It’s the same every year: there we are, shivering in the cold of winter, layered in wool and flannel, staring out at bleak grey skies, and wishing for the summer. That mythical time and place where the sun shines warmly, the waves lap gently, and all anxieties and pains flutter away like butterflies, leaving us to bask in the gentle glow of eternal youth. We will fall in love with blonde-haired strangers, our bodies will revert back to their teenage shapes, and we will remember every blissful moment like a photograph.
Naturally, there are many songs that celebrate this euphoric vision, from the steamy funk of Sly Stone’s Hot Fun In The Summertime to the cool punk of The Ramones’ Rockaway Beach, and even old junk like Under The Boardwalk by The Drifters. But here’s the thing: all those songs are lies. The summer never delivers on its promise. Mostly you get sweat. Sweat, regret and disappointment. And rain, of course.
But here’s the good news: real summer has its anthems, too. They may not go well with your next backyard BBQ or bout of frisbee, but these songs are the naked truth.
1. Kim Fowley – Cruel Summer
Kim Fowley is rock’n'roll’s last dangerous man, a ruthless, manipulative impresario in smeared eyeliner and thrift-store suits whose career was made on chintzy novelty and garish gimmick. Most famously, he exploited the teenage charms of The Runaways for minimal riches and maximum notoriety, but his history in the biz as a songwriter, producer, performer and svengali stretches back to the late 50s, and continues on today.
He’s written (or co-written) songs for Alice Cooper, Kiss, Kris Kristofferson, and even summer-bummer alumni Jonathan Richman. He’s also released two dozen(!) solo albums, from 1967 to just a couple months ago. Some of them are excellent, some of them are ridiculous, all are weird, compelling, and fun.
Sadly (maybe), most of Fowley’s press concentrates on his notoriety, and his constant stream of acid-tongued boasts and rants only fan the flames. Kim Fowley revels in his super-villain role, and he is amazing at it. But he is also superb songwriter, even now.
Speaking of cruel summers, the illustrious Mr F is having one himself – he’s been battling bladder cancer for the past few years and has gone under the knife a staggering three times this year, most recently a week or so ago. And yet, this true electric Frankenstein endures. Quite often, he plays gigs in exotic locales days after surgery. Kim Fowley is not afraid of rock n’ roll, or of cancer.
Cruel Summer is from his latest (digital) album, 666. It dives straight into that universal ache: this summer is not your best summer. That one’s long-gone, just like the beautiful pixie goddess that made the sun shine so brightly that year. Only Kim Fowley can recall a picnic (“You made a salad, a box lunch, in a meadow”) with such a devastating air of teenage longing.
Of course, there’s at least a 50 per cent chance that this song is just more of Kim’s bullshit, but it feels legit to me, and let’s face it, summer really is a cruel mother, ain’t it? Cruel Summer is from Kim’s latest album, 666 (2012).
The latest issue of Classic Rock
has Deep Purple on the cover, celebrating the release of their hotly anticipated new album NOW What?! Plus free CD: 24 Carat Gold, featuring 15 big-name tracks! Subscribe Now