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The Greatest 1960s Songs of Summer

The Greatest 1960s Songs of Summer

Sometimes songs epitomize summer so much that even hearing them in the dead of winter gives you a summery feeling. 

The 1960s brought us our first taste of songs depicting fun summertime activities. They created the soundtrack for hanging out with friends on the beach or cruising the city on warm summer nights. 

While we know there are way more than seven great 1960s summertime oldies, these songs are among the best. 

So kick back and check out these songs of summer to get you into a summertime frame of mind. 

Let’s dive in!

What are Songs of Summer?

When you hear a song of summer, thoughts of sandy beaches, waves, and good times instantly come to mind. Many of the summer-themed songs released in the 1960s exude youthful adventures with friends. 

You’ll find some songs fitting that description in the list below. In contrast, others made the list because of when they hit the airwaves. Record labels often release songs in time for summer. They know young people are out of school and want new tunes to listen to while hanging out with friends. 

And, yes. Billboard has their ‘songs of the summer’ charts, but we’re not necessarily talking about the ones that were longest on their chart or even #1.

The songs below are likely to bring back fond summertime memories from your youth for many of you. They may not all be your idea of a song of summer, but they were some of the decade’s biggest hits. 

Let’s start with a tune synonymous with summer, surfing, and good times. 

#7 Wipeout – The Surfaris

About the Song: In 1962, the Southern California band The Surfaris needed a B-side song for their single Surfer Joe. The group consisted of five teenagers who scraped together enough money, mostly from their parents, to make the recording. 

While looking for a place to rehearse, the band met Dale Smallin, owner of a recording studio in Cucamonga, California. Smallin began managing The Surfaris and played a part in the recording of Wipeout. You can hear his witchy laughter at the beginning of the song. 

No one in the band expected Wipeout to become the hit it did. The song remained on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for four months in the summer of 1963.

Greatest Lyric: The greatest lyric also happens to be the only lyric.

Hahahahaha Wipe Out

First Appearance: Independent record labels DFS and Princess first released Wipeout in early 1963. 

#6 Light My Fire – The Doors

About the Song: This may not be the first tune to come to mind when thinking of a summertime song. But when it became a hit in the summer of 1967, young people were drawn to its sexually-charged lyrics. It was the Summer of Love, after all!

This became The Doors’ first hit and eventually their signature song. When they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1967, they were asked to change the word “higher” in one of the lyrics. 

No mention of drug use would be tolerated on national TV! 

Of course, the rebellious Jim Morrison said he’d change it but sang the offensive lyrics anyway. 

Greatest Lyric:

You know that it would be untrue
You know that I would be a liar
If I was to say to you
Girl, we couldn't get much higher

First Appearance: The Doors first performed Light My Fire during concerts in April 1966. Elektra released it as a single a year later in April 1967.

#5 I Get Around – The Beach Boys

About the Song: Is there a Beach Boys song that couldn’t qualify as a song of summer? While the lyrics aren’t summer-specific, it does talk about hanging out with friends, cruising in cars, and finding girls. All things most teenage boys were doing at the time, especially in the summer!

This was the first #1 hit for the Southern California band. Their use of innovative guitar playing set them apart from other bands. The style of fuzzed guitar used in the song wasn’t widely used in rock music before 1964. 

Greatest Lyric:

I'm gettin' bugged driving up and down the same old strip
I gotta find a new place where the kids are hip

First Appearance: The Beach Boys released this poppy number in May 1964.

#4 Under The Boardwalk – The Drifters 

About the Song: For anyone who grew up in or vacationed in a seashore town, boardwalks often bring to mind thoughts of summer. In this song, lovers meet for a little private time together. You can almost hear the waves crashing near their feet. 

The Drifters planned to record the song in May 1964, but their lead singer suddenly died from a possible drug overdose. They managed to find a replacement right away with Johnny Moore, who happened to have been in the band in 1958. Moore remained with the band as their lead singer. 

Greatest Lyric:

From the park you hear the happy sound of the carousel
You can almost taste the hot dogs and french fries they sell

First Appearance: Atlantic Records released this hit song in the summer of 1964.

#3 (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – The Rolling Stones

About the Song: Filled with teenage angst, this tune hit US radio stations in the summer of 1965. One evening, guitarist Keith Richards literally dreamed up the guitar riff and the lyric “Can’t get no satisfaction.” He recorded what he recalled from his dream onto a tape deck to share with lead singer Mick Jagger.

Richards used a Gibson Fuzz Box to create the distortion heard in the song. He didn’t plan to keep that part in the final recording. But the band liked it, so they kept it in. You may note this song came out a year after #5 on this list which also incorporated the use of fuzz distortion. 

Greatest Lyric:

When I'm ridin' 'round the world
And I'm doin' this and I'm signin' that
And I'm tryin' to make some girl, who tells me
Baby, better come back maybe next week

First Appearance: The Rolling Stones released this song in the US in June 1965. Two months later, it hit the UK airwaves. 

#2 Summer in the City – Lovin’ Spoonful

About the Song: The lyrics describe living in a city with hot summer days but cool evenings. Daytime temperatures can be miserable for getting around, but the evenings allow you to dress up, walk around and look for love. 

The lyrics are from a poem written by lead singer John Sebastian’s teenage brother Mark who wasn’t in the band. John reworked some of the words and collaborated with the band’s bassist Steve Boone to create the final version. 

This was the fifth single released by The Lovin’ Spoonfuls. The song’s harder rock sound differed from their previous lighter and poppy tunes. It was their only single to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. 

Greatest Lyric:

Cool town, evening in the city
Dressing so fine and looking so pretty
Cool cat, looking for a kitty
Gonna look in every corner of the city

First Appearance: Kama Sutra Records released this hit song in the summer of 1966. 

#1 Tossin’ And Turnin’ – Bobby Lewis

About the Song: The poor guy in this song couldn’t sleep at all thinking about things not being right with his girl. The lyrics paint a descriptive picture of a lover tossin’ and turnin’ in his bed all night. 

This hit song reached #1 on pop and R&B music charts in the summer of 1961. It remained on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart for seven weeks. It was also the best-selling single of 1961. 

Greatest Lyric:

The clock downstairs was strikin' four
Couldn't get you off my mind
I heard the milkman at the door
'Cause I was tossin' and turnin'

First Appearance: Bobby Lewis released this great oldie through Beltone Records in April 1961. 

Which Songs of Summer Are Your Favorites?

With summer right around the corner (at least in the northern hemisphere), it’s time to start listening to songs to set the mood. 

You’ve got a couple of great tunes to start with using this list. We’re sure you have some other songs of summer that are your favorite. We’d love to hear what they are! 

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