Jimi Hendrix: Have You Ever Been (to Electric Ladyland), 1968
Chosen by Dave Stewart (Eurythmics)
I was 16 in 1968 when Jimi Hendrix came out with Electric Ladyland. The opening that record – the way And the Gods Made Love goes into this song – blew my mind. It was just the weirdest sound guitar, almost like a sonic experiment, but very beautiful. Within 30 seconds you’ve entered a different landscape in your brain, it makes you switch everything f. To me this is a perfect summer song: it has this very trippy, slow tempo. It sounds like you’re lying in a field somewhere with somebody who you’re crazy about, or floating down a river on a summer’s day.
Patrice Rushen: Number One, 1982
Chosen by Róisín Murphy
Music sounds and feels different outside in nature than it does in a room. In the summer I do a lot walking outdoors with music: I do a “dancercise” thing, where I sort dance along the path. I skip along, at a sort walking groove, listening to this song. It’s wonderful. It’s got one the all-time great intros from any track ever. The whole band is going at the beginning and it just keeps going up and up and up, and then it just goes into the track. It gives you a real, tangible lift. The song has this incredibly light touch – I associate these light, bouncy grooves with summer.
Sweet Female Attitude: Flowers, 2000
Chosen by AJ Tracey
I first heard this when I was living on the Sutton Estate in north Kensington, playing table tennis in the youth club my mum used to run. My mum loves this song, and my mum and dad used to vibe to it. For me the track sounds like London culture: barbecues on council estates, people having a good time in the sun. It has this airy vibe, it’s a feel-good song. Music has more a euphoric effect in the summer – whatever your summer soundtrack is, it will always bring good memories.
Jamie xx: I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times), 2015
Chosen by Maggie Rogers
I love this song so much. I love the Persuasions sample at the start, Popcaan’s Jamaican influence, and the Young Thug verse is amazing – there’s a line in it where he says, “I’ma ride in that pussy like a stroller”, which I think is brilliant. The song immediately makes me feel like I’m on a boat, or on an island, and anything that does that for me is pretty much a guaranteed barbecue hit. It’s definitely my summer DJ go-to: windows up, windows down, pool party – any kind situation. It makes me feel free, and I think that’s what you’re looking for in any real summer song.
Bob Marley: Sun Is Shining, 1971
Chosen by Theon Cross (Sons Kemet)
I think all reggae works for the summer, because reggae is music that comes out a sunny place. My dad used to have quite a big reggae collection, and me and my brother used to sit in our front room listening to this Bob Marley compilation album – this was the tune we used to really like f it. The singing, the rhythm, the beat… it’s just got a very chilled, relaxed vibe to it, which is what you want when you’re in the sun: chilling and relaxing. It’s perfect for sitting on the beach, spending time with friends.
Chris Cohen: Green Eyes, 2019
Chosen by Kurt Vile
I heard this when I was on tour in Australia: it was on a playlist by my friend Julia Shapiro, who’s in Chastity Belt. In Australia it was autumn, though it still felt summery, and then I arrived back in America where it was summer. So I’ve been obsessed with Chris Cohen’s music all summer – I listened to this song over and over again. It’s kind psychedelic but hypnotic, with great harmonies and folksy, jangly acoustics. And then there’s the imagery: “Making grilled cheese for dinner, in an RV by the sea.” I’m not a west coast person, but when you think the sea you definitely think the summer – even though it’s technically always there.
Megan Thee Stallion: Simon Says, 2019
Chosen by Ray BLK
Megan Thee Stallion is a female rapper from Texas and this is my favourite track from the album she dropped a few months ago. It’s a strip-club song: my friends and I twerk to it. Every single party, it’s guaranteed to get the girls moving. Megan calls her fans “hot girls”, and this is for everyone just having a hot-girl summer, acting out and being ratchet and misbehaving! You remember your summer anthems more than music from the rest the year – they transport you right back to that great moment.
Don Henley: The Boys Summer, 1984
Chosen by Lauren Mayberry (Chvrches)
The guitar sound and percussion in this song is instantly identifiable and pretty iconic. And there’s the guitar solo bit which sounds a bit like a distressed guinea pig. This song feels very homey and nostalgic for me. My parents listened to a lot Eagles stuff when I was growing up and fully investigated all their solo careers. My dad would play this song in the car a lot – I don’t know if I remember not knowing it. It manages to reference sunglasses and beaches without being cheesy, which is quite a feat.
Bob Welch: Sentimental Lady, 1977
Chosen by Weyes Blood
Bob Welch was in an early lineup Fleetwood Mac. I first came across this track in summer 2012: it’s got a dreamy shimmer to it, like light reflecting f water. And Christine McVie has a beautiful, sorrowful voice that rises out the chorus like a sentimental memory. I like my summertime melancholy. I think the summer is an interesting trial. It can be uncomfortable, long and monotonous. It makes me contemplate just as much as the winter. The best times happen when the sun goes down: you either cool down and become human again, or the heat stays with you and you end up partying with other people in the delirium the heat. It’s an intoxicating time.
Shuggie Otis: Island Letter, 1974
Chosen by Michael Kiwanuka
I always imagine the island the title being like Sicily, or Hawaii, or some other slow-paced island, on the beach. It has a beautiful golden sound: it’s gonna make you feel really peaceful. I first heard it in the summer, when I was 17 or 18, and I’d never heard music like it before – it was just so pretty. When the sun’s out, problems don’t seem as bad. You wake up and you feel “I can tackle this.” I always feel like that in the summer, and the sound Island Letter feels like that to me: it speaks to that peacefulness that only summer can bring.
Derrick Harriott: The Loser, 1967
Chosen by Joe Goddard (Hot Chip)
This song reminds me being a kid in south-west London. I first heard it on a compilation Trojan Records music that my reggae-obsessed friend Rob told me to buy. It’s a beautiful production, with rich layers piano and bass and beautiful harmonies on the chorus – it feels effortless and gentle, as summer music should. I associate it with travelling to Ladbroke Grove, to Subterania, to listen to David Rodigan DJing on a Wednesday night as a teenager… drinking too much Nigerian Guinness and getting lean. And it reminds me Notting Hill carnival, walking between the Trojan sound system and Norman Jay’s Good Times.
Ultra Naté: Free, 1997
Chosen by Will Young
This is a classic, anthemic summer house record. I was at university and there were lots club tracks coming out like this, and tracks from people like Sonique and Rui da Silva, that had this narrative about freedom and being who you want to be. They very much became gay anthems, and even though I wasn’t out yet they always resonated with me. MTV was so big then and this video came along and Ultra Nate had very short hair, dyed yellow and was so different-looking – she paved the way for a different kind artist. The seasons, course, all tie in with nature, and summer is like “We’re here, everything’s out, everyone’s shagging, the bees are collecting pollen and life’s good!” With sun and blue skies there’s always a sense joy and possibility, and great summer music ties into this different thought pattern.
Donald Byrd: Love Has Come Around, 1981
Chosen by Yannis Philippakis (Foals)
I first heard this when I was working at a hotel bar with Edwin Congreave, Foals keyboardist], on a playlist he made. It has a chugging, disco groove and these rich chords and a classic melody, and I listened to it pretty obsessively for a period time. It makes me think all the archetypal things: barbecues, freshly cut grass, summer weddings. There’s a kind cheesiness to it, there are aspects it that are kind dated – but it disarms you. It has a kind innocent joy to it. The best summer songs just have that lack cynicism to them.
Jonathan Richman: That Summer Feeling, 1983
Chosen by Ezra Furman
I really love this song. It’s about nostalgia, and how summer reminds you the past. It’s one those songs that is more powerful because it’s two opposite feelings at once, like a happy nostalgia and a painful loss. It’s got a great crescendo – it’s kind a long song and it doesn’t waste any that time, and it works itself up into a reverie. I think Jonathan Richman is a little overlooked – he’s a true treasure songwriting. I saw him play in Oakland recently and he opened with this song, but he changed everything about it: the lyrics, the chords, everything except the words “that summer feeling”. He was so free with it, like he was going on pure feeling.
Lil Nas X: Panini, 2019
Chosen by Georgia
I think this is going to be a summer banger. You could play it in whatever weather, you could blast it out your open-rotop car if you’re lucky enough to own one. I’ve been in the studio with Take a Daytrip, who produced the song, and they’re an incredible duo – really good at adding otherworldly sounds to their beats. It really stands out, in the hip-hop world and R&B, when the production is taking a few risks. Then it has Lil Nas’s vocals over the top: it’s very catchy, hooky in an interesting way. It’s just one those crossover tunes that everyone loves.
Hand Habits: Bloom, 2014
Chosen by Jon Hopkins
I wanted to choose something that wasn’t hyper-energetic; in fact, quite the opposite. Often people think party tunes for summer, but for me it’s more about lying around in hammocks, swimming in water, lazy evenings. This song really soundtracked London summer for me last year. It has the lazy, dreamy quality, but it’s got a slightly twisted nature to it lyrically. It’s got an underpinning woozy, drony electric guitars, and I love the way her voice sounds so clear in the middle all that psychedelia. Then it drifts into something almost ambient towards the end, so it carries on for two or three minutes pure bliss-out, chordal stuff. It’s a beautiful thing to have on when you’re walking somewhere with natural beauty.
Ari Lennox: Night Drive, 2016
Chosen by Mahalia
I actually don’t drive, but there’s something about this song that makes me want to get in a car on a night when the sun’s setting and be driving down country roads on my own, blasting the music out. I heard it when I was on tour in America four weeks ago, and I’ve been obsessed with Ari Lennox since. Her voice feels kind a throwback – she has hints Erykah Badu in her – but she still sounds so current and fresh and new. It’s just a really summery, sweet, almost sensual women’s bop. It’s the kind music I always want to smile to.
Feist: 1234, 2007
Chosen by Alex Pall (Chainsmokers)
We can’t remember exactly where we first heard this – to be honest most likely from the Apple commercial – but it was an instant feeling “let me play this song again and again”. It reminds us our youth, being teenagers. When you’re that age you’re just kind living it up, you have so few worries. For us a great summer song is about the feeling you get when you listen to it… summer is about letting loose, having fun, being outside. As a musician you find your mood changes as summer is approaching, and you intuitively start making music that feels happier and uplifting.
William DeVaughn: Be Thankful for What You Got, 1974
Chosen by Shura
This is one those songs that somehow, even with a Massive Attack cover it, just passed me by. I didn’t hear it until this year, when I was in upstate New York doing some recording in a cabin in the woods in the middle nowhere – we were drinking beer, making s’mores around a fire pit, and I remember being played this song and getting absolute goosebumps. There’s something so loose but at the same time tight about the groove – just relaxed and confident. It sounds like how I feel summer should. The message is also really important: we could all do with more that in our lives.
Philip Glass: Einstein on the Beach, 1976
Chosen by Derrick May
I can’t stand to listen to dance music outside work – I stay the hell away from it. So in the summer I like to listen to Philip Glass, especially this album, which is one song as far as I’m concerned. It’s repetitive, it’s irritating: to be able to relax into it takes a certain amount discipline. I like to listen to it when the sun is setting – it’s powerful and emotional, more subconscious than people give it credit for. Another one would be Manuel Göttsching’s E2-E4. It’s 59 minutes long and absolutely beautiful. It’s a serene, angelic piece electronic music with jazz overtones, and it fits any particular frame mind I might be in.
The Specials: Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think), 1980
Chosen by Ed Simons (Chemical Brothers)
Instant joy: a message hedonistic defiance in the face the inexorable passage time. We’ve taken to playing this at full pelt in the dressing room before we take the stage at various festivals. We dance together, and it helps to remind ourselves to be here right now, to remember that we’re here to enjoy ourselves and hopefully give people a moment escape. The words seem so hopeful and insistent. The time is now, and we need to dim the constant noise generated by the idiots running the world right now.