Seems to me I’ve recently bad-mouthed July as a month I don’t have much affection for. True enough. And enduring as I’ve been the stifling heat here in the Delaware Valley reminds me why. Still. It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge that there’s a certain joy to the heat, every now and then. Easier to consider, I suppose, when sitting in air-conditioning as just now. But that’s not something I generally enjoy. Have never lived in a/c on a daily basis. And that means summer is a steady buzz as in today’s song.
We’re considering the special feel of “hot fun in the summertime”—an idea given definitive expression by Sly and the Family Stone in this song’s mellow funk, making it perfect for the funkiness of summer. I offer it as a tribute to July’s spell. I mean, I might resist it, even resent it, but it’s a fact that the depths of summer—and we’re about as deep now as we can get—are the best time for getting some. At least that’s how it’s been in days gone by.
Cole Porter wrote “Too Darn Hot” to attest to the fact that men aren’t as inclined for sex when the temperature is high, but it has been my experience that women are more inclined in those conditions. That might not be generally true, but I get Cole’s point. Sylvester Stewart, aka Sly Stone, seems to take a different view. “Them summer days / That’s when I had most of my fun back.” Getting it on, getting high, having fun—summer!
Boop boop boop when I want to. That sort of thing.
The song struts with the feel of driving with the convertible top down, of transistor radios on the strip, of open hydrants, of nights with melting ice cream even. Certainly it takes me back to nights lying under screened windows dying for a breeze. And—like right now—watching heat lightning. And, days, walks in relentless sun. “County fair in the country sun” is one way to put it.
Sly and the Family Stone’s Greatest Hits was released in 1970 and was part of my summer fun in 1971. Notice how we keep heading back to those times. Pre-teen. Maybe that’s when summer made it’s strongest, deepest impressions on me. Sly and his crew made some goodtime music back then. Those layered vocals and flashes of sax. There was a kind of melting pot feel to it—“psychedelic soul,” “rock-funk”—that I haven’t heard in quite the same way since.
The song—with its “hi hi hi hi there” and “bye bye bye bye there”—takes us from spring to fall, reminding us, in a short formula, how brief the summer can be. “Out of school” was the key to everything that made summer so sweet. And hearing the song again makes me aware of how long ago that was, even while the feel of summer is as immediate as ever. As immediate as a mosquito bite.
First of the fall and then she goes back and takes with her a helluva lot of possibility.