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…
James Carr – The Dark End of the Street (1967)
We’re staying in the US today, dear reader, and remaining in Mississippi as well. It’s nice not to be traveling too far for a change. Our song today was written by Dan Penn and Chips Moman. The story goes that the duo left a game of cards to go write a song about cheating and came to a deal with Quinton Claunch, head of a record company, to use his hotel room for the composition. Claunch agreed on the condition that the song they wrote be handed to musician, James Carr. The Dark End of the Street was written in less than an hour, it was given to James Carr and became his most successful song.
The Dark End of the Street sees James Carr as a narrator who appears to be in the midst of an intense affair with a woman. He tells us how they meet at the “dark end of the street”, always at night and although they know what they are doing is wrong, the love they have for one another is just too intense to resist. They can only meet at night though, out of sight, and away from suspicion. The narrator tells this woman that should they pass one another on the street during daylight hours then they must walk by without acknowledging one another’s existence, no matter how hard that is. They know one day they will be discovered but for now they can continue their clandestine nightly ritual and try not to arouse suspicion.
For a song seemingly about infidelity, this one quickly draws you in. Upon first listen it’s hard to remember the music as you sit and reflect. The reason being that you are so absorbed in James Carr’s powerful voice. It really packs a punch as he conveys the torment of this illicit liaison on dark streets. You really feel the pain in this betrayal that the couple are a part of. Are they both cheating on partners or is just one of them being unfaithful? It’s hard to say but while what they are doing may be wrong, there is nothing wrong whatsoever in the way James Carr performs this.
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 Who – Substitute (1966)
The Rolling Stones – Paint It Black (1966)
The Beach Boys – God Only Knows (1966)
The Beatles – Eleanor Rigby (1966)
The Doors – The End (1967)
The Velvet Underground – Venus in Furs (1967)
The Kinks – Waterloo Sunset (1967)