There’s nothing quite like summer. Days are longer, the temperature rises and people emerge from their homes to bask in the sun.
Each year there are summer songs that are so popular, they’re practically inescapable. You hear them everywhere: bars, movie theaters, malls or simply blasting from car stereos. These tunes inevitably become the soundtrack of the summers in which they peaked; mini time capsules that bring back warm memories with every listen.
In some instances, the songs can reflect broader changes in music. Such was the case for Soundgarden’s summer 1994 hit “Black Hole Sun,” which helped usher grunge to the mainstream, and the Bee Gees “Jive Talkin’,” which foreshadowed the disco wave.
Many summer songs have left indelible impacts on the fabric of pop culture. Like “When Doves Cry,” Prince’s massive 1984 hit from his movie and album Purple Rain, and Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer,” which spawned one of the greatest music videos of MTV’s classic era.
More than anything, the best summer songs bring music fans together. They add life to every barbecue and backyard cookout, often becoming the most memorable songs of their respective year. A look to the mid-’60s, when the Beatles “A Hard Day’s Night” and the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” ruled back-to-back summers, proves the generational staying power of the perfect summer track.
We’ve combed through the archives, analyzing song chart data from every summer from 1960 through 2000. Sales stats, airplay and cultural impact were all taken into account. Here’s UCR’s collection of rock’s biggest summer song every year during that time frame.