10 Depressing Summer Songs
As this list of depressing summer songs reminds us all too well, life may be a beach but good luck getting all that hot, grainy sand out of your swim trunks. Since we already did a list of mostly happy summer songs, we decided it would only be fair to give equal time to the bad things that can happen during the season's warm days and beautiful nights.
Don Henley, "The Boys of Summer" (1984)
You know the most depressing thing about this particular summer? It's never going to be as free, innocent and all-around wonderful as the ones you had when you were younger. And all those kids out there enjoying their magical summers right now? Don't worry, a lot of them are going to get their hearts broken when fall comes.
This song, taken from Eagles legend Don Henley's second solo album, 1984's Building the Perfect Beast, looks back on a big summer romance from earlier in his life with both smiles and regret -- sure, it's pretty obvious he had a great time, but it seems the pain of the breakup is what's really stayed with him after all these years.
Rolling Stones, "Summer Romance" (1980)
Mick Jagger and his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend are dealing with very different levels of depression as their summer together winds down on this throwback rave-up from the Rolling Stones' 1980 album Emotional Rescue.
It turns out she's just a young schoolgirl, and when she goes back to class she'll be doing so with a severely broken heart. Meanwhile, our "hero" has clearly gotten everything he wanted from this arrangement, and is merely bummed about having to deal with the "greasy kid stuff" of a formal breakup before returning to the pool hall for a round of drinks with his friends.
The Who, "Summertime Blues" (1971)
This famous account of a young man's depressing summer -- originally from Eddie Cochran, then covered by classic rockers such as Blue Cheer and the Who -- seems pretty upbeat on the surface.
But if you read the lyrics literally, you'll realize that the song's young protagonist is actually kinda screwed. His was too sick to work at his job -- which pays next-to-nothing anyway -- so now he can't borrow his dad's car and take his girl out. He decides to take his problems to the United Nations (where he somehow finds a Senator) only to be refused assistance because after all, why help a kid who can't vote for you? It's like he said, there ain't no cure for the summertime blues...
Billy Idol, "All Summer Single" (1986)
Don't let his brave words (or that famous sneer) fool you, Billy Idol's gotten his heart broken pretty good on this hidden summertime gem from his 1986 album Whiplash Smile.
We're not sure exactly how, but the punk rock legend "Lost my baby 'fore the summer sun was through." So while he tries to tell himself he's happy being "All Summer Single" and that all he wants is a good time, when he forces himself to tell the truth what he really wants is to have his girl "here, near to me." Oh well, at the very least he's got Steve Stevens' beautifully restrained song-ending guitar riff to keep him company.
Joni Mitchell, "The Hissing of Summer Lawns" (1975)
A word of caution from Joni Mitchell to anybody jealous of the one-percenters -- the big house and life of leisure you're dreaming of may lead you to nothing more than a pretty depressing summer.
Mitchell's song, from her 1975 album of the same name, is told from the point of view of a kept woman whose lover has locked her up in a big mansion on a hill where she can only "see the valley barbecues from her window sill." She bides her time checking for weak spots in the compound's barbed wire fence and dreaming of what life goes on beyond her gilded cage.
No Doubt, "One More Summer" (2012)
Were we to make a list of super happy summer songs, we'd surely include something by No Doubt, but here, the generally sunny SoCal rockers set aside the sunscreen and let the clouds roll in. Singer Gwen Stefani sounds positively worn out as she tells her lover why he's wrong for her, and why she'll likely never leave him. "One more summer / One more weekend / I'm your lover / You're my weakness," she sings, later flipping those last two lines, underscoring the hopelessly tangled-up nature of this affair. Musically, the generic synth-pop backing matches Gwen's exhausted tone, though that's probably not what the band was going for.
Morrissey, "Everyday Is Like Sunday" (1988)
If most people don't think of this as a summer song, it's because Morrissey has taken a seemingly pleasant scenario -- a day at the beach -- and sucked out all the joy. "Trudging slowly over wet sand," he sings in the first verse, setting us up for a hilariously bummed-out punchline: "... back to the bench where your clothes were stolen." Oof! Clearly, Moz has no love for his surroundings, a "coastal town that they forgot to close down," and if he had his way, he wouldn't just board up the storefronts and chase the sunbathers from the beach. "Come, Armageddon, come," the former Smith croons, suggesting there's only one cure for this town's summertime blues: annihilation.
Elvis Costello, "The Other Side of Summer" (1991)
One of the best things about those early Beach Boys records is the complete lack of cynicism and irony. To Brian Wilson and the gang, Southern California was a paradise of hot rods and hotter girls -- "the only place," as Best Coast would later put it. Here, Elvis Costello flips the script, turning wonderland to wasteland on the most twisted Pet Sounds homage you'll ever hear. As Elvis surveys the L.A. scene, he sees wealth disparity, drug abuse, materialism and the "pale pathetic promises that everybody swallows." Even the beach offers no solace. "From the foaming breakers of the poisonous surf," he sings on the chorus, describing a panoramic vista marred by "burning forests in the hills of Astroturf." As Costello scowls, the music grins, and the contrast makes it irresistible.
AFI, "Summer Shudder" (2006)
Like most of the tunes on our list, "Summer Shudder" doesn't sound particularly gloomy. In fact, it's quite rousing, what with its stadium-size guitars, slick synths and colossal chorus. But then you listen to the lyrics. "How can this be so miserable?" AFI frontman Davey Havok asks in the first verse, just before serving up some wonderfully over-dramatic lines about a failed seasonal romance: "Under the summer rain / I burned away / Under the summer rain / you turned away." This girl must have broken dude's heart, toppled his ice cream cone and stolen his Misfits records. "This is the fall," Havok sings in the end, declaring an early end to summer. "This is the long way down." Hey, at least these gothy California punks have Halloween to look forward to.
Art Brut, "Summer Job" (2009)
Eddie Argos has never been worried about looking uncool. Since forming Art Brut in 2003 -- an event he geekishly chronicles on the tune 'We Formed a Band' -- he's penned many albums of self-skewering songs about heartbreak, sexual dysfunction and his love of comic books, among other embarrassing subjects. Here, Argos does his version of Eddie Cochran's '50s teen anthem 'Summertime Blues,' which he even quotes. Like the kid in that rockabilly classic, Argos is stuck with a crummy seasonal gig that's eating up his nights and weekends. "Can't remember the last time I saw my friends," he complains, speak-singing with his typical blend of bemusement and self-pity. The solution, he suggests, is finding another job, but let's face it, that one'll probably suck, too.