How ironic that a season beloved by so many, with endless sun and good, good times, would be best represented by a song that calls out summer as a bummer! But "Summertime Blues" just may be the best Summer Song of All-Time! It's certainly been covered enough times! And each time something new about the song is revealed. Often, how much louder it can get.
The song was originally written by rockabilly legend Eddie Cochran and his manager, Jerry Capehart, who knew where the real money was in rock 'n' roll.
These thirteen folks raised a fuss and raised a holla!
13) The Flying Lizards: We likely wouldn't be talking about the Flying Lizards were it not for their covers of "Money" and "Summertime Blues," both of which were so weird at the time that they either made people really happy or really angry. See? Life is what you make it!
12) Alan Jackson: Country star Alan Jackson was born just after "Summertime Blues" first became a hit in 1958, so it's likely that he heard the song in the womb. However, being a country star, Jackson claimed he was inspired by the Buck Owens' cover. For an extra treat, he made a video where he plays guitar in a field. Country music is on the edge!
11) Olivia Newton-John: Sometime before she recorded such landmark albums as Stronger Than Before, Back With A Heart, Grace and Gratitude Renewed, Christmas Wish, A Celebration In Song, Hope Is Always Here, Gaia -- One Woman's Journey, Olivia Newton-John sung about the perils of being overworked for low pay on her 1975 album, Clearly Love. The highlights of the album are a toss-up between "Summertime Blues," "He Ain't Heavy…He's My Brother" and "Just A Lot of Folk (The Marshmallow Song)."
10) T. Rex: Marc Bolan's version of the tune with T. Rex sounds like he'd listened to the Blue Cheer and The Who versions and decided he wanted in. It's also a great tune for bands who don't know each other very well to do since the chords are basic and everyone has some idea of how it goes. If you mess this tune up, you really need to forget music and go into retail.
9) Buck Owens: OK, I have to admit I'd not heard Buck Owens' version of this classic until I learned that it was Buck's version that inspired Alan Jackson's cover. Apparently, Buck recorded his version in the late 1980s, so Jackson patiently waited about six years before giving it a shot of his own.
8) Brian Setzer: You expected Brian Setzer to cover this. He's only the guy everyone thinks of when they think modern-day rockabilly dude. What's he supposed to cover? Aerosmith?
7) Van Halen: Looking around I found a raunchy version by Van Halen shows just how much of a party band Van Halen were right from the beginning. The only blues found here are when the song is over and people realize they have to go home and confront their real lives.
6) Rush: I live to make my readers happy and I know RUSH fans are a tight lot who look out for their superheroes at every turn and I wouldn't want to incur the wrath of anyone who knows all the words to "The Camera Eye." In fact, the entire Feedback EP is a riot, with two Buffalo Springfield covers, two Yardbirds covers and even a cut by Love! You'll get a real RUSH listening to Rush!
5) Beach Boys: Just as Alan Jackson waited six years after Buck Owens' cover to work out his countrified rendition, so the Beach Boys waited four years before paying tribute to Eddie Cochran's original. Released on the group's first album, 1962's Surfin' Safari, "Summertime Blues" got the Carl Wilson / David Marks treatment. Appropriate since both were teenagers at the time and could relate to the song personally. Somebody call off Murry!
4) The Rolling Stones: Often the charm of the Rolling Stones is their sloppiness, their ability to make it sound as if they're one beat away from completely breaking down. Though they never officially released a version of this song, rehearsal takes of it from the Some Girls sessions exist on the intertubes and it shows Mick messing up the words because he's a punk like that!
3) Eddie Cochran: Really it's a three-way tie for first. Obviously, Eddie Cochran's version of the tune is amazing. It's what inspired everyone else to cover it. Of course, had he lived, they'd make him get out on stage with thirteen guitar players, three piano dudes, seven back-up singers, two drummers, a horn section and a bass player and call it stripped down because the bassist is on stand-up and half the guitars are acoustic. Is that Dave Grohl and Bruce Springsteen waiting in the wings?
2) Blue Cheer: Advanced amplification systems changed rock 'n' roll as much as anyone's technique. Sure, Hendrix could do anything he wanted, but mortals had to settle for a big noise and no one made a bigger one than Blue Cheer. Modern rock bands sound like easy listening compared to the brutal fuzz kick of these overhaired gents.
1) The Who: Pete Townshend might be a drab oldster at this point, but when he had Keith Moon kicking his butt he played guitar that positively levitated. No one has come close to The Who's wild energy. Because you can't teach instinct and you can't manufacture chemistry.