Culture  /  Oral History

How ‘Summer in the City’ Became the Soundtrack for Every City Summer

The dog days of 1966 were filled with riots, protests and a nation on edge. But in Greenwich Village, something new was happening.

Mark Sebastian
That summer I was in the Loire with my mom dragging me around to chateaus. I wanted to be in New York and hear “Summer in the City” playing from the window. My mom rented a radio and I heard “I Want You” from Dylan, then started to hear my song. I was in shock. What I’d written was more of a mellow ballad, and John took it to this whole other place that was aggressive and exciting and fun.

Erik Jacobsen, producer
We had Roy Halee, a fabulous engineer at Columbia, put in these sound effects of a drill and traffic and a legitimate big-time fade at the end.

Steve Boone
Until “Summer in the City,” we were not accepted wholeheartedly by the rock scene.

Joe Butler
And we were playing our own instruments, not using the Wrecking Crew like the Byrds and the Beach Boys.

John Sebastian
There was no love lost between us and rock critics.

Steve Boone
That song changed everything. We had street cred. It was really also the end of the Spoonful, the tipping point. From that point on, there was this tiny pinhole in the balloon that started leaking.

Jon Savage
“Summer in the City” is almost an avant-garde piece, that stuttering piano, the noises of the city in the middle. It’s an edgy record, not a peaceful record. It was their fifth Top 10 single in under a year. They were on an insane schedule.

Joe Butler
We were designed to burn out, like a light bulb that was overamped. We were on the road all the time, and our heads got swelled up with how popular we were and how much the girls loved us. We were unable to support each other.

Jon Savage
Within two years they released at least three full albums, two soundtrack albums and had nine Top 20 singles. It’s not surprising relationships fracture under that pressure. How are you going to keep it up?