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…
Suicide – Ghost Rider (1977)
We say goodbye to Italy today, dear reader, and make our sweet way back to the US. We find ourselves back in New York City and in the company of a duo by the name of Alan Vega and Martin Rev. Together they formed the group, Suicide, in 1970 with their debut album not coming until 1977. Considered very influential in electronic music circles, 1001 Songs have worked their way through the duo’s first album and lifted the track – Ghost Rider.
Inspired by Marvel comics, as was the group’s name, Ghost Rider begins by seemingly describing the character from those books. He’s driving around on a motorcycle and depicted as “cute” in his “jumpsuit.” The way he tears along the roads makes Suicide compare him to the stars in the night sky. In the third verse the song takes a strange and dark turn with Ghost Rider not only driving around the streets but delivering a message to all who will listen to him: the word being that “America is killin’ its youth.” This song came just two years after the end of the Vietnam War so the song could be a nod to the fates that befell many soldiers that fought in that conflict but also anti-war protestors who were killed back home.
Suicide were never commercially successful but they are one of those groups that endured due to their influence. Synthesisers and drum machines created their sound and this pioneering work would come to shape many acts that followed in the coming years. Ghost Rider sounds like a track more out of the 1980s than the 1970s but it’s akin to synthesiser driven groups like Soft Cell, Depeche Mode and New Order that came to follow. The duo continued sporadically from 1970 until 2016 when singer, Alan Vega, died in his sleep at the age of 78.
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)
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)
Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run (1975)