The Beach Boys: Good Vibrations
From Smiley Smile (Capitol, 1967)

(Editor’s Note: This latest summer songs post comes from Jim Harrington, music editor for the Alameda Newspaper Group. For him, summer songs are like popsicles. Mmmmm…popsicles.)

I’m all about the lead graph. Credit that to my background as a concert critic. I’ve found that if I’ve got a good lead in mind, the rest of the review tends to flow rather smoothly. If I’m not confident in my lead, it usually translates to a very, VERY long evening. (And, really, what can one write at 3 a.m. about a Blink 182 concert that hasn’t already been written?) So, when the topic of great summer songs recently came up in a staff meeting, I immediately turned to our theater critic and said, “a great summer song should be like a popsicle.” I had no idea what I meant by that – just that I had a good lead.

Later, I would flesh that idea out and back up my lead by saying that a great summer song should be cool, sticky and sweet, leaving you with a sugary high. Bingo. And the first summer song I thought of was Good Vibrations. I didn’t know what else would be on my list, but I knew that would be at the top. Taking this discussion out of season, I would go so far as to submit that Beach Boys song as a candidate for best song ever. (Mojo mag would back me on that one _ it listed Good Vib as the best single of all time. Rolling Stone had it at No. 6.) This year marks the 40th anniversary of the release of Good Vibes and, having just listened to it, I would say that song still has it _ whatever that elusive “it” is. It still sounds important and fun and, very, genius. I can only imagine what
it must have sounded like at the time. So I’m putting that song as no. 1 on my list – the very tastiest of all Popsicles. Here’s some other of my top sweets:

– “Vacation,” Go-Go’s
– “Land of 1,000 Dances,” Wilson Pickett
– “Night Moves,” Bob Seger
– “Miserlou,” Dick Dale
– “Blister in the Sun,” Violent Femmes
– “That Summer Feeling,” Jonathan Richman
– “Bouncing Around the Room,” Phish
– “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay,” Otis Redding
– “Raspberry Beret,” Prince

–Jim Harrington