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 Beatles – Strawberry Fields Forever (1967)
We’re heading back to the UK, dear reader, so the Queen’s English is essential today. We’re in the north of England and stopping over in Liverpool once again. The Beatles join us for the fourth time on our list. A bit greedy, guys? In late 1966 The Beatles had completed Revolver and with the shackles of touring commitments now behind them the Fab Four began work on Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Today, 1001 Songs has gone with a track that was intended for that album, along with Penny Lane, but pressure from the record company forced The Beatles to release a double A-side single instead. This single featured Penny Lane and the legendary Strawberry Fields Forever.
Written by John Lennon, Strawberry Fields Forever initially took inspiration from a Salvation Army children’s home close to where Lennon lived as a child and it was called Strawberry Field. The story goes that Lennon used to play in the adjacent woodland in his childhood and the area fascinated him. Lennon was enjoying LSD trips in 1966 and he was also away from the other members, filming How I Won the War. The song is said to combine Lennon’s nostalgia for his childhood along with psychedelic imagery akin to having an LSD trip. The song does warrant multiple listens and if you have the lyrics in front of you there is a good chance that some head scratching will ensue. It has for me in the many years I have listened to this track.
Although Tomorrow Never Knows (a previous entrant on our list) on the Revolver album had been considered groundbreaking, Strawberry Fields Forever stunned critics with some in awe of the progression shown by The Beatles, while others were left perplexed and unsure about the song. Personally, I have always liked the song but prefer Penny Lane which appeared with this one as a single. This duo was notable as being the first time in four years that a single by The Beatles did not top the UK chart, settling for no.2 behind Engelbert Humperdinck’s Release Me and ending a run of 11 no.1 hits in a row. Amazing achievement. For those fascinated by the famous Paul McCartney is dead legend, Strawberry Fields Forever’s outro where “cranberry sauce” is heard has been interpreted by some listeners as “I buried Paul.” I won’t get into the whole debate about whether or not Paul died in a car crash in 1966, nor the plethora of so-called clues that followed, but it’s fascinating stuff if you have the time to delve deeper.
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)