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!
Elvis Costello & The Attractions – (I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea (1978)
We’re leaving the US behind, dear reader, so we can return across the pond to the UK. We find ourselves back in London, where we have been many times before, but it’s such a fine city you don’t feel the need to complain. Anyway, starting out in the early 1970s was a singer and guitarist by the name of Elvis Costello, who would release his debut album, My Aim Is True, in 1977 to much acclaim. However, we join Costello in 1978 with the release of his second album, This Year’s Model, and the acquisition of a backing band known as The Attractions. From this second album 1001 Songs have gone with (I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea.
Costello wrote (I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea while working as a computer programmer in the early 1970s. The song was inspired both by films he was watching around the time but also by his own trips to Chelsea with his father. In the song, the narrator has a particular aversion to this part of London, lamenting how it is stuck in the past with references to mini skirts of the 1960s being just one of the anachronisms being suggested. It clearly needs to move with the times. In the second verse the narrator suggests that Chelsea is now changing with the crowds being rebellious, violent and out of control without influences such as teachers to keep them in line. This is clearly the punk rock movement. The song uses the continued refrain of not wanting to be in Chelsea. The narrator feels too maladjusted there.
I only know a handful of songs by Elvis Costello even though he has been around for decades. My ignorance of his back catalogue is pretty shameful as I’ve always liked what I’ve heard. This was my first experience of (I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea and it’s both catchy and a little sardonic sounding as well. Truly British, you might say. Having wowed the critics with his debut album, Costello would strike gold again with his second record. The foundations were in place for a very promising career ahead.
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)
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)
Queen – Don’t Stop Me Now (1978)