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…
Steppenwolf – The Pusher (1968)
We’re continuing in the US today, dear reader, but combining with Canada to form our guests who are rock legends, Steppenwolf. They are still going to this day would you believe though the original line up unravelled back in 1972 and only singer, John Kay, remains today. We pick up Steppenwolf’s story early on in 1968 and 1001 Songs has ignored the obvious choice of Born to Be Wild and instead chosen The Pusher. Colour me surprised.
The Pusher is a song that deals with drugs and those that sell them. In fact, the narrator throws in two contrasting individuals for us to consider on the drug market. We have the dealer and the pusher. The dealer is a pretty good guy. You want to get high and have a pleasant experience, then the dealer is the person to help you get there. In contrast, there is the pusher who is the antithesis of the dealer. The pusher is interested only in making money and the best way of doing that is through the sale of hard drugs such as heroin. There’s a terrific line about punters with “tombstones in their eyes” but the pusher is unmoved by such concerns. If profits mean a few addicts overdose and die what does it matter when there is money to be made. The narrator imagines having the power to end the pusher, to rid the world of their kind, but knows they will continue to wreak havoc amongst the vulnerable drug users in their midst. If only more pushers could be dealers instead.
I have heard of Steppenwolf and know Born to Be Wild, just as millions of music lovers do. Beyond that song, my knowledge of the group is non-existent. Permission granted on shaming my ignorance. I do not recall hearing The Pusher before but it features in the 1969 counterculture classic, Easy Rider, so I have come across it at some point. If you haven’t seen the film, dear reader, I strongly recommend it. Anyways, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. John Kay’s vocals are gritty and the lyrics do a fantastic job of conveying both the good and bad side of drug use. I am intrigued about delving further into Steppenwolf’s back catalogue. They were a very successful group from 1968-1972 but personality conflicts dealt irreparable damage until only John Kay remained. These days the group are known as John Kay & Steppenwolf.
Favourite songs so far:
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)
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Voodoo Child (Slight Return) (1968)