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…
The Sensational Alex Harvey Band – Next (1973)
We’re doing a fair bit of flying in 1973 and today we cross the Atlantic again, dear reader, to return to the UK and head on up north to Scotland, a fine old place. Today’s glam rock band were formed in Glasgow in 1972 and they had a penchant for experimentation and sometimes peculiar themed songs. Well, some of us have been there. 1001 Songs has lifted the track, Next, originally written by Jacques Brel with Scott Walker attempting an English translation in the 1960s. The Sensational Alex Harvey Band had a go in 1972 and their version is considered by many to be superior and suitable for this list.
Next is a tragic song with lead singer, Alex Harvey, telling us the tale of a young man born and raised in a brothel. Exposed very early to all things sexual, this poor guy just wants a bit of tenderness and affection but that ain’t forthcoming in such a low down establishment as this. As the song progresses, the refrain of “next” is used to shift us along in the timelines and to bear witness to the protagonist’s latest state of affairs. The song seems to conclude with the protagonist being haunted by frightening and violent dreams and longing for a way out of their sorry predicament. Perhaps mental torment has become too much.
I haven’t heard the Scott Walker version of Next at the time of writing but I cannot imagine it sounding anything like this. It’s hard to qualify what I have just listened to here. On the one hand it sounds way out there, incomprehensible musically at times, but on the other hand it also sounds pretty damn good as well. It’s definitely different and won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. The Sensational Alex Harvey Band would gain popularity in the UK but this wouldn’t transfer to the US. The group disbanded in 1978 and, sadly, Alex Harvey died in 1982 from heart failure. He was only 46.
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)