H ve A Great Summ r

July 31, 2010

For years, the realization that July had become August produced a Pavlovian sense of dread in me.

As a kid, August was the month in which we were herded back into the educational system. The first day of the month made that impending event palpable to me.

Sure, there was still a few weeks of warm days spent idly doing nothing at all, but – deep down – I felt the awful truth that it was over.

Wimbledon and the 4th of July – two signposts of summer for me – had already happened.

If we had gone somewhere on vacation it would have likely been in July. By August 1st, the trip seemed as if it had happened a lifetime before rather than mere weeks (at most).

August turned me into a dead man walking as I shuffled toward the first day of classes.

Not this year, though, not this summer.

This summer, there is absolutely not one fiber of my being that has twitched reflexively at the approach of August.

Each morning, I sit drinking coffee in a state of early-morning confusion. The local news is on the television where it remains until the weather forecast has been delivered (at which time, it’s ESPN2 and Mike & Mike In The Morning).

Usually, I halfheartedly listen to the weather, mostly making sure that there isn’t some impending weather disaster headed our direction.

This has been the ritual.

But, the past few weeks my attention to the weather report has been increasingly focused. The extended forecast causes me to marshall the limited powers of concentration I possess at 5:10 a.m.

93-96-98-95-97-94

I study the forecasted daily highs like a hobo that has spent his last dollar on a pick-6 ticket and shake my head.

I welcome August this year because August is next to September and – unless this is the year that summer never ends – that means that the temperatures have to abate.

Ten weeks ago, the marque outside a high school on my morning commute heralded the end of the school year. A week later it wished all to “Have A Great Summer.”

This week, I noticed that a couple letters were missing.

Here are four songs that accompanied me back to school in Augusts past…

John Denver – Annie’s Song
from The John Denver Collection

As six-year old starting school in ’74, I knew John Denver. He had one of the biggest hits in the country with Annie’s Song. Mostly, though, I knew him from his television specials.

There he was – granny glasses, floppy hat – traipsing around in the mountains communing with nature, animals, granola-munching girls in bell-bottomed jeans with long, straight hair. I dug the guy.

I still think Annie’s Song is lovely (if a bit melodramatic).

Joan Jett – Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)
from Bad Reputation

In August of ’82, I was fourteen and headed from the comfortable confines of grade school to the unknown petri dish of high school. It was a fairly seamless transition as I had Will, my best friend from our neighborhood and a year older than me, as a guide.

Music had really gotten it’s hooks in me that summer. My interest having reached critical mass after simmering for about a year or so. It was mostly radio or mix tapes of songs I’d taped from the radio since I owned no more than a dozen cassettes.

One was Joan Jett’s I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll which had been massive since winter -when the title song became an ’80s anthem – and throughout the summer with a version of Crimson And Clover.

By August, I was catching up to her solo debut and another stellar cover song.

Godley & Creme – Cry
from The History Mix Volume 1

Three years later, August brought the beginning of senior year. It was a good time, but it had been hyped in the “86”s scrawled on notebooks and spraypainted on bridges since fifth grade.

That August, Godley & Creme’s video for Cry was causing a sensation on MTV. The duo of Kevin Godley and Lol Creme had split from 10cc and become acclaimed producers of videos.

(Duran Duran’s Girls On Film, Asia’s Heat Of The Moment, The Police’s Every Breath You Take, Wrapped Around Your Finger, and Synchronicity II, Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Two Tribes…)

Cry was a groundbreaking video and the song is hypnotic.

Tom Cochrane & Red Rider – Boy Inside The Man
from Tom Cochrane & Red Rider

I didn’t realize that Red Rider was relatively unknown in the States until lead singer Tom Cochrane had a solo hit with Life Is A Highway. Growing up in the Midwest, the band got a lot of attention from several rock stations I listened to in the ’80s.

I was the buyer for a large record store in another part of the country when Life Is A Highway became a hit for Cochrane. It seemed clear that, unless they were more than casual music fans, the customers searching for the hit were generally unaware of Cochrane or Red Rider.

But, five years earlier in August, 1986, Cochrane was still a member of Red Rider and, as I prepared to head of to college, I was hearing the band’s Boy Inside The Man on the radio.

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It’s August (Wake Me When It’s October)

August 4, 2009

Of course, it’s been August for several days now, but I’ve been in denial. August might be my least favorite month of the year.

(February is in the conversation, but, at least it’s a short month)

I have no doubt that my dislike of August is deep-seeded and is rooted, like most everything, in childhood when it was the month that summer ended and another year of educational incarceration began.

It was also an August twenty-five years ago when I was hired for my first job. I had performed tasks – mowing a lawn, scorekeeping for a women’s softball league, etc. – for money, but McDonald’s was the initial venture into the land of real employment.

I found the experience lacking.

(actually, it wasn’t a bad gig as I worked with several friends and we did all that we could to flout authority at every turn)

Years (and several jobs) later, my friend Eric and I spent the better portion of a work shift declaring to anyone who would listen that we were not recognizing August. Instead, we would continue to add days to July until September hit.

We could have renamed the month Penelope and it would have been irrelevant as we were working in a large record store with a staff of (mostly) twenty-something slackers. To be honest, what day of the week it was hardly even mattered so long as we made it in for our scheduled shifts within a forty-eight hour window.

So, I’m going to suck it up and just deal with writing August on my checks for the next few weeks. It will soon enough be September…another month which I find rather uninspiring.

Bebel Gilberto – August Day Song
from Tanto Tempo

The daughter of “The Father Of Bossa Nova,” I heard Bebel’s debut playing in a used CD store and snagged it. I think I listened to it a couple times and promptly moved on to something else.

(I need to revisit it)

I know as much about bossa nova as I do about basket weaving or Bulgarian cooking, but August Day Song is a delightful little number. It’s mellow but with enough pep to keep you from forgetting it’s playing.

Murray Attaway – August Rain
from In Thrall

I know nothing about Murray Attaway except that he was a member of Guadalcanal Diary (he was lead singer and guitarist). I remember hearing Guadalcanal Diary a few times on 97X back in the late ‘80s, but I don’t really recall their sound.

Apparently In Thrall was his one and only solo album after the band split. That’s too bad as I do remember liking the album when I got a promo (I haven’t listened to it in a decade or more now).

August Rain is a smoldering, slightly trippy song. I think Murray has more issues with August than I do.

Peter Himmelman – 5th Of August
from Skin

Singer/songwriter Peter Himmelman put out a number of albums on major labels in the ‘90s and Skin was one of the more rocking ones in the bunch. He also happens to be the son-in-law of Bob Dylan (you know, Mr. Zimmerman).

I saw him in a small club during those and, afterwards, some friends and I hung out with him for a bit. He referred to Dylan a couple times, with seeming affection, as “the old man.”

Can you imagine spending Thanksgiving with Bob carving the bird?

Robyn Hitchcock – August Hair
from You & Oblivion

Speaking of Bob Dylan (see above), there was often a strong influence of John Lennon, Syd Barrett, and Dylan in the music of Robyn Hitchcock. It’s there in the dreamy August Hair.

The district manager for the record store where Eric and I temporarily banished August from the calendar told us once about an in-store appearance he had hosted for Hitchcock. He claimed that Hitchcock had drawn comments and cartoons on a bunch of photos hanging in his office.

OK, I don’t advocate defacing someone else’s property, but I hope our district manager’s tale (told with righteous indignation) was true. Robyn wrote classics such as My Wife And My Dead Wife, One Long Pair Of Eyes, If You Were A Priest, and Madonna Of The Wasps.

Our district manager was a pompous, mean-spirited jackass.