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…
Francesco De Gregori – Rimmel (1975)
Time to leave the US, dear reader, and make our way back across the Atlantic to Europe. Plenty of countries to choose from on this continent but we’re making our way over to Italy for today’s stay. We welcome an artist known as The Prince of the Singer-Songwriters and he goes by the name of Francesco De Gregori. We join De Gregori in 1975 when he has had a handful of failed albums behind him. This year saw the release of Rimmel which became one of the biggest successes in Italy and helped launch De Gregori’s career. 1001 Songs has opted for the title track for our listening pleasure.
De Gregori wrote Rimmel in two phases during time spent in Milan. I had to seek out a translation and found the song is made up of two verses with the chorus being sung twice in accompaniment. The opening verse is quite confusing with some ambiguous imagery but it seems to point to nostalgia for something important, something tragic perhaps, and there is the hint of deception and disguise thrown in. The chorus uses imagery of card playing and suggests keeping one’s hand (emotions or feelings?) to themselves or maybe revealing them to another. The second verse suggests we are dealing with a love story with the narrator reminiscing about a woman asking him if he still has a photo of her and when he confirms he does, she laments it’s all he has of her. We seem to be dealing with lost love here, memories immortalised in photographs, longing and regret abounds and the overwhelming feeling is one of sadness.
This is the first time I have heard Francesco De Gregori and Rimmel is an elegant piece of work. It’s heavily driven by a piano melody that accompanies De Gregori’s poignant vocals. He has a reputation for sumptuous lyrics and that came across in the translation here. I found this one hard to unravel to be honest when garnering the meaning but perhaps I am overthinking what it is all about. De Gregori’s work continues to this day and at the time of writing he has recorded 30+ albums in a lucrative career.
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)
Sparks – This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us (1974)
Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody (1975)
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)