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…

 

Elvis Presley – Heartbreak Hotel (1956)

It was inevitable that we would be writing about him very soon and here he is: it’s the King. Elvis Presley, considered one of the greatest singers in history, appears on the 1001 Songs list for the first time but how many more of his songs will feature? For Elvis’ first entry we have his breakthrough hit, Heartbreak Hotel. Written by Tommy Durden and Mae Boren Axton, the song’s inspiration is open to debate but a common explanation is it comes from a man who destroyed all identification and sadly jumped to his death from a hotel, leaving behind a suicide note with what became one of the song’s lyric, “I walk a lonely street.”

Heartbreak Hotel sees Elvis reach out to all the lonely and heartbroken people. Down on Lonely Street you can check in to Heartbreak Hotel and spend a long time there feeling lonely and, sadly, wanting to die. The cause of Elvis’ sorrow is his lover leaving him and now he is with the lonely people in Heartbreak Hotel where many stay so long they can never find their way back out again. The song uses an extended metaphor to describe the hotel and its surroundings. It’s not a place anyone would want to be but unfortunately many people do end up there.

I’ve known of this song for years, it’s a staple of Elvis’ earliest hits, so it’s hardly a surprise to see it come up on this list. The early days of Elvis show the great promise he had and hinted at the many hits that would come. The King would enjoy a glorious career but drug abuse would tragically bring the curtain down on his life in 1977 at the young age of 42. By that point Elvis was a shadow of the young and inexperienced star in the making we have here.

 

Favourite songs so far:

Edith Piaf – La Vie en Rose (1946)

Elmore James – Dust My Broom (1952)

Little Richard – Tutti Frutti (1955)

Elvis Presley – Heartbreak Hotel (1956)

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