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 Velvet Underground – Heroin (1967)
We’re staying in the US today, dear reader, but no Brazilian influences or bossa nova for us today. Instead, we are in the company of one of the 1960s’ most legendary groups – The Velvet Underground. Containing the incomparable Lou Reed, The Velvet Underground, once briefly managed by Andy Warhol, are yet another group on our list who have enjoyed mythical status with the passage of time but their music was not commercially successful when first released. From 1967 we have their controversial, not radio friendly song, Heroin.
Heroin is not the first song from the 1960s to make reference to the drug but it is one of the first to speak of it so explicitly. Written and sung by Lou Reed, he tells us of the highs and lows of heroin use. The highs are how it makes you feel with comparisons such as being like the son of Jesus but more importantly, how the drug can make you uncaring about the world and all its vices such as politicians and their words of hate. Reed speaks of the positives of heroin but reminds us that this is a dangerous drug and it will likely kill him if he continues to use it. It’s a long song and honest with its message on drug use.
The Velvet Underground are one of those groups whose name you will likely know but listing a dozen of their songs may prove difficult if you are not an ardent fan. Shamefully, I am not well versed in their material but had come across Heroin before. It clocks in at more than 7 minutes but not a second of it is wasted. Reed’s message is a stark one, conveying the pleasure to be had with drugs, but the grave dangers that come each time one sticks a needle into their arm; death is never far away. The Velvet Underground would disband in 1973 with Reed going on to have a successful solo career, though the group would reunite on occasion.
Favourite songs so far:
Ben E. King – Stand By Me (1961)
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)
The Righteous Brothers – Unchained Melody (1965)
The Who – Substitute (1966)
The Rolling Stones – Paint It Black (1966)
The Beach Boys – God Only Knows (1966)
The Beatles – Eleanor Rigby (1966)
The Monkees – I’m a Believer (1966)
The Doors – The End (1967)