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Counselor Senior Editor Michele Bell's slanted view of the world.

The Sounds of Summer

Filed under: Fun, Personal

Hi, Everyone!

Hope you’re all doing well and enjoying the summer!

First, the wacky, “Are you kidding me, you crazy chica???” news: That sound you hear is hell freezing over, because I am officially on Twitter (ASI_MBell). Yep, my capacity for hypocrisy apparently knows no bounds, after my many “I loathe online social networking” rants. (I still want no part of Facebook, though, and giggled with delight over the best line in a recent episode of Entourage: Vinny to E: “Why aren’t you on Facebook?” E to Vinny: “Because I’m an adult.”) And don’t think the irony escaped me that literally, within hours of me joining Twitterville, the whole system came crashing down. It’s like online social networking heard I’ve bad-mouthed it and retorted with an extended middle finger.

Second, I just returned from vacation in my beloved Avalon, NJ and spent lots of blissful beach time reading magazines, simmering in the sun (my skin tone now resembles beef carpaccio) and listening to my iPod. Which got me thinking: Is there anything better than the quintessential “summer song” to put you in a fabulous mood, no matter what season you hear it? Right now, “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas (listen to it here) really wants to be the theme song for the Summer of 2009. And don’t get me wrong — it’s catchy, jaunty, and Lord knows I’m on board with any song whose refrain is “Fill up my cup — Mazel Tov!” But when considering the songs that put me in my happy place — those that would comprise my personal soundtrack of summers past — I submit the following, in no particular order:

1. “Sweet Child ‘O Mine,” Guns ‘N Roses. The album Appetite for Destruction came out in 1987, but this song — which saturated airwaves in the summer of 1988 — put the band on the map. What starts with Slash having his way with his Les Paul guitar evolves into a declaration of affection from singer Axl Rose to his girlfriend at the time, Erin Everly (daughter of Don Everly, of the Grammy-winning Everly Brothers). What makes it a lyrical miracle is that a bunch of misogynistic tools managed to craft one of the most stunningly sweet love songs ever. Listen to it here.

2. “All Summer Long,” Kid Rock. Yes, yes — I know he’s douchy and looks like he needs a flea dip. But this song, unquestionably the anthem of the Summer of 2008, still makes me smile when I hear it because Kid Rock (of all people) managed to capture that feeling — the one you had when you were young and summer nights, and the debauchery that went with them, lasted forever. Listen to it here.

3. “Highway to Hell,” AC/DC. They had me, in the summer of 1980, when Back in Black came out and I heard “You Shook Me All Night Long” for the first time. They kept me when I saw the band for the first time and realized that the guitar player producing those incendiary sounds wore knickers, for the love of God. But it’s “Highway to Hell” that has me flooring it at 90 miles per hour in my car through sheer force of osmosis. I came to grips a long time ago with the fact that I — and all my heathen friends — are on the highway to hell; I’ve only recently realized that I’m driving the pace car. Listen to it here.

4. “Little Red Corvette,” Prince. Forget for a moment that when he wrote this song (which is most certainly not about cars, horses or jockeys) in 1982, Prince was not in a little, red Corvette, but in the back of a bright pink Ford Edsel that belonged to Lisa Coleman, his guitarist in The Revolution. So slyly sexy, so tongue-in-cheek sassy, this song alone can steam up any car’s windows. No one does dirty double-entendres like the little man in high-heel purple velvet boots; no one brings the funk like him either. Listen to it here.

5. “Express Yourself,” Madonna. If you can get past her annoying British affectations and that she’s had so much work done on her face it looks like Silly Putty stretched across one’s knee, the Material Girl and her music have morphed so many times, she really is the Mother of Reinvention. Released in the summer of 1989 on the then-scandalous Like a Prayer album, throngs of females everywhere — young and old — got their girl power on strutting around to this empowerment anthem. Listen to it here.

6. “Southern Cross,” Crosby, Stills & Nash. In the summer of 2001, five girlfriends and I rented a house in Avalon, NJ. None of us were in relationships at the time, and met quite the buffet of boy toys. The problem? We all suffered from late-night cases of extreme DUI (Dialing Under the Influence). If you’ve ever drunk-dialed a significant (or not-so-significant) other and woken up to less-than-savory consequences, you know it’s not a pleasant thing. At one point, we all decided to hide our phones after coming home at 3:00 a.m. from the bars. The issue? The next morning, we couldn’t remember where we hid them and had to call from an outside line to listen for the rings coming from the refrigerator crisper, the dishwasher and the toaster oven. There’s a verse in this song, “From a noisy bar in Avalon I tried to call you,” that will always remind me of that summer. Listen to it here.

7. “Roadhouse Blues,” The Doors. My friend Mark Hobbs (aka, “McDreamy”), owner of Pacific Coast Golf, is the only other person I know who loves The Doors as much as I do. With this song in particular, it’s the lure of the lead-in from Robby Krieger’s guitar, then John Densmore’s pulsing drums, followed by Ray Manzarek’s hypnotic keyboards that bring us to the baddest of all bad boys, Mr. Jim Morrison — Dionysus himself — and his seductive vocals. The Sexiest Rock Star Ever, I’d follow that reptilian devil in slinky leather pants right to the gates of hell. I don’t wake up in the morning, and I don’t drink beer, but you bet your ass that for the Lizard King, I’d give up my vows. Listen to it here.

8. “You Get What You Give,” New Radicals. When things look their bleakest thanks to an awful economy, sluggish sales or general doom and gloom, I challenge anyone to listen to this song and not get an immediate infusion of optimism. Listen to it here.

9. “Reelin’ in the Years,” Steely Dan. First, let me say that I have always worshipped at the altar of Steely Dan, the most sardonic, whip-smart and subversive of all rock genius weirdos. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker may not be much to look at, but their lyrics are simply sublime. (And not just because they pay homage to “the Quervo Gold and fine Colombian.”) Second, you have to give props to a duo who’s been together for 30+ years and has the wink-and-nod humor to name their band after a sexual device in legendary writer William Burrough’s infamous masterpiece Naked Lunch. “Reelin’ in the Years,” released in the summer of 1972 from the Can’t Buy a Thrill album, is a revelation. With the most acute clarity, I remember coming out of the ocean one Saturday afternoon in July of 1999 and walking to my beach chair on 21st Street in Avalon, NJ. The lifeguard was listening to this song loudly on his radio and, with the sky the most azure blue you’d ever imagine, seemingly every adult on the beach was singing along. And then I recall thinking, “This is one of those perfect moments that I’ll remember forever.” Listen to it here.

10. “Bad Things,” Jace Everett. This may be the most aptly-named song in history. The theme of HBO’s fabulously sinister and lascivious True Blood, never has a song woven so well with the surreal (and more than a little creepy) imagery of a TV show’s opening credits. The libidinous beat, with its Southern discomfort undertones, conjures up steamy summer evenings where, make no mistake, things will go very bad, very fast … in a very, very good way. Listen to it here.

11. “No One,” Alicia Keys. This soaring testimony to the power of unconditional love makes even a snarky cynic like me a true believer. Listen to it here.

12. “Liquor Store,” Dash Rip Rock. When Dan Townes, industry legend, one of Counselor’s Power 50 and owner of Shepenco/Shelbyville Pencil, turned me on to this band, it was this hilarious song in particular he knew I’d love. With the refrain, “I wanna be locked inside a liquor store with you,” it makes me tear up, it’s so romantic. Should the apocalyptic day ever come when I get married, this will be my wedding song (pause for the sound of my mother’s head exploding…). As an added bonus, you just have to love a band that names itself after a character on The Beverly Hillbillies. Listen to it here.

13. “Runnin’ with the Devil,” Van Halen. Ranking right up there with the debate over national health care is this one: Who was the better VH frontman, David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar? Whichever camp you’re in, you can’t deny that the car horn fade-in and Michael Anthony’s thundering bass line in “Runnin’ ” makes it one of the best openings for a song ever. It also reminds me of one of my ASI BFFs, Christian Brandt, executive director of distributor services. He loves Van Halen, and — let’s face it — if you know him like I do, you have to admit that if anyone’s running with the devil, it’s this Christian. ; ) Listen to it here.

14. “Magic Man,” Heart.  Of the sister duo Heart, Ann Wilson (the brunette) is a girl after my own heart. She wrote this song as a way to explain to her mother why she just had to leave home for a summer and travel across the country with a hypnotic, enigmatic bad boy — much to her mother’s chagrin. Having once traveled cross-country for the summer in a bus with a band (I was dating the bad-boy drummer), much to MY mother’s chagrin, I am quite familiar with the lure of Magic Man land. I used to be a frequent visitor, and have the baggage to prove it. Listen to it here.

15. ”Brandy,” The Looking Glass. What a fine girl you are indeed. Always classier than boozy, haggard Lola with her faded feathers over at the Copacabana, and that boy tease Jessie’s Girl, we rooted for you to finally hook up with with your locket-giving sailor from the sea. He may have had a Brandy in every port, but you can serve us whiskey and wine any time. Listen to it here.

16. “Mexico,” James Taylor. There really are no words to express my love and adoration for James Taylor other than these: There was a glorious five-year stretch when JT would tour each summer and land in Philly on my birthday (August 9th). It was like my own, personal gift from God. One year, as he — alone on stage with only his guitar and amazing talent — sang “Fire & Rain,” some drunk girl in the row behind me kept heckling him, loudly and with profanity, to sing “How Sweet It Is.” Because we were seated within the first five rows, I had no doubt that The Beloved One heard her. Something in me just snapped, and I — to the delight and relief of everyone sitting around us — turned around and punched Drunk Girl in the face, dropping her like a bag of dirt. The moral of the story? No one disrespects Sweet Baby James on my watch. Samba-tinged, “Mexico” is such the seminal summer song that Mr. Margaritaville himself, Jimmy Buffet, covers it (and even manages not to cheese it up). Listen to it here.

So for those of you who’d like to create a memorable soundtrack of summer (or any season, really!) for yourself or your clients, I suggest contacting my pals Mark Bruk at CFS Promotions for Now! (asi/42989; ph: 800-800-8285) or Rob Watson at MediaTree (asi/70303; ph: 800-475-8703), both of whom do music download cards, or my girl Allison Schaffer at Sound Line LLC (asi/88241; ph: 800-750-5189), whose company handles customizable music CDs. Music, truly, is the gift that keeps giving.

Have I been egregious in leaving off any glaringly-obvious fabulous summer songs? Post a comment and let me know! One last thing: My BFF Craig Nadel, president of Counselor Top 40 distributor Jack Nadel Int’l., has been tortured for as long as I’ve known him (12 years) over the lyrics for “Sympathy for the Devil,” by The Stones (Listen to it here). The song is known for being, aside from downright sulfurous, remarkably historically accurate (it must have been one of Keith and Mick’s rare moments of lucidity when they wrote it). There is one line, however, that has driven Craig and I NUTS over the years because we can’t attribute it to any historical reference. If you’re the first person to post the accurate attribution, I’ll send you a $100 gift card. Here’s the lyric: “And I laid traps for troubadours, who get killed before they reach Bombay…”

Please ease Craig’s pain — and mine! ; )

Cheers, and more soon!

– M