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…
The Crystals – He’s a Rebel (1962)
We’re still in the US today and we’re returning to the world of girl groups for today’s number. Now, bear with me because this is going to get a little bit confusing. Gene Pitney wrote today’s song and offered it to some artists who declined. Producer Phil Spector decided he wanted the song to be sung by a girl group – The Crystals. There was just one problem. The Crystals were off touring and Spector wanted the song recording quickly to get it released, such was its potential. What does one do in this situation? How about get another girl group in to record the song but still put it out as The Crystals? Sounds bizarre, not to say dodgy, but that’s what Spector did. The Blossoms recorded the song, it was credited to The Crystals, and that group suddenly had a big hit on their hands without even singing a note! Nice work if you can get it. Today we have He’s a Rebel.
He’s a Rebel sees The Crystals (The Blossoms?) taking on role of the narrator who has a very special man in their life. She loves him, he’s something unique but he is also different to the other guys. He is a rebel. He does the things that the rest of the crowd won’t do. This makes the crowd frown upon him, dismiss him as no good, someone is going nowhere and should be avoided. However, our narrator is still besotted with the rebel of the title. What others see as his dire traits, she sees as his undeniable qualities. She’s going to ignore the crowd for her feelings for him are true.
Once I had got my head around the complicated back story for He’s a Rebel, I was able to sit back with my headphones and really enjoy the song. The vocals from The Blossoms are sublime and we have some saxophone thrown into the mix as well to spice things up. I love the “don’t give a damn” attitude about the narrator who is happy to be with someone who is different to the rest. Being different is a positive thing, or at least it should be. What a shame it is that The Blossoms were the true artists behind this song but were not given the credit they deserved. Ironically, The Crystals had to sing the song live after its success but could not match The Blossoms which led to a change of personnel going forward.
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)
Edith Piaf – Non, je ne regrette rien (1960)
Ben E. King – Stand By Me (1961)