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…
John Lennon – Working Class Hero (1970)
We’re leaving Jamaica and returning to the UK, dear reader. We’re off back to Liverpool to check out those Beatles boys. George Harrison and Paul McCartney have already appeared on our list. Now it’s the turn of John Lennon. I wonder if Ringo will appear as well? As with his former bandmates, Lennon pursued a solo career and had already started with the Plastic Ono Band before The Beatles’ demise was confirmed. From Lennon’s debut album, released in 1970, 1001 Songs has selected Working Class Hero.
John Lennon takes on the classes in society in Working Class Hero and delivers a blunt and sometimes vulgar perspective on the imbalance and injustice to be found. He describes society as one where it is hard to get anywhere without some kind of opposition dragging you down. At school you are mocked for being clever but also for being a fool. Lennon tells us the first twenty years are spent being shaped by society and then you go off to pursue a career but already as individuals we are afraid. We are also told in the song that in working and having a family we reach a kind of contentment and think we have it all but Lennon insists the majority remain as peasants, at the will of the higher classes. There is room at the top even if you’re born working class but it comes at the price of your soul and your morality. Through all this bleakness Lennon uses the refrain of being a “working class hero” and how this is a worthwhile thing to be.
John Lennon and Paul McCartney often worked on songs separately in The Beatles then tended to come together (no pun intended!) to help finish off their compositions. As with McCartney, we get to listen to Lennon solo as both a writer and a performer. His subject matter is more political than that of McCartney and in Working Class Hero we have a song that would speak to millions of people but many would frown upon its message as well. It’s a song I’ve listened to many times in the past but this challenge ensures I focus more than before, take in the lyrics and appreciate the meaning. In doing so, it’s a song I admire to a greater degree than I did before.
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)