On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenge 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 every day (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… legendary!
Bee Gees – Stayin’ Alive (1977)
Farewell to the US and hello once more to the UK. We’re revisiting with the Bee Gees today, dear reader. They previously appeared in 1975 with Jive Talkin’ which sparked a comeback for the trio after a year or two seemingly in the doldrums. When we rejoin Bee Gees in 1977 they have been tasked with providing music for a soundtrack to a film that became Saturday Night Fever starring a very young John Travolta. Night Fever was a notable hit the trio wrote but 1001 Songs have instead gone with Stayin’ Alive.
Stayin’ Alive is one of the most famous disco songs of all time and listening to it one could be fooled into thinking the subject matter is upbeat, even fun. The track is actually the opposite. When you delve deeper you find that the title takes on a very serious meaning. The song is all about surviving on the streets of New York and chronicles some of the obstacles and dangers to be found there. The narrator seems to be a person that lives their life on the edge. They enjoy the company of women, there are references made to drug abuse and the lyric of “wings of heaven on my shoes” implies that death is never far away. It’s tough out there and the narrator is living as best they can.
When you think of the Bee Gees, songs such as Tragedy, How Deep is Your Love and Massachusetts will likely be among the tracks that come to mind. However, I imagine Stayin’ Alive is a contender for the group’s best known song. It was a big hit for the trio and this proved to be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand they enjoyed the further fame the track brought them but on the flip side, the song typecast the trio as disco musicians when the truth was they had dabbled in a variety of styles. What isn’t in doubt is that this track is both memorable and instantly recognisable. It was interesting to read the lyrics for the first time as – sorry Barry Gibb – I couldn’t recall any of them other than, “Ah, ha, ha, ha stayin’ aliiiivvvveeeeee!”
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)
Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody (1975)
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)
Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run (1975)
Iggy Pop – The Passenger (1977)