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…
O.V. Wright – A Nickel and a Nail (1971)
From California to Tennessee today, dear reader, as our stay in the US continues.Our guest today is O.V. Wright, who dabbled in multiple genres such as R&B, soul, funk and blues. He started his career in 1964 and had modest success, remaining most popular in the Deep South. Although significant success eluded him, 1001 Songs has lifted one of Wright’s tracks for our list in the form of A Nickel and a Nail.
O.V. Wright’s narrator in A Nickel and a Nail is not having a nice time of things. Once he was wealthy but now all he has are the nickel and nail of the song’s title. Life is a struggle but the narrator keeps up the pretence that is well with his friends. He can’t have them knowing how bad things are. Later in the song we find that material items are not the main cause of our narrator’s woe. His lover has upped and left him on his lonesome and he tells her how lost he now is without her. The good news is that the nickel he still has is just enough for a phone call to his beloved to win her back. Something tells me he won’t succeed.
This was an energetic but sombre blues number from O.V. Wright. Just when we think the narrator is concerned only about having money, they switch the focus to their lost lover instead. Wright’s tortured vocals are evocative and the accompanying band, especially the saxophone, really adds to the song. Unfortunately, Wright’s life would not improve despite his career with stints in prison and although he continued to record albums success would not come. In 1980 O.V. Wright died from a heart attack at the age of 41 having battled drug addiction.
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)