I had originally written a post a couple of weeks ago about “Celebrated Summer” as a post-Labor Day song for Feelin’ Good Friday. Maybe a loud/soft/loud punk song that makes me tear up generally is not typical of good feelings, but it’s one of my all time favorite songs and is fitting given the time of year.
Then I heard about the death of Hüsker Dü drummer Grant Hart and it started to take on a different hue.
The first minute and a half of the Bob Mould penned “Celebrated Summer” is a blistering guitar shot with Mould singing about the prelude to summer, the plans of what to do with all of that sweet freedom to finally live and cut loose. There’s the always present pressure of “the best summer ever!” and the hint at the fear that the best summer, your celebrated summer, has already been lived. Suddenly everything drops out and it’s just Mould’s acoustic guitar as he speaks two disarmingly evocative lines that have always caught me off guard:
Then the sun disintegrates between a wall of clouds
I summer where I winter at, and no one is allowed there
Then Hart ushers up the tempo with shimmering cymbals, Mould’s Flying V plugs back in and rages at the dying light, and he’s shouting again:
Do you remember when the first snowfall fell
When summer barely had a snowball’s chance in Hell
And the pedal is on the floor racing to the song’s end with Mould excoriating again and again “Was this your celebrated summer?” until slipping back into the acoustic and asking for a final time “Do you remember when the first snowfall fell? Was this your celebrated summer?”
After 30 years of listening to this song I’ve changed my opinion a dozen times on what those lines mean. I always felt this song captured the bittersweet, fleeting nature of summer, but also in a broader sense the transition of the seasons as part of the human allegory of aging: summer to winter, youth to death. Now, in the scope of Hüsker Dü’s life, Grant’s death is the first snowfall. There was never even a snowball’s chance in Hell of a Hüsker Dü reunion, but now the stamp is official: that was their celebrated summer.