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…
Al Wilson – The Snake (1968)
We leave 1967 behind and what a year it was. Into 1968 we go. We’re continuing our tour of the US, dear reader, and heading over to Mississippi to enjoy a little more soul. We had the Queen of Soul yesterday and today’s artist is Al Wilson. Wilson spent his early career as a member of groups such as The Jewels and The Souls before trying his luck as a solo artist. His biggest hit in the US Show and Tell but 1001 Songs has opted for Wilson’s song – The Snake – originally written by Oscar Brown back in 1963.
The Snake is inspired one of Aesop’s Fables and in the song Wilson narrates the story of a woman who finds a snake, freezing in the cold, and close to death. She takes it home, puts it by the fireplace and even provides milk, honey and a blanket to try and revive the ailing serpent. Upon returning home from work the following day, the woman is delighted to find the snake is very much alive and doing well. So happy is she that the woman picks up the snake only for it to fatally bite her and inject poison in the process. When the woman asks why the snake has killed her, the snake simply responds what did she expect bringing a serpent into her home?
This is a delightful number from Al Wilson that gained a lot of traction in the UK where it was popular in Northern Soul circles. Wilson’s vocals are delightful and amusing, changing his voice when delivering the woman’s dialogue, as well as that of the snake, even throwing in some hissing for emphasis. Despite some success in the 1960s, Wilson’s career fizzled out by the late 1970s.
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 Doors – The End (1967)
The Kinks – Waterloo Sunset (1967)
The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)
Procol Harum – A Whiter Shade of Pale (1967)