Chart Watch Extra: The Songs of Summer
“California Gurls,” the frothy 2010 smash by Katy Perry featuring Snoop Dogg, has been declared the #1 summer song by Billboard. The music trade magazine drafted a list of the 30 biggest hits “with summer-specific themes,” based on chart performance on the Hot 100 from the inception of that chart in August 1958 through May of this year. The Perry/Snoop collabo topped the Hot 100 for six weeks, longer than any other song on the list.
The Beach Boys, who practically invented summer music, are the top artists on the list with five of the top 30 songs: “Surfin’ U.S.A.” at #8, “California Girls” at #16, “Surfer Girl” at #23, “Wipe Out” (on which they were guests of Fat Boys) at #28 and “Surfin’ Safari” at #30. That’s fitting for a group that topped the chart with a compilation titled Endless Summer.
The Lovin’ Spoonful’s 1966 classic “Summer In The City” is #2 on the list, followed in order by the Surfaris’ 1963 smash “Wipe Out” (the only instrumental recording on the list), Brian Hyland’s 1960 smash “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” (the only novelty song on the list) and Jan & Dean’s 1963 smash “Surf City.” Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys’ mastermind, co-wrote “Surf City” and sings a backing vocal.
All of these songs reached #1 on the Hot 100, except for “Wipe Out,” which wiped out at #2.
Percy Faith’s shimmering instrumental “The Theme From ‘A Summer Place,’” which headed the Hot 100 for nine weeks, didn’t make the list. Billboard apparently didn’t deem the movie theme “summer-specific,” despite its title and mellow vibe.
The oldest hit on the list is Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues,” a hit from 1958. (It’s #26 on the list.) The recording has been voted into both the Grammy Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Cochran was just 19 when the song was released.
Cochran is one of several artists on the list who were still in their teens at the time of the release of their summer classics. Brian Hyland was just 16 when “…Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” was released. The Surfaris were a teen surf rock’n’roll band. Three of the five Beach Boys were still in their teens at the time of the release of their oldest song on the list, “Surfin’ Safari.”