1001 Songs – 1974: Part One

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

Essiniya – Nass El Ghiwane

So, we are starting out 1974 with something I’ve never heard before – Moroccan music. As a group, Nass El Ghiwane broke the mold in their native country. They brought in Western instruments, grew their hair long and refused to write songs that praised the king of Morocco (as was the custom at the time).

My husband described this as being the equivalent to the punk movement within Moroccan music, which really helps to give the perspective of what they were up to. The song starts out sounding fairly folksy and (I guess) borderline traditional and then – at about two and a half minutes in – the song picks up the pace and truly gets started.

It’s still not quite my kind of music, but this did go on to inspire modern groups like Tinariwen whose music I do like. Kinda cool to now have this song as a bit of a touchstone. I wish that this list had more songs like this.

Carpet Crawlers – Genesis

So whilst in Morocco boundaries were being pushed, the west had prog rock. This is the second song from Genesis that I’ve listened to as part of the list and, interestingly, this is also their last… which coincides with this being the last song of theirs featuring Peter Gabriel.

As with ‘I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)’, this song is telling a story that I cannot make head nor tale of without help from Wikipedia. What’s different, however, is how lush their music has become. The underlying piano part is gorgeous and their harmonies are really on point.

Aguas de marco – Antonio Carlos Jobim & Elis Regina

This is starting to feel like a proper trip around the world now. This song finds us in Brazil… where bossa nova is still top dog. ‘Aguas de marco’ (or ‘The Waters of March’ in English) was written by the man behind who introduced bossa nova to the English-speaking world via a little song called ‘The Girl From Ipanema‘.

Going with the water theme, it’s impressive how the entire song has been written with the notes of each line going down the scale. It’s been done to mimic the falling of the March rains, but to me it felt more like the rise and fall of a tide – so at least I’m still getting the water.

It’s also lovely to hear, towards the end, both singers really enjoying themselves with Elis Regina tripping slightly on her line and suppressing a laugh in her singing. This feels like one of those untranslatable songs because of the wordplay element to the lyrics, so I’m glad that it’s the Portuguese version on the list.

Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City – Bobby Bland

Our world tour is going to land in the USA for the rest of this post… and it starts off with a fairly bland R&B song. Spotify cut out part way through this and, honestly, I wasn’t best pleased that we needed to start it over.

I get that this song is meant to be referencing inner city poverty, but we’ve already heard so many good songs on similar topics for this list; so I’m not sure what this adds by its presence. Then again this is one of those songs that has been covered semi-regularly, which means I am clearly missing something.

(Looking for) The Heart of Saturday Night – Tom Waits

This is so not the Tom Waits that I’ve gotten to know via Swordfishtrombones and Rain Dogs. Then again, no songs from those albums appear on the 1001 – so I wonder if this list is going to really show him at his vaudeville experimental best.

The fact is that this list completely avoids his mid-career shift and that is so wrong to do. It was in that period that he was making music like I’ve never heard before, unlike ‘(Looking for) The Heart of Saturday Night’ which is a competent folk-blues pre- major Bruce Springsteen look at the working man getting drunk on the weekend.

This may be the first time that the list has majorly pissed me off… and it’s over Tom Waits. Who knew!?

Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd

Now for a song we all now and have heard people sing along to at a wedding on the way to getting plastered. And who can blame them, this is one of those songs that I think it’s hard to dislike – or at least the chorus is.

Written as an answer song to two songs that Neil Young had written about Alabama and the American South in general, ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ pulls off the impressive Southern trick of slighting someone (Neil Young in this instance) with a smile on their face. Then again, they agreed with Neil Young’s stance, just not on how he painted the whole South as being the problem… so they went a little easy on him.

Piss Factory – Patti Smith Group

What a lovely song name to finish on.

We’re still in the era where punk music hasn’t quite started, so we have a lot of different kinds of proto-punk songs that will later feed into the more centralised punk core. With ‘Piss Factory’ the punk elements of aggression are there in full force as Patti Smith reads her long poem as she slams on the piano.

At times humorous and at other times enraged, ‘Piss Factory’ is a more stripped down and feminine sounding Patti Smith than what you later see on Horses (where her voice deepens and she augments her sound with more instruments). I guess I’ll be talking more on that when 1975 hits and we get to her other song on the list: ‘Gloria’.

Progress: 396/1021

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XL Popcorn – Ivan the Terrible, Part I

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 724/1007Title: Ivan Groznyy (Ivan the Terrible, Part I)
Director: Sergei M. Eisenstein
Year: 1944
Country: Soviet Union

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating, whilst this is meant to be a list of 1001 films to watch there are, in fact, 1007. This is because of things like Ivan The Terrible where the list includes an entry that covers multiple films. Once I’ve watched both Ivan The Terrible films, I’ll have covered all these ‘series’ and will be left with just the standalones. I guess that’s a bit of a cool milestone.

Ivan the Terrible, Part I is, as you’d expect, covers the early years of Ivan the Terrible’s reign as the tsar of Russia. We start at his lavish coronation and end after the death of his first wife and his defeat to the Poles and Livonians (now Latvia and Estonia). Whilst it would not be advisable to take all the events on board as definite history (as it was created to the standards of Stalin’s censorship), I feel like I have learnt so much about Russian history and I really am keen to learn more.

Thinking a bit on this having to meet censorship standards – it’s interesting that this is how Stalin was happy to have one of his heroes being represented on film. From his perspective he would have seen the strong ruler who conquered, united Russia and shook up the systems of the upper classes (all things he’ll have seen himself as). From a modern and non-Russian perspective, this character is already pretty despotic… and this film was meant to be him at his most level-headed – so I can only imagine what happens in the sequel.

The film itself is so well constructed from the intrigue and pacing of the story to the use of space in the interior and exterior shots. There also such a weird mixture of lavishness (e.g. the pouring over of coins in the coronation) and sternness (e.g. the captured Kazan prisoners being tied to the barricades in order to be shot by their own side) that works so well for the telling of this story. Then again, this is the same director who did Battleship Potemkin – so he knows how to do a great set piece.

I know that I usually try to put gaps in between films of the same director, but given that I really want to see the next part of this story about the life of Ivan the Terrible… I’m going to try and watch the second and final part when I next have the time. But first Dumbo. I’m loving this Disney challenge.

Good Eatin’ – Greek Wild Thyme Honey

List Item: Try as many of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die as possibleFood item: Hymettus Honey
Progress: 770/1001

Just over two months ago, I was up Mount Hymettus as part of my recent trip to Greece and at no point did I find somewhere nearby that sold honey. You see, other than the prospect of some amazing views, there was the hope that I would be able to find some honey on that particular day for the sake of this list.

That did not come to pass, but I did find a more niche food store in Athens that – whilst not explicitly called Hymettus Honey – was monofloral, wild thyme-based and locally made. So, I think that’s good enough to cross this off.

In the past I haven’t exactly been enthusiastic about the different honeys on this food list. I found manuka honey to taste a bit too much like menthol, beech honeydew was weirdly smokey and heather honey is just the product of the devil. However, with this honey… I might have actually found one I really enjoy eating.

As honey’s go it isn’t too sweet and it’s fairly runny, which makes it a whole lead easier to spread on bread. There’s an underlying woody and herbal quality from the wild thyme, but it’s not too imposing. In fact, this honey is pleasingly subtle and is likely to be used on some late night snacking over the next few weeks. It only took me nearly five years to find a honey from this list that I actually liked!

 

🎻♫♪ – Sensemayá by Silvestre Revueltas

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
 54/501Title: Sensemayá
Composer: Silvestre Revueltas
Nationality: Mexican
Year:
1938

I did say that I’d cover another piece as soon as possible, so I figured there was no time like the present.

With Sensemayá I am adding another country to the list with the first piece of Mexican classical music being crossed off from the list. To be honest, this was the reason I settled on this particular piece, also it helps plug a hole in section where I haven’t yet listened to a piece.

Like The Sorcerer’s Apprentice from yesterday,  Sensemayá  is based on a poem of the same name. This poem by Nicolás Guillén has the translated title of ‘Chant to Kill a Snake’ which, if you read the poem, feels like quite an accurate name. So the original source material takes from Afro-Caribbean religious cults and snake-killing chants, the classical piece then develops this into a classical piece that most of us could recognise as being indicative of some sort of tribal dance.

There’s something somewhat threatening and foreboding about this piece (probably all the snake death), in that over the course of nearly 8 minutes it seems to whip itself into a frenzy only to calm itself down again. Knowing that this is based on a snake killing chant – I cannot not think of snakes being slaughtered and their blood raining down on their executioner. The ending feels like a final knife blow or the moment the head of some sort of hooded cobra is decapitated and lifted above the head of the chief dancer.

As a piece the main sections being utilised are the brasses, woodwinds and percussion. Seeing how we are in a slightly different culture compared to other classical pieces, you can hear some different pieces of percussion coming to the forefront. Alongside the glockenspiel and drums you can hear maracas and the prominent use of claves (or woodblocks) to demonstrate the change in tempo of the dance.

If Disney ever do another Fantasia… it’s highly unlikely that a piece like this would be used. Unless they think snake massacres are suitable for children, then it’s fair game.

🎻♫♪ – The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Paul Dukas

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress:
 53/501Title: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Composer: Paul Dukas
Nationality: French
Year:
1897

Right, so it appears that pre-Fantasia I have not done a separate listen for all the pieces from that film that happen to also be on the 1001 classical list. The opening piece from the film, whilst on this list, is part of a larger collection of Beethoven’s Preludes, Fantasias, Toccatas & Fugues – so will be doing that at a later date.

So, how can I talk about Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice separate from its appearance in Fantasia. Whether or not you like Disney’s visual interpretation of the ancient story (although this symphonic poem is based on Goethe’s 1797 poem) you can’t fault them for popularizing a great piece of music.

During this classical listening quest, some of my favourite pieces to listen to have been one’s with definite stories (like Lieutenant Kijé and The Isle of the Dead) although, to be fair, most of the non-story ones I’ve listened to so far are motets or motet-adjacent – which have given me some issues other than a lack of story.

The orchestra required to play this is pretty large – mainly as more and more sections need to come in as the apprentice’s spell gets progressively worse. However, an interesting part of this is in the percussion. I think this is the first time in this list that I’ve heard such a prominent use of a glockenspiel… especially such a difficult use. I mean… I find it hard to play Guitar Hero so playing such a part just boggles my mind.

Right, so I think I’m needing to do a non-Fantasia piece very soon. I guess I need to see where I’ll fit that in.

What’s On TV – Orange Is The New Black

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 219/501
Title: Orange Is The New Black
Episodes Aired: 91
Year(s): 2013-2019
Country: USA

Over two months since I last did one of these TV posts – for the UK historical procedural show Garrow’s Law. In the interim I’ve been to Greece, Taiwan and Latvia – so I’ve not had too much time for television, let alone a show that’s an hour long. I could have gone for a different show that better fit in the gaps, but this is what the bucket of shows dictated.

This is not a slight on Orange Is The New Black as a show at all. I thought this was a fantastic show and, every time we turned on Netflix I knew I was going to have a really fun hour. However, unlike a lot of other people who enjoy this show, I did not find it to be bingeable. Maybe it’s because, within the laughs, there’s a lot of very severe topics covered that meant I was emotionally done by the end of each episode.

For the uninitiated, Orange Is The New Black is a dramady set in a woman’s prison. Our entry point is a WASPy bisexual woman called Piper who has been locked up after her drug-running past has caught up to her. This is very much a basic description of the show as, to be honest, the best bits are the huge and varied cast of characters surrounding her.

The key to the success of this show is the variety in the main and supporting characters – as well as the amazing performances and important issues that they address. This isn’t a show that shies away from any issue that could arise amongst members of a women’s prison. Issues like trans-rights, terminal illness, sexuality, abortion, rape and drug addiction are really just the tip of the iceberg.

With a cast so large and well done it’s really difficult to isolate favourites. I started making a list of my favourite characters and performances for this blog, but I ended up with at least ten people that I wanted to reference – which feels like a little much. However, if I were to do a top 5, I’d want to highlight Uzo Aduba, Laura Prepon, Kate Mulgrew, Danielle Brooks and Yael Stone. In the end, there’s a reason that this show won three consecutive awards at the Screen Actor’s Guild for Best Ensemble.

Like with Only Connect, RuPaul’s Drag Race and The Bridge this is a show that I will be watching long after this post is scheduled. Who knows, I might have caught up to this by the time the seventh and final season airs this year – I have a long time.

Good Eatin’ – The Other Samphire

List Item: Try as many of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die as possibleFood item: Rock Samphire
Progress: 769/1001

It’s just a few days before Christmas at the time of writing and that means it’s time for the yuletide pilgrimage to Borough Market. In a number of recent visits I have struck out trying to find something for the list, but as some sort of pre-Christmas miracle there were two things available! So, here’s the first – some rock samphire.

Since I started writing this blog, samphire has become very widely available in supermarkets and restaurants. Well, marsh samphire (also known as glasswort) has, but not rock samphire (also known as sea fennel). Despite both being called samphire, the rock and marsh varieties aren’t related. Like, at all. This, and the many different regional names that both varieties have, has made this search for rock samphire all the more difficult.

To be honest, now that I’ve grown to love marsh samphire despite a bad first impression, I still prefer the samphire I already know. Where that is a juicy salty bite, rock samphire is a pretty different character. That salt taste is there, because of it also grows near the ocean, but that is not the dominant taste. No, instead there is something very perfumey about rock samphire, which makes this taste like a slightly resinous and slightly salty parsnip. In small does it’s nice, but this something that overwhelms other things in the same salad, so it’s wise to use it sparingly.

Including the 1001 food list-based Christmas present that my husband has in the bottom of the freezer – there are five more items on the food list that are going to be crossed before I return to work in the new year. Hitting 800 is starting to feel very much achievable – even if it does mean getting to know some food importers… or paying a very early visit to a fish market.

📽️ Disney Time – Fantasia

List Item:  Watch The Disney Animated Canon
Progress: 3/57Title: Fantasia
Year: 1940

After mentioning this film plenty of times in posts on various entries on the 1001 Classical Works list, it’s finally time to talk about Fantasia. I find it hard to imagine how much pressure was on this film to be successful after Pinocchio (that had been released just 9 months earlier in February 1940) had failed to break even. Then to have the worst happen… not only does Fantasia pretty much bomb in the box office despite some critical acclaim, but it takes over two decades to break even.

I know that this failure was partly due to the Second World War cutting off international markets, but it feels like the ticket-buying public just weren’t ready for an animated film that does interpretive short pieces on classical music. Then again, can you imagine Dreamworks or Illumination turning a big profit on such a risk if it was their big summer release? Exactly.

These might be words that I might be forced to eat at during a later film, but Fantasia really is the Disney Animated Studios at their most creative. In these two hours and seven segments we see all shades of Disney. Night on Bald Mountain and the dinosaur fight in The Rite of Spring are incredibly dark, Dance of the Hours shows Disney’s puckish side and then there’s the very experimental opener put to Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.

I wish I could say that watching Fantasia at a young age (and re-watching the VHS plenty of times) gave me an interest in classical music that lasted. It didn’t. What it did, however, was act as a door-wedge to ensure that I would be open to, and stay open to, it in the future. Just weird that the catalyst to burst that door off it’s hinges and keep me permanently interested would be drawings from Japan.

Fantasia was such a statement of intent from Disney to be experimental that it would have been so cool to see them pull off all of their ideas. If they’d worked out this could have been a roadshow with interchangeable segments and contain experiments in 3D and the use of smell in the cinema. Who knows, if this film hadn’t bombed the way it did (reviews comparing this to Nazism wouldn’t have helped) just imagine how much further Disney could have taken this concept.

As it stands, Fantasia is a major highlight in the Disney canon and falls within my Top 10 Disney movies – however, we aren’t done with the classics yet. Next film chronologically is Dumbo, so I need to get ready to write through my tears.

Let’s Get Literal – One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

List Item: Read 100 of the greatest works of fiction
Progress: 52/100Title: One Hundred Years of Solitude
Author: Gabriel García Márquez
Year: 1967
Country: Colombia

In the run up to the Christmas break I really wanted to read something a bit magical or at least a little bit gothic. In the past something from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld has done for this urge, but this year I wanted to go for something a bit different. Not gonna lie, my choosing of this book might have been influenced by having Rosalía’s El Mal Querer on repeat.

When I think back on everything I have ever read, I am not sure if there has been anything quite like One Hundred Years of Solitude. I came into this wanting something a bit magical and a bit mysterious, but I didn’t quite expect that this masterpiece of magical realism would be quite so brimming with the other-worldly and yet deeply rooted in actual Colombian historical events like the Banana Massacre of 1928 and the Thousand Days’ War.

This is a world where people ascend to the sky, suffer plagues of yellow butterflies and fear that a family is cursed to bear a pig-tailed child that end the bloodline. It’s fantastical, full of heart and with a massive cast of characters with very similar names (the family tree at the front came in SO useful towards the end of the book). It all serves to heighten everything in this world with each sentence contributing detail, mood or emotion.

Going through this book it is near impossible to fall for characters or imagine their settings in vivid detail. Over the course we watch this town swell and decay, as we do the central family. As with all things in this book, everything feels predestined and inevitable – but that’s so much on the theme of fate.

Writing this down has made me realise just how difficult it is for me to put into satisfactory words just how this book was able to affect me. This is not a book I would have picked up if it were not for doing this list and, since he refused to allow it, this is is a story that I’ll never be able to see a film or television version of. Still, I experienced it and that’s the main thing.

World Cooking – Botswana

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Botswana
Progress: 28/193

Going into this I had three images inside my head of the country of Botswana:

  1. The wildlife and some beautiful landscapes
  2. The great colours in the flag, which is like a remix of Estonia
  3. The way that Yakko Warner says ‘Botswana’ in the Countries of the World song.

It is so hard to not read the name of this country without thinking of Yakko Warner, which made for some interesting Googling. By doing Botswana, I am continuing to tick off countries in the south of Africa whilst leaving the north comparatively uncovered. However, the influences on the cuisine of Botswana are quite different to Mozambique and Lesotho – both countries that I have already ticked off.

Because of it’s position as a former British colony sandwiched between former Dutch and Portuguese colonies – there are a hell of a lot of outside influences on the cuisine of this very flat nation. They claim to be the originator of the watermelon and have a wide variety of fruit and vegetables available to them (including the very delicious marula) as well as the more general maize and sorghum. It’s also worth noting that, for the region, Botswana has a comparatively high human development index rating and a low corruption rating – not as high as a lot of Europe, but I thought it was worth highlighting.

Main: Seswaa

As you know, I love it when I am able to make a national dish with ingredients that aren’t necessarily difficult to find – so thank you again Botswana for having a dish like Seswaa. It’s one of those dishes that takes a while to make, but most of the time is it slowly bubbling away on the stove rather than actual work. Talking of bubbling, this dish generated so much condensation that the walls were dripping – a side effect of making this in winter, meaning that the windows can’t be feasibly be opened.

For this I grabbed a recipe from Ethnic Foods R Us (who I’ve used before because they have such a cool range of countries on the books) and followed it to the letter – except for the whole bashing the meat in a bag, instead I tipped it into a plastic mixing bowl and went nuts with a pestle. The big takeaway for me was the texture of the seswaa, which is so tender and has such a flavourful and rich gravy. I can imagine that you could take this seswaa then freeze it to be filling of some very delicious beef croquettes.

With the seswaa I made some polenta (as thick as possible) and roasted some butternut squash with garlic oil. The whole plate was delicious and I already have pencilled in plans to remake the whole thing, but flavour the polenta with some cheese and herbs to really push this dish over the edge. It’s dishes like this that show how, sometimes, simpler can be better.

According to the stats, I have plenty of options for my next choice of continent. Oceania, the Americas and Asia are all up for grabs (not Europe, as I am doing that for New Year’s Day), so I guess it’s time for me to try and feel inspired. I wonder where my next country will be.