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…
Tom Waits – (Looking for) The Heart of Saturday Night (1974)
We’re staying in the US, dear reader, but making the journey from Tennessee all the way over to California. We are in the company of Tom Waits today who has had a long career but back in 1974 he was 25 years old and at the dawn of his time in music. 1001 Songs has dropped in on Tom with the release of his second album, The Heart of Saturday Night, and from that record they have lifted the title track.
(Looking for) The Heart of Saturday Night was written by Tom Waits as an ode to Jack Kerouac, a Beat Generation writer whose most famous work was On the Road (1957). In the song, Waits doesn’t refer to Kerouac by name but he does describe an individual who is longing for Saturday, to be in their car with a woman at their side, their hair is neatly combed and they’re dressed smartly, they long to forget the weekdays and immerse themselves in the thrill of Saturday night. Waits sings of Kerouac with admiration here but there is also a poignancy amidst the lyrics, perhaps emphasising a live fast nature, a mention of longing for the Saturdays now gone and the desire to embrace the remaining ones ahead. Kerouac himself died young at 47 so maybe Waits is drawing on the theme of mortality.
I know of Tom Waits and a handful of songs but certainly not his early career. Waits was said to be more jazz-oriented in the 1970s and you get a feel of that with (Looking for) The Heart of Saturday Night. The music is there in the background but it does not intrude on the gravelly, yet moving vocals, of Tom Waits as he delivers this moving tribute to Kerouac. It’s a strong song and gives me the desire to explore his career further.
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)