The 50 best summer songs ever made

The sun is out and the beach is a bus ride away. All you need is our best summer songs playlist and you’re good to go.

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20

“In the Summertime” by Mungo Jerry (1970)

A giddy, unguilty pleasure of a one-hit-wonder track, this 1970 best-seller bounces with a feeling that positively radiates effervescent summertime fun. Because of one lyric in particular—“have a drink, have a drive / go out and see what you can find,” the tune also surfaced in a U.K. public service campaign against drunk driving.—Steve Smith

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19

“Summer Nights” by John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John and the cast of Grease (1978)

What would summer be without summer flings? Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey capture the magic of transient teen romance in this clever doo-wop number from their 1972 musical, Grease, which achieved even greater cultural ubiquity in its blockbuster 1978 movie adaptation. The song’s playful he-said-she-said structure enacts (and lightly spoofs) 1950s gender roles: The guys are all about sex and braggadocio, while the girls want to hear about tenderness and status. And the sing-along choruses make “Summer Nights” an ideal vessel for groups at karaoke bars, where you can hear it every night, all year round.—Adam Feldman

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18

“You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth” by Meat Loaf (1977)

“On a hot summer night, would you offer your throat to the wolf with the red roses?” Get past that torrid bit of opening narrative, and what remains is the former Marvin Lee Aday’s first single, and one of his best, a retro-feeling, slightly bombastic paean to discovering first love on a hot summer night.—Steve Smith

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17
The Smiths

“Ask” by the Smiths (1986)

“Spending warm summer days indoors…” Oh, you know the type—maybe you’ve been the type—the kind of melancholically minded, poetic youth who simply can’t risk your delicate complexion or even more delicate disposition in the dazzle of sunshine and the risk of actual fun. Morrissey—the scrooge of summer—we salute you for this 1986 Smiths classic, urging shy types to come on out of their shells: “If there’s something you’d like to try, ask me, I won’t say no, how could I.” It is summer, after all.—Sophie Harris

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16
Pavement

“Summer Babe” by Pavement (1992)

One of the finest examples of lyrics that made no sense making perfect sense (“I saw your girlfriend and she was eatin’ her fingers like they’re just another meal”), this slacker anthem broke hearts and starred on mixtapes for many a summer after its 1992 release. The true meaning of the song, of course, comes together when usually deadpan singer Stephen Malkmus howls, “Don’t gooooooooo!!!!” and a thousand crush-wounded teenagers collapsed face-first onto their beds.—Sophie Harris

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15
Bryan Adams

“Summer of ’69” by Bryan Adams (1985)

The facts might be a little fuzzy—Bryan Adams was only nine years old in the actual summer of ’69—but it’s a safe bet that the Ontario song man was speaking from experience when he looked back on the twin pleasures of rock and romance in this 1985 roots-pop staple. Though Adams himself has tipped fans off to the cheeseball innuendo in the title, we prefer to think of this one in PG terms: an all-purpose ode to the endless possibility of three gloriously school-free adolescent months.—Hank Shteamer

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14
Alice Cooper

“School’s Out for Summer” by Alice Cooper (1972)

These days, shock-rock godfather Alice Cooper’s idea of summertime fun is hitting the links at some tony country club. But back in 1972, Cooper and his rough-and-tumble band perfectly captured the rowdy spirit of the last day of school—which Cooper rated as second only to Christmas as the most important day on the calendar.—Steve Smith

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13
The Surfaris

“Wipe Out” by the Surfaris (1963)

A high-pitched laugh, a drum fill that inspired thousands of kids to annoy parents at the dinner table and an instantly recognizable guitar riff: This is how you start a song. Interestingly, “Wipe Out” was originally penned as a last-minute B-side—only to became arguably the most recognizable surf-rock cut ever. And 50 years after it’s release, it still sounds fun as hell.—Tim Lowery

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12
Martha and the Vandellas

“Dancing in the Street” by Martha and the Vandellas (1964)

Martha and the Vandellas already appear on this list, for their 1963 Motown breakthrough, “(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave.” But their even more enduring contribution to the estival catalog is 1964’s “Dancing in the Street,” an exuberant call to booty-shaking action cowritten by a young Marvin Gaye (who also played drums on the recording). In this case, it’s not love that brings a sense of summer, but summer that brings a sense of love: an occasion for people “across the nation” and “around the world” to join in celebration. This democratic attitude took on civil-rights overtones when “Dancing in the Street” was appropriated as an unofficial anthem of the 1965 Watts riots in Los Angeles. But Martha Reeves insisted that it was not intended in that spirit. “My Lord, it was a party song,” she said, and whatever else it might have become, no one can argue with that.—Adam Feldman

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11
Jonathan Richman

“That Summer Feelin’ ” by Jonathan Richman (1984)

No one does wistful nostalgia and pure, unadulterated joy quite like Jonathan Richman, the reformed punk godfather turned wide-eyed purveyor of childlike wonder. Still, there’s a knowing edge to Richman’s recollections: “That summer feeling’s gonna haunt you the rest of your life.”—Steve Smith

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Users say

14 comments
Sophie M
Sophie M

I would say, anyone going to the beach with kids must bring plenty of sand toys to engage their kids while they enjoy the beach, the sun and these awesome beach tracks.

Alex P
Alex P

You forgot this one! :) 

Martha Johnson
Martha Johnson

The real kick comes from seeing how good a song makes people feel, not making a "best ever list". Still it wouldn't hurt when you do see your song in there with some of these epic summer hits. I sang the original lead vocal on 'Martha and the Muffins' song ECHO BEACH and here it is 33 years later and the song endures. That's satisfaction. MJ

jh
jh

where is--- Surf City by Jan and Dean, and Margaritaville by Buffett. also, Day of the Locusts by B Dylan. i could only read down to # 47. TONY website is always technically F*&^% up

Bill Blagger
Bill Blagger

Did I miss Echo Beach? Did I miss Echo Beach? So far away in time.

Paul Czekaj
Paul Czekaj

Hi my name is Paul Czekaj, Singer/songwriter from New Jersey. I've just released a new music video called "At the Beach." It shows all the fun and interesting things one can do where the sand meets ocean. I hope you enjoy it and add it to your beach list. here's the link: http://youtu.be/yd93dZXatWk Thanks!

Jen
Jen

Well, I must say I was rather disappointed to see Sinatra's "Summer Wind" omitted from this list as well as not one Jimmy Buffet song being included. And have NO clue why that Meatloaf song is on a summertime song top 50 list. However, you redeemed yourselves by including my favorite band of all time...The Ramones. Oh, did "Hazy, Lazy, Crazy Days of Summer" by Nat King Cole make the list? I forgot if it was on here, if not then that should have been on here too.

Jack Watters
Jack Watters

"Summertime" by The Sundays is better than about 20 songs on this list. Perfect summer pop song!

Tammy sharpe
Tammy sharpe

Thanks it really helped! We as at a bar and grill and a band was taken requests for songs to sing or play!!! I love surf city, NC;P

Tim A
Tim A

@Martha Johnson  Really? That is on most of my summer playlists. Not sure if you are still in Toronto but they play you a lot on Sundays on 102.1. From 11-5 they go back to the glory days. 


This list is pretty junk anyway. 


Laura C
Laura C

@Jason Howell In the Summertime is on the list :)

Listen to Time Out's 50 best summer songs playlist on Spotify

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