In this song, the singer finds herself alone in a hot city, as her boyfriend has left. For her, it's a cruel summer. Like most tracks on the album, the song was written by the the three group members - Sarah Dallin, Siobhan Fahey and Keren Woodward - and their producers, Steve Jolley and Tony Swain.
This did well when it was released in England in 1983, but it wasn't a hit in the US until 1984, when it was used in the movie The Karate Kid. The group had four Top-10 UK hits to that point, but "Cruel Summer" was their first to make an impact in America. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
In 1989, this was released as "Cruel Summer '89" with a Hip Hop beat. This version hit UK #19.
Blestenation did a rap mix off of this song with the singer Diana that was featured on the movie Blue Crush and appears on its soundtrack. (thanks, Nessie - Danville, VA)
Ace of Base recorded a cover version in 1998 that hit #8 in the UK and #10 in the US. It was the last big US hit for the Swedish Pop group.
From the Beach Boys' "Surfin' U.S.A.
" to Mungo Jerry's "In the Summertime
," certain songs work best in the summer. Sara Dallin of Bananarama told The Guardian
July 22, 2009: "The best summer songs remind you of your youth: what you did in your holidays, how it felt when you first kissed a boy, going away without your parents." She added that this song, "played on the darker side: it looked at the oppressive heat, the misery of wanting to be with someone as the summer ticked by. We've all been there!"
Dallin recalled to The Guardian: "It was a huge hit in the US. I'll always remember coming out of our hotel in LA when we first became famous and seeing Mike Tyson sitting there. He burst into Cruel Summer when he saw us. It was unbelievable. Summer songs do that to people. When the sun's out, anything goes."
Directed by Brian Simmons, the video was shot in New York City, primarily because the group had never been there and wanted to go. They used a tavern in Brooklyn as their base camp, which is where they first discovered cocaine. Siobhan Fahey recalls in the book I Want My MTV: "When we repaired to the tavern for lunch, we met a bunch of dockworkers. They were intrigued by us and started chatting, and they all had these little vials of coke. I'd never done coke - I was aware of its existence, but I didn't know anybody who could afford it. We were exhausted and they gave us very generous bumps. That was our lunch. When you watch that video, we look really tired and miserable in the scenes we shot before lunch, and then the after-lunch shots are all euphoric and manic."
In addition to The Karate Kid, this song also appeared in the movies Fraternity Vacation (1985) and Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (1997), as well as the "K.I.T.T. vs. K.A.R.R." episode of the TV show Knight Rider.