Summer of Song Redux


by Roxanne Tellier

I’ve been overwhelmed, recently, with the events swirling around us. It’s too much. And today, although I had planned a look into trump and Ford’s plans to re-open schools this fall, I’m gonna take a pass, and a day off. Instead of current affairs, let’s enjoy the summer sun, and take a stroll down Memory Lane, to this slightly edited column that I first wrote in August of 2015. 

How very different things look now, from the perspective of 2020, and this time of plague! Seems almost naughty to see people gathered together, without masks or social distancing! And I’m not sure if any of the places I mentioned then, are open now. Never mind… Take my hand, come along with me on the wayback machine, and forget about life for a while ….

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Idaho. Lower Salmon River. Playing guitar around campfire. MR

This is not likely to ever make the cut as a ‘best summer.’ I’m well past cavorting on beaches, fending off amorous, slight intoxicated hotties while sprinting across hot sand in an improbable bikini, and then gathering around a romantic campfire eating s’mores, while some talented and ‘mature’ looking fellow strums a guitar for a singalong.

Nope, them days are long gone, if they ever existed. And they probably only ever belonged to Annette Funicello – she may have even held the copyright on Beach Blanket Bingos … and maybe Bob, in his Stockton youth, could lay claim to the times. The Beach Boys definitely had a lock on the sound of summer itself.

Canadian summers were always a little more sedate. Maybe it’s because Canadian winters, being endlessly cold and dark, except in beer commercials, ramp up the anticipation for a few days of sun and relaxation until nothing – and certainly not the few weeks of uncertain rain or shine we generally ‘enjoy’ – can quite compete with the hype.

Canadian beach sand can be very hot, but the water, primarily lake-derived, rarely gets over the temperature of a cold bath. An intrepid Canuck would-be swimmer learns early that the proper beach protocol is to dip in a toe, shiver, and then gird your loins for a plunge into the freezing liquid, where you immediately duck under until all but your head is submerged. You must then yell to your fellow revelers, a phrase as Canadian as, “take off, eh” ….  

“It’s not so bad once you’re in!”

For the timid and the dreamy, a trip to the beach is more likely to involve stumbling over the jagged stones on the shore in your flip flops, hoping to catch just enough of a breeze and spray to cool down.

There are many incredibly lovely lakes in Ontario… Sand Dunes comes to mind, where we once spent a few hours, shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of other families determined to have just one fun day in the sun, and trying to keep the flies and the sand off the sandwiches.  

Torontonians can ferry out to the Toronto Islands, with families heading straight for Centreville, where apparently the sun is always shining on Far Enough Farm and the kiddie rides. You can bring a picnic, and rent a bike, a canoe, or a kayak, while humming the Cowsill’sIndian Lake.”  The daring head for the clothing-optional beach on the western shore of Hanlan’s Point

It was all so different when I was a kid. Even beyond the fantasies induced by Beach Party flicks, Elvis romps, and Beach Boys songs. In the sixties, come summer, a kid was usually on his or her own, barring maybe a couple of week stint in a community day camp, and most of the time, my sister and I would have to fend for ourselves in the heat.

Montreal summers were glaringly bright, the sun reflecting harshly off the concrete, and the crowded, standing room only, buses reeked of sweat, garlic, and dime store perfume. It was a time to check out Jarry Park to catch the Expos, or to take an insanely long bus ride out to Belmont Park, which was falling apart in a wonderfully creepy fashion. The arcade reeked of burnt popcorn and worse, and the rides – especially the Wild Mouse – were suspect. But a kid could spend a whole day there for under a buck, including bus fare.  

As a teen, my summers were mainly city bound. My girlfriends and I would start tanning in the spring, lying bonelessly in our back yards, slathered from head to toe in baby oil. The truly fashionable used sun reflectors to capture every ray. This ritual was necessary before heading toe the local outdoor community pool, where it would have been beyond devastating to appear with any part of your body revealed to be ‘fish belly white.’   

The cool kids would always gather near the pool’s deep end, clustered by age group or appearance. Few would actually swim; pool water, with its high chlorine content, could do a real number on our Summer Blonde or lemon streaked hair. And bathing suits, pre-spandex, tended to stretch out with or without much exertion. No, we were there to see and be seen, our transistor radios blaring, and fingers crossed that the boys would see beyond our gawky physique to the teen angel concealed within. Those were the Peggy March, ‘I Will Follow Him’ days, when even the most casual encounter with the opposite sex meant that we were going to be together forever … or at least until school was back in session.

It was either summer school or a summer job in the sixties. Kids would try to get hired at the hot gathering spots, like the Dairy Queen, the Orange Julep, or the A&W. One of the benefits of working at any place where other kids hung out was that the owners were usually savvy enough to keep their radios set to a happening station, like CFOX, where Dean Hagopian, Charles P. Rodney (Chuckie) Chandler, or Roger Scott played the hits.

By 1969, CKGM-FM has morphed into CHOM-FM, and the music got really groovy. Doug Pringle was the city’s top DJ, and he was THE voice of Montreal for years, entertaining us with new music, while letting us listen in on his interviews with everyone from Marc Bolan to Jesse Winchester, with multiple stops in between.

The summer of ’72 brought the Watergate Scandal,  the horror of 11 Israeli athletes being murdered at the Munich Olympics, and the first talk of the IRA planting car bombs in Ireland.

But we were far more interested in listening to Seals and Croft.

By ’76, single again, and with the Olympics in full swing in Montreal, my footsteps kept time to the music. When I wasn’t hanging out at the Olympic Village, I was cruising Crescent Street, dancing to disco in my platform sandals. Soon I’d leave for Toronto, but in the summer of ’76, the city was mine, and I was taking my joy to the streets.

The summer of 1983. New wave was now firmly established in the charts and in the street. We’d gone from girl Groups like The Go Gos and The Bangles owning the summer charts in 1980, ’81, and ’82, to a more mature sound emerging as the artists of the 70s, like Martha Davis of The Motels, lost their youths and innocence, just like the rest of us. The boomers, once again, were growing older as a group, with the music guiding our journey.

The Tragically Hip, who appeared on the scene in 1987, burst out of the gate sounding like the voice of Canada. ‘Blow at High Dough’, ’38 Years Old,’ and ‘Fifty Mission Cap’ pulled a Maple Leaf flag over the band, but in 1998, they nailed Ontario summers forever with ‘Bobcaygeon.

These days there aren’t as many songs that, for me, capture that ‘summery’ feeling. Hitting it in the summer is not the same as having a classic summer song. Sure, you had Nelly’s ‘Hot in Here’ in 2002, but that was mainly about getting jiggy, in any season. 2010s ‘California Gurls’ by Katy Perry was fun, but couldn’t hold a candle to either the Beach Boys, or even the Van Halen rendition of ‘California Girls.’

I’m the first to admit that I’m well out of the new music loop. Still, I’d gladly stack any of my summer songs against any that have come along in the last decade and a half. From the innocence of the Loving Spoonful’s ‘Rain on the Roof’ to the Who’s raucous, ‘Summertime Blues,’ Martha and the Vandella’s ‘Heatwave,’ and The Kinks louche ‘Sunny Afternoon,’ to the brassy horns of Chicago’s ‘Saturday in the Park.’ I’ve got a full house AND a royal flush of bona fide summer time music.

And that’s even before I pull out Billy Stewart’s 1966 hybrid of ‘Summertime’ that insists you feel the heat of the ‘hot’ summertime.

It’s summer. Find that Walkman you packed away a decade ago, fire up your favorite collection of greatest golden oldie summertime tunes on CD, and head on down to the nearest boardwalk. As the Doors once told us, ‘Summer’s almost gone,’ and before you know it, you’ll be saying, ‘See you in September.’

Goodbye, 2015. Hello 2016!


It must be the new year, because I’ve officially lost all track of time. The flurry of December activities, the shopping, the gatherings – they’ve all left me a little dizzy. Time to close the books on 2015, the year that Marty McFly visited in Back To The Future 2.

ed sheeran lion tattooAlso the hottest year on record, no doubt due to our fascination with movies like Fifty Shades of Grey, Justin Bieber’s naked sunbathing pictures, and Ed Sheeran’s new lion tattoo, which is not a tribute to Cecil, the lion gunned down by the disgraced American dentist, but rather a nod to England’s national emblem, and Sheeran’s own triumph of three sold out nights at Wembley stadium.

Yes, it was a wild year for musicians and their fans. The war between man and machine was launched in May, when Enrique Iglesias had his hand sliced open by a drone shooting live video at a crowded concert in Tijuana. left-sharkTeeny boppers around the world mourned when Zayn Malik quit One Direction; I myself was more intriqued with the antics of #leftshark during Katy Perry’s gig at the SuperBowl.

Australia got it’s knickers in a twist in May when Johnny Depp and wife Amber Heard smuggled their two little dogs, Pistol and Boo, into the country on his private plane, without proper permits. Things got pretty tense, as Australians take the illegal importation of animals rather seriously. Amber is to appear in Australian court and face a possible 10-johnny depp australia memeyear jail term and/or a hefty fine for illegally importing the dogs into Australia and of producing a false document. Depp wasn’t bothered – movie stars don’t need no steenkin’ laws – as he told late night show host Jimmy Kimmel in September:

“As Kimmel laughed, Depp continued: ”This sort of weird, sweaty-pated gut man who decided that two five-, six-inch Teacup Yorkshire Terriers would harm the country in some way. He’s got a point. Especially when you consider that Australia has the most poisonous creatures on earth. Everything will kill you in minutes.’

Lightening it up in the land down under, one young Australian boy’s rendition of the Australian anthem went viral as he persevered through an attack of the hiccups. The show must go on!

Kanye West ended the year on a high note, with the birth of son, Saint, to he and wife Kim Kardashian. But things weren’t going quite as swimmingly during his June appearance at Glastonbury. After calling himself “the greatest living rock star on the planet,” Kanye broke into song, or something vaguely reminiscent, wrestling Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” to the ground. The Rhapsody won. If he was going to pick a Queen tune to murder for his wife, I’m thinking “Fat Bottomed Girls” would have been more appropriate.

Of course, the Bruce-to-Caitlyn Jenner story has been pretty much THE story of the year, despite Kylie Jenner’s attempt to capture top place with her “lip challenge.” kylie-jenner-challenge-fail.jpgmost of the participants are using shot glasses. After placing their lips into the shot glass, they suck the air out of the glass, creating a vacuum. However, because the glass isn’t flexible like the CandyLipz device, the shot glass can break under all the pressure, causing serious injuries that require stitches to repair. “ (PopSugar.com)

Jeez, we used to lick red Smarties tm for fake lipstick when I was a kid. Thank heavens for the Internet!

And no one could figure out what was going on with that dress.white gold blue black dress

“Neuroscientists Bevil Conway and Jay Neitz believe that the differences in opinions are a result of how the human brain perceives colour, and chromatic adaptation. Similar theories have been expounded by the University of Liverpool’s Paul Knox. Conway believes that it has a connection to how the brain processes the various hues of a daylight sky, noting that “your visual system is looking at this thing, and you’re trying to discount the chromatic bias of the daylight axis”, and that “people either discount the blue side, in which case they end up seeing white and gold, or discount the gold side, in which case they end up with blue and black.” Neitz remarked that

Our visual system is supposed to throw away information about the illuminant and extract information about the actual reflectance… but I’ve studied individual differences in colour vision for 30 years, and this is one of the biggest individual differences I’ve ever seen.” (Wikipedia)

This viral video was a terrific distraction from reality. “Epic Strut” was an ad for England’s MoneySuperMarket.

2015 also saw the rise of the ‘dad bod.” What’s that, you say?

“On March 30, 2015, a sophomore at Clemson University named Mackenzie Pearson published a post on college-centric site The Odyssey titled “Why Girls Love the Dad Bod.” This post gave us perhaps the most complete definition of the phrase that we have: Wrote Pearson, “The dad bod is a nice balance between a beer gut and working out. The dad bod says, ‘I go to the gym occasionally, but I also drink heavily on the weekends and enjoy eating eight slices of pizza at a time.’ It’s not an overweight guy, but it isn’t one with washboard abs, either.””

Sadly, women don’t get the same props for sporting a mom bod, in fact, they’re usually shamed for it, on the front pages of tabloids,

Celebs with dad bods include John Mayer, Jon Hamm, Jason Segal, Kanye West, Will Ferrell, Jay-Z … and a Canadian who gave us the first dad bod video – Drake.

Although the new Star Wars film is getting all the attention now, it was Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, and Trainwreck that were the ‘must sees’ earlier this year. Well, when we weren’t Netflix binging, or crying over the season end of Game of Thrones.

hello kitty websiteIn August, the extramarital affair website, Ashley Madison, was hacked, and cheaters everywhere quaked in their BVDs. More worrisome, the Hello Kitty website was hacked in December. So far, so good.

In sports… Sorry. I don’t watch and I don’t care. I missed it all, and when anyone tried to tell me about it, I stuck my fingers in my ears and went “lalalalala” until they stopped. Except for #leftshark. I liked #leftshark.

I’m always surprised at how much happens during a year, and how little I remember by the end of it. We focus on what’s in front of us, as a rule, and even the most important events tend to blur as months go by. As hard as it is to believe, all of the energy and angst involved in the longest election in Canadian history is now in the past, where it should stay. We can’t keep dragging our wounds and wounded behind us like Jacob Marley’s chests and chains.

TrudeauVogue_SpreadCanadians chose Justin Trudeau’s youth and charisma over Stephen Harper’s doom and gloom, and a new era began for Canada. In the first few months of Trudeau’s mandate, he’s brought a breath of fresh air and hope to the country, sweeping away the rigidity and largely male-heavy parliament often associated with traditional government by bringing a more balanced group in to help him lead the country. When asked why he went with gender equality in his cabinet, Justin Trudeau said: “Because it’s 2015.” And not just gender was considered; Trudeau’s cabinet is the first in Canadian history with the first ever Muslim minister, the first aboriginal justice minister, and the first northern fisheries minister, an Inuit who wore a sealskin tie to take his oath.

In the United States, however, another battle over who would make the best President is underway, and it’s a hideous clown car of buffoons who’ve grabbed most of the attention. Americans seem to like trump pointingTrump, who is loud and has a lot of money. Sadly, many Americans equate wealth with intelligence, loud voices with knowledge, and the ability to do one thing well with an ability to do all things well. Trump has attacked minorities, women, the disabled, and anyone who dares to criticize him. Give him props, though; he epitomizes the old cliché of “dressing for the job you want.” Unfortunately, that job is fascist dictator.

He says things that aren’t true, and are regularly proven false, but his loudest followers are generally distrustful of the media, so they take his bleating as gospel. He can basically create any sort of fantasy, a nation run like a reality TV show, and his fans blindly agree with him. That’s a pretty frightening scenario.

If his madness seems familiar, perhaps it’s because you remember this scene:

alex jones tinhatYes, it was a good year for conspiracy theorists and wackadoodles. Normally it’s only fans of head paranoids Glenn Beck and Alex Jones whipping up the crazy, but this year, crazy went mainstream. Remember Jade Helm in July? Texans sure do; as on January 1st, open-carrying is now legal in the state. Sales of guns have never been higher in the U.S., even though Obama’s almost out the door and he STILL hasn’t come for their guns.

The British election even caught comedian/activist Russell Brand’s attention, and he used his Youtube journal “The Trews,” to let his followers know he’d just realized that choosing not to vote wasn’t quite as clever as he’d previously thought. Throwing his support to Milliband and his MilliFans, however, seemed to sap him of further public politicism, as the Trew News was quietly shut down when David Cameron rode back into power once more. cameron and pig(Cameron didn’t escape scandal this year either, as he sought to defend himself against a book alleging that he’d once stuck his “private part” into a dead pig’s mouth in an initiation stunt.)

 

Before we get weasel on woodpeckerto the Syrian refugee crisis and other heavy stuff, here’s a photo that went viral of a weasel riding a woodpecker, to clear your palette.

In January, the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine based in Paris, were invaded by two armed terrorists, who identified themselves as belonging to the Islamist terrorist group Al-Qaeda‘s branch in Yemen. They murdered 11 people, and injured 11 more, before leaving for the Île-de-France region, where a further five were killed and 11 wounded, as the world watched in horror.

“On 11 January, about two million people, including more than 40 world leaders, met in Paris for a rally of national unity, and 3.7 million people joined demonstrations across France. Je Suis CharlieThe phrase Je suis Charlie has become a common slogan of support at the rallies and in social media. The staff of Charlie Hebdo continued with the publication, and the following issue print ran 7.95 million copies in six languages, in contrast to its typical print run of 60,000 in only French.” (Wikipedia.com)

And then we all went about our businesses, and moved on to other matters. Sure, we knew there was unrest in the Middle East, and we’d heard something about Syria and civil war, and wasn’t there something in the press about the British being annoyed by refugees arriving on their beaches and spoiling their summer holidays?

But that was all just part of what we glanced at in the papers or on social media. We psychologically portioned off what wasn’t affecting us personally as something bad happening somewhere else. Over there, not over here. To them, not to us.

Until that photo in September.dead syrian boy on beach The Independent

The images of 3 year old Aylan Kurdi, washed ashore on a Turkish beach, tore the hearts out of people everywhere. Suddenly the Syrian refugee crisis had become real, which could only have come as a shock to those who had been suffering and dying for the last three years.

More than a million refugees and migrants crossed into Europe in 2015. Many thousands didn’t survive the journey. Some fled barren lands, others, like the Syrians, were caught in a crossfire between a bloodthirsty death cult and an amoral military regime.

They came from Syria, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq, Albania, Pakistan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Serbia and the Ukraine. They arrived virtually penniless, often with just the clothes on their back. The lucky ones have family in Europe, or America or Canada, and hope to receive asylum. Many will go through a formal refugee/asylum seeking quarantine, which can last three or more years, in makeshift camps.syria_refugees_snow_01a

And if they do make it through the process, and somehow get to be accepted into a new country, there is no guarantee that they’ll be greeted with a welcome. In fact, as Muslims in the ‘civilized’ countries are well aware, fear of ISIS has translated into aggression against all Muslims, and those who may look Muslim. Aren’t we a charming lot? Immigrants ourselves, who claim Christian/Judean traditions, and still so many of us more terrified of the possibility of a terrorist sneaking in with the downtrodden, then of the state of our hearts and souls when we choose to deny those in need of a helping hand.

ISIS/ISIL continues to be synonymous with terror, helped along by periodically released videos of horrifying torture and murder, and fanned by the inflammatory voices of politicians well aware that fear is a wonderful way to capture the attention of voters. No one wants to see a repeat of the November attacks in Paris, where ISIS claimed responsibility for the deaths of 130 people, and the wounding of 368 people, 80–99 of them seriously.

isis airstrikesAnd yet it’s hard to be convinced that governments have the ISIS situation under control, as the current military air strikes – by the United States, France, Russia, the United Kingdom — along with several Arab nations and the Kurds, who are fighting them in northern Iraq and Syria – all seem to be at odds with each other. Many triumphant reports emerge of fighters claiming to have destroyed training centers, camps, and ammunition depots, but the civilian death toll continues to rise, with no end in sight.

To end on a brighter note, December’s climate conference in Paris, attended by far too many dignitaries traveling on far too many gas guzzling jets, would seem to be taking seriously the spectre of global climate change. It’s good to know that being a ‘denier’ of the impact humans have had on the planet is now a mark of self-centered shame rather than a badge of misinformed honour. We’ve closed our eyes to the countries hardest hit by climate change for too long, and are now reaping the rewards in the form of refugees, migrants, animal extinction, and innocents killed in the name of corporate greed and civilian disinterest.

Hope springs eternal in humans; it’s why the race has lasted this long. positivityI have faith in the good people, the people who aren’t internet famous or fabulously wealthy, but who struggle along day by day, living life with dignity and respect for themselves and others. Those who keep positive in the face of the events that challenge us should be applauded for their courage and humour. I strive every day to be more like them.

Happy New Year, frustrated boomers!