1964 may be the last year for a while that I attempt in one sitting. At 15 songs it’s stretching it a bit, but let’s do this!
List Item: Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die
Leader of the Pack – The Shangri-Las
We start out with a tragedy song. These were so in vogue at the time. I guess it was something to do with the rise of the teenager and the need to rebel. You could see them as either warnings or aspirations depending on your age.
‘Leader of the Pack’ is arguably the most famous of these teenage tragedy songs and even reached number 1. The screeching of the tyres at the end just highlight this tragedy element. This is a girl group song in the same way that ‘Sally, Go Round The Roses’ was.
For some reason this song reminds me of Ruby Wax. I don’t know why.
Les copains d’abord – Georges Brassens
Meanwhile in France we are still in the world of chanson. This one is very peppy and yet it is about someone dying on a fishing trip with friends.
What is it with the French chanson music and using a peppy melody to hide a darker message! Granted this is no ‘La Gorille’, as that was moderately upsetting, but this is still someone drowning. It’s like how you have lovely happy music in the French film Partie de la Campagne and it’s actually quite upsetting.
Then again he could be singing about having dysentary and it would still sound lovely. Language *jazz hands*
Samba Malato – Nicomedes Santa Cruz
Another different song here. A samba by Peruvian singer Nicomedes Santa Cruz.
It’s an interesting pick for the 1001 list. This is on here in order to highlight a different kind of music – this being an Afro-Peruvian movement.
The song itself appears to be a song about back home, in this instance areas such as Angola and the wider Congo area. So basically this another instance of happy music hiding a darker message.
Walk On By – Dionne Warwick
This marks the first appearance of Burt Bacharach on the list. By this time he had already written songs like ‘Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa’ and ‘Anyone Who Had A Heart’, but those are probably more well known because of their Dusty Springfield covers.
Dionne Warwick was the perfect voice for the combination of Bacharach and lyricist Hal David. Most of her early songs came from this pairing (and this is back when two albums a year was the norm). Amazing how as a three they were able to churn out a song of this quality.
Don’t Gimme No Lip Child – Dave Berry
Interesting pick as this was actually a B-side (people younger than me will have no idea what this is) to his song ‘The Crying Game’.
It makes the list because of how it influenced punk bands, like the Sex Pistols who used it in rehearsals, who would not be releasing music for about a decade. Talk about reach.
E se domani – Mina
Mina is one of those big singers from the European continent that didn’t make waves in the UK. ‘E se domani’ is one of her biggest selling singles and, despite being a failed attempt to enter Eurovision. Italy won that year anyway so no harm no foul.
It’s a sweet song, but very much a slow Eurovision song. Enjoyable, but not memorable.
The Girl from Ipanema – Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto
One of the most famous songs of all time as well as being one of the most recorded of all time.
Astrud Gilberto, singing the English lyrics, managed to get the gig because she was the only one of them who knew English. It also helped that she was the wife of Joao Gilberto. Still, her rough and relaxed vocals worked perfectly for this archetypal bossa nova track.
Perfectly relaxing for a summer’s day like today… even if this is going up in February.
A Change Is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke
One of those big songs of the American Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. It’s an incredibly stirring track that is ultimately made all the more tragic after his death a year later having been shot by a motel manager.
You listen to this and you can hear exactly where singers like Marvin Gaye got their inspiration from. Especially when you listen something pretty seminal like What’s Going On.
Dancing in the Street – Martha & The Vandellas
Now for a complete change in tact and yet Marvin Gaye is still a useful reference as he was one of the writers on this song.
Where ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ was specifically written to be part of the movement ‘Dancing In The Street’ found itself associated despite being a regular party song.
It’s one of those songs that just makes you want to get up and dance. Not protest though. I can’t dance when I’m angry.
I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself – Dusty Springfield
Most people will know this song because of the White Stripes cover.
It’s another Bacharach/David song, but this had to go through a few hands before reaching Dionne Warwick. Interestingly this was originally sung by a man and yet this song is remarkably feminine when it comes to the lyrics.
You also have songs like this and the next one being the start of blue-eyed soul aka white people singing rhythym and blues and soul (seen then as black music). When you think about it… it’s a bit of a racist idea for a genre.
You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling – The Righteous Brothers
Now this is possibly the song that caused the term ‘blue eyed soul’ to be coined.
Listen to that production. We are back in the world of Phil Spector and doesn’t that just feel like being wrapped up in a blanket made up of meticulous music. Also, there’s Cher in the background.
You Really Got Me – The Kinks
If ‘Don’t Gimme No Lip Child’ was an influence on punk music then this has got to be the first chapter of the punk rock cookbook.
It’s one of the few pure rock songs that has been encountered so far and has really gotten me to thinking about how many famous songs we are starting to get in this list.
For the first time it feels like rock, as we know it, has arrived and dropped the ‘and roll’ part of its title.
The House of the Rising Sun – The Animals
‘The House of the Rising Sun’ is actually a traditional folk song (I didn’t know that either) that had been sung by many people, including Bob Dylan, for years and years.
It takes a lot to make a song like this feel as if it belongs to you as the cover singer, but this re-arrangement by The Animals found a way to do this.
Every now and then there is a ‘keystone’ song in this list. Something that is so different from what preceeded it and managed to influence music afterwards. ‘You Really Got Me’ was pretty close to this when I think about it.
Because of my Acclaimed Albums list I have been spending a lot of time listening to psychadlelic rock and with this I think I finally found THE song that managed to bring them into prominance. It’s haunting, it’s fantastic and shows you how to arrange a folk song.
Go ‘Way from My window – John Jacob Niles
Well… this probably shouldn’t be one of the closing songs in what has been a bumper year. Then again, singing this at 72 years old and being a massive influence on the American folk revival movement does get you a place here.
Similar to how I can hear some notes of Joni Mitchell’s ‘My Old Man’ in the delivery here.
72 years old and still able to hit the high notes. Wow.
Amsterdam – Jacques Brel
I adore this song. When I saw that I would finally be listening to this as part of the 1001 songs list… well that’s why all 15 have been done in one post rather than being split and I’d get to this whenever.
I love a big song and a big bit of production and this song just will not stop building. It’s a mini epic at 3 minutes plus applause that brings tears to my eyes and goosebumps to my body every single time that I hear it.
It’s the perfect song to finish a year off to. Just magnificent.