Last Friday was the official first day of summer, but it didn’t really feel like it, since temperatures here in the SLC were only in the 60s. By contrast, this afternoon is breezy and in the low 90s, with a completely empty steel-blue sky, so I think it’s safe to say now that we’ve arrived in summertime. Which means I’ve been thinking about summer-themed songs.
“Magic” isn’t strictly about summertime — it’s by The Cars, which means the lyrics are utterly opaque and could be about anything — but it does mention summer in the opening lines, and I always associate this song with hot days, cheap plastic sunglasses, sleeveless shirts, hanging at the mall, and dragging State in my old Galaxie. Released on May 7, 1984, just as I was finishing my freshman year of high school, the song failed to crack the top 10 — it only rose as high as 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart — but it was seemingly ubiquitous all through the season that followed, and it’s always been a favorite of mine. (I much prefer it over the next single from the Heartbeat City album, “Drive,” and especially over the single that came after that, “Hello Again.” That’s the one with the nonsensical babbling thing in the middle. Not really a bad song, but weird. Just… weird.)
The Cars were an interesting band. They emerged from the same East Coast post-punk scene that also birthed Blondie and the New York Dolls, so they’re often categorized as New Wave. Certainly, the band looked more like Wavers than rockers, especially lead singer Ric Ocasek, whose oversized jackets draped on a too-thin frame and goofily awkward movements were about as far from rock-and-roll swagger as you could get. But The Cars’ musical style included enough crunchy guitar sounds — very evident on “Magic,” for example — that they weren’t out of place on hard-rock stations, while their pop sensibilities and knack for catchy hooks welcomed them into the top-40 format as well. In short, The Cars were chameleons who transcended rigid genre categories. Pretty much everyone I knew back in the day liked The Cars. I still do.
So here’s a little something to listen to as you step out into this balmy summertime evening. Hope you find some magic there…