Bruce Springsteen played songs of summer — by artists ranging from Lonnie Donegan to The Beach Boys, R.E.M. and Kendrick Lamar — and looked back affectionately at the New Jersey summers of his youth on his eighth SiriusXM DJ show, titled “Summertime, Summertime” and broadcast July 15.
The show, which lasted about an hour and 45 minutes, also included four of Springsteen’s own songs — “Sherry Darling,” “Backstreets,” “County Fair” and “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” — plus Little Steven & the Disciples of Souls’ “Summer of Sorcery.”
You can read what Springsteen said, and see videos for the songs that were played, here (in some cases, a version of the song may have been played that is different from than what is embedded in this post):
Intro Music: “Canyons,” Noveller (Sarah Lipstate)
“Hello, hello, hello, E Street Nation: Fans, friends, summer revelers and listeners from coast to coast. This is ‘From My Home to Yours: Music for Troubled Times, Vol. 8,’ titled ‘Summertime, Summertime.’ And how is your summer going? This summer, unlike any other. Well, the beaches are open here at the Shore. May God save us all. So let’s carry on, into the breach.
“I loved, and love summer. As a child, I became summer. I melted into the hot tarmac, I rolled myself into a sand ball at the beach. I slid beneath the murky water, ducking summer dragonflies at the Freehold Pond. I sat in the tops of trees, feeling the summer breeze trickle over my freshly cut Saturday afternoon flattop. I’d stand with my bike ‘neath the August sun by the roadside, watching the locals on the road crew lay down the steaming blacktop, that beneath their rakes and shovels and heavy equipment curled and flattened like hot licorice. And when the big man in the machinery moved away, I waited, and I wanted my wheels to be the first to touch that steaming virgin roadway.
“In the evening twilight, I sat glued to the curb with a Pinky rubber ball in my hand, waiting for my best friend Bobby Duncan to finish his dinner, so we could engage in epic gutter ball tournaments, into midnight. And then later, with scissors, we’d poke holes into the lids of glass Mason jars, and invade the vacant lot across from my grandmother’s front porch, to capture our nightly quota of the evening’s fireflies, just to leave them twinkling till dawn on our night tables, may they rest in peace. We’d play home free, running from pool of light to pool of light from our neighborhood streetlamps, until we were called in as the neighborhood’s porch lights went dark, by my grandmother’s voice. And there my sister and I would sleep on opposite sides of the bed, wrapped between hot, sticky sheets, on pre-air conditioning, humid, Jersey summer nights.
“There were evenings, that if it got hot enough, my dad showed mercy on us, and he’d pack us into the Olds and set off in the darkness, on Route 33, for the 20-mile ride to Manasquan, where — on those nights the heat and the humidity of inland Freehold became too much to bear — we’d sleep in our pajamas, our bed blankets stretched out on the cool sand, enjoying the ocean air of the Manasquan inlet. And then at early light, like magic, we’d be carried back into the house, into our bedroom, sandy-haired from our beach sleep, and I’d watch the sun splash its morning gold over the western wall of my room, and soon I’d smell my mother’s coffee drifting up through the floor grate that opened to my room. I’d lie awake and listen to my parents leave for work, and then I’d dress, skip breakfast, walk out onto our side porch, where the bare bones of the sun’s rays cut through the green latticework and warmed the wooden steps of our porch. There I’d sit, barely human, a creature of the earth, and the rain, and the sun, and summer.”
“Summertime, Summertime,” The Jamies
“That song was a hit twice. In 1958, when I was 8 years old, and again in 1962, when I was 12. It was a basic novelty song, but it always signaled the beginning of summer for me, in its baroque joy, and I always loved hearing it for the first time, each summer. It meant summer was on!”
“Up All Night,” The War on Drugs
“As a teenager, I would stay up all night, as a crucible to pass, for three or four nights of the summer, as the house sank into a midsummer’s evening silence, I’d be camping out in my room, I’d have my flashlight, I’d have my Japanese transistor AM radio that I was listening to. I would take 2 or 3 a.m. walks around the town of Freehold, when the streets were mine! At night and only at night was I king of the streets of Freehold, N.J., unhassled by the day’s rednecks. (laughs) Anytime they’d see some long-hair pass the barber shop, they’d come running out with shaving cream half on their face. ‘Hey, are you a girl?’ (laughs). Ah! Whoah! That was bullshit I didn’t need in those days. So in the middle of the evening, I’d return home, 3:30 a.m., I’d arrive into the kitchen, I would build myself an almighty peanut butter and jelly sandwich, pouring it on. I would then retire to my room, to wait for my favorite song to be broadcast by the WMCA good guys. One summer, my favorite song was Lonnie Donegan’s “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor (on the Bedpost Overnight)?”
“Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor (On the Bedpost Overnight)?,” Lonnie Donegan
“Sherry Darling,” Bruce Springsteen
“Now in my bed, in the summer, I’d be reading all my old copies of Surfing magazine. Did I surf? No. But the magazine held two very essential elements, surf or not. I was deeply interested in the perfectly tanned surfer girl in bikinis, and in the advertisements for Fender guitars. There they were in the fresh ads, the true objects of my desire. Three white Fenders. A bass, a Stratocaster, and a Jaguar, each as white as the Hawaiian sand, lined up next to each other, each more desirable than the next, but taken as a group, my God, the perfect Trifecta. Now I spent relatively short quality time with the pictures of the surfer girls, but I spent hours in my bunk, in my room, salivating over those guitars. I’d drift off to sleep with the magazine open on my chest, and then, riding the summer breeze, from the west, came skipping through my open bedroom window, a sound I swear that was coming from some perfect beach, thousands of miles away.”
“California Girls,” The Beach Boys
“Our next song is ‘Summer Romance,’ by Ren Harvieu. It lets you know just how long a summer can feel if you’ve ever spent one in Heartbreak City. Those heartbreak summer songs … ‘Sealed with a Kiss,’ ‘See You in September,’ ouch! It was the longing, the longing from spring, late school year breakup … I cheated on a fabulous girlfriend I had, with one of my exes. One of the dumbest things I’ve ever done! And I immediately had buyer’s remorse. That summer, the summer of ’67, the summer of Sgt. Pepper, I chased my girl from beach town to beach town to beach town. Thank God, I was aided by a big ol’ ’60s ragtop black Cadillac and a car of good friends. My running pack: Jay, Sunrise, Bird. You guys saved my life that summer. I don’t know where you are now, but I’ve never forgotten you, and the solid that you did me in the summer of ’67.”
“Summer Romance,” Ren Harvieu
“Ouch. That song is so beautiful it kills me. Coming up: Lana Del Rey. And I am a Lana Del Rey fan. And ‘Video Games.’ This is a singer, and a song, that reminds me of the hot, humid, sultry summer nights, and the girls that went with them. Nights so hot and still, fields of fireflies, leaves so still on neighborhood trees that they did not whisper. No rumor of a breeze in sight. You’d sit on the porch. You were dressed, waiting either for her, or the end of the world.”
“Video Games,” Lana Del Rey
“Because this is the summer of 2020, the summer of Black Lives Matter, the summer of bringing down that bastard in the White House, this is ‘I Can’t Breathe,’ by H.E.R.”
“I Can’t Breathe,” H.E.R.
“The Boss,” James Brown
“‘The Boss.’ That was the Godfather of Soul, and regardless of my sobriquet, nobody knows better than he does, about paying the cost to be the boss. And coming up: ‘Hot Fun in the Summertime,’ in the aftermath of their Woodstock appearance. This was recorded by Sly & the Family Stone in 1969. I remember this song on a dead midsummer day, coming out the car radio as we were on our way to the beach, and all I remember thinking is, ‘I’m gonna find out where those guys are, and I’m going there.’ ”
“Hot Fun in the Summertime,” Sly & the Family Stone
“Our next song is written by Kenny Young and Arthur Resnick, and is just about perfect. The opening line (sings), ‘When the sun beats down and melts the tar up on the roof,’ not only referred to The Drifters’ great ‘Up on the Roof,’ which made this kind of an answer record, and it presented itself as a perfect alternative paradise to ‘Up on the Roof’: Once the weather turns to steam, you go under the boardwalk. Now I can testify to this firsthand, because I spent a summer tarring, in 95 degree heat, Mrs. Ladd’s, my neighbor’s roof, for 50 cents an hour, as a young teenager, and it was hell on earth. It sent me running to the beach and under the boardwalk, to wash the sticky tar off me, and take a break underneath Convention Hall and the Casino. But this song is a real perfectly drawn beauty. Every line is beautifully crafted, and the change to minor, in the chorus, gives it something musically unique. Now this was made a hit in the definitive version by The Drifters, but today I chose the Stones’ somewhat punkier version.”
“Under the Boardwalk,” The Rolling Stones
“4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy),” Bruce Springsteen
“Well up next is a studio outtake from 1983, of which there are many more, and one of the days, all this work that I did between Nebraska and The River will show up magically. I lived up on Telegraph Hill, on an old 165-acre farm that I rented for $700 a month. I had my ’60 ‘Vette, from the cover of “Born to Run” (the book), and I would take my girl to the Monmouth County Fair, which was a lot of fun, but a funkier proposition in those day. A lot of 4-H farm animals, and there was a car you could bust up with a sledgehammer, for two bucks. Oh, the simple joys. A dunk tank. After the fair, we’d ride back to the farm and put the roof down and sit out in front of the big old white farmhouse, lean back, listen to the music down low. We’d talk and look up at the stars.”
“County Fair,” Bruce Springsteen
“As a teenager, my bedroom window faced south. And we lived on 68 South St. So I got light, but not much sun in the morning. I’d wake, I’d put on my uniform for a ’60s midsummer’s day. It was a white T-shirt, a pair of washed-out, cut-off blue jeans, slightly stiff with the salt of daily ocean swimming, their legs shredded at the thighs with grains and grains of sand in each pockets. And a pair of faded Converse sneakers. Now, I’d just finished and barely survived summer school. And Mr. DiTomasso — along with my Italian cousin Alphonse, Mr. DiTomasso’s assistant, and he was a Spanish wiz — now together we had all striven to understand the nuances of español. A musical language as it is, and as musical as I am, unfortunately we remained a hopeless match. Now with Alphonse’s sly assistance, I passed.
“Well, now all I know is the rest of this summer is mine. My mornings, my afternoons, my evenings belonged to me. So I make my way down to the silent morning kitchen, last night’s dinner plates shining in their drying holders, compliments of no one, of course, but my mom. There was a $5 bill on the table next to a box of Corn Chex and a bowl. It’s her daily summer greeting to me. But the five is gonna have to last me all week, and the house is mine for a moment. My pop at work or, having bailed, still in bed, sleeping. My sister still in bed. The house is mind, and I love the quiet. I love the quiet of the house in the morning.
“So I have a quick bowl of cereal, I scoop up the five, and I’m out the door, striding down South Street towards Route 33. I carry nothing but a folded beach towel under my arm. I made sure not to stick my thumb out until I reach 33, as that would bad-vodoo and jinx my chance of a quick ride east. At the stoplight, I settled into formation at the intersection: Highway 33 and Shore points. Where they meet, I take my hithchiker’s stance, one hip slung low, a knee slightly beat, thumb out, an air of nonchalance, like, I could give a shit if you gave me a ride or not. I take the occasional few steps backward towards for my destination, the beaches and bikinis of Manasquan, N.J., and I wait for the magic to begin. Now I’m confident that shortly a bored trucker … hot-rodder, traveling businessman or concerned mom will pick me up. I’ll hear car wheels squeal on gravel, and the passenger side of the door will open and then soon make that beautiful slamming sound of victory in the morning. Small talk will ensue, which you must be good at. And then an hour, three or four rides later, I will be deposited at Manasquan main beach. I will dodge the badge counters. Though it is un-American, in New Jersey we must pay to go to the beach. I do not, however, plan to have my arcade or lunch money eaten up by stinking beach badges. So I head for a plot of sand, I scan thoroughly for the beach cops and the nearest crowd of pretty girls, and I settle in. After a few moments in the sun, I head for my morning baptism in the wonderful, God-given Atlantic Ocean. Summer’s on.”
“Backstreets,” Bruce Springsteen
“Love,” Kendrick Lamar, featuring Zacari
“In 1965 Freehold, there were no visible drugs to be seen. The high school principal was still concerned with you hiding out behind the gym, swigging beer. But that started to change around 1967, and one evening, there was the first drug bust that had ever occurred in history, as far as we knew, in Freehold, NJ. And the bass player for The Castiles? Goodbye. The organ player for The Castiles? Goodbye. The drummer for The Castiles? Goodbye. All ripped out of mommy’s and daddy’s arms, at 3 a.m.
“I was standing on the corner of Throckmorton and Main, standing guard at my phone booth, waiting for a late night call from my girlfriend. This was one of my permanent positions throughout the years of my high school, as we had no phone at home, and I was there at all hours of the evening and morning, standing with a friend of mine, Bruce Nelson. Bruce Nelson says, ‘I just saw Mrs. Bots go by in the cop car with Baby Bots.’ Mrs. Botts was Vinnie ‘Skeebots’ Manniello’s better half. I said, ‘Get outta here!’ He says, ‘She was in the the cop car with the Baby Bots, on her way to the police station.’ I said, ‘Nobody gets arrested with their baby!’ But sure enough, the Bots family went down to the police station, victims of the new Freehold Borough war on drugs. So that spelled the final chapter in my first band, the fabulous Castiles.”
“Summer of Drugs,” Victoria Williams
“I had a … painted white Chevy, seat-10, originally aqua blue truck, that my girlfriend had christened Supertruck. I had a three-on-the-tree manual trans, and I had it custom-rigged for drive-in Saturday nights. I had a half-couch that I had picked up off the curb garbage, and I fit it perfectly into the rear bed of the truck, pressed up against the rear window, and I set it in backwards, facing the tailgate. I picked up a cooler and a small hibachi grill, and we would head for the Shore, and in those days, the ’70s, you had your choice of three drive-ins in the Shore area. You had the Hazlet Drive-In, you had the Eatontown Drive-In and you had the Shore Drive-in. Now my favorite, because it was where my mom and pop would take us after the beach, the doubleheaders, was the Shore Drive-in, so that’s where we’d head, and I would back that truck, backwards into the parking place, with the bed facing the screen, andI would throw the speaker over the side, I would open the cooler, I would warm up that hibachi and pop on a little burger, and I would sit on that couch, with my arm around my girl, in paradise. That summer, we saw a doubleheader, Warren Oates in ‘Cockfighter’ and Clint Eastwood in ‘Fistful of Dollars.’
“There is nothing like the sea at night, when the water is slightly warmer than the air, even though the air is humid after a 95 degree day. God, I love swimming at night. It is all darkness and mystery. It is the void. And it must be done naked. Clothes at the waterline, please. Do this, and my pilgrim, you will become cleansed. Never will the evening air, or a kiss on the beach, or a dry towel, ever feel so good again. The walk to the car will be filled with star-lit grace, and you will never forget it. And once you’ve hit the water, you will be covered in the blossoming beauty of your youth, no matter how old you are, and whoever you are with, you will always remember them.”
“Summer of Sorcery,” Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul
“That was the incredible Little Steven, with ‘Summer of Sorcery,’ and that is our show for the day. So until we meet again, stay strong, stay smart, stay safe, stay healthy, mask up, and go in peace.”
“Beyond the Sea,” Bobby Darin
To read transcripts of what Springsteen has said on the previous seven DJ shows, and see YouTube videos of all the songs he has played, click here for April 8, here for April 24, here for May 6, here for May 20, here for June 3, here for June 17, and here for the July 1 show (which featured discussion with and songs by Southside Johnny and Steven Van Zandt). Also, click here for some of my thoughts on this ambitious series in general.
Though Springsteen is not officially on a schedule for these shows, and there won’t necessarily be any more after today, he has been doing them once every other week for more than two months.
The shows 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.
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