Last week of July and I haven’t written about a summer song! I have a CD from a few years back where I put together my favorites: some essentials (Lovin’ Spoonful, Janis, Sly), some personal picks (The Blasters, Emmet Swimming’s “Sunblock”), a few anti-summer songs for balance (Buffalo Tom’s “Summer Song,” Elvis Costello’s not-great but thematic “Other Side of Summer”) and this little oddball, which is less about summer as a real event than as a concept, a dream.
The song presents a familiar situation: a man imploring a woman to get back together after a separation. The singer is surprised the woman is still around to implore: “Didn’t think I’d find you here,” he begins. The separation may have been caused by some sort of substance abuse and/or a medical/psychological crisis (“Medicine and broken glass” is the explanation we get) and the rift may have predated this crisis (“Wasn’t very long ago/you left before you left”). But he definitely wants her back: “Here it comes, the old cliche,” he sings, “something that your Dad might say. Could we give it one more try?”
The song up until this point has been low-key, sung in a confiding tone against strummed guitars. But then, in the chorus, it explodes: drums, strings, and Mead’s choirboy voice reaching way up over them to repeat “Suddenly, a summer night/Suddenly a summer night away.”
What does that mean? That all their reconciliation needs is a great August date night, perhaps involving miniature golf and ice cream? Maybe, but I think the singer is more trying to get his estranged lover to visualize that great August date night than to actually live it, and to create a foothold for himself within the vulnerability the visualization creates. He’s using the idea of summer as a tool of persuasion. Imagine your best summer night, he’s saying. It doesn’t matter if it involves ferris wheels or fireflies or crashing waves or Deep Woods Off or a radio playing quietly on a backporch at night (I’m partial to that one). It doesn’t even matter if you’ve never really lived it. Imagine that feeling of repose, give into it. Love me again, and it will feel just like that.
I don’t know very much about David Mead. I know he’s currently based in Nashville and has five or six albums out. I have a few of them, but the album this song is from, “Tangerine,” is the one that most captures me. It’s one of those narrative albums: it makes me want to make up a story in which to place the songs, of a young couple in their late twenties or early thirties, married but struggling (emotionally, economically) but basically, stubbornly, in love. One of the songs on the album has this wonderful line, again spoken by a man addressing his partner: “I’m caught in the orbit of your rolling eyes.” I’ve been there.