Jonathan Richman’s lyrics for “That Summer Feeling” are American Songwriter Magazine’s Lyrics of The Week!

[American Songwriter]

June 9, 2013

By Jim Beviglia

The most popular summer songs tend to be about cars and sunshine and sweet romances, all things designed to makes us feel nostalgic and joyful when we hear them booming out of a stereo system. Yet Jonathan Richman has always looked at taken-for-granted subjects in a slightly askew manner, singing rhymes that sound like they were conjured up by Dr. Seuss’ morose cousin in so wobbly a manner that it feels like he somehow might spin right out of the recording.

So it’s no surprise that his 1983 song “That Summer Feeling” ends up revealing more about the hottest season, and our sometimes over-romanticized perception of it, than so many of the summer radio classics that we know and love. The song was featured on the Jonathan Sings! album, where Richman maintained the minimalist, oddball style he cultivated with his influential band The Modern Lovers yet matured after a fashion. As legendary rock critic Robert Christgau said about the album, “It couldn’t have happened if he hadn’t finally grown up, but it wouldn’t have been half as striking if he’d relinquished his kiddie lyricism in the bargain.”

Christgau called “That Summer Feeling,” an “admonitory campfire anthem,” and that description really nails a song that hits all the summer clichés but presents them in the shadows. For example, Richman sets an idyllic and rowdy seasonal scene with the following verse: “When the cool of the pond makes you drop down on it/When the smell of the lawn makes you flop down on it/When the teenage car gets the cop down on it.” Yet he quickly undercuts it all with the bittersweet refrain: “That summer feeling is gonna haunt you one day in your life.”

Richman contrasts the fun times of the present with how things will change in the future: “And if you wait until you’re older/A sad resentment will smolder one day.” As the song progresses, he seems to suggest that maybe the pleasures of those magical months are more illusory than we’d like to admit: “And you boys long for some little girl that you dated/Do you long for her or for the way you were?”

“You pick these things apart they’re not that appealin’,” he sings. “You put them together and you’ll get a certain feeling.” It is a rare song that can make you long for the summer days of youth and still cast doubt on how special they really were in the first place. Then again, Jonathan Richman is a rare songwriter. So if you’re worn out already by the relentless glorification of this season, find an air conditioned-room far from the beach and play “That Summer Feeling” for a wistful, wonderful take on the next three months.

“That Summer Feeling”

That summer feeling (3x)
When there’s things to do not because you gotta
When you run for love not because you oughta
When you trust your friends with no reason notta
The joy I name shall not be tamed

And that summer feeling is gonna haunt you one day in your life

When the cool of the pond makes you drop down on it
When the smell of the lawn makes you flop down on it
When the teenage car gets the cop down on it
The time is here for one more year

And that summer feeling is gonna haunt you one day in your life

If you’ve forgotten what I’m naming
You’re gonna long to reclaim it one day
Because that summer feeling is gonna haunt you one day in your life
And if you wait until your older
A sad resentment will smoulder one day
And Then that summer feeling is gonna haunt you
And that summer feeling’s gonna taunt you
And then that summer feeling is gonna hurt you one day in your life

When even fourth grade starts looking good
Which you hated,
And first grade’s looking good too,
Overrated,
And you boys long for some little girl that you dated
Do you long for her of for the way you were?
That summer feeling is gonna haunt you one day in your life

When the Oldsmobile has got the top down on it
When the catamaran has got the drop down on it
When the flat of the land has got the crop down on it
Some things were good before and some things never were
But that summer feeling is gonna haunt you
One day in your life.

Well when your friends are in town and they’ve got time for you
When you were never hanging around and they don’t ignore you
When you say what you will and they still adore you
Is that not appealing, it’s that summer feeling
That summer feeling is gonna haunt you one day in your life

It’s gonna haunt you
It’s gonna taunt you
You’re gonna want this feeling inside one more time
It’s gonna haunt you
It’s gonna taunt you
You’re gonna want this feeling inside one more time

When you’re hangin around the park with the water fountain
And there’s the little girl with the dirty ankles
But she’s on the swings where all the dust is kickin up
And you remember the ankle locket
And the way she flirted with you
For all this time how come?
Well that summer feeling is gonna haunt you one day in your life

You’ll throw away everything for it (2X)

When the playground that just was all dirt comes hauntin’
And that little girl that called you a flirt
Memory comes tauntin’
You pick these things apart they’re not that appealin’
You put them together and you’ll get a certain feeling
That summer feeling is gonna haunt you one day in your life