locked up next door and the fireworks at Cremorne were silent and the rain fell and cooled the July air; and Carlyle slept, and the universe became once more tolerable.

James Froude, Thomas Carlyle: A History of His Life In London 1834-1881.

From a little after two o’clock until almost sundown of the long still hot weary dead September afternoon they sat in what Miss Coldfield still called the office because her father had called it that--a dim hot airless room with the blinds all closed and fastened for forty-three summers because when she was a girl someone had believed that light and moving air carried heat and that dark was always cooler, and which (as the sun shone fuller and fuller on that side of the house) became latticed with yellow slashes full of dust motes which Quentin thought of as being flecks of the dead old dried paint itself blown inward from the scaling blinds as wind might have blown them.

William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!

Coney Island, 1940

And this Midsummer was to be far more exciting than the Fillyjonk could hope for...

Outside the sky was still quite light, and you could make out every single leaf of grass on the ground. Behind the spruce tops, where the sun had gone to rest for a while, a streak of red light remained waiting for the new day.

"A strange smell the flowers have tonight," the Fillyjonk said.

A faint odour of burned rubber was drifting over the ground. The grass crackled electrically when they trod on it.

The Snork Maiden stumbled over something. "Do not tread on the grass," she read. "Look," she said. "Here's a lot of notices that somebody's thrown away!"

"How wonderful, everything's allowed," cried the Fillyjonk. "What a night! Let's build our bonfire of the notices! And dance round it until they've burned to ashes!"

Tove Jansson, Moominsummer Madness.

It reminded him almost too vividly of childhood--of the velvet feel of the hot powder sand and the painful grit of wet sand between young toes when the time came for him to put his shoes and socks on, of the precious little pile of sea-shells and interesting wrack on the sill of his bedroom window, of the small crabs scuttling away from the nervous fingers groping beneath the seaweed in the rock pools, of the swimming and swimming and swimming through the dancing waves--always in those days, it seemed, lit with sunshine...What a long time ago they were, those spade-and-bucket days! How far he had come since freckles and the Cadbury milk-chocolate Flakes and the fizzy lemonade!

Impatiently, Bond lit a cigarette...He was not sitting in this concrete hideout to sentimentalize about a pack of scrubby, smelly children on a beach scattered with bottle tops and lollysticks and fringed by a sea thick with sun-oil and putrid with the main drains of Royale. He was here, he had to chosen to be here, to spy. To spy on a woman.

Ian Fleming, On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

While it is still midsummer, give your people their orders.
It will not always be summer.
The barns had better be building.

Hesiod, Works and Days.

End credits: Meatballs is pretty dated, and its theme song "Are You Ready For the Summer" is as awful and as relentless as a Chef Boy-Ar-Dee jingle, but as they're both warm childhood memories, and since summer is the season of indulgence, they had to make the cut; War's 1976 single "Summer" is on Grooves and Messages--again, a child's hazy summer memory, this of long afternoons in Roanoke, Va., with lines like "rappin' on the CB radio in your van" (which my father did sometimes).

The Woods' "Love Me Again This Summer," a lost summer masterpiece, was an indie single from 1985 and is available nowhere--it was posted years ago by the late, greatly-missed Mystical Beast; with a host of Beach Boys songs to choose from, I went with a lesser-known but gorgeous Brian Wilson-sung track off the 1963 LP Surfer Girl; Dylan's "In the Summertime" is off 1981's Shot of Love (a fine live performance from London in the same year).

Summertime standards: Les Paul and Mary Ford's version of "In the Good Old Summertime" is from 1952 (on All Time Greatest Hits). And here's a quartet of "Summertime," the Gershwin/DuBose Heyward piece that has become the summer song of songs: Al Green, from 1970's Green Is Blues; Sidney Bechet's astonishing 1939 recording (a requiem for Bechet's friend, the trumpeter Tommy Ladnier, who had died four days before the session) is on Ken Burns Jazz; Roy Richards and the Soul Vendors' rocksteady take is from 1968 and is on the out-of-print Rock-A-Shacka Vol. 11; and Gene Vincent's is on his 1958 Capitol LP Record Date.

The Vivaldi piece, evoking a midsummer thunderstorm, is the final movement of his 2nd violin concerto in G Minor, which is the summer portion of his Le Quattro Stagioni, (performed here by Anne-Sophie Mutter and the Trondheim Soloists); the 20th Century's heir to Vivaldi, Astor Piazzolla, composed "Verano Porteño" in 1965 as part of his Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas ("Porteño" is a nickname for Buenos Aires, so the title essentially translates as "Buenos Aires Summer," the whole composition as "The Four Buenos Aires Seasons.").

Woody Herman, at the height of his ambitions in 1946, issued a four-part performance called "Summer Sequence" on two 78-rpm discs (it was written by Herman's pianist and arranger, Ralph Burns, during a summer that was, in Burns' words, "just Jones Beach, good food and good dope (grass only)." Here is the second part; all can be found on Blowin' Up a Storm.

Marilyn Monroe's summer reading beats yours

Summer welcomed, endured, dismissed, recalled: "Another Summer," from 2004, is by the studio supergroup of Snoop Dogg, Warren G, Nate Dogg and Kanye West (on The Hard Way); "Summer In Siam," the last great Pogues song, is from 1990's Hell's Ditch; Ethel Waters spends a summer in the city (her version of Irving Berlin's "Heat Wave" is from 1933, on The Melody Lingers On); and Alec Wilder, better known as the author of American Popular Song than as the American popular songwriter he was, recorded "Footnotes to a Summer Love" in 1945 (on That Devilin' Tune, Vol. 3.)

For teenagers, summer is the season of labor (this version of "Summertime Blues" is by Japan's untouchable Guitar Wolf, from 1999's Jet Generation), heartbreak (Roger Miller's 1964 "In the Summertime (You Don't Want My Love)," on All-Time Greatest Hits) and initiation (Victoria Williams' "Summer of Drugs," from 1990's Swing the Statue).

Heat-addled summer afternoons, when the sun never wants to relinquish the stage: Grant McLennan's "Late Afternoon in Early August" is on 1994's Horsebreaker Star. And summer nights, which, paradoxically, are the shortest of the year but seem to last the longest: Marianne Faithfull's "Summer Nights," from 1965, is on Greatest Hits.

Finally, summer, like life, gets much of its savor by the fact of its unalterable, impending demise. So here are some last thoughts on waning summers, of the final night on the beach before the long drive home, of the last hollow day sitting at home before school starts, of the morning that you first see the leaves have a tinge of yellow:

The Shangri-Las' "Sweet Sounds of Summer," fittingly their last chart single, is from 1966 (on 20th Century Masters); The Motels' 1983 memory is on Essential Collection; Michael Jackson's "Farewell My Summer Love" was recorded in 1973 for a never-released solo LP, until at the height of Thriller-mania Motown remixed it to give it a new gloss (it's a bit tragic to hear Jackson sing about ordinary human events--like a summer vacation crush--that he likely never experienced; on Anthology); and finally, a brief summer eulogy from Sun Studios, 1956 (on Complete Million Dollar Quartet.)

Paintings (top to bottom): Mary Cassatt, Summertime; Guiseppe Arcimboldo, Summer; Edward Hopper, Summer Evening; Edvard Munch, Summer Night's Dream; Nicolò Circignani, Allegoria dell’Estate; Nikolai Galakhov, Midday on the Volga; Winslow Homer, Summer Night; Claude Monet, The Walk, Lady With a Parasol.

And happy Bloomsday. Coming this summer on Locust St.: Six Easy Pieces, a miscellany with something for (nearly) everyone.

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