Monday, May 30, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 6)

Some of you may remember my fondness for the Chamber Strings from the post I did on them during the countdown of my favorite '90s songs. I had hatched a recent plan to have them come up on Memorial Day so I could feature the song "Make It Through the Summer" and ask you for your go-to summer songs. As I was ripping vinyl and reading up on the Chamber Strings last night, something unexpected hit me over the head like a hammer.

Frontman Kevin Junior died earlier this year at the age of 46.

His passing was just days after the death of David Bowie. Missing this news makes his demise seem worse somehow. There was a four-sentence blurb in Billboard, and that was about it. He deserved more attention. When I reluctantly moved back to Chicago from Washington, D.C., in 2000, the one saving grace was returning to a vibrant music scene, and the Chamber Strings were the first new band I really got into during that era. Although there would only be two albums, 'Gospel Morning' and 'Month of Sundays,' both are exceptional examples of lush pop inspired by the likes of Big Star, the Faces and T.Rex, and I'll be forever thankful to Junior for producing them.

There were many lost years after 'Month of Sundays,' but the classic lineup of the Chamber Strings did reunite for a while in the latter part of the '00s. They produced one limited-run 7"... just enough to get the handful of us who cared excited again. It looks as though there may still be a few left. Here is the A-side of that single from 2009.

"I Come Apart (A Tragic Comedy)"

If you only have a few minutes, though, I implore you to go straight to this one. Don't expect the summer feel of a "Fun, Fun, Fun." It's more like the melancholy "Surf's Up." I'm having trouble finding the words to convey how much I love this song. Just listen.

"Make It Through the Summer"

OK, now let me know some of your favorite summer songs, and let's hope this summer is better than the winter and spring has been.


Dirk said...

My favourite one will ever be The Undertones' 'Here Comes The Summer', the Peel Session - version thereof, to be precise. If only I could understand what Feargal is saying before the actual song kicks in, I'd be a much happier man indeed!!

Charity Chic said...

Drew annually features That Summer Feeling by Jonathan Richman which will do for me

Dirk said...

Speaking of Drew ... does anybody know whatever became of him?

The Swede said...

'Make it Through Summer' sure is gorgeous. I remember enjoying what I heard when you featured these guys previously. I'm sorry to hear that Kevin passed away at such a tragically young age.
As for my own favourite summer songs, well 'Celebrate Summer' by T.Rex is an obvious one and I also really like the BMX Bandits version of 'That Summer Feeling'. More recently, there's always 'Summer Days' by Bob Dylan and 'Summer Dress' by Ryley Walker.

Brian said...

We have some great ones here, fellas. Thanks for participating. Peel loved his Undertones. So the version Dirk mentions is only fitting. I have quite a few songs that aren't summer in theme but instantly take me back to a particular summer, such as Our House by Madness in the summer of '83. I remember hearing that one while happily chatting with my first girlfriend in her driveway. The heat coming off of that concrete was intense, but Suggs got me through it. I was in middle school. Funny the things we can recall 33 years later.

I don't know where Drew is either. Sure missed my soul fix last week.

Echorich said...

The two songs that are really go to song when thinking about summer are Good Times by Chic - You just need to have grown up in NYC and hung out in Central Park in the summer of the late 70's and even today to realize this is THE NYC summer song of the past 40 years. And the other is again an urban classic - Lovin' Spoonful's Hot Time Summer In The City - it's gritty and cinematic and hot as a Manhattan pavement in July.

kevinpat said...

As I dive into my 62th Summer there are far too many songs to name that soundtrack my favorite season. And although I agree with all the above mentions wholeheartedly (What IS Feargal saying...???) there are a few that especially smell like sunscreen lotion and rattle my transistor radio speakers.

Although played and sang to it's death..."Groovin'" by the Young Rascals.
The silly but timely "School's Out" by Alice Cooper
The very sing along "Hot Fun in the Summertime" by Sly & The Family Stone
ANYTHING by Raspberries
"Rockaway Beach" by the Ramones
"Summer in the City" by the Lovin' Spoonful will always be the ultimate summer song
But my favorite of all (and perhaps one of my favorite songs of all time) would be "Dancing in the Street"
by Martha and the Vandellas.

But now I have a new addition! "Make it Through the Summer" by Chamber Strings!! Wow. What an GREAT song Brian! Love it. And yes, Big Star Big Star Big Star!!!! I'll have to look for the rest of their catalogue. Thank you.

On a separate note, sorry for my absences. I was out bc needed some fixing to be done but I'm okay now and happy talking music with all you guys (and gals)!!

Dirk said...

If anyone knows what he's saying, kevinpat, then it should be you or indeed any other of you born English speaking blokes! I, stupid German that I am, can't possibly know .... so any help would be highly appreciated as not understanding this drove me nuts for years and years now!

Brian said...

Welcome back, Kevinpat. Can't argue with any of those fine choices. Rockaway Beach is a biggie for me too. I bought Ramones and Rocket to Russia in the summer of '83 and made tapes of them to play on a boom box at a pool party my best friend hosted. Such a great day. Off to play Dancing in the Street now. Got that one in my head.

Echorich, Sounds like "Good Times," indeed. I would gladly travel to NYC from 1977 to 1979 just to watch bands.

kevinpat said...

Here Comes the Summer

Ooh baby baby what can I do
You know you drive me crazy when I'm looking at you
Summer's really here and it's time to come out
Time to discover what fun is about

Here comes the summer

Keep on looking for the girls with their faces all tanned
Lying on the beaches all covered in sand
Stretching out their long legs lying in the sun
They know they're beautiful having fun

Here comes the summer.

Dirk said...

Thanks very much for the lyrics, kevinpat, but I'm afraid I was refering to the Peel Session - version, the spoken bit before the above starts in: 'as they touched (?) weirdly (?) to the sifting (?) snow' etc. pp .... THAT's the bit that does my head in for decades now!!

The Swede said...

I think it's Micky Bradley who does the spoken intro. It sounds as if he's quoting from an Enid Blyton book, or something similar.

As they trudged wearily through the sifting (shifting?) snow, their hands plunged deeply into their pockets, they both wished, oh, how they wished, they could be sitting snugly by the open hearth, watching the fire crackling merrily and sipping their steaming mugs of scalding hot cocoa.
'Never mind Judy', said Beatrice incoherently, 'it will soon be summer.'

Dirk said...

Swede, now my life is complete! I'm forever in your debt!!!

Thanks VERY much, mate!!!

The Swede said...

Haha, you're welcome Dirk. I listen to Mickey's radio show most weeks, so I've become used to deciphering his accent!

kevinpat said...

And here I was thinking it was the "ooh baby baby" part...... Hahahahahahahahah!