Camp Mason 2004: The Songs Of The Summer

Disc 1

1 ‘Together’ (The Polyphonic Spree – Together We’re Heavy)
2 Outkast – Hey Ya!
3 Bryan Adams – Summer Of ’69
4 Hanson – Mmmbop
5 Usher – Yeah
6 Backstreet Boys – I Want It That Way
7 The Darkness – I Believe In A Thing Called Love
8 ‘Campfire Vibes’ (Saloon – Bicycle Thieves)
9 Modest Mouse – Float On
10 Ashlee Simpson – Pieces Of Me
11 Alanis Morissette – Everything
12 The Postal Service – Sleeping In
13 Hoobastank – The Reason
14 Big ‘n’ Rich – Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy
15 Spice Girls – Wannabe
16 ‘#85’ (Boards Of Canada – Olson)
17 Madonna – Like A Prayer
18 Wham! – Wake Me Up Before You Go Go
19 DJ Casper – The Cha Cha Slide
20 Barenaked Ladies – If I Had $1,000,000
21 Dispatch – The General
22 ‘Observatory’ (Boards Of Canada – Amo Bishop Roden)
23 The Zephyrs – Stargazer

Disc 2

1 ‘Repeat’ (Ludovico Einaudi – La Linea Scura)
2 Akinyele – Put It In Your Mouth
3 The Streets – Fit But You Know It
4 Kanye West – School Spirit
5 Lloyd Banks – On Fire
6 Outkast – Roses
7 Jojo – Leave (Get Out)
8 Ryan Cabrera – On The Way Down
9 Linkin Park – Numb
10 Dave Matthews Band – Two Step
11 Maroon 5 – She Will Be Loved
12 ‘Your Hand In Mine’ (Explosions In The Sky – Your Hand In Mine)
13 Blink 182 – I Miss You
14 Counting Crows – Accidentally In Love
15 Andy Williams – Can’t Take My Eyes Off You
16 Tenacious D – Fuck Her Gently
17 Brad Paisley – Celebrity
18 Simple Plan – Addicted
19 Fountains of Wayne – Stacy’s Mom
20 Wheatus – A Little Respect
21 Sublime – 40oz To Freedom
22 Elton John – Rocket Man
23 Green Day – Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)
24 ‘I’ve Learned’ (Ludovico Einaudi – Eden Roc)

‘And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time’

The summer of 2004 was an end of an era at Camp Mason – a decade of fairly stable leadership at the top finishing with Kevin Barger’s decision to leave in the middle of the summer. Throw into the mix a generation of staff who had grown up attending and then working at the camp all hitting the end of their college days at the same time – bringing their free summers to work at camp also to an end – and it was clear that change was in the air.

I came to camp that summer with the idea of recording bits and pieces round camp, mainly people just playing musical instruments, which I could sample in for a personal music project I was working on. I knew I’d get some time to do so in my role of media specialist, the official job title for someone mainly responsible for sticking photos of day-to-day life on the camp’s website for parents of campers to check in on. When I got to camp and found out from Kevin that he’d be leaving, it became clearer that a far better use of my time would be to record a far more wide-ranging variety of camp sounds, in a time when digital cameras recording was still in its infancy and so people just weren’t recording that much. I ended up recording over 14 hours of field recordings that summer, putting my trusty (and increasingly battered) minidisc recorder in the centre of all of the main events – the talent shows, the international nights, and the campfires – as well as the slightly more mundane day-to-day noises, like the sound of 240 screaming children after singing grace, or the sound of basketballs being bounced away during free time.

Those 14 hours were condensed down to a single CD’s worth called Tattoos Of Memories, after the line from perennial end-of-summer standard ‘Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)’ by Green Day. I’ve written about Tattoos Of Memories a couple of times before, and put all of the source material on Soundcloud a couple of years ago, so there’s no need to cover all that again.

But the ‘main’ CDs are the focus of this blog. This was the first and only totally democratic CD I ever made – it kind of had to be, as I was given a lump sum of camp’s petty cash account to make them. Towards the end of the summer, I surveyed all the staff on the songs they wanted to have on the end-of-summer compilations. And having had about 70 or so suggestions, I then rounded it down to 40 (which included one personal pick for myself, which given the fact I was making them, I reckon I was entitled to!).

The first sound you hear on disc one is one of the most familiar of all Camp Mason’s sounds – the bugle, played across camp to mark the changing of a period. After a little montage of Kevin leading a repeat-after-me clapping session at the campfire, we then make the short hop across the lake to the dining hall, where Kevin starts an all-camp dancing session, ‘Dance Party USA’. The song most used for ‘Dance Party USA’ was the almighty ‘Hey Ya!’ by Outkast, one of those songs that dominated the pop landscape of the time, and one of those very rare songs, like Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’ and more recently Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’, that everyone could agree upon regardless of whatever music that they happened to prefer. Talking of which, you could probably chuck ‘Mmmbop’ in that category too, and a personal favourite memory of 2004 would be everyone singing its chorus at the very top of their lungs during one mealtime. Between the two songs you’ve got Bryan Adams, whose nostalgia-thick ‘Summer Of ’69’ would always be a hit with summer camp staff and children alike.

Dance parties, as always, were a highlight of the summer and those nights are represented by the likes of Usher’s ‘Yeah’ – of which Lil’ Jon’s cameos would be so brilliantly mocked by Dave Chappelle – and the Darkness, whose ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’ dates this compilation as well as anything. And there’s the Backstreet Boys, forever Camp Mason’s number one boy band of choice, thanks to both the dance parties and many a performance of ‘I Want It That Way’ at talent shows.

After a brief interlude – a field recording taken at the campfire just before Kevin’s famous closing speech (more of which later) – we get a selection of the big radio hits of the time. The compilation’s indie cred is helped a little by the presence of Modest Mouse. Before the brilliant ‘Float On’, they were a jobbing but highly respected small band, but their lead-off single from their sixth album thrust them temporarily into the mainstream, going as far as being covered by the contestants from American Idol. It certainly towers over the songs that follow it here – Ashlee Simpson’s ‘Pieces Of Me’, a long-past-relevant Alanis Morissette, and a song by Hoobastank that contains the cringiest break-up lyrics in all of pop history. Still, we also get the Postal Service, although I made an error in not selecting the deathless ‘Such Great Heights’, wrongly thinking that ‘Sleeping In’ would reflect that band’s legacy a little bit better.

Then the fun begins: Spruce village get their theme tune of the summer, ‘Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy’, while the Spice Girls will never not be loved in a summer camp context. Another interlude jumps in for a couple of minutes, with various sounds from session 2A quickly thrown together over a Boards Of Canada backing, played at the last meal of that session – I made the observation at the time it’s probably the only time that anyone’s ever cried to Boards Of Canada before – and then we’re into ’80s heaven with Madonna and Wham!, highlights from the ’80s dance party, and the Algonquin village favourite, the Cha Cha Slide.

Disc one begins to wind down after then with Barenaked Ladies ‘If I Had $1,000,000’, the relevance to camp I can’t remember. I can certainly remember the relevance of the next song, though. Some bands seem purpose-designed to be listened to in the camp environment, and if Camp Mason ever decided to secede from the union and declare itself as an independent country, then there’d be little doubt on what its national anthem would be – ‘The General’ by Dispatch, with its pacifist message and the lyric ‘you are young, man, you must be living’. After which, we finish with a recording of insects on the Upper Athletic Field, followed by that personal pick of mine, the lilting ‘Stargazer’ by The Zephyrs.

Like in 2003, disc one was the ‘clean’ CD, so it could be safely played in the dining hall in future summers without people having to run to the stereo. Disc two contained all of the dirty stuff, and there was nothing more dirty than ‘Put It In Your Mouth’ by Akinyele, a song it’s pretty safe to say was never, ever played on camp, but instead was a memory of staff weekends away – you can put the appearance of The Streets, Kanye West and Lloyd Banks in that group too. Outkast are the only band that get two songs, and their second, ‘Roses’, is best remembered for camper Shaun’s whole-hearted rendition at a talent show.

The next little suite of songs is another collection of radio hits from the time – the 13-year-old Jojo’s ‘Leave (Get Out)’, someone called Ryan Cabrera who I couldn’t tell you anything about, and Linkin Park, reminding us that nu-metal hadn’t quite died by the middle of the decade.

After the LTs’ song of the summer, ‘Two Step’ by Dave Matthews Band, there follows what you might call The Love Suite. Either side of an interlude putting together some of the staff who coupled up during the summer, there’s ‘She Will Be Loved’ by Maroon 5, ‘I Miss You’ by Blink 182, ‘Accidentally In Love’ by Counting Crows, ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ by Andy Williams, and the least subtle song ever recorded, ‘Fuck Her Gently’ by Tenacious D. I got a ticking-off the following summer from Mo (during his brief reign as executive camp director) for not asterisking the first word of the song title on the album sleeve.

After a section featuring songs I couldn’t fit anywhere else, including Sublime’s ’40oz To Freedom’, the last two proper tracks have an extra meaning given the end of the summer and the end of many people’s camp lives. Scott Connor’s choice is ‘Rocket Man’ by Elton John, dedicated to all the staff who’d given so many of their summers to the cause, and then, inevitably, is that camp standard, ‘Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)’.

But the man who deserves the last word is Kevin Barger, whose ‘I Have Two Families’ speech was his valedictory statement at a camp he’d given a decade of senior service to. He told me afterwards that he wanted to go strolling round the campfire giving his speech, but stayed put on the spot when he saw I was recording it. Just as well; I was able to set it to music (the brilliant ‘Eden Roc’ by Ludovico Einaudi) and capture it forever. After it was played as the final act of the closing campfire of the summer, it was only natural for it to take its place at the end of this compilation. And finishing it all off is the sound that we began with, the bugle – this time cut away halfway through and bowing out with a whimper.

I decided to continue on at Camp Mason for one more summer – I didn’t make a compilation for 2005, as for reasons that many people will be aware of that don’t need to be repeated here, it was not a good summer for camp. But also, the whole Songs Of The Summer concept had been a bit of a victim of its own success – the first disc here was played endlessly during meals in the dining hall, so much so that in truth, there weren’t that many new songs of the summer in 2005 (the only one that stands out to me is ‘Is This The Way To Amarillo’).

But thanks to the selections of the camp staff, at least we had this to remember Camp Mason by. Thanks to all who contributed.

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