Back to Music

Three Easy Pieces

Heat Wave Songs

No, Bananarama didn’t much get covered in this one, but we can all agree that summers are cruel, right? Photo credit: London Records

Recommend Article
Total Recommendations (0)
Clip Article Email Article Print Article Share Article

Welcome to Three Easy Pieces, where I examine a pocket of pop culture, from its birth to today. This month, I'm doing something a little different. Last year, I ran down a selection of movies that take place during heat waves, to help us all prepare for the onslaught of summer. So, it only seemed fitting to look at some songs that have the mania of a heat wave about them. As we all know, though, this summer has been surprisingly temperate. In light of this -- and in light of the fact that there are thousands of songs with the words "hot" or "heat" in the title, regardless of what they have to do with temperature -- I've put together a little playlist to help you feel as though it's positively sweltering outside, and to inspire a bit of that madness. As with the movies I covered last year, though, be advised that the heat waves suggested by these songs are largely metaphorically (and that this is my column, so back off).

BIRTH: "Wild in the Streets," Garland Jeffreys (1973)

Honorable mention: "Heat Wave," Martha and the Vandells; "You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night)," Meatloaf; "Sunny Afternoon," the Kinks; "Rainmaker," Harry Nilsson

"In the heat of the summer, better call up the plumber, and turn on the street pump to cool me off." So begins "Wild in the Streets," Garland Jeffreys' gritty anthem to surviving not only summer in the big city, but surviving modern America in the face of an infrastructure that seems indifferent to the ways in which its citizens live. Yes, we've got police, and vaunted journalists supposedly looking after their citizens, as the song says, but they've still got to go to a drugstore to cure their cough. In short, we've all got to look out for ourselves and each other, because we can't always count on others to look after us. Most people will know this song from the popular cover that the Circle Jerks did, but my money's on Jeffreys' original version for evoking the hazy, delirious spirit of summer in the concrete jungle.

DEVELOPMENT: "Bananas and Blow," Ween (2000)

Honorable mention: "Cruel Summer," Bananarama; "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)," David Bowie; "Some Like It Hot," the Power Station; "Cactus," Pixies; "Your F$%#@&* Sunny Day," Lambchop

There's a whole genre of summer song that can be summarized as "Jimmy Buffett gets wasted on a beach for what seems like forever." Ween capitalized on this type of song with "Bananas and Blow," a humid tropical breeze of a number, all about a guy who's stuck in a cabana, living on, uh, certain provisions. As with many other Ween songs, Gene and Dean balance a goofy premise with excellent musicianship, sending up a genre that they really oughtn't have any right to cover. The protagonist of "Bananas and Blow," as opposed to the general sunniness of the Buffett oeuvre, is trapped in a situation where a flaky friend has left him with barest of means to "pass the time" in a lonely beachside bungalow. Much as he wants to escape, he can't afford a ticket out of this potassium and speed-filled hellhole. A perfect song for soaking in the sun!

TODAY: "Thermometer," Ezra Furman (2019)

Honorable mention: "When a Fire Starts to Burn," Disclosure; "California One/Youth and Beauty Brigade," the Decemberists; "White," Okkervil River; "I'm the Man to Be," EL VY

I've made no secret of the fact that my favorite artist of the moment is Ezra Furman, whose blend of punk, ‘50s rock, New Wave, and breathlessly evocative lyrics are like a Venn diagram of all my musical interests. After last year's concept album, Transangelic Exodus -- a huge leap forward for Furman, in terms of sonic capabilities and narrative depth -- Furman has returned this past month with Twelve Nudes, a quick and dirty album of fiery numbers. While many of the songs focus on the heat generated by being a person struggling in an insane world, "Thermometer" most closely fits my bill. The two-minute banger explores the fever that's induced by living every day in a volatile society. It's enough to make you both pump your fist and pray for silence.

Three Easy Pieces will return, next month, with: Movies About Moviemaking.

Read next close

South Sound Cinema

7th annual FAB Fest

comments powered by Disqus

Site Search