The Lovin’ Spoonful – Summer in the City

First Hit #1: August 13, 1966

There’s something to be said for an interesting opening. It perks your interest, and whatever happens next you are still at attention, waiting for the forthcoming song. The ominous, Jaws-esque* opening of Summer in the City has that effect. You don’t know exactly what the song is going to be, but it gets you curious. Why does a pop song have a slightly scary opening? What are we getting into?

Well, what we’re getting into is a song that is actually pretty far ahead of its time. A lot of the tricks used are found in later works, the intro does recall Jaws and that came much later, the car horn and jackhammer laden bridge recalls a section in Stevie Wonder’s Living for the City, which takes subtle criticism of city life into a more socially conscious direction. Again, that’s a much later song. Summer in the City is, in fact, a song that I used to believe was from the mid-70s, it fits so well within those later trends that it comes as a surprise that it’s as early as it is. Of course, it’s hitting the trends I like in the ’70s, so that’s a compliment, but it’s interesting to see some tricks showing up much earlier than I thought they would. The atmosphere of the song itself hits a certain grimy aesthetic that’s also something that hasn’t really been seen before, it tries to capture the heat of summer but brings with it sweat and dirt that is difficult to capture in audio.

It manages to hit the themes the song is trying to get across while also being a pretty catchy pop song. It is a grimy, sweaty, dirty song, but it’s also got a lighter touch that comes across when it brings up the night time and the fun that can be had. It’s a song that’s all about atmosphere, and in the pursuit of atmosphere makes a compelling listen.

*Man, so many people are going to be pissed if they hit that line and forget to read the rest of it.

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