List Item: Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die
After the mammoth that was 1958 it is nicer to have a smaller year again. What struck me is just how varied this year. I know that when we get to the later years we will see variation as a standard, but I didn’t expect it to be like this in 1959. I have to say that this list is a fantastic learning experience.
Brand New Cadillac – Vince Taylor & His Playboys
It’s always a learning experience doing this list. I, of course, recognise this song from The Clash’s seminal recording London Calling. There is so much more urgency to this song compared to some of the other rock and roll songs we have heard so far. Also, is it just me or is that the Batman theme playing in the background?
Also, this is British! Screw Cliff Richard’s interpretation of rock and roll, this is so much better.
Also also, Vince Taylor is one of the major inspirations for David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust. What the what!?
What I’d Say (Parts 1 & 2) – Ray Charles
It’s sometimes all to easy forget that in this time of the explosion of rock and roll that there were other talents developing. ‘What’d I Say’ is an improvised song that Ray Charles made to fill in some time on a record… and now it is ranked as one of the best songs of all time by Rolling Stone magazine.
Whilst I would not go that far this is one of those incredibly influential songs (as in influenced Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger) so I guess you just had to be there?
What’s interesting to me is that this got banned for sexual content (we are talking pre ‘Je t’aime…moi non plus’ here) because of the moans and some of the more suggestive lyrics. That is until white people started doing covers… ugh casual racism.
I Only Have Eyes For You – The Flamingos
I could review this in the style of a Starcraft cheat code: doowop overwhelming. There is also a somewhat extreme use of echo effects being used in this song – maybe to make it sound like it was recorded in a church? Or maybe an echo chamber (you know, that place where they discovered that a duck’s quack can echo).
Ne me quitte pas – Jacques Brel
Another one of those songs where I know it better as a cover version (by Nina Simone). Whilst I think Nina Simone is the queen of the interpretation, this version by Jacques Brel is just divine.
There is something in the quality of his voice and the simple backing piano and a sound that I can only identify as either a theremin or a viola being strangled.
The song itself with the title meaning ‘Don’t Leave Me’ sounds like a love song on the surface… but it’s incredibly double-edged. Instead it’s about how men will humiliate themselves for a woman. I appreciate that dark sense of humour he has.
Shout (Parts 1 & 2) – The Isley Brothers
“Oh my god I know this song”. How many more times is this going to happen when I suddenly recognise a song from a cover (Lulu‘s the cover artist in question here).
This song is just so incredibly happy and upbeat. There are just so many parts to this song – the diminuendo, the call and response, the abundance of tambourines. Also, was that a Little Richard-style whooping I could hear in the background? Amazing.
Seriously, when I have a bad day I think this is a song to just have on to get that smile back on my face.
Mack the Knife – Bobby Darin
Ah the classic version of ‘Mack the Knife’ (I know that this is originally from ‘The Threepenny Opera’, but this arrangement is very different). You hear Bobby Darin and you just wonder why Robbie Williams bothered doing his cover.
I love just how dark this song is. The fact that this song is about a murderer and rapist just gets lost in the big band music and the joyful delivery.
I wonder how many people who enjoyed it back in 1959 actually got what it was about…
It Ain’t Necessarily So – Diahann Carroll & The Andre Previn Trio
Porgy and Bess was a hugely successful opera and, if you back at 1959, there was so many different albums released with different interpretations of the soundtrack.
‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’ is an interesting song due to the subject matter. It’s sung from the point of view of a drug dealer who is questioning if parts of the Bible are true. An interesting topic for a song released in the fifties.
Diahann Carroll… I’ll be seeing more of you soon once I get to your 1968 TV show.