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…
Althea & Donna – Uptown Top Ranking (1977)
Farewell to the UK and a long flight ahead as we make our way back to Jamaica. Today’s song has an interesting bit of history, dear reader. Althea Forrest (17) and Donna Reid (18) recorded an ad-libbed version of the song, Three Piece Suit, by Trinity and it was all meant in good humour. However, over in the UK, renowned DJ, John Peel, mistakenly played the song on radio and suddenly listeners demanded to hear it again and again and again. The song in question makes our list and goes by the name of Uptown Top Ranking.
In this very catchy reggae number, Althea and Donna seem to be singing about how they are causing quite a sensation on the streets in respect of their attire. We hear mention of a khaki suit and how the narrator is causing someone to have a heart attack with their appearance. A figurative one rather than a literal one. At least I hope so. The narrator seems down to earth and bound by their background but that does not faze them one iota. Whatever their attire, they own it and they wear it well. Good phrase that. Maybe someone like Rod Stewart could write a song about that. Anyway, I get the impression that the man looking on is both horrified but also enchanted by what this person is wearing. So much so they can’t look away.
I wasn’t familiar with Althea & Donna prior to this challenge and have certainly never heard Uptown Top Ranking before. It’s a catchy number and made me smile with its prevalent use of the word “ting.” Intended as a bit of fun, the song would reach no.1 in the UK. An album followed as well as a handful of singles but Althea & Donna could not replicate the success of Uptown Top Ranking. Still, a no.1 hit and a place on this list is not to be sniffed at for a song that was intended as just a bit of fun.
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)