The 7 Best Summer Oldies Albums

The Best Beach Songs of the Oldies Era

Summer beach music was custom made for oldies lovers, because so many of the 50s, 60s, and 70s greatest hits celebrated summer in different ways — not just beach music but music for the surfer, the suddenly freed student, or just people who enjoyed wearing shorts after a long bitter winter. Here's a list of the best summer music albums and oldies summer compilations, in no particular order, including beach music, surf instrumentals, hot rod anthems, and just generally sunny music all around.

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Various Artists, "25 All-Time Greatest Summer Songs"

Rear view of young man with headphones using digital tablet at beach
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A disc from Varese Vintage that's simply packed with all manner of summer songs. Unlike some collections, this one remembers what summer's about - not just surf and sun but vacation ("School Is Out"), amusement parks ("Palisades Park"), and "Dancing in the Streets." Not to mention songs that rarely appear on these type of compilations, like the Kinks' "Sunny Afternoon."​

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The Beach Boys, "Endless Summer"

What would summer be without the Beach Boys? Other compilations are arguably longer and more thorough, but this 1974 classic comp fits the purpose better than any other—one, because it contains none of the Seventies or Eighties hits, and two, because it catches the group in their early surf music years, before ambition led them away from the beach.

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Various Artists, "Endless Summer Legends" [Box Set]

Although it starts out with Eddie Cochran's classic "Summertime Blues," this 3 disc collection is only setting the tone. The remaining tracks make up the greatest collection of surf music you can get in this size package, from hits to classic rarities that never get played anymore. There are only 10 songs on each disc, but the price is still right.

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Various Artists, "25 Beach Music Classics"

From the fine folks at Varese Sarabande comes this essential compilation, a great beginner's intro to Carolina "beach" or "shag" music. This isn't surf music — these are sexy, laid-back, easygoing sweet soul and R&B classics designed to get you and yours dancing in the sand. You'll know some of these songs ("Build Me Up Buttercup"), and you'll fall in love with the rest.

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Jan and Dean, "All the Hits: From Surf City to Drag City"

Few other groups visited the beach and the drag strip in their music as often as Jan and Dean, and certainly, no act did so with such chart results. Yet the surf music duo are never given the respect due them, in part because of the near-fatal car crash that sidelined Jan permanently in 1966. As this single disc comp makes clear, the two were almost as big an influence on Brian Wilson as the Beatles were. Which should be enough of a summer-music credential for anyone.

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Various Artists, "Monster Summer Hits: Wild Surf!"

A better value and a poppier look at surf (in keeping with the title), "Monster Summer Hits" is geared towards the surf fan who knows the Top 40 classics but wants to delve a little deeper. "Wipeout" and "Hawaii Five-O" and the Beach Boys/Jan and Dean hits are here, but so are tracks by the Fantastic Baggys, the Sunrays, and the aptly-named Mr. Gasser and The Weirdos. If you want to surf without having to change music every five minutes, this collection is your best bet.

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Various Artists, "Summer Of Love Vol. 1: Tune In"

Well, the Summer of Love did happen in the summertime. Most people don't think of psychedelic music when they dig for summer songs, but as this single-disc collection proves, they're forgetting how perfectly the Youngblood's "Get Together" and the Animals' "San Franciscan Nights" fit the summer music mold. It's a perfect mix of flower power and summer fun.