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Melodies of Summer Stir Memories
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Chicago Sun-Times

The Melodies Of Summer Stir Memories

BYLINE: Lisa Faye Kaplan
LENGTH: 640 words

You and your sweetheart are dancing beneath an August moon as waves break in rhythm on the shore. A transistor radio plays "See You in September" as you press so close your bodies fuse and pulses rush.

For the rest of your life, whenever you see that kind of moon, you think of that song; and when you hear that song, you remember those waves and that dance.

Unlike other times and other tunes, summer memories and summer music remain linked in our minds. Even after the memories grow hazy, the melodies stay clear.

Summer is the season of family vacations, first loves, endless beaches - the stuff fond memories are made of, says Bruce Pollock, editor of Popular Music: An Annotated Guide to American Popular Songs (Gale Research: $ 63).

"Whatever song is playing during an extreme emotional situation, you'll remember," Pollock says. "Summer has many more of those situations."

Singer Brian Hyland, who recorded the summer hits "Sealed With a Kiss" (1962) and "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" (1960), says fans still remember where they were when they first heard his songs.

"People say they heard my song in the back seat of a car," says Hyland, who now lives in the Mojave Desert in California. "People have a different attitude during the summertime about their lives. They're on break from their lives. They're more open-minded."

Summer music isn't just music released in summer.

Summer songs rhapsodize about school vacations, cloudless skies, finding and losing love, says Gary Stewart, vice president of artists and repertoire for Rhino Records, a Los Angeles company that has released a CD compilation of summer oldies titled "Summer and Sun."

Summer songs "talk about a certain kind of freedom and abandonment," Stewart says. "The weather's good, you can go to the beach, you can go to the park. Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. You can see it's a universal theme in American culture."

The 1960s was the heyday of summer songs, which developed in tandem with California's surf culture and songs that glorified the perfect wave and leggy dates.

"You'll never find the concentration (of summer music) you found in the '60s," Stewart says.

Some say summer music as a musical genre has slipped into the sunset.

Summer oldies had an innocence, a naive sexual yearning that doesn't seem to describe teenagers or their music today, says Gary Klein, senior vice president of EMI Music Publishing in New York City.

"It's a different emotional climate," says Klein, 50, who wrote "Bobby's Girl" in 1962. "I grew up in suburbia on Long Island, N.Y. There was a feeling of safety and tranquility. Kids were more romantic back then. We didn't have the threat of AIDS. Drugs were yet to come. Our desires were simple."

Today's summer hits most often come from summer movies. "Let's Hear It for the Boy," for example, the Deniece Williams hit during the summer of 1984, came from the soundtrack of the film "Footloose." Summer singles also are released to coincide with a music group's summer tour, says Les Bider, chairman of Warner-Chappell Music, which publishes 900,000 titles.

"In the summer, you can put out songs because you're going to be selling albums that revolved around a tour," Bider says. Songs now are marketed to match "other events in an artist's career."

Perhaps rockers no longer wax euphoric about teeny bikinis, and first kisses are exchanged earlier than ever.

But songs heard in summer still are paired with the precious moments found during balmy days and starry nights.

Nicole Johnson, 18, who just graduated from high school in Fairfax County, Va., says she'll never forget her senior prom, her prom date and her prom song.

" 'One Moment in Time,' " Johnson says of the song released in late-summer 1988. "I know I'll always remember that."