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…
Steely Dan – Reelin’ in the Years (1972)
From New Jersey we’re heading a relatively short distance down to New York to spend time with a group who dabble in multiple genres including jazz rock. Steely Dan’s two main members are Walter Becker and Donald Fagen with other musicians thrown in across the years. In 1972 the group released their debut album, Can’t Buy a Thrill, which had the hits – Do It Again and Reelin’ in the Years. 1001 Songs has opted for the latter of those two songs for its glamorous list today.
Reelin’ in the Years is open to interpretation but the most popular one is that the song’s narrator is singing about a girl he was once with. He criticises her for dismissing him in favour of someone else. In the chorus he asks if she is “reelin’ in the years” and “gatherin’ up the tears”. The idea of reeling years in and stowing time sounds like someone conscious of their life going by quickly and perhaps they are settling down. The gathering of tears suggests that she has broken a fair few hearts, including the narrator’s. In the other verses he is critical of her self-professed intelligence and laments money spent on her and the places they have shared only for her to leave him for someone else to build new memories.
Reelin’ in the Years has some great lyrics despite the conflicting analyses to be found online. The song is notable for the guitar work of session musician, Elliott Randall, whose solo here was once said to be a favourite of Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin and it really is something to savour. The song would chart highly in the US and Steely Dan continued until 1981 before breaking up. They reformed in 1993 and have continued to perform to this day with Becker and Fagen remaining as the permanent fixtures.
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)
Stevie Wonder – Superstition (1972)