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!
Siouxsie & The Banshees – Hong Kong Garden (1978)
We’re remaining in the UK and in London, dear reader, as we continue our immersion in punk rock. Formed in 1976, Siouxsie & The Banshees began in punk rock circles but gradually shifted away to experiment with new styles and sounds. Led by Siouxsie Sioux the band would be one of the key influences in the gothic scene that emerged in the 1980s. When we join the band in 1978 they have yet to get a record deal but then DJ John Peel played a track of theirs by the name of Hong Kong Garden and the rest, as they say, is history.
Hong Kong Garden began life as an instrumental People Phobia by guitarist John McKay in 1977 but lyrics were later added to create Hong Kong Garden. The track was based on a real place, a Chinese takeaway in Chislehurst, where Siouxsie used to go. The song captures the allure and mystery of the takeaway but, sadly, it also reflects the appalling racism that the owners suffered at the hands of skinheads that would wander in and abuse them as “foreigners”. Siouxsie looked back on such scenes with great sadness and anger, also regretting that asking these people to stop had no such impact.
I’ve known the name Siouxsie & The Banshees for a long time but don’t recall ever hearing one of their songs. I always thought they would be in a similar vein to The Cure but I need to listen to a lot more before making any judgement there. Hong Kong Garden has a pleasant feel to it with an oriental feel through the use of a xylophone. Without delving down deep into the lyrics you might not realise the unpleasant background that inspired the track. Sadly, more than 40 years later, racism continues to be a global crisis and one that looks set to continue for a long while yet.
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)