Tag Archives: Queen

1001 Songs – 1978: Part One

Non-Alignment Pact – Pere Ubu

We start this series of songs with another in a long run of different shades of post-punk. This time, we’re getting in some more industrial sounds and interesting whistling choices in order to make something more experimental, like it’s the art rock version of punk. I’m assuming art punk exists, right?

In any event, the use of synthesizers and a less angry (whilst distinctly punky) sound makes this a interesting way to start the bunch. It’s the ushering in of new wave music, whose big name is in two songs time, and it’s going to be interesting to see where these threads of influence lead.

Blue Valentines – Tom Waits

Well, this is a far cry from swordfishtrombones and Rain Dogs. You still have the rough and untamed voice. There’s no strange noises or comically gruff use of his vocals, instead this is a remarkably earnest blues song and that’s knocked me a bit for six.

His voice is perfect for this kind of blues as he can sound like that half-drunk guy at the bar whose voice breaks the moment his emotions get hold of him. I need to listen more of this era of Tom Waits.

Heart of Glass – Blondie

Ah man, I love this song. Parallel Lines is in the running to be my favourite album from the 1970s and this is such a highlight. It’s just such a strange departure to have this disco-influenced new wave on a song that is far more focused on being cool and within the vision of being a new wave pioneer.

However, facts are facts – ‘Heart of Glass’ is a brilliant song that, despite some die-hard Blondie fans of the time’s accusations of them selling out for commercial gain, endures to this day. It’s one of those songs I’ve been playing since I got a Greatest Hits album back in 2001 that made me a Blondie fan… which makes it hard to think of this within a historical context.

All I know is that this is a disco-infused masterpiece and is one of a few songs that I’ll be coming across for this list.

Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) – Buzzcocks

Much like most of Blondie’s 1978 output, ‘Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)’ is a exceptional piece of power pop and pop punk. It almost feels like a punk band doing a cover of a fragment of Beatles song, because it doesn’t exactly fall into the punk category and it’s too strong for pop.

This is the kind of music I can really get on board with and it really flies in the face in the face of what you would consider a proper punk subject. There’s no anger, just a sense of incredibly urgency that just doesn’t want to get out of your head.

Le Freak – Chic

Time for some pure disco. Growing up, the only time that I would ever hear disco music would be in commercials or if I was in someone else’s car and it came on the radio. ‘Le Freak’ came up pretty often, so I’ve probably heard the chorus done to death.

Little did I know, however, that I would be hearing that chorus again and again and again. I know that songs like this needed to be played in the club and allow time for dance breaks, but come on if you’re going to be playing it in your home or on the radio it needs more variation. I do appreciate that this song started life with ‘Fuck Off’ in the lyrics rather than ‘Freak Out’. That’s cool.

Milk and Alcohol – Dr. Feelgood

Well, the album cover for this song is pretty damned scary. The song is not. At the core is the very basic kind of rock and roll structure that I would have heard back in the 1950s, but with more of a proto-punk feel. Wikipedia calls this pub rock, which I guess makes sense as it feels pre-punk and it is a song that was apparently influenced by a night of drinking Kahlua.

It’s a bit of a throwback, which isn’t always a bad thing, but it doesn’t add much to the table compared to other songs in this section of the list.

Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen

This is the only Queen song that I have some positive associations with, so it’s nice to see it here as being one of their entries on the 1001 list. We sang it at school as part of a singing competition between houses. We didn’t win, but that doesn’t make it any the less fun to sing and to come up with dance moves to… kinda wish they hadn’t made us freestyle through the guitar solo.

It’s yet another example of how wide the berth is in the world of power pop and, with punk’s instantaneous collapse, this was one of the big genres that was born to fill the void. I still have a complex relationship with this band, but there’s no denying how much fun this song is.

Teenage Kicks – The Undertones

You can’t have good power pop without there also being some good pop punk, and that’s exactly what ‘Teenage Kicks’ is. I probably heard the Nouvelle Vague bossa nova version of this song before hearing the original many years later, which is undoubtedly the better version.

With such a pop punk/punk pop start to 1978 I can only wonder how the rest of the songs are going to shake out, but for now I got to say that I am enjoying this year.

You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) – Sylvester

This might be the first time that I’ve ended a batch of songs on something that is this gay, but it’s also a whole lot of fun. There is so much joyful energy in Sylvester’s impossible falsetto vocals that helps you to forget that you are pretty much hearing the same 4-5 lyrics over and over again.

Then there is the production that takes more than a note from Georgio Morodor’s work on the disco pinnacle of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’. We’re starting to see disco morph into what would later become dance music and, once pop starts to grab a hold on songs like this, then it’s going to be time to welcome synthpop and the New Romantics. The 1980s cannot come soon enough.

Progress: 483/1021

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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

Acclaimed Albums – A Night At The Opera by Queen

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 116/250Title: A Night At The Opera
Artist: Queen
Year: 1975
Position: #123

I have a very strange relationship with Queen. As a blanket rule I dislike them and, at times, I have found it upsetting when they end up being played. There are reasons behind why I react so negatively towards Queen… and I don’t wish to really go into why and what this music represents to me.  Needless to say this reaction can be severe to the point that I even had this music specifically banned at my wedding.

I think anyone reading this can imagine, therefore, that if I have this reaction to Queen it would be difficult for me to listen to a whole album. You’d be right. It was very difficult, but how could I ever say I have listened to the most acclaimed albums of all time without actually listening to A Night At The Opera? Exactly.

So I wasn’t going into this album with the best of mindsets. I was actually shocked when I found myself enjoying one of the songs – probably because it doesn’t sound like a Queen song. That’s right, ”39′ might be the only Queen song that I like other than ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’.

The rest of the album was… not my thing. I have never really liked ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and I think I am the only person in the world who feels that way. As for the rest of the tracks… what the hell was ‘I’m In Love With My Car’? Even more importantly, what the bloody hell was ‘Seaside Rendezvous’?

Now that I have actually listened to a Queen album, weird as it is to say, I have lost some of the anger I associated with them. Since so many people love this band I had this anger that I was being repelled from something amazing because of other things. Now I’ve listened to what is meant to be their best album… I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

It’s hard to describe how liberating that feels.