Same as it ever was.
In case you’re focused on Harvey, and we all should be, you might be unaware we’re experiencing a record-setting heat wave in Southern California, and unlike in the rest of the country, so many of us don’t have air conditioning, we look forward to driving in our automobiles, none of which come without A/C, except for high-end racing models, and we used to go to the movies or the mall, when those were still a thing, but instead I’ve spent the last two days in front of the fan, schvitzing.
Until I went to dinner last night at Ago.
But that’s another story.
And what astounded me as I was driving down the 10, onto La Cienega, was it got dark, this is the first time this summer this has happened. Even last weekend, when I drove downtown to see Tony Hawk and his film, it was still light out, but the seasons are changing, fall is imminent.
But not yet in SoCal.
In SoCal it’s blistering. And it’s different from the east coast. It’s not humid, it’s more akin to the desert. It’s a dry heat with a soft wind and it’s almost exotic, if it weren’t so damn hot. But late at night, around midnight, the temp drops a bit and it’s quiet, L.A.’s an early town, and this song started going through my head. And I immediately went inside and fired up my phone to hear Walter Egan’s “Hot Summer Nights.”
The hit was “Magnet and Steel,” but my favorite was always the closing cut, “Hot Summer Nights.”
There was a time not too far gone
When I was changed by just a song
Like driving down the avenue today and hearing classics on Sixties on 6. We were all addicted to the radio, we were all in it together, and the irony is that paradigm continued into the seventies, only it switched to the FM dial. Ignore the “Billboard” charts, they don’t reflect reality, the culture. An extended number one today is not like one from yesteryear, when the records moved faster and everybody knew them.
So in 1978, AOR ruled, disco was a sideshow, it wasn’t until a year later that both crashed, that the record business tanked. The Stones were playing stadiums and the biggest American bands were the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac.
And isn’t it funny that those are the two biggest bands of the seventies still. And you see Lindsey Buckingham produced Walter Egan’s album “Not Shy,” from which the two songs above emanate.
On the radio, in the car
The pounding electric guitars
I miss that era. When gatekeepers exposed us to what was worthy and we knew it. Now there are no gatekeepers and no ads but utter chaos. I love hearing great new music, but oftentimes when I do I wonder if I’m the only one listening. But back then, we all were.
Now today all the rappers work together and the old farts excoriate them, saying that’s not music. But it wasn’t much different way back when. Hell, Lindsey and Stevie performed the same trick for John Stewart the next year when “Gold” became Stewart’s only solo hit.
Now “Hot Summer Nights” is positively Egan. But it’s the subtle Fleetwood Mac overtones that put it over the top.
First and foremost, there’s the mood, it’s dark. Kinda like being at the lake skinny-dipping in the dark, something we used to do way back when, before there were cameras everywhere, when if you were nekkid only you and your friends knew. And the night has a different vibe. Your body turns off and your brain turns on and you feel strangely alive.
Return with me to when times were best
We were friends who could pass any test
We shared our hopes, our dreams and our goals
And the Fundamental Roll
That’s a reference. To Egan’s prior album, entitled “Fundamental Roll.” But the past is full of these moments, that only mean something to those who were there, you reflect back and smile, wonder if those times will ever come again, and your brain is turned on by the record.
As we sang in the hot, dark rooms
Happy just to play our tunes
Club music. Before deejays. When you had to get out of the house, when there was no action at home. You went to the bar to get loose, to get lucky, and there was always music in the background, sometimes records, oftentimes a band, and you envied them, because they were doing what they loved and making money at it.
It felt good when we did it right
It felt good on a hot summer night
Listen for Stevie Nicks’s backup vocals.
But you’re enraptured by Lindsey Buckingham’s guitar-playing right away. Hell, I looked for my vinyl, I can’t find it, but it’s somewhere, so I’m not absolutely sure without credits that Lindsey is playing the intro, but it’s his style, and then there are the accents that could only be him, it’s a Fleetwood Mac track today’s generation has never heard.
And then comes the solo.
“Hot Summer Nights” is infectious.
And so it lives and it always will
The songs we’ve sung are in us still
Ringing out with all their might
In the heart of a hot summer night
So it’s forty years later. But I’ve never forgotten the song. And when I fired it up on my phone I felt this warmth spread through my body, reminding me of the power of music, what it means to me, a whole era started to spool through my brain, what I was doing, who I was with…
On a hot summer night.