What makes good summer music?
Damned if I know, but the 1980s seemed to produce an endless trickle of tracks tailor-made for long, hot evenings.
Putting together this summer playlist, I gave myself only two rules: an artist can only appear once, and the choice has to be slightly off the beaten track, so no ‘accepted’ summer classics.
What else does the full selection have in common? Not a lot; there’s pop, funk, fusion, Latin, AOR, Brazilian, hip-hop and psychedelia, but of course they’re all pretty ‘up’ pieces of music.
Some of these songs were heard and bought when they came out, others have become key summer selections in the years since. Here’s a selection:
The Lotus Eaters: ‘The First Picture Of You’
On a very warm summer’s evening five or six years ago, I was in a pub just off Piccadilly Circus when this beguiling track came on – I was smitten, and have been ever since.
Robert Fripp featuring Daryl Hall: ‘North Star’
A rather lovely, rather uncharacteristic ballad from the Wimborne guitar master, prefiguring King Crimson’s ‘Matte Kudasai’.
Elis Regina: ‘Calcanhar de Aquiles’
One of the purest Brazilian voices of all time. This is from her final studio album, 1980’s Elis.
Dukes Of Stratosphear: ‘Bike Ride To The Moon’
Nothing says summer to me like Brit psychedelia. But since I’m not allowed anything by Syd Barrett/The Beatles/Small Faces/Kinks, XTC’s alter-egos will do just fine.
Wendy & Lisa: ‘Honeymoon Express’
Best known as Prince’s chief collaborators between 1984-1986, I never tire of Wendy & Lisa’s sublime vocal harmonies in the chorus.
Roy Ayers: ‘Poo Poo La La’
By the time of 1984’s In The Dark album, Roy didn’t have much to prove and was clearly having some fun in the studio. Contains the line: ‘Poo poo la la means I love you’!
Toninho Horta featuring Joyce: ‘Beijo Partido (Broken Kiss)’
A classic Brazilian ballad, full of gorgeous and mysterious harmonies, from a seriously underrated guitarist/songwriter. Taken from the 1988 album Diamond Land.
It Bites: ‘Once Around The World’
Included mainly for its pastoral, elegant opening section, the Cumbrian four-piece excelled themselves with this astonishing 15-minute melody-fest.
Light Of The World: ‘London Town’
This Brit-funk classic reminds me of all that’s great about summer in my hometown.