Summery Songs for Your '90s Pool Party

Read your "Swimsuit Issue" and get ready to "Fly"

Time to hit the pool, the beach or the grassy park and listen to some classic tunes. We’ve got the ’90s songs that’ll rock your sandals off. Relax and let the memories help you unwind.

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Sugar Ray - "Fly"

Sugar Ray Fly Floored

Frat-boy good looks, Hawaiian shirts and chill-to-the-bone raps? “Fly” had it all in 1997. What the world didn’t know is that this omnipresent poolside song was a big departure for SoCal’s Sugar Ray-- Mark McGrath and crew and previously been a hardcore-leaning punk band. But once this groovy number went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay chart, a newer, smoother version of the outfit was born. “Fly” still kills in concert when they play it during the annual Under the Sun tour.

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Sublime - "Doin' Time"

Sublime Doin Time

Taking a cue from George Gershwin’s immortal Porgy and Bess tune “Summertime,” Bradley Nowell crooned about his easy girlfriend. (And of course, the real love of his life: his Dalmatian, Lou Dog.) The tongue-twisting bridge and reggae instrumentation helped make this 1997 single Sublime’s only song to chart on the Billboard Hot 100. Now that’s easy livin’.

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Sonic Youth - "Swimsuit Issue"

Sonic Youth Swimsuit Issue
Anders Jensen-Urstad/Creative Commons

Jackknife riffs and in-your-face feminist screeds from Kim Gordon and crew might not present the most leisurely song. But when this Dirty track sloshes into its slower outro, it’s as summery as one can get. She purrs the names of 1992’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue-- and some legends, like Naomi Campbell and Vendela, are included.

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Smashing Pumpkins - "1979"


This jubilant ode to childhood in the suburbs was an early foray into electronic rock for the Smashing Pumpkins. The steady, slightly robotic drumbeat would evolve on 1998’s Adore (Virgin), putting SP at the forefront of the cyber-music movement. “1979” was a gleeful turn for the alternative band known for its crushing guitars and Billy Corgan’s cynicism. The song would become the Pumpkins’ highest-charting single, peaking at number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100.

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Smash Mouth - "Walkin' on the Sun"


There were pop-culture references a-plenty in this massive 1997 hit. Smash Mouth borrowed from Perrey and Kingsley’s 1966 goofy mod number, “Swan’s Splashdown,” for this tune’s main Moog riff. The lyrics called out hippies, Coke, the 1992 Los Angeles riots and Mr. Wizard. And the Technicolor music video was very Beach Blanket Bingo. “Walkin’ on the Sun” became a number one Modern Rock single and made it all the way to number two on the Billboard Hot 100.

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Pavement - "Summer Babe (Winter Version)"

Pavement Summer Babe
Masao Nagasaki/Creative Commons

Pavement were one of those ’90s bands that evoked imagery of crowd-surfing in muddy fields and sipping on slushies. The chugging downstrokes and Stephen Malkmus’ monotone vocals might not seem too rousing or sunny, but the Slanted and Enchanted opener became a seasonal staple. As one SongMeanings community member put it: “This is where Low fi Indie rock was born!”

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Hole - "Malibu"


Courtney Love, mellow? It might have seemed a shock in 1998 when the scream queen released this sugar-pop single. (Even bigger shocker? Corgan co-wrote it, alongside Love and Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson.) The ode to California’s idyllic beachside community became one of her biggest hits, peaking at number three on the Modern Rock charts and garnering a Grammy nomination.

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Fountains of Wayne - "It Must Be Summer"

Fountains of Wayne It Must Be Summer

The whole Utopia Parkway LP has that summer breeze on it, from the fairground goofiness of “Red Dragon Tattoo” to the Moog-y title track. But it’s this all-too-obvious and all-too-scrumptious work of power-pop genius that takes the cake. Just watch out for that cad Chris Collingwood, who playfully threatens: “I’ll try your sister on the Jersey shore.”

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The Breeders - "Saints"

Breeders in concert
The Breeders in 2008 at Summercase. Quique Lopez/Creative Commons

Mmmmm, smell that? It’s pony and sooie at the fair. (And probably some kettle corn.) The sisters Deal paint a charming yet rancid picture of a summertime outing, that restlessness of youth permeating the squelching guitar riffs. “Summer’s ready when you are,” the lyrics insist. You can almost see the twins winking at band mates Josephine Wiggs and Jim Macpherson as they board a mean-looking Tilt-A-Whirl.

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Belle & Sebastian - "I Know Where the Summer Goes"

Belle and Sebastian Summer

Your underarms are odiferous and you’re reading a good book. That’s the life for Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch. This quaint b-side from 1998 reflects the softer side of the hottest season, where trees invite you to bask in their shade if you’re not the sort to wear a bikini and go swimming. “I Know Where the Summer Goes” celebrates the bookworms who don’t mind a bit of homework during the vacation months.

Summing Up Summertime

What are your favorite summery '90s Rock songs? Let us know at melissabobbitt33 (at) gmail (dot) com!