Thursday, May 21, 2009

Behind The Sample: 'Summer in the City'

"Hot town, summer in the city, back of my neck getting dirty and gritty"

Chances are, you've heard those lyrics before. They belong to none other than The Lovin' Spoonful's 1966 hit, "Summer in the City."

The single jumped to #1 on the Billboard charts, and has since gone down in the classic rock history books for its signature keyboard and organ structure.

You probably already know that the single was a big hit and that it's still played regularly on classic rock radio. You may even recall cover versions of the song by BB King and Joe Cocker. What you might not have known is the influence it has had as a sample in popular music.

In 1973, legendary producer/songwriter Quincy Jones did a smooth-jazz interpretation of "Summer in the City," which emphasized the keyboard/organ interplay of the original.

Jones' seminal take on "Summer in the City" was able to cross over into future generations when hip-hop wordsmiths, The Pharcyde, broke onto the rap scene in 1992 with their iconic single, "Passin' Me By."

The song, recounting boyhood crushes and heartbreak, was built on a recognizable sample of "Summer in the City," as well as The Weather Report's "125th Street Congress," and Hendrix's "Are You Experienced?"

Three years later, Jones' cover was the basis for the Nightmares on Wax trip-hop/electronica song, "Nights Introlude," from its 1995 album, Smokers Delight.

In 1998, Massive Attack furthered the sample's use in trip-hop with limited use in the song, "Exchange."

But as if that wasn't already enough evidence of the sample's popularity...

Joe, a popular R&B singer, had a #1 single in 2001 with the remix of his track, "Stutter." The song finds the singer calling out his girlfriend for lying over an affair. Beyond the familiar keyboard loop itself, one recognizably stuttered lyric is, "My dear, my dear, my dear, you do not know me, but I know you very well, now let me tell you that I c-c-c-c-caught you."

Joe - "Stutter (remix, feat. Mystikal)"

Sound familiar? If not, listen again to that last verse of The Pharcyde's, "Passin' Me By."

At one point, The Pharcyde's lyrics speak of a love letter that reads, "My dear, my dear, my dear, you do not know me but I know you very well, now let me tell you about the feelings I have for you..."

Hmm. So, I suppose this would mean that Joe's best hook is based off of The Pharcyde's hook, which is based off of Quincy Jones' hook from his song which covers a classic rock single by The Lovin' Spoonful, who were influenced by the British Invasion movement in the 1960s. Interesting.

It is a test to just how far a good musical idea can reach. A well-written song can recur and be interpreted through generations of new musicians.

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1 comment:

Miss L said...

Summer in the City is one of my favorite songs. About the only redeeming aspect of Die Hard III is the way they used this song at the beginning of it.