List Item: Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die
Hotel California – The Eagles
Wasn’t I just here last month with the album of the same name? I guess that the song is right in that you can check out, but never leave.
‘Hotel California’ is one of those weirdly immortal songs that functions as a bit of a fun house mirror. Due to the ambiguity of the lyrics and the overall slightly odd nature, lots of people get different things and make different interpretations of the song despite them having a very particular idea.
It’s unsettling, but charming and wouldn’t feel out of place in a new adaptation of The Shining.
Roadrunner – The Modern Lovers
Okay, here’s another bit of déjà vu – albeit from a few months further ago than Hotel California.
Thanks to this proto-punk song being originally recorded in 1972, ‘Roadrunner’ feels a little bit out of time compared to the actual punk music that’s being released in 1976. In fact, it feels like someone decided to take a rock and roll song from the 1950s and added some slight punk elements to it.
However, that works in it’s favour as it showcases the more upbeat side of punk that the Ramones showcased in the first half of this batch of songs.
American Girl – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
So this is another one of those songs that, over the years, I have heard in a number of different films and television shows. The first one that comes to mind is Elliot’s transformation in Scrubs after the network executives demanded an image change of her character in order to appeal to the young male demographic.
It’s one of those great songs that epitomises that longing to be something more than you already are. Upbeat enough, but with that hint of melancholy to it which makes it resonate with you.
Detroit Rock City – Kiss
I think this might be the first Kiss song that I have heard other than ‘Rock and Roll All Nite’. I know the title, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever actually heard it before.
I guess that this is where I’m going to hear the first beginnings of what is going to end up becoming metal in a few years time. Not quite for me, but I’m interested to see where this ends up.
Young Hearts Run Free – Candi Staton
Now for some disco. It feels so tame coming after the last four songs and so makes for a nice respite. Then you read up that this song is actually about being in an abusive relationship and suddenly you wonder why you would turn this into a disco song.
Lyrical content aside, ‘Young Hearts Run Free’ is one of those songs that I really know – but I’m left wondering how it’s so famous. It’s one of those songs that makes more sense in a disco than in a living room on a Sunday afternoon I guess.
Chase The Devil – Max Romeo
Well what do you know, another reggae song. We have no songs from East Asia and limited songs from Africa and the Middle East, but this list has space for another reggae song. I could probably say the same of other genres, it’s just that reggae i one of those genres I just can’t find foothold for a fandom.
As the reggae songs on this list go, ‘Chase The Devil’ is one of the better ones out there. Probably because it is interesting, more varied and was sampled into a dance track that I remember from my youth.
New Rose – The Damned
The moment that ‘New Rose’ made a tongue-in-cheek reference to ‘Leader of the Pack’ with their spoken word intro – I was totally on board with what was to follow.
Where the Sex Pistols were the big punk act to come from the UK, it’s interesting to note that The Damned were actually the first UK punk act to release a single. It’s another punk song that isn’t angry or political, but is a good thrashing song about nothing – just phrases that went with the riffs.
And then everything seemed to change with the next song…
Anarchy in the U.K. – Sex Pistols
It’s really interesting to hear ‘New Rose’ and ‘Anarchy in the U.K.’ back to back. When you have the chance to compare and contrast these two songs who have their own special places in British punk history – you see just how wide the punk genre is.
On the one hand you have the more visceral and thrashing ‘New Rose’ which has an urgent and immediate quality that I’ve come to see from other punk and proto-punk acts on this list. ‘Anarchy in the U.K.’, on the other hand, is far more deliberate. There’s a political message, the vocals are more prominent, it’s angrier and it feels like a song that can be more easily replicated when performed live.
Honestly, I prefer ‘New Rose’ to this song – but that might be because a lot of the impact has been lost to time and the development of music since then.
Poor Poor Pitiful Me – Warren Zevon
Okay this is such a weird song. An incredibly sarcastic country rock song written as a counter-point to country music’s penchant for self-pity. The protagonist is this monumental screw-up who goes through a lot of the trappings of a self-pitying country song with a bit of S&M added in for good measure.
Honestly, this is one of those songs I need to hand when I am beginning to spiral into a depression. It makes me smile and it has such an edge to it that it’ll just kick me into gear when the blues begin to encroach on me.
Underground – The Upsetters
This is an interesting way to end the group of songs from 1976. We’re not going to see the first electronic song until Kraftwerk appear in the first group of 1977 songs, but here is something that is starting to get there.
This is dub. I’ve never heard of this as a genre, but I definitely know of some of the genres it ended up influencing (such as dubstep and trip hop). If you had told me the path to Massive Attack’s ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ would be via reggae going electric then I would have just stared blankly at you… but I see it here.
If this is where reggae ends up branching off, then I am happy to hear more of it. Stripped back instruments, reduced vocals and more playing around with studio effects. Man, this final song really has thrown me for a loop.