The Songs of Summer #20: Summertime Blues x3
There are two “summers” as I think I’ve mentioned before: The summer we have in our imaginations, of fun in the sun and lazy days at the beach, and the other summer…real summer, as I think we can call it. Real summer hopefully contains some of those idyllic moments that we all dream of, but real summer also has something else: WORK. I’ll never forget the day as I finished up my college education and went out looking for a job when it hit me like a bolt out of the blue: I’ll never have another entire summer off for the rest of my life. That’s heavy, man. Sure, I worked a bit in high school and I spent my college summers working hard, but it still felt, in my mind at least, like summer. But the thought of only having days off here and there, until retirement (and that’s no guarantee anymore) was a sure sign I was becoming an adult.
So…work. Not many summertime songs worth listening to about the job, the grind, the toil. But that’s reality. Luckily there’s one classic song out there bemoaning the fact that working in the summer sucks, but it’s something we can all relate to. Of course, I’m talking about ‘Summertime Blues.’ Co-written and performed by rockabilly legend Eddie Cochran, the song was released in 1958. Since then, it’s become an institution, one of those songs that everybody just knows. Again, I think it’s so popular not just because it’s a kick-ass early rock n’ roll song, but because it’s about something we all relate to: W-O-R-K, and how much we almost always would rather be doing something other than it.
Eddie Cochran died tragically in a car accident in England in 1960, so he didn’t get to see the cultural impact his song had, and that’s a shame. He was an immense talent and recorded quite a few classic songs in just a few short years. Summertime Blues has been recorded countless times, in many genres, by tons of artists. It’s been featured in movies and TV shows too numerous to count, most notably Caddyshack (which isn’t a bad summertime movie, but you already know that.) The Beach Boys recorded a version of the tune, and Alan Jackson even sent his version right to the top of the country charts in 1994. But like most songs, the original is still the best.
However…there are two other versions I’m going to share here. The first is by Blue Cheer, a band often named as having invented heavy metal. Their version is loud, it is heavy, and it omits the responses by ‘The Boss’ in the song with brief solos by the band members. You want to hear an entire new music genre being born? This is a pretty good place to start.
The other version I love too much is the classic live version by The Who. The Who played the song quite often during its shows up through about 1976. Their take on the tune, like Blue Cheer’s, is quite a bit louder and heavier than Eddie Cochran’s. But, as the entire album Live at Leeds demonstrates, Daltrey,Townshend, Entwistle and Moon playing together live were a true force of nature.
So here’s Summertime Blues. My hope is that you’re reading/watching/listening to this while you’re at work, sticking it to The Man, being as unproductive as possible. That’s what rock and roll is all about. Summer, too.