We may not have the ocean, but we sure have a lot of rivers. Whether you prefer canoes, rafts or tubes, a classic Missouri river float weekend involves basking in the sun and lolling in the water with close friends, cold beverages and plenty of good tunes. Here are my top 10 float trip song picks. What are yours?
10. "Sound of Sunshine" - Michael Franti and Spearhead
The title track from Franti and Spearhead's seventh studio album (and first Billboard top 20) lives up to its name. A perfect summer party anthem, it's impossible not to bob your head and tap your toes to this oh-so-happy tune. As Franti declares, "I want to go where the sun will never end, with my guitar on the beach, there with all my friends." I do, too.
9. "Blue Sky" - Allman Brothers Band
Dickey Betts' legendary guitar solo on this song from the Allmans' quintessential "Eat A Peach" album takes you on a complete journey and back. Betts wrote the song about his then girlfriend (and future ex-wife) and performed lead vocals on it for the first time. Duane Allman's guitar can be heard on the track as well, though he died tragically before the album's release. It's a perfect tune by which to lie back, soak up the sun and stare at the sky.
8. "Summertime Rolls" - Jane's Addiction
You can almost feel the sticky summer heat in front man Perry Farrell's sultry vocals on this six-plus minute cut from the band's landmark 1988 album "Nothing's Shocking." The reverberation of Eric Avery's repeating bass riff on the intro sets the tone that builds into a dreamy crescendo filled with the sound of Dave Navarro's masterful guitar work. It's a lazy summer afternoon rolled neatly into one perfectly-epic tune.
7. "Chickamauga" - Uncle Tupelo
These Belleville natives were an integral part of the fabric of St. Louis' music scene and beyond, sparking their own genre and influencing countless artists of today. Their sound has always seemed to me the very essence of the Midwest. This upbeat rocker from Tupelo's final studio album, "Anodyne," is pure perfection with roots that are deeply planted in local soil.
6. "Up on Cripple Creek" - The Band
The recent passing of drummer/vocalist Levon Helm puts this classic by the Band top of mind. Written by Robbie Robertson, Helm took lead vocal duty on the song, which has a funky, twangy, laid-back groove ideally suited to sipping a cold one while splashing in the water -- "a drunkard's dream if I ever did see one."
5. "Runnin' With the Devil" - Van Halen
This song is a hard-rock staple and the first track from the band's debut album, when they were young and at the top of their game. David Lee Roth's vocals simply soar while Eddie shreds as only Eddie can. Released in May 1978, it carries strong memories of the summers of my misspent youth and conjures images of girls with big hair and tiny bikinis.
4. "Take Me to the River" - Talking Heads
Another great river song, written by Al Green and Teenie Hodges and covered impeccably by one of rock's greatest bands. The groove is positively infectious, particularly Jerry Harrison's funky keyboard solos. The cover, released on the 1978 album "More Songs About Buildings and Food," gave the band its first Billboard Top 30 hit and launched them from relative obscurity into mainstream popularity. It's the all-around fun sound of a legendary band on the rise.
3. "Dueling Banjos" - Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandell
Whether you want to or not, it's hard to float down a river around these parts and NOT hear this little ditty in your head. The instrumental composed by Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith and arranged and performed by Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandell was featured in the haunting 1972 film "Deliverance" about a canoe trip gone terribly wrong. Some of the characters I've encountered on Missouri's scenic waterways over the years bear a frightening resemblance to the film's villains.
2. "Big River" - Johnny Cash
This 1958 Sun Records single about broken hearts on the Big Muddy mentions St. Louis by name and has the most perfect beat and energy. Its chorus makes for a great sing-along. Go with the original version or one of the many covers of it -- particularly the numerous live versions performed by the Grateful Dead.
1. "Sweet Home Alabama" - Lynyrd Skynyrd
I don't think you can legally go on a float trip without listening to Skynyrd at some point. It may be overdone, but you really can't go wrong with this classic Southern anthem that screams of Daisy Dukes and good times. Crack open a tall boy and hold it high in the air.