On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging 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 everyday (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…
Big Joe Turner & His Blues Kings – Shake, Rattle & Roll (1954)
The US are still happy to have us for today’s song and we’re back with some R&B. 1954 was a good year for classic songs it seems and this next track is one that many will be familiar with though perhaps not this version. Shake, Rattle & Roll was written by Charles E. Calhoun and was most famous with Bill Haley & His Comets. However, our version today comes from Big Joe Turner & His Blues Kings who cut what many consider to be the definitive take of the song.
Shake, Rattle & Roll is a song filled with euphemism and sexual innuendo, certainly in the original version anyway. Bill Haley’s take would be toned down somewhat. Going through the lyrics there are some puzzling images in there, certainly of their time, with Big Joe Turner telling his woman to get out of bed and into the kitchen, while also lamenting how much money he earns that is quickly gone. The Shake, Rattle & Roll of the title is considered sexual as are images such as “one-eyed cat peepin’ in a seafood store’. I did need that one explaining to me and once I knew my reaction was “Oh my!” The song is from a man who feels very lustful for his partner and certainly isn’t afraid to show it.
I feel like this musical journey is edging ever closer to the rock and roll days and the prospect of many songs that will be familiar to me. I had heard Shake, Rattle & Roll before though I believe it was Bill Haley’s version if memory serves me correctly. I did not realise this particular song was this sexual and there are suggestions that Big Joe Turner may have sung the odd line a little differently to avoid being censored on the radio.
Favourite songs so far:
Edith Piaf – La Vie en Rose (1946)
Elmore James – Dust My Broom (1952)