"Ice Cream Man" by Tom Waits
In the way Willie Dixon's "Back Door Man" isn't about a locksmith, Tom Waits' "Ice Cream Man" isn't about a frosty drumstick. Or it won't be frosty by the time you've finished listening to this slow, smoldering blues number.
"I'll click by your house 'bout 2:45/ sidewalk sundae strawberry surprise," Waits rasps. "I gotta cherry popsicle right on time, I gotta a big stick mama that'll blow your mind."
Whew, my Eskimo Pie just melted.
"Ice Cream Man" by Van Halen
In similar blues vein, Van Halen's "Ice Cream Man" is full of double entendres about flavors that will satisfy. This ice cream man stops by at 11 o'clock, which gives you time to cleanse your palate for Tom Waits' quarter-to-three arrival.
Eddie Van Halen's electric guitar solo burns like hot fudge, but David Lee Roth? Meh. He's a dip.
"Ice Cream Man" and "Double Chocolate Malted" by Jonathan Richman
Like extra whipped cream, "Double Chocolate Malted" is a little treacly, but "Ice Cream Man" has an indelible charm, thanks to the recurring chime of a triangle and backing vocals reminiscent of '60s girl groups. (See Murmaids entry below.)
After hearing Richman sing "Ice cream man, ring your bell. Play the music I know so well," you'll wish your local truck would strip the all-too-predictable "Good Ole' Summertime" from its repertoire.
Follow with Richman's gorgeous "That Summer Feeling" for the total experience.
"The Good Humor Man He Sees Everything Like This" by Love
If the Good Humor Man were on acid, he would blast this song from his truck. Love, an underrated '60s psychedelic band led by Arthur Lee, released seven lysergic-influenced albums during their career. This song appears on Forever Changes, which, among rock snobs such as yours truly, ranks alongside underappreciated classics such as Beach Boys' Pet Sounds and the Velvet Underground & Nico.
The breezy openness of the string and horn sections evoke the feel of a lazy summer afternoon spent lying in a meadow, counting infinitesimal blades of grass before falling asleep in the sun.
Now, to find that Good Humor truck and ask for, ahem, extra rainbow sprinkles.
"Popsicles and Icicles" by The Murmaids
Backing vocals and bubbly organ are the hallmarks of this one-hit wonder by The Murmaids. The song is an ode to an unnamed, perhaps imaginary boyfriend, and lists the innocent things he likes: popsicles, cars and drive-ins on Friday night. It reached No. 3 on the charts in January 1964, a month before The Beatles made their Ed Sullivan appearance and left groups like this in the dust.
"Ice Cream for Crow"/ "I Was a Teenage Malt Shop" by Captain Beefheart/ Frank Zappa
This is what you need to know about Captain Beefheart: Like Blue Moon ice cream, he's an acquired taste, so don't feel badly if you "don't get it."
Before Beefheart released his own surreal, eccentric body of work, he collaborated with Frank Zappa, co-creating "I Was a Teenage Malt Shop," which was originally part of an opera. (The opera, sadly, was never finished or performed.)
"Ice Cream for Crow" is the title track of Beefheart's 12th and final studio album, released in 1982. My advice: Don't overthink it. But do prepare to sing along when he hollers, "Tonight there will be ice cream! Ice cream for crow!" It's cathartic.
"Jack and Diane" by John Mellencamp
This song isn't really about ice cream, but any song that mentions a place called Tastee Freez deserves a mention. The Tastee Freez, which was in Mellencamp's hometown of Seymour, Ind., is gone, but make the pilgrimage an hour west to Bloomington. There you'll find the Midwestern mecca of outdoor ice cream stands, the Chocolate Moose, which has been open since 1939. My husband and I used to live a few blocks away from there; it was one of our favorite haunts. If your summer travels take you through this neck of the woods, stop by and re-energize with a coffee malt.
"Ice Cream" by Raekwon
In the video, an ice cream truck in the background is the only tie to a frozen dessert in this 1995 song by Wu-Tang Clan rapper Raekwon. "Watch these rap niggaz get all up in your guts/ French vanilla, butter pecan, chocolate deluxe." The flavors aren't perched upon cake cones, but rather are embodied by gyrating, buxom, midriff-baring beauties. But is the milk organic?
"Ice Cream Love" by Johnny Osbourne
I don't know what it is about reggae albums, but many pints of Häagen-Dazs have been consumed while listening to the likes of Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff and Peter Tosh. "I don't want no ice cream love. It's too cold for me," Osbourne sings. "I want a love that's warmer than the summer sunshine." Awww.
Songs for Ice Cream Trucks by Michael Hearst
Upon repeated listenings, an entire album of original instrumentals written for the ice cream truck could definitely get on my nerves. In fact, one listening does the trick. I like the concept better than the songs, but if you plan on driving an ice cream truck and have any control over the musical selection, "Tones for Cones," "The Sprinkle Twinkle" and "The Popsicle Parade" are still far better than the creepy tunes my neighborhood truck plays.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Your summer soundtrack."