Tag Archives: 1001 songs

1001 Songs – 1974: Part Two

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

Evie – Stevie Wright

At just over 11 minutes long, ‘Evie’ is one of the longest songs on this list. But, to call this one song is deceptive because it is formed of three very distinct parts. The first a bluesy Rolling Stones style rock song wooing Evie, the second a more piano-driven soft rock depicting the comfort of the relationship with Evie and the concluding third part a more disco-driven rock (think Santa Esmeralda’s version of ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’) about his emotions having lost her.

This song is epic in all the right ways. The roller-coaster of emotions at the birth, life and death of a relationship with such contrasting musical styles. All three parts would work separately, but together the three parts put most album length rock operas to shame. Bravo.

Free Man in Paris – Joni Mitchell

To think that Joni Mitchell wrote this song about her friend on holiday in Paris. A friend who happens to be David Geffen, the founder of the music label Geffen Records who released one of my albums of 2018.

I love this era of Joni Mitchell and how she fuses folk and jazz music to make something so earnest and so enjoyable. Listening to this had also reminded me that I really need to get around to writing up Court and Spark. I listened to it ages ago and never got around to writing it up. It’s things like this that is making the completion of the albums list drag on a bit.

I Will Always Love You – Dolly Parton

Right, so I know I’m in the minority here but I really do prefer Dolly Parton’s original version of this song to the 1991 Whitney Houston version. There’s no denying the power of the vocals in Houston’s version, I mean come on it’s astonishing, but you can not beat the raw unfettered emotions in Parton’s original. Although, to be fair, Houston’s version suffers a lot from the arrangement… and by that I mean the saxophone solo.

The spoken-word section leading into the final chorus, leaves me misty eyed pretty much every time and goes to show that a beautiful voice showing weakness can do more than a powerful voicing showing strength. I still love the Whitney Houston version though, even if the arrangement is dated.

The Grand Tour – George Jones

Another country song about a parting. However, where Dolly Parton’s song is from the point of view of the leaver – ‘The Grand Tour’ sees George Jones cast as the man left behind. Where Parton’s song left me misty eyed, Jones’ tipped me over the edge. The titular grand tour is Jones taking us around the house to show all the places he and his wife used to find enjoyment before they had to part (most sources say because of a divorce, but some think it’s referencing her dying in childbirth).

To put these two songs next to each other is a genius move by the editors of the book as it helps to provide such an amazing contrast between the two viewpoints of leaver and left behind within the world of country music. Sure, Parton was singing about a musical partner, but the emotion was there just the same.

With the exception of ‘Free Man in Paris’ this has been such a sad run of songs… and by the looks of the next one it won’t be getting cheerier any time soon.

Withered and Died – Richard and Linda Thompson

Was there a shortage of mood stabilisers in 1974 or something? This half of 1974’s songs is so much of a downer that I’ve had to wrap a blanket around me.

‘Withered and Died’ is such a haunting and sombre song about, what I am assuming, depression. It’s a song about being left behind physically and emotionally and giving in to the dark part of the soul. As someone who has been through depression there’s a lot of this song I can identify with and so listening to it just once has left me feeling, for lack of a better word, hurt.

Beautifully sung and arranged, but still. Ouch.

Louisiana 1927 – Randy Newman

And the depression keeps on coming with Randy Newman’s lament about hundreds of thousands of people left homeless in Louisiana after the floods of 1927. He talks of the the lack of help they received from President Coolidge and has the repeated refrain of ‘they’re trying to wash us away’. Sounds oddly familiar doesn’t it? It’s little wonder that this song gained further notice after Hurricane Katrina hit which lead to Newman re-recording it as part of a benefit album.

I still cannot fathom that this is the man that wrote the Toy Story soundtrack. I mean, he used to write music that felt so important and so political in his youth and now we all know him for ‘You Got A Friend In Me’.

You Haven’t Done Nothin’ – Stevie Wonder

Finally a break in the clouds of depressive music, even if it is an angry protest song at the presidency of Richard Nixon (seriously, between this and ‘Louisiana 1927, it goes to show just how little has changed since the 1970s). It feels good to have some good funk music with a heavy clavinet track and the first appearance on the list of the Jackson family (the Jackson 5 provided the backing vocals, which is more a footnote than them making this song extra special).

I like how this is the good side of funk. There’s repetition but, unlike James Brown, there’s enough variation to keep you interesting and the repetition isn’t done ad nauseum.

This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us – Sparks

I don’t know if it’s because this is the ultimate antidote for the rest of the songs in this post, but I absolutely adored this song. Another glam rock song that I am loving, if you had told me this a few months ago I would not have believed you.

Why do I like this? I cannot tell you other than that it’s a bit nuts with it being completely sung in falsetto with fake gun shots and the use of the film cliches. This song feels like the moment where glam rock has started to mutate into power pop – and I really love good power pop. What a great way to finish off 1974!

Progress: 404/1021

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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

1001 Songs – 1973: Part Two

Child’s Christmas in Wales – John Cale

Whilst sharing the name with a work by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, John Cale’s song was inspired by it rather than set it to music. I guess like ‘Wuthering Heights’, but not as inspiring. Seriously though, having not done anything for this list in over three months.

It’s interesting to note that this is someone who worked for some serious big hitters back in the day and his album is on the 1001 Albums list… and that this appears to have been picked for the list as it is an accessible work. Honestly it was pretty milquetoast and is a bit of an odd choice for a list like this.

Solid Air – John Martyn

Whilst this is technically a folk song ‘Solid Air’ feels like a real oddball compared to a lot of the other folk out at the time. This is such a hodge-podge of different styles – some jazzy instrumentation, a bit of dreamy rock and such a chilled out feeling that it feels like this should be playing in the background of a cinematic sequence of people taking drugs and getting super mellow.

Not that all this is necessarily a bad thing, although I do wish I could understand what he was saying more of the time. Also worth noting that this song was dedicated to Nick Drake – who would die 18 months after this song was released. So sad.

I Know What I Like (in Your Wardrobe) – Genesis

Right, so I was disappointed that this song wasn’t about a man coming out to his wife about being a cross-dresser.

From the get-go this is a weird song in the tradition of psychedelic rock with the addition of spoken word elements. The topic is someone who is a lawnmower and is perfectly happy with this as a job despite what others say. Not entirely sure where the wardrobe comes into it – but I’m not going to press that too much.

It’s a very odd song as it combines the elements of psychedelia with more modern studio effects and an incredibly down-to-earth message. Did I like it? Honestly, I don’t really know.

Cum on Feel the Noize – Slade

I don’t think I’ve ever heard this song other than the choral chant – which I’ve never really liked. So imagine how weird it was to start on this song, realise how little of this I’ve actually heard and then end up really liking it.

In context this chorus is brilliant and works so well with the rest of the song as the high energy points, on it’s own it just feels a bit like something you’d hear chanted in a football stadium. This is the second time I’ve been pleasantly surprised by this style of rock – could this mean I may end up liking it.

Living for the City – Stevie Wonder

Why have I not listened to this song’s parent album yet. Innervisions is so high on my album list and this song is a reason why I should make that one of the next things I listen to and blog about. Stevie Wonder in this era was funk-soul magic and something I need to educate myself more in.

The version I listened to was the single edit, which cuts out the story element of the song whereby a black man escapes to New York City to try and leave behind his life of racial discrimination – only to be racially profiled by the police and sent to jail. I wish this message was ‘of the time’, but we really aren’t there yet.

I Can’t Stand the Rain – Ann Peebles

When this song started I thought I had a modern sampled version of it because of those electric timbales doing a distorted mimicry of raindrops. That must have been really weird and futuristic to hear back in 1973. That electronic riff really makes this song, and I love the sentiment of someone singing to bemoan the rain. It appeals to the British majority of my being.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Elton John

Back when I listened to the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album this was a song that struck a chord. It’s one of those songs that I have come back to again and again in the four years since. The rest of the album not so much, even though I did grow to love a lot of the songs on it.

I can’t quite pinpoint what makes this song so magical for me, but it’s something a lot of other people seem to feel as well.

Future Days – Can

For a krautrock band this is not what I expected. ‘Future Days’ is basically a precursor to ambient music and really feels like the grandfather of tracks from Air’s Moon Safari released some 35 years later (especially ‘Ce Matin La’).

I’ve been putting off Can’s entry from my album list (their earlier album Tago Mago) because I was expecting some heavier rock, but if it’s like this… then I think I’ll love it.

Progress: 389/1021

1001 Songs – 1973: Part One

Personality Crisis – New York Dolls

Every year we inch closer and closer to punk music and, with this track from New York Dolls, you can really hear how the hard rock song is beginning to contort to something more akin to the Ramones or especially The Clash.

The album this comes from (which I will need to listen to at some point for my other listed) is cited as being a key early and influential work in the punk genre. The key thing that makes this not quite punk is the glam element to their image (which was partially based in drag) and the flamboyant ways that auxillary instruments like keyboards are included.

The Ballroom Blitz – The Sweet

Right, a proper glam rock song here. Before starting on this list I would have said that I just don’t like glam rock, but I think I’m coming round to the idea that it might be more the fusion of glam and hard rock that I don’t particularly go for. I mean, I like David Bowie and I was tapping my foot along to ‘The Ballroom Blitz’ nearlt as soon as it started.

Interesting to note that this band started off as a bubblegum pop act before morphing into glam rock. I think it might be this weird fusion of musical styles that actually helped me to enjoy this song. Also it has a great sing-a-long chorus, which is always seductive.

Jolene – Dolly Parton

‘Jolene’ is one of my favourite country songs of all time. It’s a stone cold classic tale of a wife pleading that an attractive woman doesn’t go and steal her husband just because she can. These feelings of inadequacy is probably something everyone can relate to at some point within their relationships, which just adds to it.

The real power of the song comes from the simple backing guitar and the amazing vocals of Dolly Parton in the front. Such a spartan arrangement just adds to the image of a housewife fretting in the kitchen about ‘that’ woman. Is it an actual confrontation or the wife pleading to the sky.

It was nice to have a country break.

Next – The Sensational Alex Harvey Band

Well… this is a weird song. This is done on the list as being another glam/hard rock song, but it feels like anything but. I mean, this lists Belgian chanteur Jacques Brel as one of the writers – and given the content and cadence of the lyrics I could really believe it.

This song feels like what would happen if Captain Beefheart took it upon himself to sing covers of French chanson. It’s a rock-cabaret fusion that is oddly unsettling and yet I can’t quite say that I disliked it. To be fair, this took me completely off-guard and feels weird enough that it’s inclusion on this list feels justified.

20th Century Boy – T. Rex

Okay, so maybe I just don’t like Slade. For me Slade has always been an avatar for what glam rock, but the more I realise all the songs that come under the ‘glam rock’ moniker, the more I realise that I actually like quite a lot of these songs.

I mean I have heard ’20th Century Boy’ quite a few times over the years and I have always thought well of it. Now that I listen to it in context with the other glam and hard rock songs that were coming out in 1973, I think I like it more. Probably means I should be making time for Electric Warrior at some point in the future.

Rock On – David Essex

This post has been a real revelation about what ‘glam rock’ really means. Given that it has roots in the cabaret scene it would make sense that songs like ‘Rock On’ would fit into this category. It’s just that… it’s not an incredibly rocky song in the more obvious sense.

However there is this underlying menace to that song with it’s very distinctive baseline, percussion and muted vocals. This is a rock song without electric guitars. Considering that I only know of David Essex from his later work in musical theatre, this was a welcome surprise.

Search & Destroy – Iggy & The Stooges

Compared to some of the other glam rock and proto-punk that I’ve listened to for this post ‘Search and Destroy’ actually feels pretty straightforward. I guess I need to listen to the rest of Raw Power before I cement an opinion on this song as, for now, it feels oddly vanilla within this line-up.

Desperado – The Eagles

After all these harder rock songs (apart from ‘Jolene’) it’s nice to end on a soft rock song that is actually quite beautiful. Seeing how the only Eagles song I knew before this was ‘Hotel California’, I expected something a bit more rocky rather than a, then modern, take on the rock ballad.

Given that this is the song that named the album, there really is a weird disconnect between the tough looking album cover and this song that is a plea to a friend to come to their senses. It’s one of those songs where I imagine everyone watching it played live will get their lighters out and sway in the dark.

Progress: 381/1021

1001 Songs – 1972: Part Three

Most People I Know (Think That I’m Crazy) – Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs

When doing this list, which is very much focussed on what happens in Europe and the Americas, it is easy to forget about the music that was happening on the other side of the world. Makes it a nice change, therefore, that this final section of the 1972 songs begins with a song that is thought to be an exemplar of Australian rock.

It’s a song that feels very much like the result of the previous five years of music being filtered on it’s way around the world. There’s elements of The Rolling Stones, The Byrds and early Who that has been meshed together. Since I have never heard of this act before, it is really hard to judge how big they were. I mean, this is an act that was big enough in their native Australia to weather the storm of Beatlemania.

As a song it is nice enough. It feels like a bit of a throwback, but that’s not always a bad thing.

Taj Mahal – Jorge Ben

Something extremely different here from the shores of Brazil. My first instinct was to think of this as samba disco or funky samba (mainly because of that guitar in the background). It’s unlike anything that I have heard so far for this song list, and am unlikely to again. It was just so much fun to listen to!

What I have been really getting from listening to this list is just how influential Brazil was in this era of music. Once jazz and blues had become normalised and brought into the fold of the English-speaking world’s music it really is these Afro-South American genres of samba, tropicalia and bossa nova that ware the next big wave of influence. It’ll get drowned out by punk and metal, but this will still be playing in the background.

Walk on the Wild Side – Lou Reed

I’ve always enjoyed this song. It never ceases to amaze me just how a song about a transvestite hooker giving blow jobs got radio play in the US. I mean, sure, we have sexual songs now – but this is 1972. I guess that it helps that this song has the catchy ‘do-be-dop’ as the earworm, so people don’t realise what they’ve just been listening to. At least on the first listen.

It’s also interesting how this song was co-produced by a young David Bowie and each verse namechecks a different member of Andy Warhol’s collective. ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ is just this little piece of history that has so many layers to it that could take an entire book to explore.

Virginia Plain – Roxy Music

I guess it’s official, we’re entering the brief window of time where glam rock was a big genre. Honestly, this is going to be a bit of a push for me as the majority of glam rock doesn’t really excite me. Although, way back when, I did enjoy listening to Roxy Music’s second album For Your Pleasure as that was when Brian Eno took the reins and steered the band into a more art rock direction.

As for this song, I am glad that this did not make it onto the initial pressings of Roxy Music’s eponymous debut as I really did not like this. Something just felt off about it, which is rectified in their later work.

You’re So Vain – Carly Simon

Arguably one of the best mysteries in modern music history is the identity of the man who ‘You’re So Vain’ is aimed at. Then again, any man who thinks it could be about them just plays into the song’s conceit.

It’s a powerful piece of pop-rock that has become near immortal thanks to the fact that the identity of the man hasn’t been 100% divulged, just one of the three men who the song is about: actor-director Waren Beatty. For me this sounds like a rockier Carole King, which is never a bad thing. It makes me wonder what a Carly Simon album would be like, especially as she has influenced one of my favourite pop acts: Carly Rae Jepson.

Today I Started Loving You Again – Bettye Swann

Every now and then I do feel the need to scratch my head as to why a song has been included on the list. ‘Today I Started Loving You Again’ is one of those songs.

It’s interesting how this song started life as the work of outlaw country star Merle Haggard and has passed through so many hands that it has resulted in this big band RnB cover. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good song with Bettye Swann having a beautiful timbre to her voice – but it’s a throwback to the late sixties (when it was first recorded… and just wasn’t a hit until 1972). So, yes, why is this on here? Who knows, but who cares. At least it’s a good song.

Il mio canto libero – Lucio Battisti

At the start of this post we had a song that was deemed an Australian rock classic, now we have a song seen as an Italian pop classic. Maybe future iterations of this list will finally bite the bullet and start to include classic songs from Japan, Korea and China? I hope so, but that’s not what this song is about.

‘Il mio canto libero’ is an Italian pop-rock song about the freedom to love. The first 2 minutes are an excellent slow build into a big emotional chosut, but by the time you reach the four minute mark it starts to feel like the song has used up all it’s emotional cache and it becomes slightly overshadowed by it’s own bombast.

Superfly – Curtis Mayfield

Sadly the first thing I thought about when this song started was the Nelly and Christina Aguilera duet ‘Tilt Your Head Back’ (don’t judge, it’s a good song).

It is hard to hear ‘Superfly’ and not compare it to ‘Theme From Shaft’. After all these are both title tracks from blaxploitation films from the early 1970s that contain elements of funk and soul. For me ‘Superfly’ is a better song because it doesn’t feel indulgent, in fact it’s subversive because (as a song that plays over the credits of Superfly the movie) it actively criticises some of the things you just watched. All whilst being effortlessly cool.

Makes me think that Superfly should be my next album.

Crazy Horse – The Osmonds

How did a Mormon boyband end up making a great piece of hard rock like ‘Crazy Horses’? Thinking about everything I have been fed about the Osmond family and their incredibly wholesome image I cannot help but but applaud such a substantial change in direction that ended up with them playing concerts filled with Black Sabbath fans.

This is a song that helped to usher in harder rock and metal into the charts – and they did it with a song about gas-guzzling cars messing up the enviornment. Such a wholesome topic, which shows how you can never truly take the Mormonism out of the Osmonds. Also they were pretty much all in their mid to late teens by this point, so how metal could their lyrics be.

All the Young Dudes – Mott the Hoople

Okay, so maybe I over-generalised about glam rock. I really like this song, and have done since I first heard it on the Juno soundtrack. I guess that it might be the David Bowie influence that makes ‘All the Young Dudes’ a noteworthy track.

I’m not sure why this works as well as it does. Maybe it’s the dark music and imagery? Maybe it’s because I’m still not entirely sure what is going on in the song? Maybe it’s the opening guitar and the closing repetition. Probably a bit of everything. It’s just a good glam rock song.

Progress: 374/1021

1001 Songs – 1972: Part Two

Silver Machine – Hawkwind

Starting off today’s batch of songs with a bit of space rock that helped to introduce the world to Lemmy (who, obviously, later goes on to found and front Motörhead). It’s the meshing of harder rock guitars and sci-fi bleeps and bloops that make this space rock and, therefore, an interesting addition to the list. I guess this is what happens when a prog rock and psychedelic rock are given access to electronic instruments – which means we are one step closer to the world of shoegaze… which I am looking forward to see being born.

I like a long intro in a song, but it was a bit long for something that never opened up an album. By the time Lemmy properly got into it, the song was over and it was a few bleeps and bloops left before the end. Still, it’s another one of those signposts for what was beginning to happen in 1972.

Tumbling Dice – The Rolling Stones

Listening to this reminds me just how much I need to listen to and cross off Exile from Main St. from my albums list. This is an album that is ranked within the top 10 of all albums ever released and ‘Tumbling Dice’ is the track chosen to represent this album on the songs list.

With ‘Tumbling Dice’ the Rolling Stones are still doing their blues rock thing, as they had been doing for nearly a decade by this point, but it’s such an interesting labyrinth of a song whose runtime is under 4 minutes. On the surface it feels it would be a bit piecemeal – there are so many changes along the way that it keeps your ear out for what is coming next. I can’t even begin to imagine how you would put a song like this together. Maybe I should listen to this album soon…

Thirteen – Big Star

I thought this song sounded familiar – Elliot Smith did a cover of this which was later released on his posthumous New Moon collection.

‘Thirteen’ is a sweet folk song about adolescence, but the earlier part of adolescence where things are still a bit more innocent. It’s interesting to hear him name check ‘Paint it Black’ by the Rolling Stones because that feels so honest to what a teenager at that time would have started to get into. On the whole it’s simple, effective and emotionally honest.

Big Eyed Beans from Venus – Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band

God, how long has it been since I listened to Trout Mask Replica. A long time, and I had forgotten how surreal Captain Beefheart could be. However, unlike anything I’ve heard of his before, ‘Big Eyed Beans from Venus’ was part of a body of work created as an attempt to create a more commercial album. This, in effect, was a leftover track from another album which then got included in their second of two albums of 1972.

It’s sticking very much with his idea of a surreal avant garde blues rock with lyrics that I can’t exactly make heads nor tails of. However, this does feel more in line with other songs I’ve heard so far in the 1972 section of the 1001 songs list. It still has the chaotic threads of a Captain Beefheart song, but it’s tempered down to the point where this feels like a mainstream compromise on his own terms.

Rocket Man – Elton John

Hands up – I cannot hear this song without thinking of the William Shatner spoken word version. Try as I might, I just close my eyes and I see Shatner delivering this as a weird trio performance.

Expelling the image of Shatner from my brain – ‘Rocket Man’ feels like a song that could have been produced if The Beatles hadn’t split up and were then finding influence from David Bowie. It’s a cool idea to write a song about the future of space travel to the point where being an astronaut is an everyday job, kind of en par with being a space trucker.

Speaking of space, this is another song from this year where space age sounds are being used to supplement rock compositions – and this is 10 years after ‘Telstar’ did a lot of the intial leg work.

Mama Weer All Crazee Now – Slade

Looking at the album cover of Slayed? I swear that Noddy Holder has always looked like he was at least in his 40s. Also, like people, the main thing I know Slade from is ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’, so any other songs of theirs can feel a bit jarring.

With ‘Mama Weer All Crazee Now’ it’s clear that metal and glam rock is about to explode from it’s confines within the wider genre of hard rock, but the time isn’t uite yet. It’ll only be a year before this songs list sees that spillover and temporarily take over the air waves before punk and disco become firmly established. It’s a full body adrenaline rush of a song that must have killed when played live. I guess we’ll see how this develops further when ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’ arrives in 1973.

Rocky Mountain High – John Denver

Well at least I won’t be having to sit through ‘Annie’s Song’ as part of the songs list. I know it’s famous and well loved, but it’s really been overdone (as the choir episode of The Vicar of Dibley would tell you).

Like how ‘City of New Orleans’ was a love letter to the railways of America that were under threat, ‘Rocky Mountain High’ is John Denver singing about his love of the Colorado mountains. It’s full of beautiful images of the mountains and watching the sunset whilst enjoying the countryside. Towards the end of the song, he turns on the tourists who are ruining his beloved Rockies which does wack you in the face… in a good way.

The Night – Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons

This shows my ignorance, but I didn’t realise that Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons lasted past the end of the 1960s. Let alone move towards the Motown family of record labels and craft something quite like ‘The Night’.

Not mincing words, but I thought that ‘The Night’ was extraordinary. This is a piece of blue-eyed soul with Phil Spector style of production. I mean, this hits so many things that would make me love a song. A dark song with beautiful harmonies and a massive production that just gives off hints of menace. This is such an about turn from ‘Working My Way Back To You’ that to call it a maturation in their sound is underselling it. Just such a pity that it never really took off in the US.

Reelin’ in the Years – Steely Dan

I guess it was the name that gave me this idea, but I always figured Steely Dan would be a metal act. So here I am girding my loins for something more in the realm of Slade, but instead I’m getting what would have happened if The Beach Boys had decided to make their music move towards the hard rock sub genre.

This is described as jazz rock in the book (which means yet another sub-genre of rock that I need to keep track of) and I am keen to see how this genre develops as I really liked the softer rock, the harmonies and the more upbeat blues structure. They have a few albums in the Acclaimed Albums Top 1000… which further illustrates the need with me to speed the hell up.

Always on My Mind – Elvis Presley

The timing of this song feels like something from a Hollywood biopic. Elvis separates from his wife Priscilla and within weeks is recording a song about how he should have been a better husband. The problem that I have is that despite the situation, Elvis’s version feels somewhat detached. Other artists would have been able to use this as an opportunity to unburden their feelings – but Elvis is a singer, not an artist, and there is a fundamental difference there.

I can see why, for the narrative, this version of the song is on the list – but better versions have since been done by Willie Nelson, the Pet Shop Boys and Loretta Lynn.

Progress: 363/1021

1001 Songs – 1972: Part One

Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone – The Temptations

Well, that was a long introduction. I believe that ‘Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone’ is the first entry (or at least one of the first entires) in the 1001 songs list that could be classified as psychadelic soul – a genre that still stays alive thanks to the likes of Janelle Monae.

For the list I listened to the 7 minute single edit – which did just feel like they removed a segment from the main mix and faded it out towards the end. At the beginning it was hard to not liken a lot of the instrumentation to ‘Theme From Shaft’. The lyrical content is interesting as rather than being joyful or political it focuses a tone of anger towards a deadbeat father.

However this psychedelic soul song suffers from the same issue that I have with most funk songs – it just goes nowhere and keeps riffing on the same thing time and time again. Still, interesting.

I’ll Take You There – The Staple Singers

Another song in the camp of ‘oh so that’s what that song is called’. Similarly, I never knew that Mavis Staples started out in a family band. The more you know, right?

So ‘I’ll Take You There’ is another song in the funk/soul genre that rotates around the same idea for 3 minutes. It’s another call and response song that camps out in the chorus until it’s time to fade out. I can see how this works in a live setting, but it loses something when recorded.

Soul Makossa – Manu Dibangu

Holy crap disco has started. Something has shifted and we’re heading off on the starship disco and it’s going to be here for a good few years.

I guess technology has caught up to the point where sampling and layering is at the point where the lush effects and echoes are able to be created in studio. It’s also interesting to see how this still has one foot in funk, but is also being in jazz and other genres from Africa.

Also, this song is the origin of the “Mama-say mama-sah ma-ma-coo-sah” that we all know from ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Something‘ and ‘Don’t Stop The Music’.

It’s going to be interesting to see how disco develops from here on out.

Superstition – Stevie Wonder

‘Superstition’ is a classic for a reason, it’s one of those timeless songs that could be released now and still have been successful.

Sure this is still very much a soul song, the drums, horns and style of singing show that. However this song is elevated by its use of a rock guitar and a better verse-chorus structure. Yes, there is still that repetition but it doesn’t matter as there is enough deviation in content to keep it interesting.

This is the first of a few Stevie Wonder songs on the list and it’s really hard to believe that it took him 15 albums to get to this point… then again he was 22 when this song was released and who on Earth has 15 albums under their belt by the time they hit their twenties.

Elected – Alice Cooper

It’s been too long since I’ve listened to a song from this list that could be given the label of “satirical”. There’s a wit to this song which really works for the song.

By most other artists this would be an angry song protesting the dirty dealings required to be a politian. With ‘Elected’ there’s more of an anarchic wink to the listener which ends up with an almost fanfare at the end (reminiscent of election parties).

I mean how perfect a song is this to release at the time of Watergate!

Sam Stone – John Prine

Okay so when this started I immediately turned off because of the vocal delivery… and then the goosebumps started. This song is rough to the point that it actually made me cry around the halfway mark.

‘Sam Stone’ is a song about a decorated soldier coming back home after a conflict having become addicted to morphine. The song is calm and yet it relentless in piling on how this addiction escalates to the point where the titular Sam Stone is eventually killed by his habit.

Many songs have been written about drug addition, but this has to be up there as one of the most affecting. Really feels like the absolute antithesis to ‘Heroin’ by The Velvet Underground.

Willin’- Little Feat

From a folk song detailing the downward spiral of drug addition to a Southern rock song that has become an anthem for truckers. Proof if proof were needed that this book is not one to be played in order.

This is an enchanting song (which might be the first Southern rock song that I’ve encountered) reflecting positively on a life lived on the road. Weird to think that this band was started by a member of Frank Zappa’s group as the style couldn’t by any more different.

I think I might need to Spotify this album later as it feels like perfect music for this warm May Bank Holiday weekend.

It’s a Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl – Faust

Another genre first here, the first krautrock song on this list which came from the album that would popularize this genre outside of Germany (where it was known as cosmic music).

I guess that this is what happens when progressive rock is filtered through an organised German lens. I mean this song is so German, I’m not even sure why but it just is. The book says that this is about as bubblegum pop as krautrock gets. I don’t know why, but the jaunty saxophone at the end just made me giggle.

It’s odd. In a good way, but still very odd.

Sail Away – Randy Newman

Oh. My. God. Like with ‘Sam Stone’ this song completely took me by surprise, but for a very different reason. The Randy Newman that I have come to know is the one that writes upbeat songs for Pixar movies and won his first Oscar for a pretty blank track from the Monsters, Inc. soundtrack.

And then, wow, there’s ‘Sail Away’ which is a song from the point of view of a slaver trying to convince Africans to get on his boat and travel with him to America. He promises them the American dream knowing full well what awful fate awaits them.

Honestly this came out of left field for me, I never realised just how canny a songwriter Randy Newman is. I may need to re-evaluate…

Progress: 353/1021

1001 Songs – 1971: Part Three

Tired of Being Alone – Al Green

Having spent the last few months listening to modern music or classical music, it’s weird to be back in the songs list where this type of soul music is on the menu. This is very much not Kacey Musgraves or tune-yards.

I know we have some Marvin Gaye coming up to finish 1971 out and that is going to be a more edged soul that I would expect from the 1970s. This feels like a song that belongs in the 1960s and is very much something I can imagine on one of those bargain bin Valentine’s Day compilations.

Won’t Get Fooled Again – The Who

Right, so THIS is what I am expecting from a song from 1971. This is a year where we haven’t quite reached metal, punk or the hard rock that we know nowadays, but this is a light on the path towards it.

The old psychedelic are still there with the organ in the background, but this isn’t just any organ – it’s a sythesised organ. So here we have an 8 and a half minute long song with thrashing guitars, a synthesiser and a heavy metal scream.

It’s songs like these that make me happy to be back doing the songs list.

Vincent – Don McLean

‘Vincent’ is on this list, but ‘American Pie’ is not. Let’s let that sink in for a little bit and move on. I mean, I have always preferred ‘Vincent’ as a song but that isn’t the popular opinion.

As the title suggests, ‘Vincent’ is a folk song about the end of Vincent Van Gogh’s live. It manages to be a beautiful tribute to a troubled man whilst not delving into being overly sentimental. It does this with a sparse arrangement, which makes an interesting use of the marimba.

It’s clear that, in writing this, Don McLean is influenced by Nick Drake and Simon & Garfunkel. However, we have a bit of world music seeping in through that marimba, which moves it forward.

City of New Orleans – Steve Goodman

In Ireland you have Don McLean creating a thing of folk-beauty in ‘Vincent’, on the other side of the Atlantic you have ‘City of New Orleans’ for folk music.

To call this traditional would be an understatement, but it’s meant to be. This song was made to harken back as it highlights the disappearing rail services across America, which was starting to affect people living in rural areas.

An interesting history, but not really a song for me.

Peace Train – Cat Stevens

Talkin’ of trains and songs that we inspired by a train journey. We have the images of trains being evoked for an anti-war song. It’s worth remembering that, in 1971, we are still 4 years away from the Vietnam War from ending.

It’s a nice message, but it feels a bit limp. Maybe, because of how it sounds compared to the likes of ‘Ohio’ and ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’, it just feels a bit complacent and lacking in urgency. I mean it’s nice to know about the Peace Train, but I’m not convinced by this song to buy a ticket.

Superstar – The Carpenters

Okay, now here’s a song I absolutely adore. The Carpenters have always had a reputation for being a bit twee at times, but there is no denying how fantastic the production and instrumental arrangements are on this song. Same goes for the always faultless and crystal-like vocals of Karen Carpenter, which are all from the first take.

There is an underlying darkess to this song that her vocals pierce through, which makes this a dark pop song unlike anything we have yet heard on this list. It’s a song that you can see being in the back of ABBA’s minds as they later created their darker tracks like ‘Lay All Your Love On Me’.

A Nickel and a Nail – O.V. Wright

O.V. Wright really had a fantastic set of pipes. We’re in a blues-style soul song, where his gospel roots are showing. It’s just a pity that the recording equipment is having trouble capturing the full range of his vocals as he really starts belting.

I could probably do without all the funk-style horns and, instead, up the ante on the bass guitar and the backing vocals. I know this isn’t in the style of Southern soul to do so, but I would have been interested to hear this sung as a straight blues recording.

Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) – Marvin Gaye

We’re finally finishing 1971! Man, it’s taken months and we’re ending with one of the greats and with a song that still feels relevant to this day.

This is a song about black pain, anger and protest that chooses to speak through it’s lyrics and a low hum of a then-modern take on blues backing. Later on, songs like this would become grouped under the name of ‘quiet storm’, but because of the politcal nature of this song – ‘Inner City Blues’ would just about be inelegible for this classification.

Listening to this, I do wonder about how much more music we would have gotten out of Marvin Gaye if he had not been murder by his father. How would he react to the politics of his country right now. Guess we’ll never know.

Progress: 344/1021

1001 Songs – 1971: Part Two

Imagine – John Lennon

Starting off this post with, arguably, the most beloved song to come from 1971… as well as one that I actively cannot stand. Whilst I appreciate the idealism here of a multi-millionaire playing a song about having no possessions whilst he is sitting in a mansion, it still comes across to me as being something vague that a high school student might write and think that they’re being very deep.

I can also appreciate what Phil Spector was trying to do with the production here, but it just comes across as overwhelmingly sentimental when it could have stood to be a little subtler.

Laughing – David Crosby

Usually when I listen to a song for this list I tend to write some notes as I go along and then fluff them a bit out later. With ‘Laughing’ I found myself a bit bewitched at trying to work out all the individual parts of the song that I didn’t manage to get a single word written down.

It’s what tends to happen when I am presented with a song with this many layers and sections. My brain tries to work out everything rather than trying to feel. A second listen really helped. This song is beautifully layered and complex to the point that I still find myself swept up in it rather than finding a way to actually talk about it… so let’s move on.

When The Levee Breaks – Led Zeppelin

Well, this is a real flashback to about two years ago where I last heard this track as part of its parent album. Back then I wasn’t too impressed with the album, to the point that I barely wrote anything about it and instead focused more on Led Zeppelin.

As with ‘Eleanor Rigby’, this is a song that I was better able to appreciate in isolation. I am still not the biggest fan of this type of heavy blues rock, but at least I can better appreciate the number of different things going on here. The weird sounding harmonica, for example, makes this track unique.

It’s just that, as with most things Zeppelin, I would not have minded a few minutes being shaven off.

Surf’s Up – The Beach Boys

Feels like forever since I last heard something by The Beach Boys. It’s been even longer since I listened to the Brian Wilson’s Smile, where this song finally found it’s proper home.

Songs like this are why I will always prefer the Beach Boys to the Beatles. The level of complexity present puts it on par with a lot of what prog rock was starting to do and continues to do so to this day. However, this is still very much planted in the chamber pop landscape. It’s a lovely song and it makes me want to listen to the album again.

Theme from Shaft – Isaac Hayes

This must be one of the most quoted and pastiched themes of all time. The Simpsons, Father Ted, Scrubs and even the video game LEGO City Undercover have all borrowed from it. Yet this is actually the first time I have heard the whole song.

How is it that such a famous film theme contains no lyrics until over halfway through? Well, maybe because Issac Hayes’ vocals are mixed right down to the point of being nearly completely drowned.

Interesting to see another song where funk and soul are beginning to morph into disco. I wonder how long it will be before that onslaught truly begins.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – Gil Scott-Heron

In the context of this list, ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ feels a lot like a sequel to ‘When The Revolution Comes’ by the Last Poets. Both songs are spoken word poems referencing ‘the Revolution’ and are set to some sort of funk music.

The key difference is Gil Scott-Heron is able to better articulate his message. His choice of words is more careful, the music better supports his voice and he, at no point, has a random backing singer come onto the track.

Seeing how this sort of spoken-word funk has developed between these two songs, it’s only a matter of time before rap starts.

It’s Too Late – Carole King

Tapestry is an excellent album. It would have been easy to choose a large section of songs to be prospective entries on the list – so they went for one of the two that managed to snag a Grammy.

It isn’t just the Grammy win for Record of the Year that gave ‘It’s Too Late’ a place on this list. Carole King is one of those great workhorses of this era of American music with her penning hit songs for the likes of Aretha Franklin and The Shirelles.

With this song you see the RnB influence mixed with some soft rock to make a track about a break-up that is mature, honest and mutual.

Dum Maro Dum – Asha Bhosle

Okay, so we’re ending on a drastically different song here. I guess it’s only fair to have a song by Lata Mangeshkar‘s younger sister seeing how they are both Bollywood playback singer royalty.

You start a song from a Bollywood film with a certain preconception and ‘Dum Maro Dum’ walks in a shatters them. Sure, you have the backing singers singing so loud that they end up distorted (which is something I really cannot abide) as well as the almost lilting vocal delivery by the lead, but something is really different.

This is, basically, a Bollywood rock song that takes notes from what was happening in the West at the time. There are electric instruments like synthesisers and guitars that really drive this song. Looking back on the other Bollywood song for this list, ‘Dum Maro Dum’ must have felt like a huge shift in what could make for a successful Bollywood song.

It would be utterly brilliant if it wasn’t for that hideous distortion.

Progress: 337/1021

1001 Songs – 1971: Part One

Time to start on a new year. Hopefully I’ll be able to complete this one in less than six months. I don’t know why, but these 1001 songs posts are getting harder and harder to find time for to set up.

Life on Mars? – David Bowie

I don’t know how the order of songs within a year are decided, because it is not chronological, but it makes sense to start off 1971 with one of the regular contenders for best song of the 1970s.

For an artist as ever-changing as David Bowie it makes sense for one of his signature songs to sound like nothing else that came out at the same time. Part Rachmaninoff, part cabaret and all crescendo, ‘Life on Mars?’ goes well beyond in a parody of the Frank Sinatra version of ‘My Way’.

It’s a song that is able to stir up emotions that aren’t quite easy to pin down. You just feel… moved.

Get It On – T.Rex

Well that’s it, I guess that between the first two songs from 1971 we have the signal that glam rock has arrived. We had rumblings of this with The Velvet Underground in previous years, it’s just that the message has reached the UK.

Where ‘Life on Mars?’ feels very much a European-influenced creation, ‘Get It On’ takes on the Hammond organ and some funk elements from across the pond to create a glam rock sound that is almost American.

Blackwater Side – Anne Briggs

A bit of a folk break now (with one of my favourite 1970s folk songs coming up soon) as we stay in the UK for something rather traditional. Compared to the previous two songs ‘Blackwater Side’ is incredibly stripped back with just Anne Briggs and her guitar and does make you wonder if a song really does need all the window dressing we give it.

If you look at Anne Briggs’ discography it would be fair to assue that she’d died or went through some sort of accident. Quite the contrary, she is still very much alive and just decided to stop singing because of nerves. It’s a pity.

I Don’t Want to Talk About It – Crazy Horse

Something a bit more country here, but in a depressing dirge-like way. This song is like that annoying friend who clearly wants to talk to you about their ex-boyfriend, but won’t unless you’ve asked them 3 or 4 times. By the end of it you feel like you’ve watched someone flagellate themselves repeatedly and is ready to go off for a good wallow.

A Case of You – Joni Mitchell

Where Anne Briggs was singing a traditional song that told a story of someone that died a long time ago, here we have Joni Mitchell singing something a lot more personal.

Compared to ‘Blackwater Side’, ‘A Case Of You’ has so many layers of emotional nuance because of Joni Mitchell’s proximity to her own feelings. It’s a song about being so drunk in love with someone, but written after that particular relationship has ended (much like the rest of Blue). The song itself is in the past, but the delivery is in the present and so there is a mix of sadness and joyousness in her voice. It’s like what Butters once said in South Park about break-ups, it’s a beautiful sadness.

Crayon Angels – Judee Sill

This is the first year where we’re starting to see a swell in the number of female singer-songwriters, although they are almost exclusively in the folk genre. I guess that would make sense as folk was part of the counter-culture and a female singer-songwriter is somewhat against the norm.

‘Crayon Angels’ is the first track on Judee Sill’s eponymous album, the first of two that she released before she died from a drug overdose. Short career and yet her legacy persists with Laura Viers, one of my favourite singer-songwriters, writing ‘Song for Judee’ for the excellent case/lang/veirs album.

Famous Blue Raincoat – Leonard Cohen

The final from the folk world in this batch of songs. It’s a song about a man distancing himself from a love-triangle, but for me the most interesting thing about this song was a reference to Scientology. It’s subtle, but it’s there.

I don’t have much to say on this song, it didn’t work for me.

Chalte Chalte – Lata Mangeshkar

And now for something completely different. I love it when songs like this appear on the list as it’s this whole horizon broadening that I’m hoping will happen as a result of finishing this list. I also quite liked the song, with her voice being a real treat.

Lata Mangeshkar is listed as one of the most recorded singers of all time, with her sister currently holding the record. Lata did hold the record before it was called into a dispute… as no one really knows how many songs she’s actually sung.

From such a large back catalogue the book chose ‘Chalte Chalte’ because it’s one of the singer’s favourites of the songs she sang. It’s also one of her more known ones because of the film it forms part of the soundtrack for is critically acclaimed in her native India and amongst some Western critics.

Maggie May – Rod Stewart

From the smooth the lovely voice of Lata Mangeshkar to the rasp of Rod Stewart. ‘Maggie May’ is one of those songs that I have always heard of, but had never actually heard. In fact, I’m not sure if I’ve really heard a Rod Stewart song before the 1001 songs list, but that’s another matter.

I went into this song expecting something completely different (maybe because of the many young models Rod Stewart has found himself married to). Instead I found a rather interesting song about first love between a boy and an older woman – which is a bit of a reversal of his later relationships.

Whilst this is a rockier song the use of the mandolin at the end does tie this song to the abundance of folk that has been seen in this batch of songs. And hey, a song that ends with a mandolin is good by me.

Progress: 328/1021