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…
Nico – Chelsea Girls (1967)
Back again, dear reader, and today I’m not sure where we are to be honest with you. Technically, we’re still in the US but our artist today was originally from Germany. Let’s just say that musically, we’re still in the US but in spirit we’re over in Germany. Yesterday, we were in the company of The Velvet Underground and on their debut album in 1966 they had the help of a German singer named Nico. She is our guest today and in 1967 released her own album, Chelsea Girl, which referenced a film of the same name by Andy Warhol and one in which Nico had appeared. From the album we have the song Chelsea Girls, written by Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison from The Velvet Underground.
Chelsea Girls is all about the Hotel Chelsea in New York where various artists, drug addicts and society’s forgotten reside. In the song, Nico takes us through the various rooms, revealing information about the residents you can find in each one. Examples include, the S&M queens in Room 15 (if that’s your thing) and Pepper who has little in the way of a good future for that died along with a man, a lover presumably, that she lost previously. That’s just tragic. Each verse is followed by the chorus where Nico sings about the coming of the Chelsea Girls.
Chelsea Girls clocks in at more than 7 minutes, just like Heroin yesterday. It is slow at times but never in a negative way. Nico carefully guides us through the many rooms of the Hotel Chelsea, a rich and varied bunch of people, though the chorus is arguably too repetitive here. Unfortunately, Nico is said to have hated the song. She wanted drums and did not get them. Instead there is a flute accompaniment that broke her heart as it wasn’t what she wanted or even intended with the record. I personally feel it is apt for the song but it would have been interesting to hear this as Nico intended. Nico continued to make albums after this debut effort but sadly died in Ibiza in 1988 at the age of 49 after suffering a stroke.
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)