Memorial Day Kicks Off Summer: Go-To Summer LPs (Beach Boys Need Not Apply)

Summer Wallpapers

*Image taken from the internet and is likely copyrighted

As the Cars once famously sang, “Summer, summer, summer, it turns me upside down…” I think we all love summer. Although sadly the days of three months off for summer break are long gone. Even so, summer still evokes in me those lazy, school-less days, lounging by the city pool, watching the beautiful blonde lifeguard slowly get skin cancer… I wonder whatever happened to her… sigh. I must admit this year seemed to go straight from winter to summer without that beautiful pause we used to call “spring.” And now, almost suddenly it seems, Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer is upon us. Pools all over the city are opening. Women are trying on bathing suits and tentatively asking husbands and boyfriends “does this look ok?” The answer is yes, ladies, always yes. My wife continues to attempt to get me to wear sandals… not happening… a man’s feet should never be seen in public.

Summer seems to find me outside a lot more than any other time of year. Lounging on the patio with a cool, refreshing cocktail, perhaps a citron vodka with lemonade and a nice book relaxing in the shade is where you can usually find me. The only thing missing from that lovely picture is of course, rock and roll. I must have a little music on whilst roasting in the sun. As long time readers of B&V know, I compiled a Summer/Sun playlist that I love listening to at the pool (BourbonAndVinyl Eclectic Summer/Sun/Beach Playlist). That playlist is typically the soundtrack of my summer.

However, I have noticed a bit of a trend lately… There are certain albums, that I seem to continuously return to during the warm moths. There is something about these albums that evokes the season for me. None of these albums are summer themed really, but there’s something in the music that draws me to it in the hotter months. I’m not, and I know this is blasphemy, a Jimmy Buffet fan. I’ve never been a parrot-head. Dig as deep as you want into my music collection but you won’t find any of that music here. I simply fucking despise the Beach Boys. I’m stunned those talentless hacks get mentioned in the same breath as the Beatles. The Monkees were more talented than the fucking Beach Boys… Sorry, I didn’t mean to get off on a negative rant…

Anyway, when in need of summer music and my playlist is feeling tired, these are the albums I consider my go-to for summer sunning. Enjoy!

  1. The Dirty Heads, Cabin By The Sea – This is an album the Rock Chick turned me on to. The title track is a perennial favorite here at the B&V labs… Of course I realize this is real stoner music too. I’m more of a gin and tonic man myself…
  2. Bob Marley, Legend – Perhaps the best “greatest hits” package ever released? This was a favorite of mine even before I discovered it soothed the savage beast that was my stepdaughter in the early days… (Humor: Bob Marley’s “Legend” and the Confessions of the Evil Stepdad). I think Bob Marley and reggae are appropriate at all times, but especially any season where rum is a mainstay.
  3. 311, Uplifter – “Daisy Cutter,” “Never Ending Summer,” and “Golden Sunlight” all set the stage for a perfect summer record. “India Ink” is also a big favorite.
  4. Robert Plant, Fate of Nations – I know this is a stylistic left turn but hear me out… There is something about this album that evokes the desert in my mind. Plant’s vocals evoke a restlessness that comes over me every summer. Call it a desire for adventure. This is that siren song for adventure that calls to me every summer. “Calling to You” and “Down to The Sea” set the summer stage for me…
  5. Van Halen, Diver Down – Is there a more “summer” band than Van Halen. David Lee Roth out front with the band doing covers of “Dancing In The Streets,” “Where Have All The Good Times Gone,” and of course “Pretty Woman.” Eddie’s timeless guitar soloing on “Secrets” or “Intruder.” This is a pool party that I wish would keep going.
  6. Allah-Las, Allah-Las – It was on Cinco De Mayo which happened to coincide with Kentucky Derby Day this year when the Rock Chick and I, sitting at a patio table outside of a Mexican restaurant, discovered this gem of an album. You’ve probably never heard of these guys, but this is the best album you’ve never heard. “Catamaran” just starts the party. This album could appropriate be described as groovy… and I mean that in the best of ways. Check this one out!
  7. Boston, Don’t Look Back – Again, you’re probably thinking, summer? Boston? I spent one summer in Boston and this album takes me back there. Besides, “Party” and the title track (which is great advice by the way, don’t look back, people) are great summer pool party anthems.

As usual, I’ve probably missed a favorite or two. If you have any favorite summer albums, let me know in the comments section. Have a great summer everybody and please remember, always use sunscreen. Let’s not end up like that poor blonde lifeguard from my childhood…

Cheers!

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BourbonAndVinyl Eclectic Summer/Sun/Beach Playlist

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“Summer, summer, summer, it turns me upside down…” The Cars, “Magic”

Ah, summer…. when I was kid it held so much promise. It could never arrive fast enough especially when I was in school as it signaled the end of the term. “School’s out for summer!” as Alice Cooper so famously sang. And, along with taking forever to arrive, summer was always like a great party, it always ended too soon.

When summer arrived girls started wearing short-shorts, cut-off shorts and even better, bikinis. It was all tan skin, buttery lotion and slick bronzing oil. It was like Earth had transformed into Eden. You had all summer to sleep late, play outside and best of all – go to the pool and see the aforementioned girls in their bikinis. By middle school, the public pool had become “lame” and the goal was to find the private pool or apartment complex pool where the pretty girls were all hanging out like Sirens from Greek mythology luring me toward sweet destruction. Unlocking the mystery of where the pretty girls were led to all sorts of untoward treasure. Someone always had a radio or a “boom box” and music would be blasting. I can remember standing in a pool with a beer in my hand with a bronzed beauty draped over my back and Van Halen’s “Diver Down” blaring…Sorry, the rest of that story has been redacted out of respect for the guilty, including me. Let’s just say I’m glad I was waste-deep in cold water.

Even later when I started mowing lawns and doing light construction work during the summer, you still had summer nights to look forward to, “drinking beer in soft summer rain,” if you will. And while those outside jobs were dirty, hot and arduous, at least it was an honest day’s work. Working outside had the advantage of earning money while getting tan. Nobody on a job site was using sun screen in my day, which was likely a mistake in retrospect. After work and a quick shower, it was out to some patio bar, where all the women were in short skirts and the beer was cold as ice.

Of course nowadays, my corporate overlords have taken a bit of the luster off of summer. There is no longer a beautiful two month summer break. At the end of a long hot summer day, I emerge from my air conditioned office pasty, looking like an extra from “The Walking Dead,” a corporate zombie. I wish I lived in Europe where everybody takes August off, but it wasn’t in the cards. One thing I can still do is head down to the neighborhood pool on Saturday or Sunday and relive those glory days of summer, basking in the burning sun. Although now that I’m an adult, living in a neighborhood surrounded by families, I have to suffer the presence of small children. Not that there’s anything wrong with loud, screaming, thrashing little kids but… “I just sort of feel better when they’re not around…”  The only remedy I have been able to find is my headphones. I slip the headphones on and hit the volume on my iPod and suddenly I’m back in that illicit apartment pool, surrounded by memories and ghosts alike…the workaday week slipping slowly off my shoulders…

As time has passed, I started to gravitate toward certain songs to listen to on sunny, summer days. I even listen to them when I’m lucky enough to occasionally vacation on a beach. The beach is like permanent summer. I finally decided to put these tunes all together on one playlist and shuffle through them. It’s about a 2 hour playlist so I know that half way through, it’s time to roll over and get a little sun on my back. Now, I’ll be the first to admit, the Rock Chick is the ultimate creator of playlists. I used to make “mix tapes” back in the day with the focus of John Cusack in the movie “High Fidelity,” and I truly believe it’s an art form. I curated the shit out of those mix tapes. But with the advent of MP3 players, the playlists can get longer and I can indulge my bizarre, ever expanding eclectic tastes. The Rock Chick always has laser focus on her playlists – her alternative rock playlist is always requested at any party we have and invariably someone stumbles up to me to ask me, “what song is this, this is awesome…” When I put on my playlists, typically someone asks for the Rock Chick’s music. She beats me at Scrabble too, and I’m supposedly the wordsmith in the family…such is life. My Summer/Sun Playlist is more of a headphones experience than something to put on the loud speaker for a pool party. This is for escape, typically from the McKean triplets (monsters, I assure you, and I know they pee in the pool), but I digress. As usual with my playlists I go from loud to quiet, rock to reggae. I’m all over the board. But with my headphones on and a beautiful Citron vodka and lemonade secured in my hand, the music takes me right where I wanna go…. So with all that in mind, here is the BourbonAndVinyl Summer/Sun Playlist (in no particular order, and I alway hit shuffle anyway):

  1. The Doors, “Waiting For the Sun” – trippy rock
  2. Steely Dan, “Blues Beach” – “drinking at the Manatee Bar…”
  3. Neil Young, “Sunny Inside” – I still love the Blue Notes
  4. Beck, “Girl” – “my summer girl…” takes me back to high school
  5. Bob Dylan, “Summer Days” – “I’m standing on a chair making a toast to the King”
  6. Kid Rock, “All Summer Long” – Lynyrd Skynyrd meets Warren Zevon meets Bob Seger
  7. Oasis, “Turn Up the Sun” – excellent late period Oasis, sadly ignored
  8. The Cult, “Sun King” – “I’m a sun king baby, won’t you share my throne?”
  9. The Faces, “Behind The Sun (Outtake) – excellent outtake from last year’s box set
  10. Bob Seger, “Sunspot Baby” – the classic detective mystery of a woman who steals your credit card and hops from vacation spot to vacation spot. Why he chooses to follow her instead of canceling the credit card is the real mystery. Great riff, though.
  11. John Mellencamp, “Summer of Love” – “it’s the summer of love, least ways, I’m hoping it is”
  12. The Cars, “Magic” – “summer, summer, summer, it turns me upside down”
  13. The Dirty Heads, “Cabin By the Sea” – a little something for you herbal enthusiasts
  14. Zwan, “El Sol” – “a little sunshine, just to butter my toast,” a pop rock confection from Billy Corgan.
  15. The Rolling Stones, “Summer Romance” – Mick singing about breaking up with his summer girlfriend who apparently had to return to high school when fall term came. I think this is illegal now…
  16. Bruce Springsteen, “Girls In Their Summer Clothes” – see the aforementioned comments about cut off shorts…
  17. The Beatles, “Here Comes the Sun” – beautiful George Harrison song
  18. Eddie Vedder, “Hard Sun”- Great solo Vedder
  19. Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Behind the Sun” – classic from “Uplift Mofo Party Plan”
  20. David Lee Roth, “Goin’ Crazy” – “from the heat…” Roth may be the King of Summer
  21. The Beatles, “Good Day Sunshine” – midtempo, perfect for a lazy, sunny day
  22. Van Halen, “Ice Cream Man” – “let me cool you one time, you’ll be my regular stop,” who doesn’t like ice cream on a hot day?
  23. The Firemen, “Sun Is Shining” – excellent example of an older artist (McCartney) doing trippy, experimental music. Check out this whole excellent album, “Electric Arguments”
  24. Van Halen, “Summer Nights” – something for the Van Hagar contingent. This was supposedly written on their first jam together when Hagar was trying out for the band.
  25. Bruce Springsteen, “Seaside Bar Song” – great beach/pool song
  26. Jimi Hendrix Experience, “Long Hot Summer Night” – because Hendrix is always appropriate
  27. Van Halen, “Beautiful Girls” – “I’ve got my toes in the sand and a drink in my hand…” and aren’t beautiful girls the only reason for summer?
  28. The Kinks, “Sunny Afternoon” – “accused of drunkenness and cruelty”
  29. Cream, “Sunshine of Your Love” – what a riff for a summer day
  30. The Who, “Summertime Blues” – many have covered it but let’s face it, the Who own this song

There you have it folks. Music to drink vodka lemonades to by the pool. Slip the Beats headphones on, turn it up loud, take a long pull from your drink, and hopefully with your shades on, glance around the pool at those wonderful bodies and maybe not so wonderful bodies out there! If I missed any great summer/sun songs, please suggest additions in the Comments section, I always appreciate new ideas. Enjoy!

Cheers!

Summer Drinking: The Food Center Liquor Store, Brookline, MA

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“Time is a jet plane it moves so fast” – Bob Dylan, “You’re A Big Girl Now”

I was texting with my drummer friend yesterday. He’d read my review of the RHCP’s new song, “Dark Necessities” and had reached out. Like me, he’s a huge fan of bands with strong rhythm sections like the Who, Rush, Rock Garden and of course, the RHCPs. Give me that bottom. He was complaining about the overly-produced sound of the drums. I have to admit that Danger Mouse put so much polish on the record I can almost see my reflection in it, but I still love the song. It’s in high rotation here at the house. He then mentioned his band had a gig that night, and said, “It’s almost like summer, man!”

Ah, summer. It always makes me think of Boston and the Food Center Liquor Store, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

There’s nothing better than summer drinking. And while I have to consume some bourbon today (I’m working on a “deconstructed” mint julep, straight bourbon from the bottle with a peppermint in my mouth) for the Kentucky Derby, the world’s greatest sporting event, when summer comes it’ll be time to put away the dark liquors and heavy beers. Time to dust off the vodka lemonades and the Blue Moon. I would suggest buying stock in Ketel One immediately, they’re about to have a sales surge. When summer comes to the Midwest the entire region opens like a flower.

This time of year always takes me back. It’s not only summer’s arrival, but the fact that it’s graduation season takes me back to my own college graduation.  At the time, I took all the money I’d been gifted for graduating and bought a ticket to fly to Boston to join my buddies Matthew and GP who were both living out there. Matthew was in Law School and GP was peddling soft drinks. I had somehow convinced GP to move out there with me…I’m not sure he’s forgiven me yet. My corporate overlords didn’t need me until September, so I thought, “What the Hell, why not?” Once I arrived in Boston and got myself ensconced at the apartment the three of us shared on Commonwealth Avenue, I immediately spent the rest of my Graduation Money at the used record store two blocks up from us, “In Your Ear.” I found all the Faces records on vinyl I’d been searching for in that used record store and I can close my eyes and still see myself standing there, mouth agape at my “huge” discovery. Unfortunately spending all my money on used albums wasn’t going to sustain me for the summer in super-expensive Boston.

Matthew and I went to the local grocery store on the outskirts of Brookline, the birthplace of JFK, and after watching Matthew fail while hitting on the beautiful, Hispanic store clerk, I noticed a “Help Wanted” sign on the window of the liquor store adjacent. My reduced circumstances made me bold and I strolled in and inquired after the opening. I was told the job was in the “other store,” two miles away, in the main village square of Brookline.

The next day, I set off on my adventure to find the Brookline Food Center Liquor Store. I walked for what seemed like forever until I finally spotted it, situated on a main street, next to a police station which I regarded with suspicion at the time. I strolled in and a man with sunglasses on (while inside) and a 70’s porno-star mustache was behind the register. I introduced myself and asked about the job. Being from Kansas, I had always thought I had no accent at all. Apparently to this hardened, Boston liquor store owner I sounded like I’d just wandered in off the plantation in Mississippi. He probably couldn’t delineate between Mississippi or Missouri as I was to find out later… He smiled at me and immediately started on my accent… “You ain’t from around here are you (it sounded like “ah yoo”)? You from down South somewhere?” I told him I was from Kansas and that was suddenly my name, “Kansas.” I asked again for the job and he replied “Uh, Ok Kansas, you uh, wanted for anything criminal? I got cop friends, I’ll know so don’t fucking lie to me.”His Boston accent was so thick I struggled to understand him. It took a while to adjust (he kept saying Food Center as Food Centah). It was an odd interview question. I replied that I had no record and I wasn’t wanted for anything criminal… well, nothing that would stick. “Ok Kansas, welcome to the Food Centah, you start (staht) tomorrow, be here at 3pm.” I had a job!

The next day, and really for the rest of the summer, it was my job to show up at the liquor store and a) stock the beer fridge and b) take the Massachusettes 5 cent beer can returns. The man with the mustache who was named Doug but referred to himself as “Uncle Chico” explained it to me my first day. He took me out of the cooler to the front of the beer display. We stood a few feet back and he said, “Kansas, look at that, do you see any gaps in the beer coolah?” There were none. “Thats how I wanna see my coolah from now on, no gaps.” I was literally responsible for walking into the cooler and pushing six packs forward so people could easily reach them. Every now and again, I’d get busy with beer can returns and I’d hear, in that thick Boston accent, “Kansas, Kansas?” and I’d run out to the store floor from the back cubby hole where we took returns and he would always say, when he was upset about the beer cooler, “Do you love Uncle Chico? Do you love Uncle Chico?” There was only one reply, I’d mumble “Yes, I love Uncle Chico…” “Then, uh, Kansas, will you do the fucking beer coolah, I see gaps.”

There were a group of guys that I worked with, salt of the earth guys, Kenny, Wardy, and Matt. The guy who was the night manager was named Murph. One was an artist, one was going to be a cop and one of the others was always looking for a construction job. People always speak of folks from the East being cold or stand-offish but those guys embraced me almost immediately. I have to admit they asked me if I grew up on a farm, I was from Kansas after all. I had to explain I didn’t grow up with a cow in my yard. I used to tell them the only thing different between Kansas and Boston was that in Kansas everything was in black and white and here in Boston everything was in color. They liked the Wizard of Oz comedy…

These guys went out drinking every night. The liquor store closed at 11pm and everyone on the shift was allowed to drink one beer of their choice. It was where I really developed a taste for good beer – not this American piss that passes for beer here – but good, exotic beers from far away places. That one beer after shift usually led us to the bar across the street. After the first couple of nights drinking with these guys, on a Tuesday night, I demurred when Matt asked me where we were gonna get beers later. He looked stunned when I said I was just gonna walk home. “Kansas, what the fuck are (ah) you talking about? It’s summah (summer)… you drink… you know, with your friends.” It was wisdom I carry with me to today. It’s what I always think of when I think of summer drinking. I was embarrassed I’d been so stupid and said “no” and at the same time I was honored that these guys had already accepted me as a friend. Although, I must confess they continued to ask me if Kansas was in the South… apparently I had an accent I was unaware of and they don’t teach geography in the Boston schools.

Now, here I am, all these years later and I’m on the cusp of summer. Another summer has snuck up on me. I’m not sure where all the time went… It slips away, people. Dylan was right, “time is a jet plane.” I’m happy, with a great family and my job now doesn’t entail pushing six-packs forward to the sound of “do you love Uncle Chico?” Although I have to admit, pushing six-packs forward was a lot more fun and it didn’t keep me up at night…

I always try to remember the wisdom of the Food Centah…. And, I hope you all will remember this wisdom folks – “It’s summah (summer), you drink beer, you know, with your friends.”

Cheers!

A Farewell to Summer Drinking

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“In the summertime, in the sweet summertime” – Bob Seger, Night Moves

Someone asked me recently why summer ends “so early”. For most Americans summer traditionally ends on Labor Day, which I agree seems a tad arbitrary, like Easter. No one has ever, to my satisfaction, explained to me why Easter moves around the calendar like some sort of “mystery holiday”. I suspect the Catholic Church or the Illumnati might be involved, but that’s another topic. I think the bracketing of summer between Memorial Day and Labor Day probably has something more to do with city budgets and costs associated with keeping the pool open that long. Maybe since all the lifeguards are back in school everybody just agreed to call summer quits on Labor Day. According to the meteorologist summer technically end around September 21st and may have something to do with the summer solstice. Who knew weathermen were pagans. For me summer sort of ends with the kick off of the NFL football season. Any warm weather after that I like to consider “Indian Summer”, but again I’m getting off topic.

With the passing of summer, alas, comes the passing of summer drinking. When I first got out of college I spent a summer in Boston, Massachusetts working at the Food Center Liquor Store. I was a kid from the midwest and the nutty crew at the Food Center took me under their wing. The store would close around 11 pm every night and they’d go out to some local bar. About a week after starting, the guys asked me to join them on the nightly run to the bar. I politely turned them down, thinking I was getting up in the morning for something “cultural”. Usually I just sat around watching TV until it was time to report to the liquor store. In what may be the most important thing I learned that summer, Mark (*name changed to protect the guilty), one of my coworkers replied to my “no”, with these sage words, uttered in a thick Boston accent: “Ken, it’s summer (summah), you drink beer with your friends.” He then looked at me and shrugged his shoulders like he’d uttered an ancient truth and to drive home the point repeated, “It’s summer (summah).” I could see he had a point.

There is something about summertime drinking. Patios open up in bars around town and they’re quickly packed with women in short shorts. I start to see the famous Summer Shandy in the liquor store. For me, summer means clear liquors. I put away my beloved bourbon and darker beers and shift to summer wheat beers, like Blue Moon and vodka or gin. My wife rotates her closet every spring and autumn so her wardrobe is appropriate to the season. Me, I rotate the liquor cabinet. No white liquor after Labor Day, tres gauche… Even my sainted mother once said to my friend Stretch (*name changed to protect he guilty) and me, one evening when she’d invited us over for a Sunday night steak when both he and I were living in small, pathetic apartments on the Plaza, “There’s nothing more refreshing on a hot summer day than a gin and tonic.” Stretch and I got a little carried away and I recall ending the evening in an altercation with a waitress in a Plaza bar named the Grandfalloon. Such is life.

Of course, my greatest summer adventure was with my friends Matthew and Jack (*as usual, names changed to protect the guilty). It was during my college years and after working in the hot sun all day with Jack, we collected Matthew and went to a bar we’d never been to before, in Wyandotte County, One Block West. We saw an awesome rock band, the Clique, who we thought for sure were going to be huge. I still wonder what happened to those guys. Anyway, we drank an unGodly amount of beer that night, it might have been a drink and drowned (thank God those went away, even I have limits). Jack, who worked harder than I did, fell asleep at the table as was his m.o. in those days. Matthew and I were making some new friends with some ladies at the next table when that dreaded last call came. Just like in a rock song, we ended up in the massive parking lot, sitting on the hood of the girl’s car, drinking beer. If only there’d been a “soft summer rain” it would have felt like we were in a Springsteen song. Unfortunately, sleepy Jack thought we’d gotten farther along with the ladies than we had and left in the only car we had. Soon the ladies followed suit and Matthew and I were standing in a dark parking lot at 1 a.m. with no ride home.

After calling every friend we knew, on a pay phone, (yes this is ancient history), we ended up calling my rather irate father who agreed to come and get us. Our drunken problem that night, as it often was in those days, is neither of us actually knew the directions to get to the bar. Jack was the only who knew how to get there. Matthew got on the phone with my dad and gave him directions so off the mark, my dad ended up in downtown KC, MO which was in the complete opposite direction from where we were. Matthew and I laid down on a grassy patch in the parking lot, finished our beers and passed out. My father finally got to the bar and yelled for us, but we were out cold and out of sight. A car load of youths drove by and apparently menaced my father, likely they just looked at him, and he assumed we were dead. He raced home and braced himself to deliver the news to my mother, who would surely grieve the loss of her eldest son. About that time, Matthew and I woke up, and called to angrily ask “where the heck are you guys?” That didn’t go over too well. My father ordered us to go and sit by the front door until he got there. They could hear his screaming all the way down the street as we pulled away. As we neared Matthew’s mother’s house, Matthew leaned into the of front seat of my dad’s car and said, “Sir, I know I screwed up on the directions to One Block West, but I can assure you, these directions to my house are spot on.” Even my father finally laughed at that. Matthew’s name still comes up and the first thing out of my dad’s mouth is, “One Block West, summer drunks…” Such is life.

So now, I sit here on the eve of the Chiefs opening game of 2015 and I realize another summer of fun drinking times is over. So I sit with my final vodka of the season and I toast summer. I toast the Food Center Liquor Store, One Block West and all my friends. Although I must admit, whilst toasting summer, I am still wondering… how do they figure out when Easter gets scheduled?