Following last week’s first episode of my two-parter for yesterday’s Summer Solstice I thought I’d concentrate on sunshine songs this week. Well, I say ‘sunshine’ but, as usual, the links may be a little tenuous and the titles may contain variants. Yesterday was also World Music Day, on which we are encouraged to play music outdoors to make everyone happy. Ever tried it with Stockhausen? But let’s get started on some tunes to brighten your day: we can at least sing about the sunshine, even if the sky today is as dull as ditchwater.
How about this one to get us off to a rousing start:
You could hardly have a happier start than that, could you? He’s in love, she loves him too, and they are happy to be in each other’s company. Life was so simple in those days, wasn’t it? As that video gives you the clue, this was a track on The Beatles’ Revolver album, released in August 1966. This was the first track on side 2, and it has always struck me as a joyous way to restart the album after you had to walk over to the record player and flip the disc over. Remember record players? I hardly need give you the chart details, but for the sake of completeness, it was #1 in both the UK and the US, as well as in Australia and Canada. And Norway, as Wikipedia tells me.
Keeping the happy mood going, here’s one which I just couldn’t leave out:
That one dates back to 1985, when it was a top ten hit in both the UK and the US (#8 and #9 respectively). The band comprised members from both sides of the pond, and grew out of the foundations of an English covers band called Mama’s Cookin’, which had as its lead singer Katrina Leskanich, who is American. After this record they had moderate chart success for several years, until making a remarkable comeback by winning the 1997 Eurovision Song Contest for the UK with Love Shine A Light, which was a #3 hit here but didn’t chart in the US. Wisely, America decided to have nothing to do with Eurovision – I wish it didn’t still happen here, too, but at least it gives me a chance to explore the other channels while it is on.
I thought I’d slow things down a bit for my next tune. I featured the Cowboy Junkies a couple of times a few months ago and they were well received, and as I love their music it seemed a good idea to include them again:
That isn’t about sunshine – the sun is used as a symbol of days passing – but I find the beauty of Margo Timmins and her voice irresistible. And today is Tuesday, isn’t it? The band comes from Canada, and still has the same line up – including Margo and two of her three brothers – as when they began in 1985. They have never been a band to storm the charts, but have a loyal following who appreciate just how good their music is. This song is about a woman managing the time after the end of a relationship, about how she is spending her days alone, and concluding that there are benefits: that extra space in bed is worth having! I think it’s beautiful, and the video has a perfect feel to it. The song was on their 1990 album Caution Horses, which reached #11 in Canada, #33 here, and #47 in the US. It was released as a single, peaking at #22 in Canada and #90 here but didn’t make the US chart. They are very much an albums band, though.
My next tune also uses sunshine as a metaphor, but it is a classic from my youth so I’m keeping it in! If you are of a similar vintage to me you may well remember this one:
Cream were only together for two and a half years, during which they released four albums, all of which reached the top ten in the UK, three of them doing the same in the US. This was on the second album, Disraeli Gears, which was released in November 1967, reaching #5 in the UK and #4 in the US. This song was released as a single in the US in December 1967, peaking at #5, but wasn’t a single in the UK until September 1968, when it reached #25.
Of a similar vintage is this archetypal British track by The Kinks:
That was the biggest UK hit of summer 1966, displacing The Beatles’ Paperback Writer from the top of the charts. It was their third (and last) UK chart topper, and was also #1 in Canada, Ireland and the Netherlands, and #2 in New Zealand. It reached #14 in the US, and apart from a couple of minor hits it was the start of a three year absence from the US charts. The band had a massive falling out during a live show in Cardiff, which resulted in drummer Mick Avory being briefly hospitalised, and US radio bosses decided not to play their records for fear of setting a bad example to their impressionable kids. What a bunch of wusses! Pete Quaife, the bass player, is missing from the video: he was recovering at the time from a car accident. Life with this lot was anything but dull! The album that included this song, Face To Face, reached #12 in the UK and #135 in the US.
I’m cranking up the cheerful rating with my next one:
I just love this song and its happy vibes. This was released in March 2002 as the lead single from Sheryl Crow’s fourth album, C’mon, C’mon, which reached #2 in the album charts of the US, UK and Canada. Surprisingly to me it fared much less well as a single, only reaching #16 here in the UK and #17 in the US. Maybe they missed a trick by releasing it too early in the year? Everyone knows that the British summer comprises one day in July, so it might have been better to tie in with that. Still, who am I to judge the record company’s marketing? It sold a lot of albums, though: over 2m in the US, and that #17 placing was good enough to get the single a silver disc for 500k sales. The song and the video just say ‘happy’ to me.
Those of you who have been keeping count will have spotted that I have now reached the weekly quota of six tunes that I nominally set myself. Leaving you with Sheryl’s happiness would have been great, but this one kept nagging away at me to be included, and as it has a message of hope that is just as valid now – perhaps even more so – as when it was first released in 1966 it seemed a good place to close this week’s set:
Quite possibly the first Stevie Wonder song to contain an element of social conscience, I think, although it wasn’t one that he wrote: it was written by Ron Miller and Bryan Wells. Miller also had a hand in Stevie’s big hit For Once In My Life. This was released in November 1966, peaking at #9 in the US and #20 in the UK. The album it was on, Down To Earth, only reached #92 in the US and didn’t chart here. While you watch that video, bear in mind that although he had been making records for four years at this point, he was still only 16: quite remarkable, really. I’m including it because its message of hope is something which I think we all need at present:
“You know when times are bad
And you’re feeling sad
I want you to always remember
Yes, there’s a place in the sun
Where there’s hope for everyone“
That’s all for now. As ever, I hope you’ve enjoyed them. See you next week 😊