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…
Howlin’ Wolf – Back Door Man (1961)
We’re heading to Chicago today as we continue our US tour. In the northern city in the 1950s was a blues player named Willie Dixon whose songs would be embraced and covered by other artists. One blues man in particular was Howlin’ Wolf who covered some of Dixon’s work in the 1950s and continued to do so into the 1960s. From Dixon’s catalogue, this 1001 songs list has opted for Back Door Man which Howlin’ Wolf covered in 1961.
Back Door Man is named after a phrase from the American South and it translates as a man who has affairs with married women. Who knew? Howlin’ Wolf takes on the narrator’s role here and becomes the Back Door Man of the title. He tells us that late at night he’s creeping around, making his way into a marital bed, but once the sun has risen he is on his way, out of the back door of course. Presumably he has a fondness for married women whose husbands work night shifts, or at leastI hope so. Later verses have some ambiguity with suggestions that the Back Door Man may have been shot, as he is taken to hospital full of holes. There’s mention of a trial and even a burial so he may have seen the end of his midnight shenanigans, certainly in my interpretation anyway.
Howlin’ Wolf’s Chicago blues standard is powerful stuff and his voice grinds its way through this one, giving him a sense of the badass that he is conveying. The Back Door Man isn’t what you would call a nice guy, targeting married women rather than single ones, and by the sound of things he pays the ultimate price for his actions. The song would be memorably covered again in 1967, this time by The Doors when the world first came to know the enigmatic Jim Morrison.
Favourite songs so far:
Elvis Presley – Heartbreak Hotel (1956)
Johnny Cash – I Walk the Line (1956)
Chuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode (1958)
Ritchie Valens – La Bamba (1958)
Eddie Cochran – Summertime Blues (1958)
Peggy Lee – Fever (1958)
The Everly Brothers – All I Have to Do Is Dream (1958)
The Shirelles – Will You Love Me Tomorrow (1960)
Johnny Kidd & the Pirates – Shakin’ All Over (1960)
Edith Piaf – Non, je ne regrette rien (1960)