David's last summer - or, music that deals with the transition from adolescence into a different world
May 11, 2006 12:22 PM   Subscribe

Looking for songs that have a wistful, bittersweet feel to them that captures the move from adolescence into "adult" life - eg the moments before leaving school, or before getting your first job.

Why do I ask? Well, my Ipod spat out the following songs on shuffle the other day:

Pulp - David's Last Summer
Belle and Sebastian - A Summer Wasting
The Divine Comedy - The Summerhouse

They all have a definite hint of nostalgia to them, and all touch on the transition from one phase of your life into another. I thought I'd try to put together a playlist including them and other similar songs. It doesn't have to be specifically about "last summers", simply about those threshold-type moments where you go from one phase of your life to another.

Any suggestions? Although the examples above are all pretty mainstream indie, I'd be interested in any musical style, genre or era.

Note - I'm really after songs that specifically deal musically or lyrically with these sort of themes, rather than songs that don't directly deal with them but which you associate with such moments due to your own personal experiences.
posted by greycap to Media & Arts (97 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Dar Williams - The End of Summer
Stars - Reunion
Scotland Yard Gospel Choir - Topsy Turvy

I don't know any more! Good topic, by the way.
posted by i8ny3x at 12:29 PM on May 11, 2006

Britney Spears - I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman

There's a wikipedia article about this song. Amazing.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:31 PM on May 11, 2006

Neil Young, Sugar Mountain
posted by Pattie at 12:34 PM on May 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

New Slang by The Shins
posted by yodelingisfun at 12:35 PM on May 11, 2006

Death Cab for Cutie - Photobooth.
posted by Siobhan at 12:36 PM on May 11, 2006

In Tall Buildings, John Hartford.
posted by dan g. at 12:36 PM on May 11, 2006

The Boys of Summer, by Don Henley or The Ataris - it makes me sad.
posted by iconomy at 12:38 PM on May 11, 2006

Bryan Adams, "Summer of '69"
Bob Seger, "Against the Wind"

/sappy on the inside
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:39 PM on May 11, 2006

White Stripes - We're Going to Be Friends.
posted by muddgirl at 12:40 PM on May 11, 2006

Joe Cocker - With A Little Help From My Friends
John Coltrane - Blue Train
U2 - Bad
Simon & Garfunkle - Sound of Silence
Five Stairsteps - Ooh Child
Cowboy Junkies - Sweet Jane
posted by lilnemo at 12:41 PM on May 11, 2006

Father & Son, by Cat Stevens
posted by amro at 12:41 PM on May 11, 2006

Actually, Wild World by Cat Stevens is better (for your theme).
posted by amro at 12:43 PM on May 11, 2006

To Sir With Love, by Lulu.
posted by JanetLand at 12:45 PM on May 11, 2006

Ummm....how about the whole Smith's catalog? Nobody does angst like Morriessy.
posted by cosmicbandito at 12:45 PM on May 11, 2006

"Still Fighting It" by Ben Folds.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:47 PM on May 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

Harry Chapin, "Cat's in the Cradle".
posted by sellout at 12:48 PM on May 11, 2006

Most Jimmy Eat World songs would probably fit the bill. Guys in their 30s singing about the angst of teens and early twenties does it everytime.

And Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie album.
posted by JekPorkins at 12:48 PM on May 11, 2006

"Puff, the Magic Dragon" by Peter, Paul, and Mary

"Return to Pooh Corner" by Kenny Loggins

and for something darker...

"Terry" by James McMurtry
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:50 PM on May 11, 2006

"The City" by The Dismemberment Plan, fits the bill, but it's about being left somewhere, rather than leaving.
posted by Kwantsar at 12:53 PM on May 11, 2006

Broke Into the Old Apartment - Barenaked Ladies
The Freshman - Verve Pipe
Breathe - Anna Nalick
posted by Ostara at 12:54 PM on May 11, 2006

Just Like Honey by Jesus and Mary Chain. Sort of.
posted by surferboy at 12:56 PM on May 11, 2006

Nothing Lasts Forever - Echo and the Bunnymen
posted by gergtreble at 12:57 PM on May 11, 2006

Forever Young-Alphhaville
Summer Feeling-Jonathon Richman
posted by sourwookie at 12:58 PM on May 11, 2006

Joe Walsh - In the City
posted by lilnemo at 1:00 PM on May 11, 2006

Dropout- Flaming Lips
posted by kimdog at 1:01 PM on May 11, 2006

I don't think Chris Isaak means it literaly, but "Graduation Day" fits the bill.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 1:02 PM on May 11, 2006

I Don't Want To Grow Up by Tom Waits?
posted by Atom12 at 1:05 PM on May 11, 2006

wouldn't it be nice, beach boys
posted by matteo at 1:08 PM on May 11, 2006

I love questions that test my musical knowledge.

"Stay Gold, Ponyboy" by the Get Up Kids. That whole Four Minute Mile album really is soaking in cheep teenage nostalgia, but hey, emo is for the kids, baby!
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 1:09 PM on May 11, 2006

matteo's answer reminds me of another: "Wonderful World" by Sam Cooke.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 1:12 PM on May 11, 2006

"The King Of Carrot Flowers Pt. One" by Neutral Milk Hotel.

Bit dark though.
posted by ed\26h at 1:14 PM on May 11, 2006

"Jack and Diane" - John Cougar Mellencamp

"The Circle Game" - Joni Mitchell

"It Was A Very Good Year" - Frank Sinatra

"When I Grow Up" - The Beach Boys
posted by briank at 1:14 PM on May 11, 2006

Jack and Diane - John Cougar (Mellencamp)
posted by dilettante at 1:14 PM on May 11, 2006

Damn it, I type too slowly.
posted by dilettante at 1:14 PM on May 11, 2006

"So Far Away" by Carole King is very nostalgic for me... a group of musicians (including me) from our music class performed it at our secondary school national record of achievement evening - the evening consisted of people being called up individually, their tutor saying something nice about them and them being handed their stupid NRA folder. People were also sitting at tables with their friends, and wine and beer were flowing freely.

Anyway, by the time we got up to play everyone was fairly pissed, but the room fell silent as everyone contemplated who they would be going away from.

(Yes personal nostalgia, but if you look up the lyrics/hear the song you'll see the relevence.)
posted by Lotto at 1:15 PM on May 11, 2006

I don't think any band captures transition quite as well as (the) Verve does. The entire album Urban Hymn's is a coming clean album... most of the lyrical content is about trying to make amends with the people you were close to when you were doing something very different. "Sonnet", "Bittersweet Symphony", "The Drugs Don't Work", "Weeping Willow", and "Lucky Man" all have very strong messages about moving on and making peace with the past. Awesome album in all respects.

Their earlier catalog has a lot of gems with that tone too. "On Your Own" and "History" both are great and both off A Northern Soul. "History" is the ultimate "I just found peace with a horrible breakup" song. "So Sister" is also in the category. There earlier stuff is better musically, but not lyrically.

The next best artist like that is Josh Ritter. He's an amazing singer-singwriter from Idaho who just recently blew up... in Ireland of all places. Haven't heard the new album, but "Roll On", "Otherside", and "Lawrence, KS." really have that coming-of-age tone in a more piney but still idealistic-Norman Rockwell kinda way...

Other songs...

G. Love - "The Things That I Used to Do": good, if a little goofy.

Jane's Addiction - "Summertime Rolls": has a very nostalgic effect with dreamy distortion.

Gov't Mule - "Soulshine": Some father-to-son advice goodness

MoFro - "Fireflies"

Sublime - "Jailhouse"

Iron & Wine - "Passing Afternoon": see Summertime Rolls

Led Zeppelin - "Going to California"

Modest Mouse - "Trailer Trash", "World at Large", and "Teeth Like God's Shoeshine" in a very obscure way

Smashing Pumpkins - "1979"

The entire Garden State soundtrack and maybe RCHP's "Scar Tissue"
posted by trinarian at 1:19 PM on May 11, 2006

Pretty much all of If It Weren't For Venetian Blinds by Piebald, especially the songs "Grace Kelly With Wings" and "Location is Everything".
posted by saladin at 1:22 PM on May 11, 2006

Kids (Don't Know) by the Orange Mothers works for me every time.
posted by Seamus at 1:22 PM on May 11, 2006

The Clash -- Stay Free
posted by simbiotic at 1:23 PM on May 11, 2006

I have to say that some of the songs in this thread seem to be about growing up but don't capture the bittersweet, emotional feelings the poster wants (some in fact are kind of carefree or nonchalant). I'm hesitant to point out examples, but I promise they're there.
posted by rolypolyman at 1:24 PM on May 11, 2006

Friends Forever -- Old 97s makes me think about my friends and I, each of us discovering things about ourselves that would lead us on diverging paths.
posted by Good Brain at 1:24 PM on May 11, 2006

"Ghost World" -- Aimee Mann. Inspired by the graphic novel that became a movie.

And speaking of soundtracks, the Cruel Intentions soundtrack contains lots of teen nostalgia songs from the late 90's, including Verve's Bittersweet Symphony mentioned above.
posted by junkbox at 1:25 PM on May 11, 2006

Sister Christian - Night Ranger
posted by Guy Smiley at 1:30 PM on May 11, 2006

Maggie Mae by Rod Stewart
posted by macadamiaranch at 1:32 PM on May 11, 2006

"Graduation" by Vitamin C? Can't believe nobody mentioned that.

"Do you realize" by The Flaming Lips.
posted by aeighty at 1:32 PM on May 11, 2006

Three by Springsteen:

"4th of July, Asbury Park"

"I Came for You"


"Spirits in the Night"
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:32 PM on May 11, 2006

Also by Springsteen: "Thunder Road" ... absolutely amazing song, especially if you grew up in Jersey in the 70's.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:34 PM on May 11, 2006

"At Seventeen" - Janis Ian
posted by hangashore at 1:41 PM on May 11, 2006

Hmm. Off the top of my head, I'd say "Disco 2000" by Pulp and "Peppermint Taste" by Hefner would probably serve you well. Oh, and either "Leaves That Are Green" or "Old Friends" by Simon and Garfunkel.

Would "A Very Good Year" by Sinatra be too cheesy?
posted by Vervain at 1:43 PM on May 11, 2006

The Beatles - You Give Me Your Money

Out of college, money spent
See no future, pay no rent
All the money's gone, nowhere to go...
But oh, that magic feeling, nowhere to go


One sweet dream
Pick up the bags and get in the limousine
Soon we'll be away from here
Step on the gas and wipe that tear away
One sweet dream came true today

The music starts out with a melancholy feel as does the story, but then the story evolves along with the musical tone. By the end it is upbeat rather than wistful, though still not lacking a feeling of being slightly detached and transitional.
posted by |n$eCur3 at 1:49 PM on May 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

I don't know why, but I have always felt like Van Morrison's "Crazy Love" captured that feeling exactly, and also lots of very early REM but especially "We Walk". Not that the lyrics to either of those songs have anything particularly to do with the theme, they just feel that way to me.
posted by jacobm at 2:06 PM on May 11, 2006

Err ... so, it turns out that I can't read. Sorry about that :)
posted by jacobm at 2:08 PM on May 11, 2006

There were tons of new wave pop songs along these lines...

Dream Academy - "Life in a Northern Town"
Tears for Fears - "Everybody Wants to Rule the World"
a-ha - "Take on Me"
Alphaville - "Forever Young"
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 2:12 PM on May 11, 2006

Though a little bit different than what you're looking for, but "Dammit" ("Damnit"?) by Blink 182 is perfect.
posted by itchie at 2:17 PM on May 11, 2006

Closing Time by Semisonic.
posted by chudmonkey at 2:36 PM on May 11, 2006

"Thick as Thieves" and "I Got By in Time" - the Jam
posted by scody at 2:37 PM on May 11, 2006

U2 "Twilight"

My body grows and grows
It frightens me you know...
In the twilight/
Boy meets Man

although I guess this is a song about adolescence itself, not the transition out of it.
posted by luneray at 2:38 PM on May 11, 2006

I saw one mention - but I'll second it - pretty much anything by Jonathan Richman. Especially Summer Feeling.

The Lucksmiths capture this pretty well also. Tee Shirt Weather and Southernmost come to mind as the most wistful.

A smallish band out of the northwest called Math and Physics Club have some great songs about high school and the rush of first crushes and things if that does it for you. I can't get enough.

The Sprites, while maybe nothing summery per se have some great kind of growing up nostalgia songs.

Please post a track list of the eventual glorious mix you make from all of these suggestions.
posted by Wolfie at 2:45 PM on May 11, 2006

Pursuit of Happiness— I'm an Adult Now.
The Kinks— Do You Remember Walter
The Kinks— People Take Pictures of Each Other
The Kinks— Photograph

In fact, nearly anything by the Kinks from their Something Else through Arthur period.

(Oh, and ignore a good 60% of the suggestions above. They're more bad AskMe musical advice: a mix of bad taste, ignoring the question and just dropping whatever they think might be tangentially related.)
posted by klangklangston at 2:54 PM on May 11, 2006

The Decemberists - Shiny

Was also going to be my suggestion for the 'most perfect' song thread that got deleted earlier this week. Not really sure about its lyrics, but musically, it always makes me think of riding on the back of a bus, looking out the window, nostalgic for the things you are leaving behind, cautiously excited about the things you are heading towards. That, of course, is just my association with it.
posted by buddha9090 at 3:01 PM on May 11, 2006

Today, by Poe. It'll catch you by surprise.
posted by gd779 at 3:43 PM on May 11, 2006

"Wide Open Spaces" written by Susan Gibson, and made into a huge hit by the Dixie Chicks. (link goes to the lyrics)
posted by sarahnade at 3:56 PM on May 11, 2006

Gary Jules - Mad World
posted by lilnemo at 4:00 PM on May 11, 2006

Seconding "Ghost World." Thirding it, too. Aimee Mann basically took all of the emotions I felt after seeing the movie and packed them into a four-minute pop song, and for that I will always be grateful.
posted by chrominance at 4:14 PM on May 11, 2006

Green Day - Good Riddance (Time of your Life)

Really thought I'd see that one before I got to the bottom of the thread.
posted by educatedslacker at 4:37 PM on May 11, 2006

What Pattie said.

Also Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan's Dream.

I can think of more, but these are already too depressing.
posted by Zurishaddai at 4:44 PM on May 11, 2006

"Do you realize" by The Flaming Lips.

As much as I dig the Lips, there's nothing really in that song that's bittersweet in a looking-back way lyrically ... i just think the whole dreamscape approach to their sound makes one think of childhood. it's very childish music in the best way possible... like ween and phish at their best.
posted by trinarian at 4:45 PM on May 11, 2006

Dakota by The Stereophonics typifies this type of music for me. It makes me pine for my youth.
Thinking back, thinking of you
Summertime think it was June
Yeah, think it was June
Laying back, head on the grass
Chewing gum, having some laughs
Yeah having some laughs.

You made me feel like the one
Made me feel like the one, the one

Drinking [or 'dreaming'] back, drinking for two
Drinking with you
When drinking was new
Sleeping in the back of my car
We never went far
Didn't need to go far

You made me feel like the one
Made me feel like the one, the one

I don't know where we are going now

Wake-up call, coffee and juice
Remembering you
What happened to you?
I wonder if we'll meet again
Talk about life since then
Talk about why did it end

You made me feel like the one
Made me feel like the one, the one

I don't know where we are going now
So take a look at me now
I know there are other songs that evoke these feelings for me, but this one does it best.
posted by jdroth at 4:58 PM on May 11, 2006

Thought of a couple more:

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Learning to Fly
Cake - Alpha Beta Parking Lot
Led Zeppelin - Going to California (on preview: seconding this one from above)
posted by educatedslacker at 5:15 PM on May 11, 2006


did someone yet say 'dust in the wind' - by kansas? the 'sister christian' by night ranger jogged it loose. i love the 'boys of summer' suggestion too.

gads, now i remember those old roller skating days.
posted by eatdonuts at 5:16 PM on May 11, 2006

World in 1984 by Shearwater. It's a beautiful, bittersweet song about a kid who's 16, and his parents try to tell him what it's like to be an adult, but he is unable (blinded by his youth) to understand. That link to the mp3 is from their own website, btw, so completely legal for you to download and listen. You can see the lyrics here, at a blog post I did about the song. Sorry for the self-link, but I can't remember how I found the lyrics and I can't find them anywhere else online.
posted by katyggls at 5:28 PM on May 11, 2006

(Don't Go Back To) Rockville, by R.E.M.
posted by JekPorkins at 5:33 PM on May 11, 2006

"Get Me Away From Here I'm Dying" always felt that way for me, as did "Stars of Track & Field" and "Seeing Other People". I don't know if the lyrics fit quite well enough though.
posted by Brainy at 5:34 PM on May 11, 2006

Doh! by Belle & Sebastian! Sorry.
posted by Brainy at 5:34 PM on May 11, 2006

The Long & Winding Road -- Paul McCarthy

You've Got A Friend -- written by Carol King & sung by lots of people including James Taylor

Same Auld Lang Syne -- Dan Fogelberg

Someone to Pull the Trigger Lyrics -- Matthew Sweet

Ain't No Mountain High Enough -- Ashford & Simpson

Keg on My Coffin -- The Push Stars

If you Love Somebody (Set Them Free) -- Sting

One Headlight -- Wallflowers
posted by bim at 5:36 PM on May 11, 2006

In the new wave tradition of 'Life in a Northern Town': It's Immaterial - 'Driving Away From Home'. (It does seem to be something of a northern thing in England: Pulp, The Verve, etc.)
posted by holgate at 6:06 PM on May 11, 2006

She's Leaving Home, the Beatles.
Levi Stubbs' Tears, Billy Bragg
Gold Soundz, Pavement
The New Year, Death Cab for Cutie
posted by hot soup girl at 6:21 PM on May 11, 2006

This Time of Year - Better Than Ezra
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 7:12 PM on May 11, 2006

"Celebrated Summer" by Husker Du.

"Here Comes A Regular" by the Replacements.
posted by padraigin at 7:24 PM on May 11, 2006

I'm somewhat to see that no one has mentioned Eve 6's "Here's To The Night". I think it fits the bill quite nicely (and in fact, it was the music backdrop for my high school's video yearbook, mostly because it's great as a looking back/transition song).
posted by Godbert at 8:22 PM on May 11, 2006

Looking through my music collection, I see four cuts that are pretty much bull's-eyes for you:

Fields of Gold, by Sting (but I prefer Eva Cassidy's recording of it).

100 Years, by Five for Fighting.

Leaving on a Jet Plane, which I think is by John Denver, but anyway, I learned it from Peter, Paul, and Mary.


Several more that may hit or miss:

In My Life (Lennon/McCartney, though I'm pretty sure it was almost all Macca really; my preferred recording is by Tuck and Patti). The first verse is a bull's-eye, the second less so.

I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow: 'I bid farewell to old Kentucky/the state where I was born and raised'. My favorite cut is by the Wayfaring Strangers and features the inimitably crusty Ralph Stanley, some superb jazz piano, and a really tight, quasi-Indian groove.

Children of the Wind, recorded by Blood, Sweat, & Tears for their second album but omitted for lack of space; released in the What Goes Up collection. I'm not sure if this one does what you're looking for.

The ever-so-trendy, glurgey socialites who were my 'student government' in high school decreed 'I Will Remember You' our class song just before we graduated. Gah. A good friend restored my karmic balance with an informal rendition of It's Over, by the Squirrel Nut Zippers. ('It's all over,/there isn't any more./It's all over,/but what's it over for?/Just when you think the party's starting,/It's over.')

With the way this thread is going—heck, with the way my post is going, you're assembling an album, and you need a quiet instrumental to close it out. I recommend Blue Serge, by Duke Ellington (the Blanton-Webster band); Blue in Green, by Miles Davis (and, probably, Bill Evans); High Noon, recorded by The Tony Rice Unit; or the Ashokan Farewell (the theme from Ken Burns's The Civil War), tune by Jay Ungar. (There are words, but use an instrumental.)
posted by eritain at 10:09 PM on May 11, 2006

Response by poster: Wow - I am overwhelmed by the responses here. I am going to have to spend the weekend going through them and then downloading the best from itunes. I'll post the eventual track list for those who are interested. (although listening to it is probably going to turn me into a nostalgia-ridden wreck!)
posted by greycap at 11:07 PM on May 11, 2006

I immediately thought of In The Car by Barenaked Ladies, wherein the narrator reminisces about his first nearly-sexual relationship. Features the great line "We were waiting for our lives to start their endings".
posted by toddshot at 11:09 PM on May 11, 2006

Stephen Malkmus - Jenny and the S-Dog

Also, because apparently nothing satisfies this question like B&S, Expectations.
posted by featherboa at 2:21 AM on May 12, 2006

eritain -- I think we have the same CD collection, LOL. How about anything from Duke Ellington's "And His Mother Called Him Bill?" It's a lovely album dedicated to his late collaborator Billy Strayhorn. Very melancholy...
posted by bim at 4:42 AM on May 12, 2006

"Fight Test" by Flaming Lips
"Drowse" by Queen, a great song no one knows, because it was written & sung by their drummer.
"Simple Song" by Lyle Lovett
"You Were the Fool" by Ween has that feel to it, tho it's a bit absurdist... "Who Dat" by Ween is probably closer.
"Party Girl" by Elvis Costello
posted by ibmcginty at 6:16 AM on May 12, 2006

Someone mentioned Semisonic for Closing Time, but their track El Matador off of All About Chemistry fits the bill perfectly.

Also, Mike Doughty's All The Dirt off of Skittish and Over the Rhine's Ohio off of Ohio, off the top of my head.
posted by blueshammer at 6:17 AM on May 12, 2006

Since it fits the description quite well and you can download it for free, I'm going to recommend a song that I just recorded: Summer's Ending.
posted by ludwig_van at 6:19 AM on May 12, 2006

She Is A Woman and Now He Is a Man by Husker Du.
My Last Christmas by The Dirtbombs.
posted by klangklangston at 6:36 AM on May 12, 2006

Changes by Phil Ochs, covered by Ian and Sylvia, among many

Like a Rock by Bob Seger

Running on Empty by Jackson Browne
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:42 AM on May 12, 2006

I just thought of another two (since I have been plugging this band in a few AskMe threads), Eddie From Ohio's "Fifth of July," off their "Looking out the Fishbowl" album is a good one. You can listen to the whole thing on their website (flash required). Also "Independence, Indiana" off their album "This is Me" might be good, although it's about a girl staying in a small town as all her friends go away.
posted by sarahnade at 10:17 AM on May 12, 2006

Green Day, Welcome to Paradise
posted by Firas at 4:44 PM on May 12, 2006

Too late to add to this thread?

Bobby Goldsboro, "Summer (The First Time)"
posted by evilcolonel at 9:41 PM on May 15, 2006

Ash - "The Girl From Mars" and "Oh Yeah"
Oasis - "Fade Away" (also less bittersweet, but "round are way" and "stay young"
The Libertines - "What became of the Likely Lads"

Thought there'd be way more than that on a cursory glance through my mp3 player!
posted by TwoWordReview at 6:02 PM on May 16, 2006

Just thought of another one -- "Thirteen" by Big Star. Actually, there's a lot of Big Star that could go on this list.
posted by macadamiaranch at 7:36 AM on May 26, 2006

Arcade Fire's album Funeral. All the tracks are basically about the transition you mentioned, but the specifically melancholy/nostalgic ones would be tracks 1, 3, 5, and 10 (Neighborhood 1-Tunnels, Une Annee Sans Lumiere, Neighborhood 4 - 7 Kettles, In the Backseat). If you're anything like me, In the Backseat will blow you away.

And these have already been mentioned, but Mellon Collie by the Smashing Pumpkins (specifically 33, 1979, and Stumbleine) and the Garden State Soundtrack are also good.
posted by notswedish at 11:58 AM on June 11, 2006

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