We're panting like hyenas here in the city, sweltering in the insufferable heat and getting the first inklings of end times, what with an actual tornado touching down in New York like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man at the end of Ghost Busters. As Bill Murray tells the Mayor when the ghosts bust loose: "This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions...human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together - mass hysteria."
And so I'm already looking back now as if summer's over, kaput. I'm already wistful for the cooler, greener afternoons of July, the feel of toes in the grass, a guitar lightly plucked in the breeze, fellow Driftwood Singers on hand to enjoy a brotherly setting of open skies, cool creeks, whispering pines, sizzlin' BBQ, bottles of red wine and, yes, weathered old vinyl records of dubious distinction. This summer we dared to eat the peach and wear white flannel trousers on the beach -- rolled, of course. But now it's over. So to keep the feeling alive I turn to Mr. Jonathan Richman. It's hard to overstate how wonderfully pure, raw, joyful and simply present these songs are, all from 1983's Jonathan Sings! -- one of two must-owns by Richman, IMHO, the other being the self-titled Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers from 1977. Download them now and thank me later. They prove once and finally that all you need is a song and a wiggle in your hips to suck the marrow out of life. "That Summer Feeling" says everything I need to say: That summer feeling's gonna haunt you the rest of your life. "Not Yet Three," fitting for us recent parents among the Singers, is both terrifying and beautiful. I'm stronger than you, you're simply bigger than me...
That Summer Feeling - Jonathan Richman
This Kind of Music - Jonathan Richman
Not Yet Three - Jonathan Richman
Turns out I bought a lot of bad records this summer -- why on earth I bought that Dr. Hook album I'll never know -- but it didn't matter. Among my finds was one of the best-named albums of all time, 1971's Volcanic Action of My Soul by Ray Charles. It's got some hideous orchestral accompaniment on it, but Ray's hustle and grit manage to power through and really actually improve "The Long and Winding Road," a song few need bother trying to cover but which Ray nails entirely. With "Wichita Lineman" he's less successful, though still pretty good, but the pedal steel solo alone is magnificent, a moment of weightless summer grace that floats above the heat like a shimmering dream, a long and winding road that travels back to a summer solace we can carry with us the rest our lives. Here's to summer...
The Long and Winding Road - Ray Charles
Wichita Lineman - Ray Charles