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…
John Leyton – Johnny Remember Me (1961)
We’re back across the Atlantic today where we touch down in the UK once more. It’s good to be home. We’ll be coming back here a few times as this decade goes on, at least I assume we will be. This list may yet surprise me. The US have dominated so far so it’s time for other countries to hit back with their musical masterpieces. Anyway, today’s song was written by Geoff Goddard and, would you Adam and Eve it, was banned by the BBC due to references to death. Different times. The song in question is Johnny Remember Me and the artist is both a singer and actor named John Leyton.
Johnny Remember Me sees Leyton sing from the perspective of a narrator who has lost someone he loved dearly. Presumably they have died and he is now in mourning for them. To add to his woes, Leyton tells us that when the wind is strong he hears the sepulchral voice of his love in the air, crying out “Johnny Remember Me.” Chills. Johnny sounds like he may well move on one day and even meet someone else but even if he does he will not forget his lost love. In the meantime, the grieving process is still very raw and the surrounding winds are not helping ease the pain.
Goodness me, this was an eerie song all the way through. Leyton sings it beautifully though and the cold, deathly feel among the words is enhanced by the backing vocals of Lissa Gray who sings the “Johnny Remember Me” part so well you can almost feel those words being carried on the unrelenting wind that haunts the narrator of the song. Songs about death were frowned upon in the early sixties it seems but the BBC banning this particular effort did not diminish its success. It topped the UK charts in 1961 and deservedly so.
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)