TEN best

by YES! Weekly staff


PYROMANIA by Def Leppard, 1983 (Charles Womack, publisher) Summer 1983 was the summer of my high school graduation and we were Myrtle Beachbound. I can remember specifically standing in front of Ripley’s Believe it or Not when it hit me: Every car passing by blasted a song from Def Leppard’s Pyromania. I looked at my friend Cooper Cruise and we both knew it had gone too far. I should have known the album was too big when weeks before another friend, John Henry McCauley, got a custom plate for his car that read, “FFFFoolin’.”

“BRANDY” by Looking Glass, 1977 (Jennie Bridges, marketing executive) It was the summer of 1977. The song was “Brandy” by Looking Glass. Picture a bunch of girls on our annual trip to the beach. We had heard “Brandy” every year since 1972, when we could only dream of being one of the strangers who became couples in the span of one week. That year, I fell hard for a guy whose father actually owned a mountain. Who owns a mountain? We were crazy for each other for six whole days. The song “Brandy” brings it all back every time I hear it.

“LA COSTA BRAVA” by Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, 2007 (Devender Sellars, art director) Ted Leo writes songs about struggle and survival. But the emotional center of his fourth album, Living With The Living, wrestles with the exhaustion life brings us, and when it’s time to get away. The song starts with a bang of crashing cymbals and distorted guitars, then pulls back to a tight verse, singing, “Everyone needs a Sunday some days/ everyone needs to take some time away.” Catchy tight verses akin to the Pixies build to the repeating desire to get back to the beautiful Northeastern coast of Spain, “The Brave Coast.”

“TIPSY” by J-Kwon, 2004 (Ryan Snyder, music writer) The only thing holding off one-hitter J-Kwon from claiming the hottest song of the summer of 2004 was the perfect storm of commercial hip hop: namely Usher, Lil Jon and Ludacris and their utterly unavoidable “Yeah.” Usher’s improbable six-month run on the Billboard Hot 100 Top 10 didn’t hamper J-Kwon, who made his own indelible impression on dance-floor culture with a single line: “Urrrbody in the club gettin’ tipsy.” It was the perfect slick and subdued foil to Usher’s club-rattling hit, though its cred extends beyond there. It’s also the soundtrack to the first up-close introduction to Marlo Stanfield in Season 3 of “The Wire.”

“MR. NOVEMBER” by the National, 2008 (Joe Murphy, editorial intern) I know Alligator came out in 2005 but this song particularly defined that summer for me. The Bush era was limping to a close and when I saw the National perform live they dedicated this song to Barack. Hell, I even got a “Mr. November” T-shirt with Obama on it (all proceeds went to the Obama campaign). At the time, it seemed like things were going to be better in the not-too-distant future. Oh, idealism.

“SUMMERTIME” by Kenny Chesney, 2005 (Loren Bailey, graphic designer) Some of the most important songs to a person are ones that are associated with a specific memory. Kenny Chesney’s “Summertime” is that for me, except it floods my memory with not just one, but a whole slew of memories from summers past. Times swimming at the pool as a kid, going to local baseball games, cooking out and driving with the windows down are all wrapped up into this one song.

“SUMMERTIME” by Will Smith, 1991 (Kim Robinson, advertising coordinator) This song brings back so many memories. I remember hearing it for the first time when I was six years old! The lyrics are simple, nothing more than the sights, sounds and feelings of a perfect summer day. Lines like “The temperature’s about 88/ hop in the water plug just for old times sake” have me daydreaming about basketball, barbecues and other joys of a Philadelphia summer… even though mine were spent in Virginia.

“EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE” by the Police, 1983 (Keith T. Barber, staff writer) Everyone remembers their first crush, and I am no exception. Her name was Stacie. The moment I saw her, I was struck by the thunderbolt. We met at Cherry Grove during my family’s annual summer vacation. “Every Breath You Take” was at the top of every radio station’s playlist the summer of 1983, and it quickly became our song. We wrote long love letters (in the days before e-mail and text messaging) for nearly a year. I visited her in Atlanta and she flew to North Carolina to attend my junior prom. To this day, every time I hear the strains of “Every Breath You Take,” I think of Stacie and the summer of ’83.

“COME OUT AND PLAY (KEEP ‘EM SEPA- RATED)” by the Offspring, 1994 (Michelle Lanteri, advertising director) This song epitomized my eighth grade summer spent in Panama City, Fla. in 1994. I can see it now: My best friend, Aimee, and I rode in the backseat of her brother’s clunky Honda with this song blaring. The guys sang at the top of their lungs with their cigarettes dangling out each window, turning around once in awhile to see if Aimee and I were still alive, since we hadn’t made a sound since the song began. The truth is that we were so thrilled to be riding in a car at the beach that we couldn’t utter a word for fear of taking the coolness out of the moment.

“THE WAY” by Fastball, 1998 (Brian Clarey, editor) “They made up their minds/ and they started packing.” It was summer 1998, and even in a musically isolated city like New Orleans, where we lived at the time, this song was everywhere, backed into jukeboxes, emanating from the MTV that she insisted on watching, blasting from the radio of our Jeep while we drove to hear music I considered far superior to this Austin drivel. I hated it… until I loved it. There’s something about it, this fed-up couple just hitting the road, leaving it all behind, that appealed to me and still does. Plus it’s catchy as hell. I found out today that it was based on a real-life Texas couple who dispappeared in their car one day and were found a couple weeks later dead at the bottom of a ravine. Takes some of the fun out of it, but still… great song.