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 – Hound Dog (1956)
” Hound Dog” is a twelve-bar blues song written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Recorded originally by Big Mama Thornton on August 13, 1952, in Los Angeles and released by Peacock Records in late February 1953, “Hound Dog” was Thornton’s only hit record, selling over 500,000 copies, spending 14 weeks in the R&B charts, including seven weeks at number one.
Elvis Presley returns today for his second appearance on this list. Today’s song was actually Elvis’ biggest seller and became symbolic of the rock and roll revolution. It began life in 1952 and was recorded by R&B singer, Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, who enjoyed moderate success with it. The song was then covered by various artists before Elvis himself decided to have a go and the rest, as they say, is history. Elvis’ song today is Hound Dog.
The original version of Hound Dog was written from a woman’s perspective and allowed Big Mama Thornton to criticise the man in her life as the waste of space that he was and how she didn’t need him. Elvis would take inspiration from a parody version by Freddie Bell and the Bellboys. While Thornton’s version was ripe with sexual innuendo, Freddie Bell’s take would tone down the language to compare a woman to a dog, changes that the original lyricist – Jerry Leiber – did not like. Elvis heard this comedic version of Hound Dog and added it to his playlist. His repeat of the line, “They said you was high-classed, Well that was just a lie”, echoes throughout and voices his displeasure with his lover. In both versions, it’s a song of dismissal.
One of Elvis’ most famous songs and an unsurprising entry on this list. I personally prefer Heartbreak Hotel but this is still a memorable song and videos online will show you the King in full youthful vigour, shaking those hips and causing a frenzy while singing this one live. It’s hard to imagine such moves being controversial today but back in the 1950s Elvis was frowned upon by many but loved by even more. How many more of his songs will we experience on this list, I do wonder.
Favourite songs so far: