List Item: Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die
Gloria – Umberto Tozzi
Okay, so like a lot of people I know the Laura Branigan version and had no idea that it was a over of this Italian disco track. When we’ve been doing tracks for the 1001 list and are thrown a French or Italian song, it’s usually to give a sample of something a bit different that was alongside the English-language songs that dominate the list.
In this instance, however, this is very much a related movement. After all this is the country that bore Morodor aka the father of disco – which would not have happened in isolation. It’s actually really cool to hear this take on disco, one without the prolonged dance breaks… but we’ve already heard a better version of this in ABBA’s ‘Voulez Vous’. Still though, I love hearing these originals.
Black Eyed Dog – Nick Drake
This is a real cheat. Nick Drake was already dead for five years by the time this demo came out on a compilation box. Granted, this was the compilation box that caused a massive re-evaluation in his music and resulted in his subsequent elevation in the musical canon – but this hauntingly beautiful song is so out of time.
‘Black Eyed Dog’ was one of the final songs that Nick Drake recorded before his suicide which gives this song about depression an even more haunting sense of relevance. It’s a real whiplash to have this in between a disco song and one of the great early electric pop songs though. I’m going to need a minute.
Are “Friends” Electric? – Gary Numan & Tubeway Army
Where ‘Black Eyed Dog’ was out of time because of the posthumous release, ‘Are “Friends” Electric?’ is out of time for being so out there for 1979. At this point Kraftwerk and other electronic acts from Germany are where you can hang this, but this song by Gary Numan and Tube is already a few more stages removed from that.
It’s this weird mix of new wave, post-punk, electronica, synth-pop and ambient. I mean I would want to call it prog-synth if I wasn’t sure that existed as a sub-genre that I would probably dislike. This song is extraordinary given the time, which is all the more extraordinary given how it topped the charts in the UK. I guess people really were looking for the next thing after disco.
Boys Don’t Cry – The Cure
A bit of a nice and inoffensive pop-rock here that further serves to remind me that The Cure are actually from the UK and not, as I keep thinking, American. It’s an interesting step for the post-punk movement and a very weird to actually hear The Cure making this sort of music before that began to have more of a goth and alternative rock look rather than this piece of new wave.
The Cure is one of those bands I keep saying that I need to give more a go to. Just give me the time I guess.
Good Times – Chic
At 90 seconds in, it felt like this song had already blown it’s load. By minute three when the dance break began on this 8 minute song I had had enough. Look, it’s a product of it’s time and I am not opposed to long songs (hell, ‘Only Skin’ by Joanna Newsom is 17 minutes long and I adore that). Thing is, this dance break lacks punch and it isn’t worth the 4-5 minutes you spend on it.
What is really interesting is how the idea of ‘Good Times’ in the lyrics is tinged with irony. I wish I could have felt that more in the song, but boy do I appreciate that sentiment.
Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough – Michael Jackson
This is how you do a disco song. I have heard this song a lot in my life and it still is able to maintain that huge joie de vivre that you are meant to get from a disco song. Hell, this is still as repetitive in places as other disco songs but it has enough variation in the instrumentation and in the arrangements to keep you engaged.
There is no denying that the duo of Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones led to moments of genius – but with this is just feels like they learned from the disco out at the time and found a way to right all the things that could have held it back. Such a great song.
Lost in Music – Sister Sledge
Another song in our disco stretch, the second of the three that was produced by Nile Rodgers from Chic. After hearing disco being done brilliantly by Michael Jackson it is near impossible to compare these two songs – which is a resounding loss for Sister Sledge. I was there with them for the first three minutes and then it was just this… variation-free repetition.
Disco is over soon, right?
Brass in Pocket – Pretenders
New wave. Check. Female vocalist. Check. Upbeat with a killer chorus. Check.
My husband cottoned on immediately that this was one of those songs I adore. My big smile the moment it started will have helped too because I know it very well. Plus, I crossed the parent album from this not too long ago and have been enjoying that ever since.