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…
Crosby, Stills & Nash – Suite: Judy Blue Eyes (1969)
We’re staying in the US today, dear reader, and find ourselves in California. We previously had a supergroup in the form of Cream and today we have another one known as Crosby, Stills & Nash. They are: David Crosby from The Byrds, Stephen Stills from Buffalo Springfield and Graham Nash from The Hollies. The trio sometimes includes Neil Young, also from Buffalo Springfield, but a big solo star in his own right. Phew! Anyway, in 1969 Stephen Stills was writing a song about his now ex-girlfriend, Judy Collins, who was a singer/songwriter. Unfortunately, Stills didn’t have a complete song, he had pieces of songs so rather than try to unravel what to do with the segments they were all put together to form Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.
Suite: Judy Blue Eyes apparently has a double meaning. On the one hand we have a suite of songs but “suite” also sounds like “sweet” which is an apt adjective for the blue eyed Judy. There are essentially four parts to the suite. The first one has the group singing together and is directly about Stills’ deteriorating relationship with Judy. He acknowledges that things are falling apart but in the chorus he tries to reassure himself that they belong to one another and it doesn’t have to end this way. In Part 2 the music changes and the lyrics become more confused. The narrator is wrestling with conflicting thoughts, not wanting to see Judy, then asking her to come to him. He thinks of going away but isn’t sure. Each thought is rounded off with the refrain of what does he or Judy have to lose? Another instrumental kicks in before we shift into Part 3. In this section the lyrics become more poetic, taking in the beauty of singing birds, potentially as a means to ease the pain our narrator is now suffering. The lyrics with their imagery are quite ambiguous and not as easy to decipher as that first part. The closing minute of the song, the fourth part perhaps, is a coda made up of a lot of “do-do-do” singing along with phrases that are not in English, possibly Spanish though my linguistic skills are questionable at the best of times. Anyway, this coda rounds out this 7+ minute epic from the trio.
Crosby, Stills & Nash are another group I hear a lot about but haven’t bothered to learn more. Perhaps I’ll go back and research some of these groups in depth the way I currently am doing with Pink Floyd in another blog feature. Anyway, Suite: Judy Blue Eyes is a masterful composition. I love the background with Stills essentially thinking, “What the hell, just stick it all together and see what happens”. What a great idea it turned out to be. Although the different parts have big contrasts they flow seamlessly into one another. The vocal harmonies of the trio are superb throughout as well. It’s certainly got me intrigued to listen to more of their work.
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)