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…
Cat Stevens – Peace Train (1971)
We’re leaving Chicago and the US and returning to the UK today, dear reader. We were on the City of New Orleans train yesterday and today we are catching another train. Well, we fly plenty on this musical journey of ours so why not try the train for once? Hopefully it will be on time. Anyway, today’s artist is from London and went by the stage name of Cat Stevens back in the 1970s. These days he is known as Yusuf, having converted to Islam in 1977. Cat Stevens/Yusuf has many hits to his name but 1001 Songs has decided that you and I are going to be catching the Peace Train with him.
In 1971 the US were still involved in the Vietnam War which would not end until 1975. Ill feeling back in the US continued to grow and opposition through protests had been going on for some time. In Peace Train Cat Stevens writes about contemporary society in 1971 and offers a more positive outlook. He acknowledges that times are bad and doesn’t understand why people hate each other so much. However, he has hope in the form of the “peace train” of the title which he insists is on its way and that we should all join hands, unified and no longer in conflict, and get on board this train. It sounds like quite a ride but its destination is unspecified. Most likely we’re going to utopia, the fantasy forever out of reach of mankind.
I know only a handful of songs by Cat Stevens/Yusuf. He is famous for writing tracks such as The First Cut is the Deepest, Father and Son and Wild World. I had not heard Peace Train before but it’s a pleasant and hopeful little number. The song was generally well received upon release but there were critics who did not agree with its message. I can see both sides of the argument. The song was written out of malice, but out of desire for better things to come. Cat Stevens/Yusuf’s vision has not come to pass, sadly, but it won’t stop us from trying and dreaming of a better world for future generations.
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)
The Kinks – Days (1968)
Derek & The Dominos – Layla (1970)
David Bowie – Life on Mars? (1971)
Rod Stewart – Maggie May (1971)
Led Zeppelin – When the Levee Breaks (1971)