When Bruce Springsteen announced that his 12th DJ show for SiriusXM satellite radio would be titled “Summer’s End,” I figured it would be a kind of part 2 to his July 15 show, which focused on summertime songs and memories. I was partially right.
Of course, it could be seen as a sequel of sorts, but it also had a distinctive feel. These weren’t just songs about summer, but songs — from The Beach Boys’ “Caroline, No,” which opened the show, to Frank Sinatra’s “Summer Wind,” which closed it — with a bittersweet, wistful flavor that made them appropriate for the end of the season. Springsteen also shared memories from his own past, and read excerpts from a Stanley Kunitz poem and Shakespeare’s “Othello” (linking it, in a bit of a surprise, to his own “Born to Run”). It was, debatably, the show of Springsteen’s DJ series that was most cohesive in mood.
You can read what Springsteen said here, and see videos for the songs that were played. In some cases, a version of the song may have been played that is different from what is embedded in this post.
“Caroline, No,” The Beach Boys
“Hello, hello, E Street Nation. Fans, friends, back-to-schoolers, and listeners from coast to coast. Welcome to our end-of-summer spectacular. It is always a bittersweet time of year, but it is my favorite season. September and October: Locals’ summer. Our Shore summer guests have headed home and the beaches, boardwalks and sea are ours. A blissful six weeks of summer weather. Dry air, west winds, good waves and warm fires await.
“This is Vol. 12 of ‘From My Home to Yours,’ titled ‘Summer’s End.’
“Here is the Lizard King, Jim Morrison, and the Doors, with ‘Summer’s Almost Gone.'”
“Summer’s Almost Gone,” The Doors
“‘When summer’s gone, where will we be?’ One of my favorite Doors songs. Coming up, this is The Chantels, with some raw, sexy late summer doo-wop: ‘Summer’s Love.'”
“Summer’s Love,” The Chantels
“The end of summer stirs so many conflicting feelings. It’s the season whose end is most pronounced. It is truly the end of something wonderful, and the beginning of something new: fall with its fair days, dry winds, and unknownness.
“Blue poured into summer blue,
A hawk broke from his cloudless tower,
The roof of the silo blazed, and I knew
That part of my life was over.
“That’s an excerpt from ‘End of Summer,’ by Stanley Kunitz.”
“The Green Fields of Summer,” Peter Wolf and Neko Case
“I don’t know if you’ve gotten any of Pete’s post-J. Geils albums, but they are uniformly brilliant, and I’d hustle to add them to my record collection. All right. Shakespeare, Othello’s last words to Desdemona:
“I kissed thee ere I killed thee. No way but this,
Killing myself, to die upon a kiss.
“I think I stole that for ‘Born to Run.'”
“Summer’s Kiss,” Afghan Whigs
“Love the Afghan Whigs. Coming up: Tennessee Williams-titled 1983 hit of past summer longing, and the noir stylings of Martha Davis & the Motels, with ‘Suddenly Last Summer.’ ”
“Suddenly Last Summer,” Martha & the Motels
“Love that song. Man, all I remember was coming home from the beach with my folks with sand everywhere. Sand in my pants, sand all over the car, sand in all your toys, sand in your ears, sand in your hair. This is The Drifters, with ‘I’ve Got Sand in My Shoes,’ which was an answer record, by the way, to ‘Under the Boardwalk,’ which was an answer record to ‘Up on the Roof.’ A perfect summer triplicate.”
“I’ve Got Sand in My Shoes,” The Drifters
“In 1990, just after my 40th birthday, at end of summer, my friends and I would motorcycle across the Mojave. I always found something endlessly reassuring and comforting in all the nothingness of the desert. My mind at ease, we’d ride for days on state roads with nothing but Four Corner desert towns at 100-mile intervals, to break our hejira, my travels. With eternity laid out before you, you’d ride under a sun so blistering you had to cover every inch of exposed skin. With long-sleeve blue jean shirts, full jeans, gloves, wet bandannas covering our faces, we’d ride till dark and then bunk in roadside motels, sitting outside of our rooms, nursing beers, rehashing the day’s ride, listening to some music. Just there in the company of the smoldering heat, and a few other travelers with their own reasons for being on these deserted back roads.
“The next morning, we’d watch Air Force jets heading for desert test ranges, leaving six-string vapor trails across the September Mojave sky. We’d bungee our backpacks to our bikes, soak our bandannas in the sink, tie one around your neck, the other over your nose and mouth, fire up some thunder and, ready to go, ride straight into the futureless sky.”
“Summer Jets,” Iain Archer
“A hejira is an exodus or migration (referring to) Mohammed’s departure from Mecca to Medina in A.D. 622. And that was ‘Summer Jets,’ by Iain Archer. Now we’ve got ‘Summer Turns to High.’ This is R.E.M.’s beautiful tribute to Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys.”
“Summer Turns to High,” R.E.M.
“The end of summer always felt like a small death. Back to school, locked behind a desk as the streets were still warm and basking in the freedom of the September summer sun. But come Labor Day, it was as if folks just flipped the switch. They seemed determined to deny the late summer paradise of empty beaches and perfect days, thriving at their most beautifully seductive, outside the windows of their offices, factories and schools.
“That was something I was never able to do. And these were the days when that loss ached at me. Unfinished summer business, lost love affairs, unrequited summer crushes, girls still waiting on quiet corners for summer boyfriends. All of this hovered over me like the pungent scent of sun tan oil on the tanned, unfamiliar skin of all of those out-of-state girls, who’ve now returned to school, and mom and pop, and chilly days and nights, and who’ve put you away, with all the other townies, in a box labeled ‘Summer.'”
“This is John Prine, a national treasure who we tragically lost to COVID. This is his beautiful ‘Summer’s End.'”
“Summer’s End,” John Prine
“By 4 on the beach, the weekend after Labor Day, there is a thin, drifting coolness in the air. The sun will soon be marking its late-summer-season descent over the peaked beach cottages at Manasquan. My sister Ginny and I are wrapped, fully burka-like, in beach towels, changing from our bathing suits into our pajamas for one last feature at the drive-in before the beginning of school, and the end of all that is good. My mother is nearby, standing guard, as we reach out and hand her sand-filled swimsuits that, as we are growing now, we may never see again. We grab hot dogs and ice cream for dinner at Carlson’s Corner, we watch burly men pull in striped bass and fluke off the Manasquan jetty, and we chase each other around the pavilion where, today, the ghost of my beautiful grandmother sits, enjoying the late summer ocean breeze. And then we’re all packed in the car, heading off to the Shore Drive-In.
“By dusk, Ginny and I are ‘neath the arc of the huge screen in the playground below with a dozen or more other kids, holding onto the roundabout until we become uncorked, spinning off in a dizzying trance. Then dusk, and here come the cartoons, classic Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny, and it’s a run back to the car as we hear my dad leaning on the car horn, egging on the main feature. The screen clock starts clicking down, 10 minutes for snacks and bathrooms before the show starts. And it’s on.
“Tonight, we’ll see just one film, something my parents wanted to see called ‘Blonde in a White Convertible,’ that has my mother telling us, ‘Don’t look, don’t look,’ at certain adult scenes. And then it’s an early ride home. About halfway back, on a pitch black Route 33, slightly past the recently defunct Cowboy City theme park, where, at one time, you could see a cheeseball shootout on Main Street, any weekend afternoon, a young buck comes bolting out of the wooden Earle Naval Ammunition Depot on the right side of the highway and leaps over the hood of the car, its body filling the entire windshield, its left eye shiny with blood, animal spirits and fear, and we are only measurable inches away from eternity before he miraculously disappears into the woods, a late summer spirit on the far side of the highway.
“The car is in an uproar. We have crossed paths with wild, feral magic. Summer is over.”
“These Are the Days,” Van Morrison
“That was the maestro, Van Morrison, with ‘These Are the Days.’ What would summer be without Brian Wilson? This is The Beach Boys: ‘Think About the Days’ and ‘Summer’s Gone.'”
“Think About the Days,” The Beach Boys
“Summer’s Gone,” The Beach Boys”
“That’s our show for today, folks, and for the summer of 2020. And what a summer it’s been. I hope you took your summer pleasures where you could find them, and will look forward to a better 2021. Until we meet again, treat yourself to one more late-summer swim, another grilled hamburger and French fries, and if the ice cream man is still running through your neighborhood, pick one up for me. Soft vanilla dipped in chocolate, please. As for me, I’m going for an ocean swim right now, so until we meet again, stay strong, stay smart, stay healthy, stay safe, stay summer. And I’ll see you on the beach.”
“Summer Wind,” Frank Sinatra
You can read transcripts of what Springsteen has said on the previous 10 shows, and see YouTube videos of all the songs he has played, via these links:
APRIL 8 (a tribute to the late John Prine and more)
APRIL 24 (thoughts on life during pandemic, New York songs and more)
MAY 6 (when the pandemic is over, he promises, “50,000 people will once again scream their heads off somewhere in New Jersey”)
MAY 20 (a tribute to the late Little Richard and more)
JUNE 3 (protest songs and more)
JUNE 17 (a “rock ‘n’ roll requiem” for those who have died from coronavirus)
JULY 1 (discussion with and songs by Southside Johnny and Steven Van Zandt)
JULY 15 (summertime songs and memories)
JULY 29 (discussion with and songs by Patti Scialfa)
AUG. 14 (songs about the night and dreams)
SEPT. 2 (songs about work for Labor Day week)
Also, click here for some of my thoughts on this ambitious series in general.
The shows, which Springsteen has presented regularly since April, have lasted between 70 minutes and two hours each, and are being broadcast on SiriusXM’s E Street Radio channel (channel 20), with repeats and on-demand availability following the initial broadcast.
“Summer’s End” will also air Sept. 16 at 6 p.m.; Sept. 17 at 6 a.m. and 3 p.m.; Sept. 18 at 10 a.m., 4 p.m. and midnight; Sept. 19 at 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.; Sept. 20 at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.; Sept. 21 at 7 a.m., 4 p.m. and midnight; and Sept. 22 at 8 a.m.
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