The summer of the Son of Sam: a fantastic critique at Secondat

This week’s TunesDay featured a couple of new videos from Jeffrey Dean Foster, including one for “The Summer of the Son of Sam,” which is maybe the best song on Million Star Hotel, which is in turn one of the best CDs that way too few people have ever heard in the history of popular music.

Anyhow, it’s always nice when a listener/reader/viewer sits down and truly invests themselves in a work of art, and that’s exactly what happened over at Secondat a couple of days ago. Not only do they examine the music, they also reflect back, in great detail, on the summer of 1977 – the Summer of the Son of Sam itself. That was an eventful three months, to be sure. As the writer points out, a lot happened during

the long summer of 1977: New York City’s historic blackout, the deaths of Elvis Presley and Lynyrd Skynyrd, and a radio telescope reception from deep space. The song also evokes some of the turmoil of the time: political kidnappings, murders, airplane hijackings, and the deaths of Andreas Baader and other members of the Red Army Faction; expulsion of the Gang of Four from the Chinese Communist Party; and conflicts between Anita Bryant and gay activists. It was a time of NASA launches and of wild enthusiasm for the first of the Star Wars films. We saw then the beginning of the disco fad. Early in the year the Episcopal Church ordained its first woman priest and President Carter pardoned draft evaders of the Vietnam War.

It was also the summer in which the “Son of Sam” killer, David Berkowitz was captured. Berkowitz claimed to be a Satanist, pursued by devils, including demon sent by a neighbor of his, Sam Carr.

When Jeff found this link and sent it to me the other night, he suggested that he may not be entirely worthy of the reading that Secondat gives the song. If that is true – operative word there being “if” – then all I can really say is that it’s better to dive too deeply into a great work of art than not deeply enough (or not at all).

Great artist. Great song. And a truly thoughtful, reflective examination of it. Thanks to all.

6 replies »

  1. Sam, Fantastic post and links. 1977 was the summer before I graduated from college, and everyone who shares my age has distinct bittersweet memories of that summer. I had the best of times that summer, punctuated by some of the worst times in my life. The music was ready for a change and I remember getting a promo of “Never Mind the Bollocks, Here Comes the Sex Pistols” at the radio station I worked at and my own life was changed. 1977 swept everything before it under the rug.

    Again, great post


  2. I too remember walking into our local incense fueled record store and seeing Never Mind the Bollocks.
    A 60 some year old man was buying it and had obviously heard about it and knew it was a milestone of sorts. I can still hear the faint boom of Aerosmith and ZZ Top playing at the football stadium that summer too. I wasn’t there but I could feel it.

  3. I’m glad you liked the Summer of the Son of Sam post. It was a kind of followup to the previous day’s post on the Big Picture photos of protests in Iran. I had seen your link to Jeffrey Dean Foster on Youtube and was listening to Summer of the Son of Sam while looking at the images. I wish now I’d given you credit for putting me on to the song. I wish, in fact, that my track record for credit-giving were better than only fair.

    (There are more Jeffs here than I’m used to: yours, myself, and JDF.)

    • Jeff: No sweat. The only credit that matters is what’s owed JDF. And hopefully by now you’ve explored the rest of the disc, which is also pretty amazing.

      Jeff: I had forgotten about the stadium show, actually. But I lived way too far out in the country to hear it.

      Jeff: It’s weird how we can look back and find the best times and the worst sitting side-by-side. For me that would be 1988. And yeah, there’s a soundtrack to it….

  4. Sam,

    What would your soundtrack to 1988 be filled with….just curious as I’d like to compare it with my own of 1988?


    • I was DJing at the time (while in school getting my MA), so there are a million things. REM and U2, of course, but I think the band I’ll always most associate with those days is Johnny Clegg and Savuka. I discovered them while shopping for music for the club in a store in Ames, Iowa. That was at a point where I needed some life-affirming music.