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!
Dennis Wilson – River Song (1977)
We’re leaving Jamaica and making our way back to the US today, dear reader. We find ourselves travelling to California and checking in with The Beach Boys, well, one of them anyway. As the drummer and only surfer in the band, Dennis Wilson was overshadowed by brothers – Brian and Carl. A brief association with Charles Manson did not help. When we join Dennis in 1977 he is the first of the trio of brothers to record and release a solo album – Pacific Ocean Blue. 1001 Songs have elected the album’s opening track – River Song.
River Song was written by Dennis and Carl Wilson and was actually performed live by The Beach Boys in the early 1970s but never recorded. The song is Dennis’ lamentation about the state of Los Angeles which is heavy polluted and overcrowded, so much so that the singer tells us he struggles to breathe. Colour me empathetic, bro. Instead, he sings of a river in the High Sierra, a mountain trail in California. Up here, away from the city, away from the people and away from the pollution, Dennis finds himself content and at ease. The air is pure up here and the serenity washes over him. In the end, this river is like a dream, one he wishes to flee the city for.
I did enjoy the premise to River Song and it resonated with me. I was suddenly in mind of travelling years ago to New Zealand and Australia. While there, my happiest memories were not in cities like Sydney or Auckland, but in small towns, by lakes, on mountain trails or out on rivers. For all of mankind’s innovations and advancements as a civilisation, we cannot compete with Mother Nature and Dennis Wilson captures that longing for the wild very well here. Sadly, he would struggle with drug addiction at this time which soured his relationship with The Beach Boys. In late 1983 Wilson was homeless, drinking heavily and sadly drowned when he dove into the Marina Del Rey. He was only 39 years old.
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)
Rod Stewart – Maggie May (1971)
Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody (1975)
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)
Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run (1975)
Fleetwood Mac – Go Your Own Way (1977)
David Bowie – “Heroes” (1977)