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…
The Stranglers – Peaches (1977)
We remain in the UK today, dear reader, but head south from London to Guildford in Surrey where we make the acquaintance of The Stranglers. Formed in 1974, the group were part of the punk rock movement but have adapted their approach and style over the decades to remain one of the longest surviving acts from the UK. We join them in 1977 though and taking a leaf out of Sex Pistols’ book, The Stranglers have come up with a controversial track by the name of Peaches.
In Peaches we have Hugh Cornwell on vocals and singing about being a young man down at the sun-kissed beach watching the many young ladies there. They might be swimming, sunbathing or just generally wandering around but he has his eyes on all of them and it isn’t hard to guess what he has in mind staring at women in their bikinis. At one point he feels the need to go for a swim to cool off, it’s not just the sun that has him all hot, you see. The song’s controversial lyric includes the word “clitoris” at one stage with emphasis on the second syllable making it sound different to usual. The chorus refers to “looking at the peaches” which has been open to debate but most agree the narrator is referring to a part of the female anatomy but which bit is left to the imagination.
I know little from The Stranglers other than Golden Brown, or at least I thought. As soon as I heard the bass riff and organ accompaniment to Peaches, I recognised it immediately. It’s unquestionably catchy but digging down into the lyrics will divide some listeners. The narrator comes across as lecherous and sees women merely as objects to fulfil his own desires. This will offend some people, even be considered misanthropic, but you could argue that The Stranglers are tapping into sexual desire common among many immature teenage boys. While I don’t subscribe to this view of women, this is still a memorable song for good and bad reasons.
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)