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…



BourbonAndVinyl iPod Playlist: 4th of July, American Independence Day


Ah, the 4th of July… When I was a kid, we’d travel down to southeast Kansas to visit my grandparents. Outside of town, there was a rock quarry or the remnants of a coal strip-mining site with a huge piles of rocks. It was like a desolate alien landscape from a bad sci-fi movie. We’d climb the rock hills and throw firecrackers off the top. Well, my grandfather wouldn’t throw the fireworks, he’d light them with his Camel filterless, and drop it at his feet. When the firecracker went off, he’d shrug his shoulders as if to say, “that’s all you’ve got?” He really was part of the greatest generation… but I digress. We were like any other American family – on 4th of July – we blew shit up. It’s what you do. It’s like drinking tequila on Cinco De Mayo.

When I finally, at a later age than most, found myself in a family with the Rock Chick and my stepdaughter, I carried the tradition of 4th of July pyrotechnics with me. We’d pile in the car, drive south of the city, stop at a fireworks stand (that Missouri is so famous for) and load up with explosive goodies. The Rock Chick, I was soon to find out, loves fireworks. If I truly consider her penchant for books and TV shows about murder and mayhem along with her hysterical laughter while lighting fire works, I might start to become anxious about the length of my existence, but that’s for me to worry about. We’d drive out into the country, to my sister-in-law’s farmhouse and by the time we were done, her back porch looked like a scorched battle site. The husks of burned out rockets and smoke bombs littered the yard. We’d cap the day, as the sun faded, sitting on the roof of the farmhouse, which was on small hill. From the roof we could see each fireworks display from every small town between us and Kansas City. The sky was a a panorama of bright, multi-colored sparks. The rocket’s red glare, as the saying goes…

Being an American is a complicated thing. It means a lot of different things to different people. We’re the freest nation on earth yet we were founded by Puritans. For every good time, there’s someone to guilt us about it. It’s quite a party… To me, I just love my country. I’m not some sort of neo-nationalist. I’m the classic American mutt. In the words of Bill Murray in ‘Stripes,’ “my ancestors were kicked out of every other descent country on the planet.”

In all seriousness, my great-grandfather left his home in Modena, Italy and traveled all the way across the world to southeast Kansas. I groused about having to move to Arkansas when I graduated from college… I kind of feel guilty about that when I think about what he must have gone through. He came to America at a time when Irish and Italian immigrants were flocking to the U.S. for work. This didn’t sit well with a lot of the current inhabitants of America at the time because the Irish and the Italians were Catholic. Southern Europeans weren’t exactly welcome. And yet my great-grandfather managed to travel here, get a job in a coal mining outfit and thrive. When it was time for him to get married, he went back to Italy, found  a bride and brought her back over here.

My grandfather, who was a mechanical genius, never went to college but could overhaul a car by the age of thirteen. He spent most of his life working as a clerk in an auto-parts store. Eventually the owner offered to sell him the store. He bought it and then opened another. I often wonder, where else in the world could the son of an immigrant with an Italian surname, rise from relative obscurity to a solid member of the middle class. He even joined the Rotary. He made enough money to send my father and his two siblings to college.

My father paid that forward for me… That’s why I love this country. That’s why I load up the car every year, head out to the country and light off fireworks. I do it to honor my immigrant past. There’s a lot of debate about who should and who shouldn’t be allowed to move to the U.S. these days. Since we’re a nation of immigrants, and I include myself in that number, I figure it’s best to make room for the next bunch of folks who are traveling here, looking for a better life. I know that scares some people, but fear is not what the Founding Fathers built this nation on. I choose to believe in the best parts of ol’ U.S.A.

As I was thinking about all of this, I began to consider all the great, conflicted rock music that’s been written about America. As I’m blowing things up this year, in the midst of the mayhem, I realized I needed some rock and roll. So here is my take on a 4th of July, Independence Day playlist. There’s nothing like a little guitar to go along with the sound of exploding stuff. This is a classic rock blog, so you’re not going to find any of that jingoistic Toby Keith crap here… I know I will have left some songs off, so please recommend additions in the comments. Also, some of these songs may rankle you, but spirited debate is always a critical thing in a democracy. So, as Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler says on the great live album, “Live Bootleg,” at a show on Independence Day, “Happy Birthday Everybody!” I tend to shuffle this playlist, but I always start with the first track… it’s essential to do that, it’s only right…the rest is all just random.

  1. Jimi Hendrix, “The Star Spangled Banner” – You’ve gotta kick off the party with some Hendrix from Woodstock.
  2. John Mellencamp, “R.O.C.K. In the U.S.A.” – Cheesy, perhaps, but this song just explodes out of the speakers like, well, a firecracker.
  3. Steve Miller Band, “Livin’ In The USA” – Groovy late 60s/early 70s blues.
  4. Chuck Berry, “Back In The USA” – Believe it or not, Linda Rondstadt does a nice little version of this too, if you prefer. I prefer Chuck, always.
  5. The Clash, “I’m So Bored With the U.S.A.” – I don’t think anybody is bored with us these days…
  6. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, “Ah, Mary” – Wait to the end… it’ll make sense. With my thanks to my pal Doug for this one…
  7. U2, “Bullet the Blue Sky” – Perfect soundtrack for exploding fireworks.
  8. David Bowie, “I’m Afraid of Americans” – Well, technically I’m only afraid of half of them… well, really only 35% of them.
  9. Bruce Springsteen, “Born In the U.S.A.” – Well, this one is just obvious. The story of a Vietnam vet, left behind economically by his country, still crying out his allegiance… It still brings goosebumps, all these years later.
  10. The Runaways, “American Nights” – Bad girls Joan Jett and Lita Ford’s early band celebrating American bad girls.
  11. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, “American Plan B” – We all need a plan B right now…
  12. Bruce Springsteen, “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” – An epic song for an epic holiday.
  13. John Mellencamp, “Justice and Independence ’85” – I generally hate allegory but this song rocks and swings all at the same time. I still don’t know what Mellencamp’s trying to say here.
  14. Jackson Browne, “For America” – One of my favorite from Jackson.
  15. Paul McCartney, “Freedom” – Written in the aftermath of 9/11, I hated this song when I first heard it, but it’s actually really catchy. There’s a great little guitar solo at the end.
  16. John Mellencamp, “Pink Houses” – “Ain’t that America…” And, yes, I’ll admit there’s a lot of Mellencamp here, but the guy has a ton of songs about our country. There are several I left off. The guy’s obsessed with America, what can I say.
  17. Lenny Kravitz, “Black And White America” – Great title track from one of my favorite overlooked LPs from Lenny.
  18. The Guess Who, “American Woman” – Dedicate one to the ladies…
  19. Randy Newman, “Political Science” – “No one likes us, I don’t know why, we may not be perfect, but heaven knows we try…” The man is a genius and this song is funny.
  20. David Bowie, “Young Americans” – “She wants the young American…”
  21. Bruce Springsteen, “Land of Hope And Dreams” – America certainly was this for my family…
  22. Elton John, “Philadelphia Freedom” – Cheesy, yeah, it is, but I couldn’t resist.
  23. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, “American Girl” – Another one for the ladies…
  24. Eurythmics, “King and Queen of America” – I just love this song.
  25. Dave Matthews Band, “American Baby” – A quiet, understated ballad from Dave and the guys…
  26. The Cult, “American Horse” – Some hard rock, yes please!
  27. The Kinks, “Catch Me Now I’m Falling” – Ray Davies images America as Captain America on a bad day… More relevant now than ever.
  28. The Cult, “Wake Up Time For Freedom” – It certainly is a wake up time…
  29. Green Day, “American Idiot” – A Bush (W) era chestnut that resonates more now.
  30. Sammy Hagar, “Eagles Fly” – Sammy goes solo and hoists the flag.
  31. Little Steven, “I Am A Patriot” – I think I put this on every playlist I do…
  32. U2, “The Hands That Built America” – Great soundtrack cut from U2.
  33. Jimi Hendrix, “Freedom” – That’s what its’ all about.
  34. Neil Young, “Rockin’ In The Free World” – One of Neil’s greatest rock tunes.
  35. Ray Charles, “America The Beautiful” – Who doesn’t enjoy hearing Brother Ray put some true soul and love into this patriotic standard…it’s the perfect end. (Sadly this song isn’t on Spotify).
  36. X, “Fourth Of July” – I saved my favorite track for last…

Happy 4th of July everyone. Be careful out there… Don’t blow off any fingers or get burned. We don’t want another Jean Pierre-Paul on our hands… Drink something strong, only after you’re done blowing shit up, pause and reflect on the principles this country was founded on. We need true patriots right now… Enjoy!

p.s. This playlist can now be found on Spotify under 4th of July