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…
New York Dolls – Personality Crisis (1973)
Welcome to 1973, dear reader. We concluded 1972 in the UK but as it’s a new year we’re heading back to the US and to New York. Today’s group were an influential one with the likes of Kiss, The Ramones, Guns ‘N Roses and The Smiths citing them as inspiration. The New York Dolls were formed in 1971 and although their time in the spotlight was brief they have endured as early pioneers of punk rock. 1001 Songs has selected their song, Personality Crisis, for our consideration today.
Personality Crisis was written by David Johansen and Johnny Thunders and is multi-faceted in its meaning. It is said to focus on the thin line that exists between sanity and insanity. The song also explores drug abuse and heartbreak. The opening verse seems to refer to a relationship falling apart. The second verse suggests the perils of drug addiction and the difficulty of going cold turkey. The third verse switches to the dividing line between sanity and insanity. In the chorus New York Dolls sing about the crisis of a changing personality, how everything seemed up but now an unnamed individual has been left frustrated and heartbroken by experiences around them. Sounds like they’re having a tough time.
Personality Crisis is a solid track to open 1973. You can appreciate how later punk rock acts would have been inspired by the music here. It’s heavy and loud at times, though not as profane as some of the acts that would emerge in the late 1970s. New York Dolls’ time in the limelight was over by 1976 when they had disbanded. Numerous tragedies have befallen its members but the surviving personnel reunited in 2004 before going their separate ways in 2011. They have yet to reform to rock their audiences once more.
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)
Carly Simon – You’re So Vain (1972)