On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenge of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post every day (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be… legendary!
Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats – Rocket 88 (1951)
” Rocket 88″ (originally stylized as Rocket “88”) is a rhythm and blues song that was first recorded in Memphis, Tennessee, in March 1951. The recording was credited to ” Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats”, who were actually Ike Turner and his Kings of Rhythm.
We’re back in the US today and as we’re in the 1950s it wasn’t going to be long before we came across some Rock and Roll. Today’s song – Rocket 88 – is considered by some to be the first Rock and Roll song though there is a touch of controversy about this one. It was recorded by Ike Turner’s group, The Kings of Rhythm, who enlisted the help of Jackie Brenston on vocals. The song would then be released as Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats instead of Turner’s group with sole writing credit going to Brenston. Ike Turner earned a tiny sum for the song. If that wasn’t bad enough Rocket 88 became a huge success.
The song itself is an ode to the Oldsmobile Rocket 88 automobile which was a very popular car back in 1950s America. The lyrics praise the noise of the vehicle and invite others, especially girls, to hop on in the Rocket 88 and cruise the streets. There’s a nice touch where the words talk about blowing the horn (presumably of the car) and then beseeches Raymond to blow his horn, leading to saxophone player – Raymond Hill – doing just that. A clever transition.
The origins of this song and the dispute over writing credits somewhat overshadow what has been an influential song in Rock and Roll and a catchy one at that. The debate continues about whether this is really the first ever Rock and Roll song but as a stand alone it’s a decent number. It marks an important moment in music history as one of Ike Turner’s early forays into music before he would meet his future wife, Tina, and go on to enjoy great success in the charts alongside her.
Favourite song so far: