1001 Songs – 1976: Part One

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

(Don’t Fear) The Reaper – Blue Öyster Cult

Starting the year off with one of the most recognisable riffs in rock history. Given the harder (and punk) rock that I’m going to be hearing in the coming years of the 1001 songs list, it is so gratifying to know that the spirit of late 1960s psychedelic rock is alive. Not just alive but, like a Pokémon, has managed to evolve with the harder rock to produce something so brilliant as this.

I know that the rest of the parent album is not like this and is, in fact, a lot harder – but sometimes it’s good to reach back to the past and get in touch with your roots. Man, I really liked this song.

More Than a Feeling – Boston

Time for some old-school dad rock that’s a favourite at many a karaoke bar when the Dutch courage has set in. It’s really one of those archetypal examples of classic 1970s hard rock. It’s an overly dramatic rock power-ballad with a great chorus to sing-a-long to with accompanying air guitar. The ordering of the book to have this after ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’ makes for an interesting contrast in the paths rock has taken and the audiences they satisfy.

This is very much mass appeal, but it works for the song and it is easy to understand how it became so popular.

Sir Duke – Stevie Wonder

So many songs are written to honour those who inspired us once they have passed on, ‘Sir Duke’ by Stevie Wonder is probably one of the best examples out there. ‘Sir Duke’, written in memory of jazz musician Duke Ellington is a brilliant bop where Stevie Wonder pays tribute not just to Ellington but other people like Count Basie who inspired Stevie Wonder along his musical journey.

It’s songs like this where I really find it difficult to get an angle on whether it’s funk or soul. At this point, an artist like Stevie Wonder can just bring the together and make something brilliant like this. I really need to listen to Songs in the Key of Life.

The Killing of Georgie (Parts 1 & 2) – Rod Stewart

Okay, so this song hits hard. I’ve never heard of ‘The Killing of Georgie’, but it feels like something really important that the LGBT community of my generation should have heard of. I mean, a 6 minute long song about the life of a gay man who was kicked out by his homophobic father, moves to New York, finds love and it then stabbed to death by a street gang (which is also based on someone he knew)? This is brutal and I am so ashamed to be a gay man and not have heard of this song.

Writing and releasing a song like this in 1976 as a single feels like such a risk for Rod Stewart to make… and somehow it reached number two in the UK singles chart. I have to say, that I’ve gained a bunch of respect for Rod Stewart thanks to these lists. I may not think this was the best song, but at least I know it exists now.

Dancing Queen – Abba

Now for a perfect palate cleanser with a song that actually has been widely brought into the gay culture. I mean, what is there to say about ‘Dancing Queen’ that hasn’t been said millions of times before? I love ABBA to the point of visiting their museum in Stockholm and no matter how much I hear their music, ‘Dancing Queen’ included, I never get tired of it.

This is the beginnings of pop as we now know it, rather than ‘popular music’ like The Beatles. There are extreme disco influences here blended with Euro-pop to make an anthem for the love of dancing and having a good time. Sure it’s wholesome and very feel good, but this is a perfectly crafted pop song. End of.

Blitzkrieg Bop – The Ramones

I don’t know how many times I have referenced the Ramones debut album in other posts about proto-punk, punk or post-punk albums. For years this has been my favourite album of the punk genre and finally I have reached the iconic ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ as part of the songs list.

Listening to this again in isolation from the rest of the album, and having recently listened to Raw Power and Entertainment! I realize the reason I love this song so much – it’s feel good pop-punk in a time where pop-punk wasn’t yet a thing. Probably explains why I like this the most, given my pop leanings.

Love Hangover – Diana Ross

So, this feels like a structured traditional Diana Ross ballad in the beginning half only to shift into an elongated disco break full of her improvising. I was really hoping this song was set for disco lift off and foreshadow Donna Summer’s epic 1977 song ‘I Feel Love’. But no, instead it’s just a lot of the same and I cannot imagine what it would be like to listen to the 12 minute version.

Cokane in My Brain – Dillinger

No. Just no. I don’t know if a song is meant to inspire fits of giggles, but I’m not entirely sure how else to approach this. It feels like someone transcribed the ramblings of a patient in a mental hospital as he talked to himself and then put it to music and sang it with as flat an affect as possible. No wonder I never listened to the reggae music station in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Christ.

Police and Thieves – Junior Murvin

And here we have another reggae song in a row. The topic of turf wars in Jamaica is interesting, but the music was so distorted and the falsetto vocals so unsettling that it was difficult to discern what the song was about. At this point I don’t know what to say about reggae that I haven’t said before – the constant repetition of all the musical elements just makes it boring.

Still though – why oh why couldn’t this be the cover that The Clash did for their debut album instead of this.

(I’m) Stranded – The Saints

Wow, I hadn’t quite realised how far-reaching the punk movement was in the beginning. Here we are with the Australian band The Saints releasing their first punk single before the likes of The Sex Pistols and The Clash. To be fair, it only pre-dates ‘Anarchy in the UK’ by just over a month but it’s interesting to note.

Unlike ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’, this song does have some anger running through it. Interestingly though it’s an anger about being isolated rather than anger at the establishment, which will coming up a lot in future punk songs on this list. As the 1976 songs draw to a close, all the key pure punk players will have emerged with 1977 marking the beginning of post-punk. Makes a bit of a mockery of the whole genre thing, doesn’t it.

Progress: 434/1021

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