Everybody have certain songs they associate with summer. It doesn’t necessarily have to mean that the song itself is centered around a summer theme, simply that the music evokes that feeling when the sun is shining bright and you’re laying on the beach with not a care in the world. Today we’re going to list ten rock songs that work best in the summer. Now granted, this is going to be on the lighter side of rock. It’s hard to imagine a band like Metallica singing about the joys of summer, right? With that said, put these songs on a playlist and try them out next time you’re driving to the beach, and see what you think of our choices.
1. The Beatles - “Here Comes The Sun”
George Harrison’s masterpiece from the Beatles Abbey Road album is at the top of this list because it is a timeless song with a theme that rings as true today as it did when it was released in 1969. Harrison’s intricate acoustic melody coupled with the Beatles uncanny sense for great harmonies make this song sound as bright and fresh as when it was originally released. It is almost impossible not to smile when you hear it, and at least for me, it will always make me think of sunny days and blue skies.
2. Red Hot Chili Peppers - “Californication”
One could argue that Red Hot Chili Peppers is the ultimate summer band. You could even do a top ten list based solely on the Chili Pepper’s best summer-related songs. Their music has that carefree sound about it that you associate with beach culture. Perhaps it stems from Anthony Kiedis and Flea growing up in sunny California. They’re writing songs about what goes on around them and in their lives, and no doubt is that going to be influenced by the never-ending summer that is southern California.
3. Guns N’ Roses - “Paradise City”
Axl Rose singing about the green grass and pretty girls in “Paradise City” certainly conjure up images of summer. But I think for me personally, what makes “Paradise City” a song I associate with summer stems more from what I know about Guns N’ Roses, and their early start on the Los Angeles rock scene. Just imagining the band writing the song in a van on their way back to L.A. from San Francisco (as per Slash’s description in his autobiography), longing for their sunny hometown, makes it sound like the ultimate ode to an endless summer.
4. Alice Cooper - “School’s Out”
Along with the GNR song, Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” represent the heavier side of rock on this list. “School’s Out” is an anthem for every teenager on that first day of summer vacation. The last of the homework has been done, and now it’s just fun in the sun for what seems like forever when you’re that age. Just hearing this classic rock song today as a 30-something, it still brings back fond memories of times long since passed.
5. Bruce Springsteen - “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)”
Many songs on this list romanticize life on the US West Coast. New Jersey native Bruce Springsteen has based his whole career around depicting life in the Garden State, and in the song “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” he manages to capture the atmosphere of the New Jersey shore culture in the early seventies. Aside from being a love song, this early Springsteen ballad from his second album The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle make mention of Madam Marie, a fortune teller who had a booth on the Asbury Park Boardwalk from 1932 until her passing in 2008. The song, which is a live favorite among Springsteen fans, has become a historical account of Jersey shore life.
6. Don Henley - “The Boys of Summer”
Don Henley’s 1984 hit record might seem like a simple track on the surface. Written with Mike Campbell of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, “The Boys of Summer” is at first glance about fleeting youth and love, symbolized by the summer slipping away. But Henley addressed the song in an interview with Rolling Stone in 1987, where he talked about the last verse specifically alluding to how many activists of the sixties (Henley himself included) sort of sold out two decades later.
7. Bryan Adams - “Summer of 69”
A song about guitars, summer, and young love - Bryan Adams was talking to every teenage boy on the planet when “Summer of 69” came out in 1985. Along with “Run to You,” and “Heaven” from his Reckless album, it helped make Adams a huge star. Almost 30 years later, “Summer of 69” still enjoys plenty of radio airplay when summer comes around. What happened to Bryan Adams you might wonder? Well, he’s still releasing new music and touring, albeit not on the same massive scale he once did when “the summer seemed to last forever.”
8. Tom Petty - “Into the Great Wide Open”
Just like with Red Hot Chili Peppers, there are several Tom Petty songs that could easily work on this list. There’s just something inherent in the music of songwriters based in California that make them perfect summer songs. Tom Petty’s song about a guy who moves to Los Angeles to become a rock star is the title track to 1991’s Into the Great Wide Open. The title evokes such a positive message, like anything is possible. Petty does however keep a slice of realism when things start going awry for the protagonist towards the end of the 2nd verse. But the chorus still echoes the sense that everything can be all right again, just the way it can feel on a carefree summer day.
9. Van Halen - “Cabo Wabo”
Red Rocker Sammy Hagar has made a career out of writing songs about hanging on the beach and partying. “Cabo Wabo,” from Van Halen’s 1988 album OU812 was written about Hagar’s new-found love for the Mexican resort town Cabo San Lucas. Hagar, and initially his Van Halen bandmates as well, would open the first Cabo Wabo Cantina a couple of years after the song was released, and the name would also be used for his successful brand of tequila. The song is still a live favorite at Sammy Hagar concerts.
10. Jimi Hendrix - “Long Hot Summer Night”
“It sure was a long long long hot summer night,” Jimi Hendrix sings in the opening line to this melodic bluesy number from Electric Ladyland. The lyrics are interspersed with tasteful licks that were so typical for Hendrix. Of course there’s an amazing guitar solo marked by Hendrix’ fondness for panning instruments back and forth between the speakers. There might not be more than a simple reference to summer in the song and its title, but it is basically mandatory to find a way to include Jimi Hendrix in a top ten list.