1001 Songs Challenge,  1960s,  Music

1001 Songs Challenge #186: Unchained Melody (1965)

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 Righteous Brothers – Unchained Melody (1965)

We’re back in the US today, dear reader, and I might be hallucinating but is that Patrick Swayze being taught pottery by Demi Moore? Sorry, random digression. Fans of Ghost will know what I mean. Poor Patrick. Today’s song goes back to 1955 (when Marty McFly’s parents met!) and was written Alex North and Hy Zaret. Unchained Melody was composed for a film, Unchained, and has gone on to become one of the most covered songs of all time with numerous artists taking it to number 1 in the UK including Jimmy Young, Robson & Jerome and Gareth Gates (remember him?). 1001 Songs has sensibly opted for the best version which comes from The Righteous Brothers, making their second appearance on this list. 

Unchained Melody is a song of longing with our narrator seemingly going off to prison or already there and missing his lover back home. He sings of how he hungers for her love, yet wonders whether she is still his. Bro, she ain’t a possession! You need to tread carefully here. The narrator throws in some sumptuous imagery of lonely rivers flowing to the sea and sighing “Wait for me”, a desperate plea to this woman to hold on for he will be home. Depends on what your crime is, mate, to be honest. The narrator is earnest and lovesick, uncertain about what the future holds and as the listener we are none the wiser either. Does he make it home and, if so, does this woman wait for him?

Unchained Melody is credited to The Righteous Brothers but this song has only one of them singing and that is Bobby Hatfield with his tenor vocal. Bill Medley once said they flipped a coin to decide who sang this song and Hatfield won the toss. No disrespect to Medley but Hatfield’s tenor was better suited than Medley’s bass for this one. Although there have been many versions, Bobby Hatfield reigns supreme and it will take someone exceptional to sing Unchained Melody better than he did. 

* Disclaimer: Compiling this Top 10 of songs continues to be difficult and to add to the challenge I am restricting my choices to one song per artist. So, today for instance, Unchained Melody slots into the Top 10 in place of You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’. By the end I should have, in theory, 10 songs by 10 different artists. In theory. 


Favourite songs so far:

Eddie Cochran – Summertime Blues (1958)

The Everly Brothers – All I Have to Do Is Dream (1958)

Ben E. King – Stand By Me (1961)

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 Supremes – Stop! In the Name of Love (1965)

Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)

The Who – My Generation (1965)

The Righteous Brothers – Unchained Melody (1965)

My name is Dave and I live in Yorkshire in the north of England and have been here all my life. I hope you enjoy your visit to All is Ephemeral.

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