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…
Scott Walker – Montague Terrace (in Blue) (1967)
We move on from the US and return to the UK, dear reader, where we lay down our hats in London. Scott Walker was born in the US but with The Walker Brothers found greater success in the UK and remained there, becoming a citizen in 1970. We pick up Walker’s career in 1967 when he was moving away from The Walker Brothers, releasing his debut album just six months after the group’s latest work. Walker was viewed as a more serious artist when he went solo and from his first album 1001 Songs has selected Montague Terrace (in Blue).
Montague Terrace (in Blue) appears to be about a narrator staying in a block of apartments by the name of Montague Terrace. There is a Montague Terrace in London, Edinburgh and Brooklyn, so it’s unclear if Scott Walker is referring to a particular one or none of them at all, maybe an imagined place instead. In the song the narrator talks of being stuck in their room with the only sound being the man upstairs who is overweight and sounds like he enjoys drinking. In the second verse the narrator sings of a woman across the hall who sounds like she has many lovers but her life is ultimately unsatisfying though she has many stories to tell. In the chorus the narrator dreams of Montague Terrace in blue, so this is either a distant location they wish to be or perhaps suggests this is where they are but they are waiting for a different time of year. The summer perhaps? It’s all very ambiguous.
Montague Terrace (in Blue) sees Scott Walker branching out on his own and he shows no signs of intimidation in transitioning to a solo artist. The verses rely heavily on Walker’s voice as he divulges the monotony of living in Montague Terrace. During the chorus, the music becomes powerful and intense, competing with Walker’s vocals but he continues to dominate the song. It is an ambiguous number that is intriguing rather than frustrating to listen to.
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 Kinks – Waterloo Sunset (1967)
Aretha Franklin – Respect (1967)