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…
Bob Dylan – Subterranean Homesick Blues (1965)
Continuing in the US and we return to the work of Bob Dylan who has already appeared with Like a Rolling Stone, considered by some to be the greatest song ever written. Immersing ourselves once more in Dylan’s back catalogue, 1001 Songs have looked at the Bringing It All Back Home album from 1965 and selected Subterranean Homesick Blues, which broke Dylan into the US Top 40 and Top 10 in the UK. Amazing to think he hadn’t been that high in those charts before!
Subterranean Homesick Blues is, unsurprisingly for Dylan, a pretty complex song and this blog isn’t long enough to unravel it. Dylan is said to have been inspired by the Beat Generation writers such as Kerouac and Ginsberg as well as Chuck Berry’s Too Much Monkey Business. Dylan makes reference to the Civil Rights Movement, drug busts, social injustice, and youth culture. Dylan is holding up a mirror to American history and reflecting a myriad of images back into one song that clocks in at less than 3 minutes but still packs in plenty of ideas.
Subterranean Homesick Blues is fast-paced and reflective of Dylan’s shifting towards more rock-centric songs, contrasting with his folk roots. Breaking the song down and generating meaning is not easy given the multitude of references to be found within the lyrics. John Lennon is said to have been particularly intimidated by the song, believing that he would be incapable of producing anything as good as this. As with Like a Rolling Stone, I still favour other Dylan songs ahead of this one but this is still an example of a great singer and lyricist at the top of his game.
Favourite songs so far:
Eddie Cochran – Summertime Blues (1958)
The Everly Brothers – All I Have to Do Is Dream (1958)
Edith Piaf – Non, je ne regrette rien (1960)
Ben E. King – Stand By Me (1961)
The Righteous Brothers – You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling (1964)
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
The Mamas & The Papas – California Dreamin’ (1965)
The Rolling Stones – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (1965)
The Seekers – The Carnival is Over (1965)
The Supremes – Stop! In the Name of Love (1965)