Thursday, July 1, 2010

July 1: Chad & Jeremy, "A Summer Song"

Artist: Chad & Jeremy
Song: A Summer Song
Album: A Summer Song (single)
Year: 1964

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For an overwhelming majority of people, the term "British Invasion" refers to a very specific few years, and perhaps more directly, refers to three, maybe four VERY specific bands.  While the first half of this is correct, the truth of the matter is, there were dozens of bands and singers involved in this "invasion," yet a majority of them where overshadowed by the few "big" bands that seemed to take over the world over night.  In some cases, this "invasion" was spurred by the fact that the sounds being created were so "fresh" and unique that the masses flooded to them; while in other cases, the reality was that bands having trouble "catching on" in the " U.K. were finding far better success with U.S. audiences.  Fitting into this latter category, as well as showing the "non-rock" side of the British Invasion, on many levels, the duo known as Chad & Jeremy were just as important to the progression of music as their contemporaries.  Responsible for a handful of hits on both sides of the Atlantic, this duo took the base of the folk style and found a way to make it more hip and give it a pop sensibility that few other artists of the time were able to achieve.  Bringing a fantastic sense of subtlety to their music, Chad & Jeremy stood in stark contrast to the long line of bands that were basically copying the formula of the "big" rock bands, and their beautiful, original sound is perhaps no better personified than in their 1964 hit single, "A Summer Song."

While at first look, this song may seem like little more than a simple acoustic-based ballad, there is far more going on in "A Summer Song" than nearly any other song of the time.  Upon closer inspection, there is little that can be argued against the songs' complexity, as both in terms of musical arrangement as well as variety in instrumentation, the song stands all on its own.  Though the base of the song lives within the lone, soft acoustic guitar line, it seems that with every verse, the duo incorporates yet another musical element into the song.  While the similarly gentle string arrangement comes off as a "natural" addition to the musical background, when the horn section enters the fold halfway through "A Summer Song," it not only gives the song greater depth, but it also injects a bit of a Latin flavor into the tune. It is this factor, this manner of blending sounds together that sets "A Summer Song" so far apart from the rest of the music being made at the time, and one can find influences of the music of Chad & Jeremy in later artists ranging from Nick Drake to Belle & Sebastian.  Furthermore, the way that the soft guitar playing is able to make the song "sway" is perhaps the key to its beauty, and the duo somehow found a way to perfectly capture the mood of a summer breeze within their instrumentation and musical arrangement on this song.

However, as fantastic and influential as the music is on "A Summer Song," there is never any question that this track is all about the sensational vocal work from the duo of Chad & Jeremy.  Powered by their blissful harmonies, this more subdued vocal approach was yet another way that the pair stood in stark contrast to the "popular" sound of the time.  Few vocal pairings can claim the synergy that is found within the voices of Chad & Jeremy, and the attitude with which they approach their music seems to bridge the gap between the more "hip" Beatnik sound and the more mainstream style of music.  Rarely pushing their voices above the steady, delicate power of the verses, the duo stand as early proof of the idea of volume not being equal to quality, and the overall beauty of the song remains intact more than forty years after its first release.  Yet, the lasting impact of the song is certainly due as much to the lyrics as it is to the vocals, as this is the final area where Chad & Jeremy show that there is much power to be found within subtlety.  Taking a very unique approach to the "standard" love song, it is perhaps this unsuspecting, perhaps more intelligent method that shows the true genius of the duo, and their words are as perfectly crafted as the music and singing on the song.  From the soft breeze of summer air to the often overlooked grace of summer rain, the pair manages to turn every verse into a mesmerizing ode to the simpler things in life, and one would be hard pressed to find a song from any era that can compare in this aspect.

Using subtlety as their core ethos, the duo of Chad & Jeremy were able to create one of the most understated, yet unquestionably beautiful songs in history with their 1964 classic, "A Summer Song."  Even the title itself leaves little to the imagination, but at the same time, the title sets the listener in the correct state of mind, and the music that follows perfectly captures every characteristic of a calm summer afternoon.  As the guitar delicately meanders across the track, regardless of the location of the listener, things seem to slow down, and "A Summer Song" remains one of the most uniquely enjoyable songs ever recorded.  Integrating harmonic techniques that draw inspiration from the "doo wop" groups of the previous musical era, many British rock bands took a page from Chad & Jeremy and found ways to place such vocal textures into their own music over the following years.  Yet there is perhaps no finer example of just how talented this duo was than in the fact that the entire song itself can be interpreted in a number of seemingly contrasting ways.  While at face value, the song may seem as a tribute to te beauty of a summer afternoon, one can also read the song as a lament to lost love and times shared together.  This ability to inject an almost sorrowful mood alongside one of relaxation and happiness is truly unprecedented, and it is the final piece that makes Chad & Jeremy's 1964 hit single, "A Summer Song" such an unparalleled musical feat.

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