7 ’80s Rock Songs to Soundtrack Your Summer
By Andrew Daly
The hours on this summer’s proverbial clock may be dwindling, metal heads, but don’t fret just yet—we’ve still got time left to kick back and soak up the sun. Just don’t forget your sunblock.
White and greasy sun protection aside, Classic Rock History has another prescription for your summer fun—a batch of lively songs with long soundtracked days spent on the beach or at backyard BBQs galore. Sounds pretty tasty, right?
Indeed, no matter how much we love to sweat it out on the sand, even the most sunshine loving of us needs a break now and again. To that end, there’s no better anecdote than music. And as far as music goes, if you’re the rock and metal-adoring sort, timeless cuts by Bon Jovi, Van Halen, and Guns N’ Roses will surely get you where you need to go.
And so, crack a beer, squirt some ketchup and mustard on that hotdog, and crank that ghetto blaster to ten while we look back on seven ’80s rock songs to soundtrack your summer.
# 7 – 99 In the Shade – Bon Jovi (1988)
Bon Jovi’s 1mega record to remember, New Jersey, hit shelves in September of 1988, just in time to lap up the last remnants of summer shine. To that end, it’s filled with big hooks, massive solos, and soaring vocal performances. But as far as songs for summer go, New Jersey’s penultimate track, “99 In the Shade,” surely takes the cake. With harmonies, and melodies galore, it’s the perfect cut to settle under a tree as you seek shelter from a long day spent in the heat.
# 6 – California Girls – David Lee Roth (1985)
If the front cover of David Lee Roth’s 1985 EP, Crazy from the Heat—which features a shirtless yet scarved Roth basking in the ocean—doesn’t scream summer, then, to be sure, Roth’s timeless cover of the Beach Boys “California Girls” does. It’s more than a touch of sacrilege to say that Roth bettered the iconic surf rock band’s ’60s classic, but—he did just that. While it’s not totally original, Roth’s larger-than-life persona and penchant for over-the-top, machismo-driven antics make his version of “California Girls” an essential summer anthem for ’80s rockers.
# 5 – Nothin’ But a Good Time – Poison (1988)
About as good time as it gets, Poison’s classic cut from 1988’s Open Up and Say… Ahh! is quintessential stuff when it comes to summer vibes via ’80s rock. And it’s with good reason, and Bret Michael’s slick vocals nestle up against C.C. DeVille’s gain-drenched leads in a way that conjures memories of days spent sipping Corona on the beach without a care in the world. This one is simple… close your eyes, settle back, drop a lime in the neck of your cerveza, and let the sweet sounds of the Sunset Strip carry you away.
# 4 – Summertime Girls – Y&T (1985)
What’s not to love about a music video that opens with a homeless person sifting through a trash can on a beach, only for Y&T’s drummer, Leonard Haze, to suddenly emerge from said trash can? What’s more, what’s not to love about a video that features the rest of the band suddenly emerging from a beach cave and rupturing from the sand on said beach? Is it campy? Yes. Is it all the things we love about ’80s MTV imagery, coupled with the utterly balls-to-the-wall nature of Y&T in the ’80s? You bet. Sometimes we need a not-so-subtle reminder that summer is about fun in the sun, and with 1985’s “Summertime Girls,” which comes off of Open Fire, Dave Meniketti and company did just that.
# 3 – Permanent Vacation – Aerosmith (1987)
You don’t often associate Aerosmith with steel drums, but that didn’t stop them from dropping that, along with more than a few other island-related sounds, into the mix on their 1986 cut, “Permanent Vacation,” which comes off the album of the same name. Of note, “Permanent Vacation” was part of the start of Aerosmith’s shift toward pop metal, which was uber-successful and saw the band rise to an unforeseen and equally unforgettable second wave of popularity in the ’80s. Beyond the sonic shift, Steven Tyler’s signature screeches are in fine form, as is Joe Perry, who pops the clutch and delivers a tasty bit of soloage that can be liked to a sweaty, six-margarita-deep sort of night.
# 2 – Summer Nights -Van Halen (1986)
It doesn’t get much more laid back than Sammy Hagar’s big-smiling, red-rocking personality. And, of course, Eddie Van Halen’s slice-of-heaven licks and good-time vibe only add to the summer-laden imagery of the aptly titled “Summer Nights,” which comes off Van Halen’s 1986 who-needs-David-Lee-Roth stunner, 5150. With a slinky yet wet-sounding riff that stays with you for days and lyrical themes that transport the listener to sun-drenched dive bars on hot August nights, to be sure, “Summer Nights” is par for the course for one of SoCal’s most fun-loving, and high-flying bands. Looking for something to send you into a perpetual, endless summer state? Look no further than “Summer Nights.”
# 1 – Paradise City – Guns N’ Roses (1987)
As far as ’80s rock goes, if there’s one song that truly encapsulates summer and vibes that are often associated with the sunniest of seasons, it has to be Guns N’ Roses’ 1987 hit for the ages, “Paradise City.” Pulled from Gun N’ Roses’s equally massive album, Appetite for Destruction, “Paradise City” is high energy and brimming with the sort of imagery that transports one directly to the heart of your favorite sunny destination via a vortex of bustling rhythms via Duff McKagen, ear-piercing vocals laid forth by Axl Rose, and an outro solo for the ages that reminds the world that through laid back swagger, and Les Paul-toting grandeur, Slash is the ultimate ’80s guitar icon.
7 ’80s Rock Songs To Soundtrack Your Summer article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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