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The soundtracks of summer: songs of the season are fondly recalled

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WATERTOWN — Memories of summers past surface much more easily when they’re attached to a song.

Those soundtracks, frozen in our minds, are now thawing once again with the impending arrival of summer.

It’s not unusual to have specific memories attached to songs, according to Henry L. Roediger III, distinguished university professor of psychology at Washington University in St. Louis, who has written numerous papers on memory and memory retrieval.

“A memory — a girlfriend, a good time, a great trip — is associated to a song by its repetition during the period in question,” Mr. Roediger said in an email. “Then, as we age, most of us listen to songs from our youth during our adult life.”

Mr. Roediger listens to songs from the 1960s and ’70s. “Each time I hear one of those songs, I recollect the event with which it’s associated. That solidifies the memory and its connection to the song, so the song continues to serve as a good cue in the future,” he said.

The Watertown Daily Times asked area residents involved in the local music world to share their memories of a particular summer song and what it means for them.

Their emailed responses show that even though our Northern New York summers are short, memories are long when reeled in with a cool, refreshing tune.

Rebecca Rose

General music and choral teacher at Case Middle School, Watertown

The songs:

“I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by The Proclaimers

“River of Dreams” by Billy Joel

“I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” by Meat Loaf

“Nineteen ninety-three was the first summer after I started college. My parents owned a motel in Clayton, and I used to chambermaid there mornings, and in the evenings I would baby-sit or work the reception desk. This was the days of MTV and VH1 actually playing music, and showing music videos.

“I was in charge of 10 rooms a day, and I would play the TV for music while I worked. When I hear (these songs), I can literally see sunshine, feel warm temps, see the river shining in the sun. I can see the puffy white clouds hanging over the river and my hand-me-down little red Audi in the parking lot.

“I would have to drive home along the river, and the same songs would be on the radio as I drove home. I would drive along, the window and sun-roof open, wearing these silly round-rimmed sunglasses, a la John Lennon, singing my heart out.

“The days were warm, the breezes were cool, and the river was beautiful. I had money in my pocket, a job that I enjoyed, and the summer seemed to last forever that year. I loved college, couldn’t wait to go back, and I had a nice boyfriend at the time and a great group of friends. I hear these songs on the radio today, usually on a flashback Friday (which makes me feel old), and I am instantly transported back to the summer of 1993.”

Mark Prentice

A Watertown native, musician, producer and songwriter who lives in Nashville, he is music director and bass player for “The Rascals: Once Upon a Dream” tour produced and directed by Steven Van Zandt.

The song:“Hot Fun in the Summertime” by Sly and the Family Stone

“In the summer of 1969, this awesome song came right on the heels of Woodstock. Music was a really important part of my entire generation’s life. I was playing full time and the harmonic structure was different from anything I had ever played. Everything about this record ... the song, the performances, the vocal arrangement, the sentiment, the musicianship and the production were ground-breaking and perfect. And it stands up to this day. Check it out. I dare you.”

Sabrina Johnson

A senior at Colton-Pierrepont Central School, the trumpet player earlier this year won the eighth annual James and Katherine Andrews Young Artist Instrumental Competition hosted by the Orchestra of Northern New York.

The song: “Self Esteem” by The Offspring

“I have one song that will always remind me of last summer, the summer of 2013: ‘Self Esteem’ by The Offspring. My boyfriend introduced me to The Offspring over two years ago, and since then I have been obsessed with them (and Green Day, but that’s a different story).

“Whenever I hear ‘Self Esteem,’ it brings me back to the dozens of car rides when we would listen to it with the volume all the way up and the windows all the way down while we rode to the beach, Water Safari, or just on our way to run some errands in Potsdam. The reality of the song, especially when it says, ‘I’m just a sucker with no self-esteem,’ really portrayed our freedom and carelessness that summer.

“We had so much fun regardless of the fact that the days eventually got colder and the first day of school came nearer.”

Amy L. Flack

Executive director of the Potsdam-based Community Performance Series

The song: “How Bizarre” by OMC

“Music is such a big part of my life that a day doesn’t go by when a memory isn’t triggered. One specific summer memory, though, keeps coming back to me with great fondness.

“It was the summer 1997. I was in between my sophomore and junior years of college. It was my third summer working as a lifeguard for the Maine State Park Service and I’d been working with the same team of fun-loving guards for that entire time. That summer, my best friend also worked at the park as an assistant ranger. I was in the best shape of my life, had a fabulous tan, and didn’t have a care in the world beyond keeping the swimmers safe.

“This was the same summer that OMC’s ‘How Bizarre’ hit Billboard’s Top 40 list. All the guards had radios on our stands. Every time this song came on, we’d stand up with our ‘cans’ (the orange life savers that guards carry) and do a little dance so the other guards knew the song was on and should tune it.

“For whatever reason, OMC (a band from New Zealand) only released ‘How Bizarre’ to radio and not as a retail single. Additionally, ’97 was pre-YouTube. So, if you liked the song, the only way to hear it was on the radio. We thought we were so clever creating our choreographic signaling system! Every time I hear the song, I’m immediately transported back to my days on the beach and my summers spent with some great friends and co-workers.”

Joseph M. Liotta

President and founding program director of the Norwood Village Green Concert Series

The songs: “Chances Are” and “Misty” by Johnny Mathis

“In June of my senior year of high school at Manual High School in Brooklyn, the members of various school organizations took a day trip boat ride from Brooklyn up the East River to Long Island Sound and to the Rye Playland. After enjoying a great day out, on the boat trip back a romance began that lasted five years.

“The background was the New York City skyline (the song, “Chances Are”). Of course for four years I was away at college but that relation continued when I returned to Brooklyn after graduation. The girlfriend had moved to Staten Island and trips to Staten Island included ferry rides across the Narrows and ferry rides from the island to Manhattan.

“During my college years I had various summer jobs in Brooklyn and Queens. It was coming home from the day shift on the Belt Parkway which snaked along the beautiful Narrows waterfront that I first heard Johnny Mathis’s ‘Misty.’ The setting and the song said summer too me. The song ‘Misty’ played a role in my many trips to Staten Island.”

Jason D. Comet

Owner of Comet Music Studio, Watertown

The music: “Water Music” by Georg Friedrich Handel

“Every summer, while spending time on the St. Lawrence River, I always have (this) music running through my head. I imagine I’m King George I, and I’m floating down the river with the orchestra on a barge behind me. The light, airy style adds the extra bounce and lilt to the beautiful scenery and sunlight.

“It has always been a dream of mine to replicate this experience on the St. Lawrence during the summer with a boat of musicians playing this work. Maybe someday!”

Julianne Kirk Doyle

Associate professor of clarinet and director of Crane Youth Music at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music

The song: “Variations on a Theme by Thomas Tallis”

“My husband and I welcomed our daughter into the world last May and still have music we play for her in the morning consisting of classical, romantic and 20th century composers. Early on, she would take her morning naps during some of this music while sitting in a reclining bouncy chair. My husband is a conductor, I am a clarinetist, so we are around music quite a lot as is our daughter.

“Not having ever seen him conduct, during one morning while listening to Ralph Vaughan Williams’s “Variations on a Theme by Thomas Tallis,” our daughter literally began to conduct in her sleep. We have a video of it, she is right on with her gestures and so expressive even though she was sleeping. I won’t hear that piece again, without seeing that image in my mind.”

Richard E. Probert

Founder and director of the Sackets Harbor Vocal Arts Ensemble

The song: “Abide With Me”

“I could write about the eighth grade prom when, dancing to “A White Sport Coat and a Pink Carnation” with my girlfriend Judy, my new spiffy Speidel expanding watch band got entangled in a fold of her blouse. When the song ended, her mother had to come onto the dance floor and untangle the way-more-than-embarrassing situation. Judy and I, sans watch, rejoined the dance floor and danced our way into a wonderfully romantic memory. But, let’s go back a few years.

“I was 8 years old. On a warm July evening, my father took me to a male chorus concert comprised of all Welsh coal miners. (We lived in northeastern Pennsylvania.) They were very big men with very big voices. After singing a number of pieces, some in Welsh, they sang the hymn “Abide With Me.” I had never been so transfixed, so stirred by the art of singing. It was then that I decided to someday be a conductor.”

Penny S. Jay

Lowville Academy and Central School music department chairwoman and music director at Super Stage, a summer theater program for Lewis County youth

The songs: Selections from “Godspell” and “Aladdin”

“I base my memories of summers on the shows that I do with Super Stage Theater. Last summer we did ‘Godspell’ and ‘Aladdin’ — so the songs of summer for me are ‘Arabian Nights,’ ‘Friend Like Me,’ ‘A Whole New World,’ to ‘Bless the Lord, My Soul,’ ‘Day By Day’ and ‘All Good Gifts.’

“When I think about these songs, I instantly think about the students and all the hard work they put into their performances to make the show a success. And both of these shows had tunes that were appealing to high school and middle school students. I think when you can attract the student to the music of the show, it makes it that much more enjoyable to produce the musical.”

Bruce T. ‘Mac’ Macfarlane

Clayton resident and founder of Clayton Country Jam and other benefit concerts

The song: “School’s Out for Summer” by Alice Cooper

“Nineteen seventy-two was the year I graduated from high school; the same year Alice Cooper had a hit song called ‘School’s Out for Summer.’ By the end of my summer, I knew all the lyrics:

No more pencils

No more books

No more teacher’s dirty looks

“This was the perfect anthem for the summer of ’72.

“During that summer, my job was working at Zenda Farms in Clayton. I stacked 1,000 bales per day. Sang lyrics from the song 1,000 times a day.

“My age was 18 and that was the legal drinking age. Bars were no longer off limits. Sometimes you could get everyone in the bar to sing the song. That was always fun.

“The song was sung in my first car and to my first serious girlfriend.

“This was the Vietnam era. Kids my age needed an anthem. That year the government basically abolished the draft. I still got a number but nobody got drafted. Not trying to be unpatriotic, but I was happy to think about school and not going off to Vietnam.

“After going off to college in the fall, ‘School’s Out’ was sung on the lacrosse fields and bars in Boston.

“After 40 years, that tune still goes through my head. You can’t read the lyrics without your mind automatically putting the music to the words.

“Thank you, Alice. To this day, ‘School’s Out’ connects me to so many great memories.”

Barry Pratt

Watertown resident, professional actor and singer. He currently stars in “Four Play: The Musical”

The song: Pre-Yankee broadcast song on the radio

“My memory is from about 45 years ago. I was around 10 years old and every night I would fall asleep listening to Yankee baseball. Mickey Mantle was still playing. I would fall asleep listening to the radio, so my mom got me one of those clocks with the flip numbers and a timer on the radio. Every night just before the game, the station would play a song, it was an old St Lawrence River song. I have been searching for the title but cannot find it. I have heard it from time to time over the years on an oldie station and once on a film somebody did about the river.

“To me, that song means it’s time for baseball and baseball means summer and summer means fishing and fishing means the St. Lawrence River and when I think of the St. Lawrence River I think summer ... bikinis too.”

(Reporter’s note: The title of the song Mr. Pratt recalled and confirmed by him is “The St. Lawrence River” by Mitch Miller.)

Lisa Vroman

World-renowned soprano and graduate of South Jefferson Central School, Adams

The song: “Lazy Afternoon” by Barbra Streisand

“I don’t think there is one song. Every summer meant new favorites.

“But I do have a memory.

“We have a family cottage in Henderson Harbor. Back before cable/Internet, we spent most all of the summer vacation there with occasional trips back up to Adams, for laundry, groceries, etc.

“TV stations were limited, maybe three of them, so reading, cooking, water sports and family filled the days. We did have an 8-track player — remember those?

“I remember my mom wearing out the machine with Barbra Streisand’s ‘Lazy Afternoon.’”

Ticia K. Marra

Watertown resident, founder and director of the nonprofit theatrical production company Stage Notes

The songs: Pop hits of 1984

“My mind flies back to the summer of 1984. It was the summer before junior high school and life was changing. We were maturing, or so we thought. It was the summer of ‘When Doves Cry,’ ‘Glamorous Life,’ ‘Ghostbusters,’ ‘Time After Time’ and ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It?’

“When I hear these songs, I am taken back to a time of pure innocence and fun. Summertime as a kid. Did we ever have better days?”

Dr. David M. Plante

Hounsfield veterinarian, Arctic explorer, guitar player and musical jam host

The song: “The River” by Garth Brooks

“There were many songs of the halcyon of summers past that brought a smile to my face; laying in the grass on a sunny day watching clouds morph into any shape my imagination could muster, marveling at the stars falling at night — choreographed with fireflies and crickets.

“But for most of my life summer has meant exploring rivers throughout North America. As winter begins to lose its icy grip, the rivers come alive and summer is close at hand. I have been fortunate to explore rivers at home and in incredibly wild places with some amazing travel companions; some not here today, but the memories will always be alive.

“In the early ’90s, a song by Garth Brooks, ‘The River,’ was released. It was about the same time my then paddling partner, Marc Heasley, drowned in a tragic accident in Sackets Harbor. The song inspired me and helped me through a difficult time in my life as I continued to explore wilder and and more remote landscapes.

“The lyrics from ‘The River’ —‘Don’t stand upon the shoreline and say you’re satisfied, choose to chance the rapids and dare to dance the tide’ — have continued to be with me in life on and off the river for over 20 years.

“This song has been an inspiration in my life, and as I scout a set of rapids on a wild river, I often reflect on summers past with friends and adventure, and look forward to the journey where the river will take me next.”

Jonathan M. Tunstall (on-air name Johnny Keegan)

Afternoon drive disc jockey at Tunes 92.5 WBLH Tunes 92.5 FM, Watertown

The song: “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses

“What song says summer to me is a song by Guns and Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” When I hear it today it takes me back to not a care in the world. It takes me back to summers of my youth and hanging with friends and sneaking cheap beer into the woods, bonfires, my first vehicle (a mint green 1971 Ford truck) and smooching with a girl who liked me for a week.

It takes me back to hardly any bills, no debt but yet thinking great plans for the future. This song sounds only the best in the summer and even better at night. Playing air guitar is a must.”

Billboard’s top songs of the past 30 summers
2013: “Blurred Lines” — Robin Thicke
2012: “Call Me Maybe” — Carly Rae Jepsen
2011: “Party Rock Anthem” — LMFAO featuring Lauren Bennett and GoonRock
2010: “California Gurls” — Katy Perry featuring Snoop Dogg
2009: “I Gotta Feeling” — The Black Eyed Peas
2008: “I Kissed A Girl” — Katy Perry
2007: “Umbrella” — Rihanna featuring Jay-Z
2006: “Promiscuous” — Nelly Furtado featuring Timbaland
2005: “We Belong Together” — Mariah Carey
2004: “Confessions Part II” — Usher
2003: “Crazy In Love” — Beyonce featuring Jay-Z
2002: “Hot In Herre” — Nelly
2001: “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” — Eve featuring Gwen Stefani
2000: “Bent” — Matchbox Twenty
1999: “Genie In A Bottle” — Christina Aguilera
1998: “The Boy Is Mine” — Brandy & Monica
1997: “I’ll Be Missing You” — Puff Daddy and Faith Evans featuring 112
1996: “Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)” — Los Del Rio
1995: “Waterfalls” — TLC
1994: “I Swear” — All-4-One
1993: “Can’t Help Falling In Love” — UB40
1992: “Baby Got Back” — Sir Mix-A-Lot
1991: “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” — Bryan Adams
1990: “Vision Of Love” — Mariah Carey
1989: “Right Here Waiting” — Richard Marx
1988: “Roll With It” — Steve Winwood
1987: “Alone” — Heart
1986: “Papa Don’t Preach” — Madonna
1985: “Shout” — Tears for Fears
1984: “What’s Love Got to Do With it?” — Tina Turner
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