Summer in the City

Author: Janet

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“Summer in the City” was a 1966 hit single by The Lovin’ Spoonful, written by Mark Sebastian (brother of John Sebastian) and Steve Boone. It came from their album, Hums of the Lovin’ Spoonful. It reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 on August 13, 1966, replacing The Troggs’ hit “Wild Thing”. It remained at the top spot for three weeks, and was followed by Donovan’s hit, “Sunshine Superman”. The song featured a series of car horns, during the instrumental bridge, starting with a Volkswagen Beetle horn, and ending up with a jackhammer sound, in order to give the impressions of the sounds of the summer in the city.

The signature keyboard part is played on a Hohner Pianet, and the organ is a Vox Continental.

When at Blair Academy, Mark Sebastian submitted the lyrics as a poem for the literary magazine. That poem, entitled “Summer In the City,” had the refrain “but at night it’s a different world, go out and find a girl, come on, come on and dance all night, despite the heat it’ll be alright, and babe don’t you know it’s a pity, the days can’t be like the night, in the summer in the city.” His older brother John changed the slower verses to a more upbeat model, keeping the title and the refrain. Mark’s part remains as he wrote it, words and music. Bassist Steve Boone added the instrumental coda in the middle.

The song was featured on The Simpsons episode “Papa’s Got a Brand New Badge”, Only Fools and Horses episode “Miami Twice”, in the opening scenes of the Bruce Willis action film Die Hard: With a Vengeance, in a Gatorade commercial, the 1994 PBS documentary Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns, in the 1989 movie “The Karate Kid Part III”, and recently in an advert for the UK retailer Marks and Spencers. The song was used in the Designers at Debenhams advert Actor.

On a VH1 Classic episode of “Classic Albums” featuring Disraeli Gears by Cream, it was asserted that the predominant guitar riff of the song “Tales of Brave Ulysses” from Disraeli Gears was inspired by the keyboard riff of “Summer in the City”.

Cover versions of the song include BB King in 1972, Quincy Jones in 1973, Joe Cocker in 1993, The Stranglers on their 1997 album Written in Red, and Joe Jackson released in 2000 a live album titled Summer in the City: Live in New York. The album opens with a cover of the song. The Butthole Surfers covered the song on “Music for Our Mother Ocean (MOM)” Series No. 3 released in 1999. STYX covered the song on their “Big Bang Theory” released in 2005.

Tim Curry covered the song on his album Fearless in 1981.

The Quincy Jones cover of “Summer in the City” has been sampled by Massive Attack in the song “Exchange” from their acclaimed album Mezzanine, Nightmares on Wax in his song “Night’s Introlude” on the album Smokers Delight, and also by The Pharcyde on their seminal hit “Passin’ Me By” from the album Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde. Another cover, by the Gutter Brothers appeared on the soundtrack to the Only Fools and Horses film “Miami Twice”. The song has also been covered by UK jazz-dance act, Incognito on the 2006 album Bees + Things + Flowers.

Comedians Horatio Sanz and Fred Armisen sung the song on the 2004 season finale of Saturday Night Live during a sketch that contained different cast members singing songs that had a summer theme.

In the summer of 2006, Nederlandse Spoorwegen, the national railroad system of the Netherlands used the song in advertisements for train service from Amsterdam to the sea.

An instrumental version of the song is used in commercials for the sports drink Gatorade.

Bobby Darin was offered the song- but turned it down, and instead recorded “If I were a carpenter.” Darin also had a hit recording of Sebastian’s “Darlin’ Be Home Soon”.

In 1967, a Polish rock band, Polanie, covered the song on their first and only album. Apart from “Summer in the city” they also included Cool Jerk and many other covers of popular songs.

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