Retro Single Review: Alan Jackson, "Summertime Blues"

1994 | Peak: #1

A blatant attempt to recreate the “Chattahoochee” phenomenon.

It doesn't work.  Jackson's too old to be singing “Summertime Blues”, and the charm of the Eddie Cochran original is lost by forcing those country line-dance beats into the backing track.

It was a big hit, but “Summertime Blues” remains an artistic low point in his career.

Written by Jerry Capeheart and Eddie Cochran

Grade: D

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  1. This one never really moved me one way or the other. I do have to agree that it’s somewhat ill-fitting for a then-thirtysomething to sing about being “too young to vote” and whatnot.

  2. In the “Exes Live in Texas” review, we learn that “George Strait is not a cad, but he plays one on the radio.” The review is generally favorable. Strait also plays a man-whore in “the Fireman” and someone who seemingly slept around a bit in “Hollywood Squares.” But in the “Summertime Blues,” review we learn that Jackson was too old to be singing this song.

    In these cases, Strait and Jackson are clearly acting (though potentially Strait could morph into the character he plays, though Jackson can’t be a teen again absent time travel). Yet Strait gets a mildly favorable review while Jackson gets a D.

    What accounts for the difference? Is the difference that Jackson just sold the song poorly, but that he could have done better had he performed it differently while Strait does a better job acting? Is it sometimes okay for a singer to play a character that they clearly are not but other times not okay? When? Or is it something different. How to account for “Delta Dawn,” performed by young Tanya Tucker. I think Tucker did a great job with the song, but I doubt that at her young age she really understood the song’s meaning…

    What of Taylor Swift? As she grows older will it be inappropriate for her to perform her high-school themed songs? If she does perform them in 10 years, and turns in a near carbon copy of the performances she is doing now, will her performances be worse in some meaningful way? Less credible somehow, despite being near copies?

    I sure don’t know. On the one hand, I think some believability is nice in popular music. On the other hand, if a song is musically and lyrically catchy, I might like the song even if I doubt that the singer ever experienced the events discussed or even has a clue what the lyrics mean.

  3. Definitely not AJ’s best, but man, aside from the steaming pile that is “Country Boy” I’m not sure I can give any AJ single a D. I’m probably at about a C+ on this one. It’s not as good as Chatahoochie to be sure, but it’s still catchy, and the neo-traditional arrangement is still classically tight.

  4. Sweetcheeks, I can see where you’re coming from. I guess why “All My Ex’s Live in Texas” succeeds is not just in the charming vocal delivery, but also in that is was fairly original song from what Strait had already recorded, whereas, as Kevin concisely put it, “Summertime Blues” is a much too obvious attempt to recreate the success of “Chattahoochee”.

    This was actually played on CMC yesterday and I was trying to remember if you guys did a retro review for this or not, so I’m glad that’s cleared up. Next to many of the more contemporary songs around it, I did enjoy this song yesterday, but if you asked me to name my favourite AJ songs, I’d probably forget this one. I think a D is a bit harsh, but understandable.

    I know many artists try to record songs thematically similar to their own previous mega hits to try and recreate that success, but I can’t honesty think of many of these songs that actually better the artist’s original hit.

  5. Sweetcheeks-

    Not to speak for Kevin here, but to me the important difference is that Strait appears as if he could be a viable candidate to fill the role of the song’s chacter, even though he doesn’t really have jilted ex-wives all over Texas. Jackson, on the other hand, is quite obviously singing from the perspective of a person far below his age range, which jars the listener out of the story. It’s far easier to imagine George Strait being a cad than it is to imagine Alan Jackson being under 18 and still living with his parents.

    As for Taylor Swift, whether she’ll still be singing “She’s cheer captain, and I’m on the bleachers” when she’s 40 remains to be seen. Likewise, I think we’ll just have to wait and see how her future output holds up against her previous hits. But since you also mention Tanya Tucker, I’ll just mention that while she may or may not have understood the song’s full meaning, I do think it noteworthy that she was singing as a third-person narrator, not as the titular character herself.

  6. For me it’s mostly what Kevin said about the drastic change to the rhythm in order to make it more “country.” If you’re portraying a rebellious teen, Alan’s country line-dance-beat is not in the same musical stratosphere as the locomotive-meets-Bo-Diddly rhythm of Eddie Cochran’s original.

    This was about as credible as Faith Hill’s cover of “Piece Of My Heart.” (What was SHE thinking??)

  7. I would’t give this effort a “D” but it is far from being one of his better efforts. If I hadn’t heard the original Eddie Cochran version as a boy with its charismatic guitar riff, I probably would like this version better but the song was covered many times before Alan’s recording (including by The Who and Blue Cheer)and the previous covers retained the guitar riff

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