Pet sounds

I think more than any season, summer comes with many sounds. Maybe that’s because we are outside more and have more opportunity to hear what’s going on. And of course, we can finally open the windows day and night and can hear both day and night sounds. Friday night at the cottage was one of those nights. At two in the morning a group of city escapees were still reveling at their good fortune, not mindful of how well sound travels across the water. Then the owl that is mostly heard and not seen took up a perch somewhere close to the window and hooted for about 15 minutes before it flew off to terrorize rodents.

But perhaps the most ubiquitous sound in the summer is the ‘summer song’. You know the one – it’s blaring out from car windows and boom boxes starting in June and doesn’t stop playing until everyone is safely back at school. According to Billboard (the folks that are in the business of caring about such things), 2015 didn’t have a song of the summer because there wasn’t anything upbeat enough on the charts during the timeframe to qualify. That puts a lot of pressure on 2016 in a season when none of us want undue pressure. Luckily, a song called ‘Can’t Stop the Feeing’ by Justin Timberlake has taken an early lead, but Drake is fast on Justin’s heals with ‘One Dance’, so that means it’s unlikely that 2016 will fail to deliver. Of course I wouldn’t recognize either of those songs if I fell over them, but that’s because ‘song of the summer’ is by definition a phenomenon of youth.

Also according to Billboard, an official summer song must have more than 110 beats per minute. And I have no argument with that. I think, though, that another criteria ought to be having the word ‘summer’ in the title or at least an explicit reference to sunshine and heat. ‘Summer in the City’, ‘A Summer Place’, and ‘In the Summer Time’ are obvious winners of the summer song title. ‘Sunshine Superman’ was also a bonafide song of the summer even though the lyrics are little creepy. I think I will grant an exception to ‘Call Me Maybe’, which actually needs more than one exception because it was released in the September before its summer song tenure of 2013.

Another dispensation goes to Elton John for ‘Rocket Man’, which neither has more than 110 beats per minute nor anything to do with summer nor lyrics that make any sense. But not only did it dominate the airwaves in the summer of 1972, it has had proven staying power over the years even though it only made it to number six on the Billboard chart. There are dozens of cover versions, including those by Neil Diamond, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and of course William Shatner. Rocket Man was ranked number 242 in the 2004 list of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Inexplicably, it was demoted to number 245 in a 2010 revision of the list.

I doubt that whatever song wins the title for 2016 will end up on a ‘best of all time’ list. But that’s probably not the point. Summer is about ephemera and sounds that come and go. And mysterious owls.

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