I miss old school Walkmans from the 80’s and 90’s. Don’t laugh, I’m serious. My portable Panasonic stereo radio cassette player with Bass Boost had far superior sound quality to my MP3 player. It also had nice foamy headphones that were more comfortable than modern day earbuds. The foam blocked the wind and kept my ears warm during chilly morning jogs.
I vividly remember the days I’d spend dubbing cassette tapes for the Walkman. I used to run through the house and down the stairs to my stereo when I’d hear a song I wanted to record off a radio station. The goal was to try to capture the song in most of its entirety without breaking my neck first as I hurtled over furniture with my heart racing in an effort to reach that good old play/record button in time. It was a challenge, it was free and it was fun.
One of the best tapes I ever made is filled with songs I selected from my Top 10 favorite summertime albums of all time. Here is my list:
Endless Summer — The Beach Boys (1974)
“Good Vibrations” still makes me want to chug Sunkist orange soda and then run along the California shoreline with my surfboard and jump into the crashing waves of the ocean on a caffeine high, just as the old television commercials depicted.
Homebase — DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (1991)
“Summertime” reminds me of how much daylight I wasted waxing my white Nissan Sentra, trying to rub out the discoloration the Le Bra had left on the paint. Detailing that car would take me into the late hours of the afternoon. Lyrics from “Summertime” would play over and over again in my mind: “It’s late in the day and I ain’t been on the court yet. . . “
Reckless — Bryan Adams (1984)
Raise your lighters in the air at an outdoor rock n roll reunion concert and salute the setting sun while you reminisce about your “Summer of 69” and your “One Night Love Affair.” The beer tent might be behind you but your memories aren’t. I’ll buy the first round!
Rock N Roll Jesus — Kid Rock (2007)
Back in ’09, I stayed at a Myrtle Beach hotel that had a band playing in the courtyard. Their favorite number was “All Summer Long.” They would play it morning, noon and night. My travel pal Cindy and I became so familiar with it that we choreographed a routine and danced from our balcony every time it played. It wasn’t long before we became known throughout our hotel as The Balcony Dancers!
The Block — New Kids on the Block (2008)
Personally, I was really happy when New Kids on the Block made their comeback in 2008. I’ve always been a big fan of boy bands and the lingering nostalgic innocence of “Summertime” is like a breath of fresh air in a music industry polluted with smoggy samples and wearisome remakes. New Kids, who debuted in the1980’s, brings me back to that less complicated time in my life.
Boys Like Girls — Boys Like Girls (2006)
This album might not be as well-known as some of the others on my list, but it sticks with me anyways. The song “Thunder” was indeed “the soundtrack of my summer” when I finally heard it being played on the radio in June 2008. There were a lot of storms that summer, both emotional and meteorological. I always felt a connection to the line: “Today is a winding road that’s taking me to places that I didn’t want to go. . . “
Pocketful of Sunshine — Natasha Bedingfield (2008)
The song “Pocketful of Sunshine” can brighten any day with its upbeat tempo and tropical fruit-flavored rhythm. It’s as colorful as a roll of Lifesavers candies. You can almost feel the sun casting rays of hope and liberation upon your life as the song plays.
Just What I Needed: The Cars Anthology — The Cars (1995)
This album features two of my favorites: “Since You’re Gone” and “Magic.” “Magic” starts out: “Summer. . . it turns me upside down/ summer, summer, summer/ it’s like a merry-go-round. . . ” This song takes me everywhere from an amusement park to a parked car.
Greatest Hits — Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (1993)
All the songs on this album have a summertime feel, especially “American Girl,” “Here Comes My Girl” and “The Waiting.” You’d swear you could catch a whiff of freshly cut grass just by listening!
Actual Miles: Henley’s Greatest Hits — Don Henley (1995)
Every year when I first start to smell late summer in the air, I can hear Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer” in my head: “Nobody on the road/ nobody on the beach/ I feel it in the air/ the summer’s out of reach. . . “
Henley brought me to the ocean, even if it was only just in my mind. He showed me the sand, the surf and the seagulls. He reminded me to hold onto summer as long as possible.
I hope you find some of these albums as enjoyable as I do. I’m going to grab a Sunkist and go outside to cut the grass, now that we’ve grazed the subject. Maybe I’ll use the Walkman too if no one’s watching. Like many things from the past, including music, it still works great.