Released: 30th August 1999
Writers: Peter Cunnah / Ben Adams / Christian Ingebrigtsen / Paul Marazzi / Mark Read
Peak position: #5
Chart run: 5-18-31-42-53-72-X-X-X-69-62
After a1 successfully convinced enough people they should Be The First To Believe – and earned themselves a top ten hit with their debut single in the process – it was promptly followed up with the seasonally appropriate Summertime Of Our Lives.
If there was a particular point where turn-of-the-century bubblegum pop most embodied the bright, smiley image frequently associated with it, then the summer of 1999 was that moment. Whether Britney Spears’ Sometimes, S Club 7’s Bring It All Back, or Steps’ Love’s Got A Hold On My Heart, the charts – and video channels – were filled with halcyon, sunny visuals. And Summertime Of Our Lives is very much in keeping with that ethos as a1 sought to consolidate the success of Be The First To Believe, which peaked at #6. It wasn’t a surprising approach, given they shared the same management (Byrne Blood) as Steps. Nevertheless, the team evidently knew what they were doing and, with little time to waste, set about pitching a1 with a second single that could literally soundtrack the summer.
This is not a profound, thought-provoking pop song (“Summertime, summertime, sugar candy cherry world”). Nor should it be. Summertime Of Our Lives is a1 at their most lightweight. While that often means the track is compared unflatteringly against the group’s more accomplished material, a frivolous, carefree tone is appropriate given the context. It was summer, after all, and the lyrics paint a vivid, idyllic picture: “Cool breeze, kissing the sea, I’ve got a sunbeam shining on me (on me); blue skies, sea in your eyes, let the groove move my people all around me”, while playful flourishes of Spanish guitar peppered throughout make Summertime Of Our Lives feel immediately – and rather appealingly – sun-drenched.
Continuing to divide the lead vocal between all four members of a1 seems particularly pertinent here since it was already abundantly clear that the readership of Smash Hits and other teen magazines had latched ontoBen Adams as the heartthrob of the group. Thus, there could have been a temptation for Summertime Of Our Lives to push him into a lead role (as had happened with other boybands). However, the song is all the better for continuing to establish a1 as a quartet; their voices work tremendously well together and give the simple chorus: “Summerti-i-i-i-me of our lives, our lives, summerti-i-i-i-me of our lives, our lives” bundles of energy and personality.
Indeed, it’s the way a1 throw themselves at Summertime Of Our Lives with sheer, unabashed enthusiasm that sells it. There are some strong hooks here; the pre-chorus: “We’ll have the ti-i-i-i-ime of our lives, in our wonderworld, ti-i-i-i-ime of our lives, there’s a boy for every girl, come on” in particular is naggingly catchy. And there are some elements – like chants of: “Baby get ready, get down, are you up for it get down with it; baby get ready, get down, are you up for it get down with it” – that raise a wry smile at how outrageously bombastic they are. Summertime Of Our Lives is a bit of harmless, inconsequential fun and not to be taken seriously. Yet, even where the song veers perilously close to sounding throwaway, there’s such eagerness and commitment exuded by a1 that it’s impossible not to be thoroughly charmed.
The accompanying music video was filmed in the Bahamas, so – appropriately enough – it’s a visual feast of azure skies and tropical blue seas that jump off the screen. There’s an overtly wholesome, squeaky-clean look to Summertime Of Our Lives that perfectly reflects how pop acts were frequently marketed. a1 perform a carefully choreographed dance routine on a raft platform, wearing white trousers and tank tops or t-shirts in bright primary colours (except Ben, who is dressed head to toe in white like a chaste teen angel) while also frolicking in the sea with dolphins. It’s emphatically idealistic and pure, though still racy enough to set teen hearts racing. There are plentiful shots of a1 in their swim shorts – including one where Mark Read’s have gone see-through as he leans over – and let’s not pretend Ben looking down the camera with tousled hair while thrusting his hips into the sand is anything other than teasingly sexual. However, the overall impression is of the group as safe and inoffensive, which feels precisely as intended.
Summertime Of Our Lives earned a1 their second top ten hit when it peaked at #5. Although that marked a slight improvement on Be The First To Believe, the song didn’t hold up awfully well, and overall sales were slightly lower (107,000 against the 139,000 achieved by their debut). It’s probably an inevitable consequence of the fact that although heavily promoted during the summer holidays, Summertime Of Our Lives wasn’t released until the very end of them. A large proportion of the group’s target market would, thus, have been contemplating returning to school. So, suddenly, a song celebrating the halcyon freedom of summer seemed far less appealing, even if it was an unavoidable consequence of the long lead time for new singles.
Even so, the track remains an impeccably nostalgic snapshot of where pop music was at in the late ’90s, and that alone makes it a worthwhile commodity of the era. Summertime Of Our Lives? It truly was.