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…
Nick Drake – Northern Sky (1970)
Continuing in the UK, dear reader, and a great pleasure it is to be on home soil for a few days. Our artist today, unfortunately, had little success during his lifetime. Only in the 1980s did his work begin to gain any real recognition and he is highly regarded today. Nick Drake loved music but he did not enjoy interviews and performed live minimally, making him hard to market to a wide audience. 1001 Songs joins Drake in 1970 and the song they have selected is Northern Sky.
In Northern Sky, Drake is a narrator who is clearly in love with someone. The song opens with the chorus as Drake tells us about new feelings he has, seeing his surroundings different to how he ever has before. He addresses the unnamed person that has inspired these feelings and calls on them to “brighten my northern sky.” In the two verses we hear how the narrator has been alone for a long time and he then asks his lover of all the things she will do in being with him. He wants it to be forever and the happiness he now has seems beyond mere words.
I’m only familiar with Nick Drake from the inclusion of the song, One of These Things First on the soundtrack for Zach Braff’s 2004 masterpiece, Garden State. That is a great song and Northern Sky is as well. Beautiful lyrics are wonderfully sung by Drake throughout. It’s not clear who inspired the song but if there was someone, Drake must have thought a lot about her. The potential for greatness was there but sadly Nick Drake would not live to see how appreciated his music became. Struggling with insomnia and depression, Drake died from an overdose of antidepressants in 1974. He was only 26 years old.
Favourite songs so far:
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)
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)
King Crimson – The Court of the Crimson King (1969)
Derek & The Dominos – Layla (1970)