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…
Bobby Bland – Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City (1974)
After a brief foray in Brazil yesterday, dear reader, we’re back on that plane and heading back north to the US. We head over to Tennessee and meet a singer by the name of Robert Calvin Bland, better known as Bobby “Blue” Bland. Bland was well-known for fusing genres such as gospel and blues with his music. We pick up his story in 1974, well into his career now, and 1001 Songs have selected a track that fared better with cover versions but began life with Bland – Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City.
Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City is a lament for a powerful love lost by the narrator. They have been in a relationship but now it has come to the end and the healing is still a long way away. The song uses the surrounding city as a metaphor for the heartbreak and misery that our narrator is feeling. Once the streets were bursting with life when he was in the throes of love but now they are cold, dark and desolate. The cityscape echoes the emptiness in the narrator’s heart and he can only look on with sadness and remember what used to be. Powerful stuff indeed.
The name “Bobby Bland” did sound familiar as I approached this part of the challenge but I could not think of any of his music. Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City is a beautiful expression of sorrow for a love lost, a feeling all too familiar for most of us. You could say this takes Elvis’ Heartbreak Hotel to a new level, spreading the misery of a broken heart across a city rather than tucked away in a hotel. The song would not fare brilliantly upon release but it remains one of Bland’s most-loved tracks.
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 – Living for the City (1973)