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…
Eagles – Desperado (1973)
We’re staying in the US, dear reader, but today we venture over to California where our hosts are one of the biggest rock bands in US history. The Eagles first formed in 1971 and enjoyed huge success in the 1970s. Two of their albums are in the Top 3 biggest selling records in the US which is no mean feat. We join the group in 1973 with the release of their second album, Desperado, which wasn’t as successful as their self-titled debut but 1001 Songs has selected the album’s title track for their list today.
Desperado was first partially written by Don Henley in the 1960s but remained unfinished until he formed his songwriting partnership in the Eagles with Glenn Frey who helped to complete the track. In the song, Henley takes the lead vocal and guides us back to the Wild West and to the desperado of the title who wanders the land and veers between life and death in a perpetual cycle. Henley beseeches the desperado to realise the danger of their existence, its constant uncertainties, which range from gambling to the harsh terrain. In the song’s closing lines, Henley reaches out to the desperado one last time and tells them it is not too late, despite their passing years, to find love, to settle and to finally be safe and away from their perilous life on the road.
You will not be surprised to hear, dear reader, that my knowledge of the Eagles is sparse. I know Don Henley is the drummer and often sings for them and they did a song called Hotel California, which is “a lovely place.” There are no excuses for my ignorance but I am starting to learn now. Desperado is a great song with visions of the Wild West and you can picture the lonesome wanderer, akin to Clint Eastwood in one of Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns. The desperate pleas at the end for the desperado to end their dangerous life are moving but you get the impression cries will be in vain. The Eagles continued to go from strength to strength but disbanded in 1980. They reformed in 1994 and continue to this day despite lineup changes.
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)