Tag Archives: 1001 songs

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

1001 Songs – 1975: Part Three

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

Time of the Preacher – Willie Nelson

As I have yet to watch Edge of Darkness or read the Preacher comic series, this is not a song that I have yet to acquire as a cultural touchstone.

This song was the opener for his concept album about a preacher that kills his wife and her lover, which is interesting but that doesn’t mean that this song can quite stand on its own when listened completely out of context. Does make me want to give the album a whirl though.

Rimmel – Francesco De Gregori

It feels like way too long since this list last turned up something in a foreign language that is on here because of the success in their own country rather than something the broke through to the English-speaking world.

‘Rimmel’ feels so much like Bob Dylan filtered through the lens of Italian folk and I am loving it. The delicate piano line, the subtle backdrop of the Hammond organ and a voice that’s actually nice to listen to makes this such a pleasant listen.

Born to Be With You – Dion

Okay, so I had no idea who Dion was and I somehow expected this to be some sort of epic rock song when going by the track length. This was incredibly wrong.

In place of epic rock is this languorous baroque pop song that really takes a long time to go around the block a few times and end up back in the same place. Phil Spector’s fingerprints are all over this to the point that it really drowns out Dion himself in favour of the many repeated musical elements.

Musica ribelle – Eugenio Finardi

Like buses, the list delivers a second foreign-language song in quick succession. It’s another Italian number, but this time it is a rockier number whose title translates to ‘Rebel Music’.

This is a fusion of Italian folk and one of the more uplifting tracks by The Rolling Stones. When listening to it I could not help but sit and smile despite not knowing what on Earth he was saying. The 1001 book talks about it being a generational anthem in Italy, which is good enough reason for it to be on the list.

Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen

Finally, a song that I know and absolutely love. Thanks to the album list I’ve started to gain more and more respect for Bruce Springsteen’s music. However, no song has yet to top the juggernaut that is ‘Born to Run’.

If you are one of those people who can get goosebumps from music and enjoy big songs that would work well in a stadium, then ‘Born to Run’ is perfect for you. It took Phil Spector’s whole ‘Wall of Sound’ idea and smashed it on the table. Such a contrast to that Dion song.

Leb’ Wohl – NEU!

I do not know anything about NEU! or this album, but from what I’ve gathered – ‘Leb’ Wohl’ has a similar function on Neu! 75 to ‘All Is Full of Love’ has on Bjork’s Homogenic. After the harsher music beforehand, ‘Leb’ Wohl’ (meaning ‘Farewell’ in German’) is an ambient palate cleanser.

The nearly nine minutes contains a simple piano line, ticking clocks, waves crashing on a shore and breathy vocals. It weirdly performs a similar function on this listen through given that I listened to it straight after ‘Born to Run’.

As I listen to this, I am getting so much of what acts like Air and Sigur Ros would later use in their music. This may not be indicative of the rest of the album, but I really enjoyed this chillout time.

Legalize It – Peter Tosh

After three great songs in a row, this was not the best to end on. I mean, if it wasn’t obvious enough that this reggae song was going to be about legalizing weed, then his singing the many names of it during an opening verse made it abundantly clear.

Just not the song for me and a bit of a damp note to finish 1975 on.

Progress: 424/1021

1001 Songs – 1975: Part Two

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

That’s the Way ( I Like It) – KC & The Sunshine Band

I will probably never be able to untangle this song from it’s appearance in Austin Powers in Goldmember where it’s sung by Beyoncé as we’re introduced to her character Foxxy Cleopatra.

With this song, I think it is safe to say that disco has just burst onto the scene. The Bee Gees in the last bunch of songs was a decent signal of this, but we’re very much there now. Listening to this song outside of television and movies really helps me to realize just how much disco was an upbeat offshoot of funk that was focused on having a good time. Good song, if a little bit repetitive.

Kalimankou denkou – Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares

If, like me, you are a fan of Kate Bush – you will instantly recognise the voice of some of the soloists from this Bulgarian singing group. Three members of this group would spin off from this larger collective (much like Enya from Clannad) and end up working with Kate Bush on the amazing album, The Sensual World.

This song is haunting. It feels exotic and rather ancient, which makes sense seeing how this is part of a collection of traditional Bulgarian folk songs that have been put to choral arrangements. ‘Kalimankou denkou’ feels like something between a folk motet and ‘Ave Maria’. Again, this is haunting.

Marcus Garvey – Burning Spear

From haunting Bulgarian choral music to Jamaican roots reggae – a pretty significant genre shift. ‘Marcus Garvey’ is a song about one of the prophets of the Rastafari religion. That makes this song something that is pretty consistant with the Rastafari movement – the mix of a religious and a political message.

It’s one of those songs, however, where if you have no idea about Marcus Garvey or the wider Rastafari religion – it’s pretty much lost on you. The music has a bit more pep than other reggae I’ve heard from Bob Marley, but it’s not really for me. Still, nice to hear where reggae has gotten to in 1975.

Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen

Music is an emotional beast – both in the playing and in the listening. Like with the Bohemian Rhapsody movie, I’ve tried to distance my personal feelings from the actual music when listening to this. So here goes…

Taking emotions out of the equation – this is an ambitious and bombastic song. I have so much respect for being able to put together something so operatic and so unique for the time. I mean, no one has really done anything similar to the level of success that Queen had. It isn’t for me, but listening to it in isolation (and not in that turd of a movie) I can see why this struck chords and has remained in the public consciousness.

Gloria – Patti Smith

It’s been a year and half since I did my blog post on Horses and I still listen to this song and just imagine early PJ Harvey roaring to this before she seques into either ‘Sheela-Na-Gig’ or ‘Rid of Me’.

Like with ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘Gloria’ doesn’t really sound like anything that came before it (at least on the song list). The fact that this is the opening track of her debut album is just beyond amazing. With ‘Gloria’ it’s fair to say that the trigger has been pulled on the punk movement, and once we get some Ramones in 1976 her call to arms has been answered.

Tangled Up in Blue – Bob Dylan

‘Tangled Up In Blue’ is my favourite Bob Dylan song. It’s where he sounds his best vocally, accompanied by his lushest productions and with a set of brilliant lyrics about a failed love affair.

It’s one of the few times where I feel able to make an emotional connection with him as the singing narrator; the other times all being featured on his album Blood on the Tracks, where this track is the opener. I just really like this song; hard to really say much else.

Walk This Way – Aerosmith

Okay so all I knew of this song was the version that Aerosmith did with Run D.M.C. (and that ill-advised cover by Sugababes and Girls Aloud). I had no idea this existed in isolation. Gotta say that this original version is so good and is such a fun song – the fact that I just found out that this was inspired by a comedic bit from Young Frankenstein makes it all the better.

Another thing I heard in this song was elements of funk. It’s a funk-rock hybrid song which, again, isn’t like much that I have heard before for this list. I had a lot of fun listening to this song.

Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd

It’s unusual for me to just sit through a song and not write anything down… when the song hasn’t grabbed me that is. I don’t know why, but ‘Wish You Were Here’ really did nothing for me, to the point that it really just sailed over my head. I’ll listen to the album eventually, so maybe something will rouse me then.

Progress: 417/1021

1001 Songs – 1975: Part One

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

Only Women Bleed – Alice Cooper

Right off the bat, this is really not the type of song that I knew Alice Cooper released. I mean, this is a soft rock ballad and not the harder rock that I’ve come to expect from him – man’s got range.

‘Only Women Bleed’ is interesting in that it’s a song that takes a sympathetic look at the victims of domestic abuse… and so many people couldn’t see past the title that it ended up having reduced radio play. Some thought it was a reference to menstruation and others thought it was supportive of domestic abuse – clearly they didn’t bother listening to the song as the message is crystal clear.

Considering Alice Cooper’s brand was to shock, the shocking thing is how earnest this song is. Like I said, he’s got range.

Jive Talkin’ – Bee Gees

We really are getting into the era of disco aren’t we. It’s still got that heavy dose of funk in it, but there’s an undeniable element of disco here. Also, this is a Bee Gees song – as if we needed any more clue that this song might be disco.

In the background there is a synthesised bass line, which was a new production trick at the time and really helps to make this feel like a song you’d be able to strut to. In fact, I’m sure I heard a similar thing on Stevie Wonder’s ‘Living For The City’.

It’s not my favourite song by the Bee Gees, but this was the song that lead to their massive hits and their heavy usage in the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack – so it’s definitely significant.

Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet – Gavin Bryars

The whole reason that this post is only five songs long is because of this particular entry. I mean, if people had problems with the length of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, then the length of this song could have made their heads explode.

The whole song is based around a looped sample of an elderly homeless man singing a few lines of a song. As it starts it’s easy to roll your eyes at this weird exercise in minimalist music experimentation. Then Bryars gets to work and you end the song having been completely haunted by the disembodied vocals of an anonymous man who will have long since passed away.

The first few minutes are just the repeated vocals getting progressively louder, then the orchestra comes in and loops along with him. The parts gradually get louder and more layered, but they never overshadow the sampled vocals. For some people this song could be akin to sonic flagellation, but it’s hard to not be touched by this display of humanity and absolute faith (despite the fact that Jesus’ blood failed him a long long time ago).

Boulder to Birmingham – Emmylou Harris

Going through these songs chronologically (and the albums semi-chronologically) you begin to see a few narratives develop. One of the big ones that really sticks out is the rise, success and death of Gram Parsons – the latter of which this song is about.

I enjoyed his solo music, and his music as part of both the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Byrds. He made such a mark and still died of an overdose at 26. This song is pure grief and the beautiful power of Emmylou Harris’s vocals make it cut right to the heart.

It’s a really beautiful country song about the death of someone you hold dear. Made all the more tragic when you have followed the musical journey that Parsons and Harris took together.

Fight the Power (Parts 1 & 2) – The Isley Brothers

 

It’s good to be ending this post on a less maudlin note. It’s referred to as ‘Parts 1 & 2’, but I cannot identify if this was ever meant to be two parts or if this is just an affectation to make this song sound grander and more important.

‘Fight the Power’ is very much an angry funk song that has the same message as the Public Enemy song of the same name, but nothing else. It’s fine, but just a little bit repetitive (rich considering the minimalist 26 minute song from a small time ago, but that managed to touch something).

This is the year of long songs and next time will be a lot of 6+ minuters. 1975 is going to be an interesting year.

Progress: 409/1021

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

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