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…
Alice Cooper – Only Women Bleed (1975)
Welcome to 1975, dear reader, the year of Jaws and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, just to throw in a few cultural references there. Anyway, we begin our musical odyssey in this year by leaving Sparks in California and heading back across the US to Michigan. We’re checking back in with Alice Cooper today. Previously, the group appeared in 1972 with the song, Elected. By 1975, the band had broken up but lead singer, Vincent Furnier, retained the name as his own for a solo career, so previously we had Alice Cooper the band and now we have Alice Cooper the…man. Very strange. Moving on, 1001 Songs have lifted a track from Cooper’s debut solo album, Welcome to My Nightmare, by the name of Only Women Bleed.
Misinterpreted as a song concerning menstruation, Only Women Bleed was written by Cooper and Dick Wagner, and actually focuses on domestic violence. In the track, Cooper sings of a woman and her abusive partner. She has to provide sex on demand, cook his meals, endure his heavy drinking and smoking, not to mention the fact he disappears for long periods and doesn’t come home every night. He is also partial to hitting this woman as well and she lives her life both in love and in pain. You can picture an innocent woman who loves this man despite everything and wants this marriage to work but the violence is clearly taking its toll, any hopes that things will get better are looking impossible. Cooper tells us that this man has “the power” and you fear the worse for this woman who clearly deserves better than this monster she calls her partner.
I always thought I knew quite a bit about Alice Cooper prior to this challenge but it’s now clear I know absolutely nothing. I did not realise it was a band first then a solo artist, I wasn’t aware of a politically motivated track like Elected either. Even more importantly, I did not know that Cooper had penned a song as moving as this one. There is no hard rock or shock factor here. This track is gentle and powerful. The music is less significant than the lyrics though and here we have a story that resonates strongly to this day for both women and men who are victims of domestic violence across the globe. Many survive such ordeals but, sadly, many do not. Disappointingly, the interpretation of the song being about menstruation has limited its airplay. It’s both a shame that the song isn’t better known as a result, but even more of a shame that such a subject as menstruation is still so taboo in the 21st century.
Favourite songs so far:
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)
The Doors – The End (1967)
The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)
Derek & The Dominos – Layla (1970)
David Bowie – Life on Mars? (1971)
Rod Stewart – Maggie May (1971)
Stevie Wonder – Living for the City (1973)
Patti Smith Group – Piss Factory (1974)
Sparks – This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us (1974)