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Summer In The City by The Lovin' Spoonful

Album: Hums Of The Lovin' SpoonfulReleased: 1966Charted:
1
8
  • This song contrasts what it's like to live in a large city during the day and during the night. According to the song, it's difficult to walk around a crowded and hot city during the day, but it's great at night because you have plenty of opportunities to chase women. (thanks, Andy - Arlington, VA)
  • The sound of car horns and traffic was the first time these sounds appeared on a hit song. A year later, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff used the idea when they produced the Soul Survivors track "Expressway (To Your Heart)."
  • Was used at the beginning of the movie Die Hard: With A Vengeance. The song plays throughout the opening credits, showing different scenes of New York City until a building blows up. (thanks, Patrick - Tallapoosa, GA)
  • From 2006-2007, the piano portion was used in various Gatorade ads depicting the history of the sports drink, which was created in 1965. (thanks, Patrick - Bremen, GA)
  • The song was a collaboration between John Sebastian, The Lovin Spoonful's bassist Steve Boone, and the frontman's brother (and non-group member) Mark Sebastian. John Sebastian recalled to Uncut magazine June 2014: "That song that came from an idea my brother Mike had. He had this great chorus, and the release was so big. I had to create some kind of tension at the front end to make it even bigger. That's where that jagged piano part comes from."

    "Steve contributed the middle eight, which I thought sounded like Gershwin, so we hired a radio sound effects engineer to come in with records of horns and traffic, a real New York City thing."
  • This is used during the looting sequence on The Simpsons episode "Poppa's Got a Brand New Badge."
  • The song served as the theme song for German art-director Wim Wenders' first film, 1970's Summer in the City. It plays during an incongruous scene in which the protagonist Hans is seen walking on a brutally cold day, surrounded by snow.
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Comments: 18

Brings back those lost years :)Anthony - Fareham, United Kingdom
OK, on that descending bass line (DBL) thing, how about "Walk Don't Run '64" by the Ventures (1964), or "Runaway" by Del Shannon (1961)? Admittedly, these differ from the line in "SITC," but only slightly. Transposing everything to Am, the "WDR" DBL goes, beat-by-beat, A-A-G-G-F-F-E-E; "Runaway" goes, measure-by-measure, the same; while "SITC" goes, A-A-G-G-F#-F#-F-E. The insertion of the F# does give it a bit of a different flavor. Also note that, of the examples given earlier, "Lucy" (Beatles) is in a major, not minor key, and again, transposing to A(major), the DBL is, A-A-G-G-F#-F#-F-F, another variation. And "While My Guitar...", once again in minor, matches "Lucy". "Sunny Afternoon"s DBL goes, A-A-G-G-F#-F#-F-F-E-E-D-D-C-C-B-B. **** Another, even earlier example of the DBL, A-G-F-E, is found in Josh White's "One Meatball" (written by Hy Zaret & Lou Singer, 1944), a song with roots that predate the American Civil War (George Martin Lane, 1855), though not with the 1940's music, I'm sure.Fred - Laurel, Md
And, OBTW, I'm certainly not knocking this song -- it's truly outstanding, and I still find it so after all these decades. Another sign of the genius(es) of this band!Fred - Laurel, Md
Descending bass line? 1966? I can't think of an earlier example right off the top, mainly because I was plugged in to other musical genres before 1965, but I absolutely refuse to believe this bass line didn't originate MUCH earlier than that! Prior to the mid-60's, rock tended to be musically quite formulaic, with 3- and 4-chord songs predominating, but surely, at least there had to be some jazz or big-band era songs with this bass line. I defer to the musical experts on this one.Fred - Laurel, Md
love this song it takes me back to the 60s loveitJoyce - Tonyrefail Nr Cardiff , United Kingdom
Good point about the similarity between the descending baselines of this song and the Kinks' "Sunny Afternoon," both released in the summer of 1966. I've also wondered if one song was inspired by the other, and which one? The Kinks seemed to like the descending bassline, which turns up in lots of their songs ("Dead End Street, "Waterloo Sunset," for example). Either way, 1966 was certainly blessed with two great "summer" songs!Joe - Cleveland, Oh
This song's prominent descending bass-line was the inspiration for Cream's "Tales of Brave Ulysses," according to Wikipedia. I would venture also that the song is the grandfather to several other songs which came after it using the same descending bass-line idea, including:

"Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" (Led Zeppelin)
"Temptation Eyes" (The Grass Roots)
"25 or 6 to 4" (Chicago)
"Bert's Blues" (Donovan)
"Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" (Beatles)
"While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (Beatles)
"Dear Prudence" (Beatles)
"Brain Stew" (Green Day)

There are undoubtedly many others, but those are the more famous examples.

Note: During the same year this song was released (1966), the Kinks released "Sunny Afternoon," which also had a prominent descending bassline, the pattern of which "Summer in the City" uses only half. I haven't as of yet been able to find out which of the two songs was released first. If "Sunny Afternoon" preceded "Summer in the City," then the Kinks can take the credit (as far as I have been able to find) for the spate of songs done later by other groups that used the descending chord sequence theme.
Eric - Camas, Wa
This song is brilliantly "lowdown" covered by Quincy Jones, with just a few bars of Chorus' vocals at the end. Instrumental part of this version was then sampled in Nightmares on Wax's legendary "Les nuits" or "Night Inter(tro)lude", first track on their first three albumsGoug - Biot, France
Most of The Lovin' Spoonful's songs have a country-folk feel, but not this one. Here, John Sabastian celebrates his hometown, New York. Listen to how Sebastian pronounces the words: he sounds like a New Yorker. He usually hides his accent, but here, he loudly and proudly proclaims where he is from. Even the music sounds like the City. I must disagree with Bob in San Francisco. I was in San Francisco a couple of summers ago and I had to wear long pants and a jacket. Come to New York in late July or early August when the sun is beating down, radiating off the glass and steel and concrete and you will know what it is like to walk on a sidewalk hotter than a match head.Jay - Brooklyn, Ny
Co-written by Mark Sebastian, John's brother, who, according to legend, submitted the lyrics as a poem in his high school English class.Sara - Greenville, Al
Ray Gomez does a rockin' version of this song.Lester - New York City, Ny
This song was written about the Spoonful playing at a club here in San Francisco in North Beach with a one armed Go-Go dancer.Bob McDowell San Francisco.Bob - San Francisco, Ca
This song reminds me of hot summer nights having fun. I love the Lovin Spoonful!Pj - Okc, Ok
Pretty good song. Can lift your spirits, in a weird way.Jon - Oakridge, Or
I can't imagine Joe Cocker doing this.Johnny - Los Angeles, Ca
This song is often mistaken to be performed by Three Dog Night, even though that band never played it.Eric - Vancouver, Canada
There's also a cover version by Joe Cocker!Christoph - Graz, Austria
The part when they switch to "But tonight it's a differeent world, go out and find a girl" was part of a poem written by John Sebastions's brother. He received an "F" for the poem in school so to prove a point John added it to this song, which of course was all over the radio.Mike - Chicago, Ia