Songs of the Summers: The '60s

As it turns out, America's infatuation with sometimes kooky summer tunes is an old one.

With the summer nearing its end, people will undoubtedly soon begin making statements on what the song of the summer of 2014 was. While three months offers some degree of hindsight, it pales in comparison to our ability to see which songs defined the summers of decades previous. Fifty years ago, there wasn’t much media attention devoted to what songs ruled the charts during the warmest months, but thanks to the Billboard charts, we can look back and see what they were. So let’s take a listen to the songs of summers in the '60s.

1960 Brenda Lee - “I’m Sorry”

It seems hard to believe in these child-star obsessed times that people found it hard to believe that a fifteen year old could sing as well as Brenda Lee. This is the song that made her famous, but her biggest selling single is still 1958’s “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree”, the fourth most-downloaded Christmas song in digital history.

The summer of 1960 belonged to teen idols, with the Everly Brothers (“Cathy’s Clown”), Elvis Presley (“It’s Now Or Never”), and Connie Francis (“Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool”) raking in number one hits.

1961 Bobby Lewis - “Tossin’ and Turnin’”

“Tossin’ and Turnin’” held the top spot on the pop singles chart for an astounding seven weeks straight. At the time, the only other artists who did better than that were Elvis Presley, Bobby Darin, and Guy Williams. In fact, it was the best-selling single of 1961. Lewis wasn’t a one-hit wonder, but he only had one other single (“One Track Mind”) before disappearing from the charts.

Other songs that hit number one that summer were “Quarter to Three” by Gary U.S. Bonds, Ricky Nelson’s “Travelin’ Man”, and Roy Orbison’s “Running Scared”.

1962 Ray Charles - “I Can’t Stop Loving You”

Ray Charles’ version of “I Can’t Stop Loving You” became so iconic that many people didn’t know that it was a cover version. Originally written and recorded by Don Gibson in 1958, Charles’ version became the lead single off his Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music album.

The summer of 1962 would prove to be a romantic one, with Bobby Vinton’s “Roses Are Red (My Love)” and “Soldier Boy” by The Shirelles also enjoying multiple weeks at the top of the charts.

1963 Kyu Sakamoto - “Sukiyaki”

Two very different songs had three week runs at number one that summer in 1963: a mostly instrumental live recording from a child prodigy and a Japanese love song re-titled after a beef dish. But let’s give the song of the summer title to Kyu Sakamoto’s “Sukiyaki”, because it’s the first of four versions of the same song to chart, and it reigned throughout the month of June instead of August. Little Stevie Wonder’s “Fingertips (Pt. II)” comes in at a very close second, with Leslie Gore’s “It’s My Party” also making waves in 1963.

1964 The Dixie Cups - “Chapel of Love”

The summer of 1964 was full of musical trends. The British invasion saw “A Hard’s Day’s Night” and “A World Without Love” grab number ones. The Beach Boys’ “I Get Around” proved that surf rock was still a big deal. Even rat-packer Dean Martin’s “Everybody Loves Somebody” snagged the top spot for a week. But the month of June is known for weddings, and most of those weddings must have played the Dixie Cups’ “Chapel of Love”. Fifty years later, it’s still a popular choice for those ceremonies and receptions.

1965 The Rolling Stones - “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”

The Beatles or the Stones? Well, in July of 1965, Billboard’s answer to that question was definitely Stones. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” was the highest selling 45 in the US for a solid month, until “I’m Henry VIII, I Am” came along. So, Beatles, Stones, or Herman’s Hermits?

1966 The Lovin’ Spoonful - “Summer in the City”

It’s a little surprising that only one song on this list has the word “summer” in its title; it’s not surprising, however, that this song takes the spot. If you are making a movie that takes place during summertime in the late '60s and you don’t use this song, then you have no idea what you are doing.

Elsewhere, the summer of 1966 was really British: the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black”, the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer”, and the Troggs’ “Wild Thing” all reigned at the top of the charts.

1967 Bobbie Gentry - “Ode To Billy Joe”

The year 1967 was a psychedelic time: the Doors' “Light My Fire” stormed the charts. It was also an easy-going time: “Groovin’” by the Young Rascals was a number one hit for four weeks straight. Furthermore, it was also an upbeat time: “Windy” by the Association held number one for the same length of time. So how did a confusing country song about a teenage boy’s suicide reach the top of the charts? Perhaps the mystery of why Billy jumped, what he threw over the Tallahatchee Bridge, or if this was a true story or not propelled its success. Or, maybe, people just liked the way it sounded.

1968 The Rascals - “People Got To Be Free”

You can’t say that there wasn’t plenty of variety on the pop charts in 1968. The summer months saw Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson”, the Doors' “Hello, I Love You”, and Herb Alpert’s “This Guy’s in Love With You” all compete for chart space. But the artists formerly known as the Young Rascals racked up more weeks at the top with this pop anthem for peace and understanding, which became their biggest success.

1969 The Archies - “Sugar, Sugar”

You might be surprised to find that the biggest summer hit of the last year of the 1960’s was not the Beatles’ “Get Back”, the Rolling Stones’ “Honkey Tonk Women”, or even Zager and Evans “In the Year 2525 (Exordium & Terminus)”. Instead, it was the theme song for a Saturday morning cartoon.

The Archies may have just been cartoon characters, but the studio musicians Andy Kim (of “Rock Me Gently” fame), Ron Dante, and Toni Wine who comprised the “group” still had a highly rated TV series and the biggest selling single of the year. “Sugar, Sugar” went gold, selling over one million copies, not to mention the thousands more that were printed on the back of “Super Sugar Crisp” cereal boxes.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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