The Happy Summer CD is a concept that I have embraced for quite some time. In the beginning, it would be the kind of thing that would come about because of a lot of songs that were played over and over and that would make me happy while listening to them (1995). Not all of those songs were necessarily happy. They represented a time that I would refer to as the best and worst of times even while living through it. In hindsight, there are great memorable images and memories from my time in England, but leaving the UK was the event that made all things in my current life and the present life of the British gal that I was with possible. To this end, we're now happily married - just not to each other, and our lives have become many things for what we experienced together. I'm too American to ever go back to England and be expatriated again, but for what I had over there, it's made me the American that I am today.
Other times, the Happy Summer CD would be a mellow mix of songs that represented all of that vibe of the summer of love (or how a year that existed before I was born or came of age) sounded as a reincarnated memory of a time that never really was (1996). This year's mix was a lot of the same bands over and over, but it's still very listenable - even if it violates a lot of the rules of a traditional mix CD (such as no more than 2 songs by one artist - and they're on different sides of the mix - unless they run into one another).
And still other times, the summer mixes were a representative sample of music that would allow for road trips to function in sheer driving joy. (1998). The opening salvo of Hendrix > Phish > Moe > Weezer > Bare Naked Ladies is still an awesome memory of a 22-hour drive to Biloxi looking at the sides of the road and embracing a beautiful America in a most perfect expression that Walt Whitman himself would have felt honored by. It's also images from a coast to coast journey that was remembered and retried at other times, and for that, the music on the disc bring back a lot of memories - even if they're sung by Big Punisher (who needed to be weighed on a truck scale when he died - though by his own admission he had a lot of sex).
Not all Happy Summer collections turn out well. In 2002, there was the first happy summer CD, but it pretty much sucked, and I can't remember too much that's on there at all, and so I won't even mention anything that's on it. I still have it tucked away somewhere, but frankly, it's not like I'm longing to listen to it again.
Most of the music from that summer was a depressing haze of acoustic whine with a lot of alternative country and grunge stuff thrown in. I can't think that celebrated summer very much, so... Rather, it represented a stupid relationship that I carried on way too long (the first few weeks should have been enough, but as some relationships go, this went on about a year too long). Isn't hindsight and songs that brought giddy memories of the few good times and excessive memories of the mopey times things to learn from and then forget how you came to them forever?
To sum it up, Son Volt, Wilco, The Drive By Truckers, and Silver Jews were the best things that I was listening to in that summer of blah. When I finally went on my cross country trip, I had tons of acoustic / indie sadness on mp3, and there actually came a point where I wanted to throw everything out of the window and start fresh - instead of constantly carrying around the ghosts of a failed relationship, some doomed friendships, and a first year of teaching that wasn't quite as good as I wanted it to be. I was looking to heal from all of this via the road, the national parks of America, and a lot of music. There were a few brief minutes of something with images like the Milky Way over Mesa Verde, but the ghosts of America's archaeological park make the ghosts of life that much really. In the end, nothing worked until I finally got home and heard Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing" as the final song of the trip when I pulled into the parking lot of my apartment complex.
If you haven't heard it, it's a beautiful song.
The next year, there seemed to be more ground rules of what would be on the disc and less regurgitations of past happy summer stuff. For that same reason, there was happy summer driving music in 1999, but all things considered, there is no official tape until the next year's road trip. That's the good thing about CD mixes (over tapes); it's easier to record them in a quicker amount of time. You can get rid of what doesn't work and stick with what does. Thus, the later CDs have embraced multiple generations of the same disc or they have gotten longer to compensate for this rule. A tape took forever to make, and sometimes, there just wasn't enough hours in a day to redo a tape the way that it should be. It became a painting that didn't turn out, and it filled a tape case in hopes that it could be rediscovered years later and made into some nostalgic piece of something better.
Now, when I make mixes they're more diverse. Prior to meeting my wife, I listened to very little pop music. Sure, some of what I listened to got popular, but it usually came to me via someone else or it came to be because things that I listened to finally arrived as something that the world as a whole could digest. Over time, things have changed. In 1995, I embraced mainstream grunge (Pearl Jam) and classic rock while making peace with the Grateful Dead. In 1996, I embraced a whole host of sixties stuff, which led into coming back to America and doing Phish concerts until 1999/2000. Somewhere around the time I came back, I morphed into a lot of alternative country and went back for a lot of indie rock stuff around 2001. Now, my tastes are geared towards all those things, but as I travel with my wife, I do listen to pop and hip hop. As my life is consumed by teaching, I also tend to listen to a fair bit of mellow fifties, sixties, and seventies stuff to keep me upbeat and positive. This is in as much a part of listening to AM radio in England (coming across the channel - Radio Dingol or whatever it was - that's what it sounded like) as remembering a childhood that I have pieced together from memories (I'm obviously too old to remember many things from that far ago - just generalizations of what happened).
This year, there are 4 discs, and it's not a summer thing. It's a spring thing. I've been doing this since 2009. I couldn't wait for the happy summer CD (still just 1 disc long), and well...
The first disc is the seventies classic rock disc. The second disc is the fun CDs brought together and made better with new songs and the extraction of the Jackson 5. That's a good thing. The third disc is the mellow disc that doesn't necessarily work for driving since it takes things down about 30 notches from the energy of disc 2 (even with the show tunes ending). The 4th disc is the one I listen to the most because it features a lot of stuff that my wife likes (she just doesn't get James Brown, which is sad because I do and I would play him a lot more if she could handle songs that go that long). Usually, we don't make it into the newer indie rock. It's the pop and the new wave that works for her. She loves her eighties music, and I can enjoy some of it, too. I tried to put some of that on here on an earlier version, and it just didn't work (Hall and Oates "Kiss Is on My List," Prince "Delirious," and Madonna "True Blue"), so they were removed for things that did work.
On my own, I listen to a lot of disc 2. The Spencer Davis Group does perhaps the best song of the late sixties ("Gimme Some Lovin") although Sly and the Family Stone's "Everyday People" could be equally good on a lot of days (as could the Isley Brothers' "This Old Heart of Mine." I'm sure that if I ever heard Olivia Newton John covering "Gimme Some Lovin," I'd feel as betrayed as the Glee cast doing Jay Z's Empire State of Mind (and let it be known that I'm not that much of a musical snob - I do watch Glee and enjoy some of their versions).
The feeling that permeates much of this disc... points like the Bar Kays doing "Soul Finger" and Midnight Train to Georgia" (what is a "soul finger" or a "pip" for that matter)... it's a place in America that we all look forward to going back to. It's parties, picnics, sun, and fun. It's driving down the highway with everyone singing along... and everyone is looking to "get on the good foot."
That's the point of the spring CDs. Sure, there will be a true summer CD later. For now, let's let spring carry into summer as the longest day of the year goes and I await going home to some Yuengling and a seat in the Siesta Zone.
1. Neil Young - Love and Only Love
2. Jimi Hendrix - Are You Experienced
3. Cream - Sunshine of Your Love
4. Faces - Stay with Me
5. Electric Light Orchestra - Evil Woman
6. Billy Joel - Scenes from an Italian Restaurant
7. Lynyrd Skynyrd - Call Me the Breeze
8. Charlie Daniels - Uneasy Rider
9. Bruce Springsteen - I'm Going Down
10. Dave Matthews Band - Crash into Me
11. Queen - You're My Best Friend
12. James Taylor - Sweet Baby James
13. Fleetwood Mac - Never Going Back
14. Cat Stevens - Another Saturday Night
15. Simon and Garfunkel - Mrs. Robinson
16. Beatles - Help
17. John Cougar Mellencamp - Pink Houses
18. Kansas - Dust in the Wind
1. Sam and Dave - Hold on I'm Coming
2. Spencer Davis Group - Gimme Some Lovin'
3. The Isley Brothers - This Old Heart of Mine
4. Chicago - Saturday in the Park
5. Jimmy Buffett - Margaritaville (live)
6. Paul Simon and Willie Nelson - Graceland (live)
7. Steve Miller Band - The Joker
8. Sly and the Family Stone - Everyday People
9. Eddie Floyd - Knock on Wood
10. The Staple Sisters - I'll Take You There
11. Jean Wilson - Mr. Big Stuff
12. Otis Redding - Respect
13. The Bar Kays - Soul Finger
14. James Brown - The Good Foot
15. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy - You and Me and the Bottle Makes 3
16. 3 Dog Night - Joy to the World
17. Nancy Sinatra - These Boots are Made for Walking
18. Gladys Knight and the Pips - Midnight Train to Georgia
19. The Rat Pack - When You're Smiling / The Lady is a Tramp (live)
20. Little Mermaid - Under the Sea
21. Zooey Deschanel - Fabric of Our Lives
22. Tony Bennett and KD Lang - Dream a Little Dream of Me
23. Les Miz Cast - Master of the House
1. Grateful Dead - Uncle John's Band
2. Richie Havens - Here Comes the Sun
3. Randy Newman - You've Got a Friend in Me
4. 5 Stairsteps - Ooh Child
5. Marvin Gaye - Mercy Mercy Me
6. Jack Johnson - Bubble Toes
7. Rolling Stones - Emotional Rescue
8. The Who - Magic Bus
9. The Doors - Love Her Madly
10. Crosby, Stills, and Nash - Marakesh Express
11. Beach Boys - Don't Worry Baby
12. Plain White Ts - Rhythm of Love
13. Michael Frenti - Say Hey I Love You
14. Madness - It Must Be Love
15. Dixie Chicks - Landslide
16. Pink Floyd - Summer of 68
17. Van Morrison - Astral Weeks
18. Golden Smog - Cure for This
19. Replacements - Can't Hardly Wait
20. Drive By Truckers - Everybody Needs Love
21. Otis Redding - Sitting on the Dock of the Bay
1. Bruno Mars - The Lazy Song
2. Jessie J - Price Tag
3. Katy Perry - Teenage Dream
4. Black Eyed Peas - Tonight's Gonna Be a Good Night
5. Prince - 1999
6. The Trammps - Disco Inferno
7. MGMT - Flash Delirium
8. Elvis Costello - Pump It Up
9. Mighty Mighty Bosstones - The Impression That I Get
10. New Order - Run
11. Electronic - Getting Away with It
12. Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Heart in Your Heartbreak
13. Vampire Weekend - Horchata
14. Monsters of Folk - Gotta Lot of Losing
15. Police - Can't Stand Losing You
16. Girl Talk - Smash Your Head
17. Surfer Blood - Catholic Pagans
18. The Walkmen - Angela Surf City
19. The Baseball Project - Don't Call Them Twinkies
20. Camper Van Beethoven - Eye of Fatima 1+2
21. Best Coast - When I'm With You
22. Phish - Lengthwise