I do not know how this happened, but it did: It is already June.
When I think June, I think moons … and spoons — that most infamously clichéd of all rhyme patterns, which Joni Mitchell both mocks and (internally) capitulates to in the second verse of “Both Sides Now,” when she admits that sometimes love does feel exactly the way those mushy, sing-songy ditties from your youth predicted it would:
Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I’ve looked at love that way
Maybe Mitchell was thinking of Doris Day and Gordon MacRae (yes, that rhymes too) singing “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” in a 1953 film of the same name. Or maybe she was thinking of any of the countless versions of that oft-covered standard, which was written back in 1909. In any event, she wasn’t the first songwriter to bemoan that rhyme pattern’s overuse: By 1923, the Tin Pan Alley satirist Billy Murray was already tired enough of the whole moon/June/spoon thing that he included this line in his song “Stand Up and Sing for Your Father”:
Oh I’m so sick of all these ditties about “moon” and “spoon” and “June”
So will you stand up and sing for your father an old time tune
Rest assured, there will be no such ditties on today’s playlist. But there will be a collection of songs that reference the month of June, or summon those heady days of late spring/early summer. Two of them are by artists with “June” in their names, which is sort of cheating, but I doubt you’d begrudge any opportunity to hear Johnny duetting with Ms. Carter.
I tend to think of June as a time of excitement and joy — Juneteenth! Pride! Kids getting out of school for the summer! — so I was a little surprised that most of the songs I know about the month skewed melancholy. Maybe the phenomenon of June Gloom isn’t limited to Southern California, spiritually speaking. Or maybe there’s a bit of sadness inherent in any transitional moment. Regardless, may this playlist — featuring songs from the Kinks, the Everly Brothers, the Decemberists and more — help you over that hump and into the light.
1. Nina Simone: “Memphis in June”
I love the slow, swooning pacing Simone brings to this 1961 version of Hoagy Carmichael’s song — as if the early summer heat had made her contentedly woozy. The tempo and sparse arrangement allow the listener to linger on the scene she describes, which is as vivid as an imagistic poem: “Memphis in June/A shady veranda/Under a Sunday blue sky.” Sounds divine. (Listen on YouTube)
2. The Everly Brothers: “June Is as Cold as December”
Released on their 1966 album “In Our Image,” this mid-period Everly Brothers tune is a warning to stay away from that icy gal June, who apparently “doesn’t have a heart to offer anymore.” The Beatles, the Beach Boys and the Byrds were all influenced by the harmonies and arrangements of the Everly Brothers, but here — listen to that rich, chiming guitar sound — they’ve clearly learned a thing or two from their students. (Listen on YouTube)