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…
Fairport Convention – She Moves through the Fair (1969)
We’re leaving the US behind, dear reader, and returning across the Atlantic to the UK. Our guests today are Fairport Convention who formed in 1967 and early on were regarded as the British version of Jefferson Airplane. Sounds like a compliment. They would experience many lineup changes in the years that followed but when working on their second album in 1969, they had recruited a singer by the name of Sandy Denny. From that second album, What We Did on Our Holidays, 1001 Songs has selected She Moves through the Fair, based on a traditional Irish folk song.
She Moves through the Fair is a sepulchral love song that begins pleasantly enough but then takes a dark turn. Sandy Denny takes vocals and is a narrator who is looking forward to marrying his lover. She assures him that her family approve of this union and that the wedding is close. He watches her move through the fair of the title and disappears, presumably on her way home. In the next verse, the narrator is alone, his lover now dead, though it’s unclear what has happened to her. She visits her lover in the form of a ghost and reassures him that all will soon be well and that their wedding is not far away. Is something sinister about to happen to him or does his lover not fully realise the implications of her own passing?
Fairport Convention are another group I knew absolutely nothing about prior to starting this list. She Moves through the Fair is a haunting piece with gentle music but a stunning vocal from Sandy Denny. It leaves one feeling somewhat uneasy by the conclusion and is all the more effective as a result. Fairport Convention are still going to this day but tragedy has befallen them in the past with drummer, Martin Lamble, killed in a van crash in 1969. Sandy Denny would struggle with depression in the 1970s before dying from a brain haemorrhage in 1978 after a series of serious falls, not helped by alcohol abuse. She was just 31 years old.
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 Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)
Procol Harum – A Whiter Shade of Pale (1967)
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Voodoo Child (Slight Return) (1968)
The Kinks – Days (1968)