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!
Pere Ubu – Non-Alignment Pact (1978)
Welcome to 1978, dear reader. We are entering the winter of the 1970s and what an amazing decade it has been thus far. We ended 1977 with Iggy Pop and we are beginning 1978 with a trip from Michigan to Cleveland in Ohio for our first offering of this new year. Formed in 1975, Pere Ubu were a hard to define group, seemingly a garage band but their sound was experimental and different to many of their contemporaries. After beginning their career with a handful of singles, Pere Ubu released their debut album, The Modern Dance, in 1978. 1001 Songs have selected the opening track – Non-Alignment Pact.
The song seems to be concerned with relationships the narrator has had with other women but they have not worked out well. He calls upon one such girl to sign the “non-alignment pact” of the title and reveals that because of this individual the environment around him is one of destruction with “stars on fire” and the “world in flames.” Hopefully he is being metaphorical here and not literal. The pact that needs to be signed suggests that the narrator wants to keep this person, indeed all of the women named here, at a comfortable distance. They sound as if they have been hurt pretty badly by relationships and have no desire to rush into one anytime soon.
Non-Alignment Pact begins with what sounds like heavy feedback before we have a range of instruments guiding us through the opening. The vocals take some time to come in but when they do they blend with the music rather than dominate it. Pere Ubu’s reputation as avant garde certainly seems worthy. Their debut album did not sell well but critical appraisals were positive. It’s kind of been the story of the group’s career with mainstream success eluding them though they continue to perform to this day.
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)
Fleetwood Mac – Go Your Own Way (1977)
David Bowie – “Heroes” (1977)
Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell (1977)