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…
Jerry Lee Lewis – Great Balls of Fire (1957)
Back to the US today and it’s the old rock and roll for us to dance to, though dancing to this particular song might be considered a tad dangerous. Written by Otis Blackwell and Jack Hammer (good name that), Great Balls of Fire has been covered by numerous artists but the definitive version, a rock and roll classic to this day, comes from Jerry Lee Lewis, making his second appearance on this list.
Great Balls of Fire sees Lewis singing about a woman who is making him pretty wild. He goes through a series of examples of how this woman is making him feel such as rattling his brain and breaking his will but the whole experience is fun. The phrase that makes up the title has Biblical origins and in the southern states of the US would later come to mean “awesome” but for this particular song the words allude to something a little more risque, certainly not what you would expect in the Bible.
As with Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On, this song is fast-paced and sees Lewis drawing some real energy from the piano. The song would narrowly miss out on the top spot in the US but would top the charts in the UK. It would be the peak of Lewis’ career and is considered one of the greatest rock and roll songs of all time. Lewis’ career would suffer with a scandal in his personal life when he married his first cousin, aged only 13, which proved difficult for many people to ignore. Future success would come with a switch to country music in the 1960s but Great Balls of Fire was a high point Lewis would not come close to replicating again.
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)
Fats Domino – Blueberry Hill (1956)
Johnny Cash – I Walk the Line (1956)
The Louvin Brothers – The Knoxville Girl (1956)