1. "Like a Rolling Stone" by Bob Dylan
Nothing says '60s like counterculture, and no one says, or rather screams, counterculture like Bob Dylan. This masterpiece, named the greatest song of all time by The Rolling Stone magazine, is loose and vicious and captures the independent spirit and cocky self-assuredness that come with youth with incredible poeticism.
The song, mainly held down by vocals, organ, and guitar, challenges everything, from normal song structure to authority, with Dylan's searing "How does it feel?" grabbing you by the throat and never letting go. It is perhaps, the most complete picture of how it feels to lose one's innocence ever painted. The incredible thing is, though, that it remains catchy and enjoyable and excellent for summer, when feelings of independence run high and the need for a sing-along song immense.
2. "I Saw Her Standing There" by the Beatles
Paul McCartney's "One, two, three, fah!" that starts off this song is electric, and sets us up for a rollicking, rocking good time. The sheer energy of this song and the unique musical quirks of the Beatles provide an excellent soundtrack for a summer night. It's a red-hot song that just makes you smile listening to it, and everything from Paul and John's harmonizing to the hand claps and George's guitar is pure, unadulterated joy.
3. "Where Did Our Love Go?" by the Supremes
This song, a minimalist but effective track featuring mainly vocals and a backbeat, captures that unique summer loneliness- affection tinged with melancholy you knew was coming but could not ignore. While still upbeat, it captures everything from missing the mundanity of a school day to saying goodbye to a summer love. The background vocals in the form of an echo emphasize the notion that perhaps summer's only so good because it passes so quickly.
4. "I'm a Believer" by The Monkees
Please ignore the fact that this song was in the "Shrek" soundtrack as covered by Smashmouth. While that version is still solid, the original is outstanding and such a good accompaniment to literally any summer activity- swimming, traveling, avoiding summer homework.
It works for them all. The song itself, consisting mainly of a jangly guitar, tambourine, piano, and backing vocals, is bright but soft, catchy but unique, and inhabits that wonderful relaxed cheerfulness of summer. Micky Dolenz' vocals make this song, with his vocal punch-ups and occasional sigh at the ending "yeah yeah yeah" painting a captivating portrait of a summer love. And though Dolenz reflects on his misfortune in love, the weariness only heightens the sense of joy later in the song.
5. "Mrs. Robinson" by Simon and Garfunkel
In the vein of Bob Dylan, these singer/songwriters achieve excellence in both music and lyrics, with a catchy but soulful track that is fun to sing along to while good for quiet summer days. The harmonizing is lovely, and the religious references provide depth for days when you just need some reflection.
6. "Good Vibrations" by The Beach Boys
Ah, The Beach Boys. Forever underrated, but always good. This is the song that changed them from a light, surface-level pop band into true innovators, pushing the the '60s forward with all sorts of musical tricks. The chopping cellos, sci-fi-like effects, and multiple movements make this the definition of groovy, and truly transports you to the intersection of counterculture and retro.