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!
The Human League – Being Boiled (1978)
Our journey continues in the UK, dear reader, but away from London we head north and make our way to Sheffield in Yorkshire, the very county that yours truly lives in and Sheffield is not a million miles away from where I am. Formed in 1977, The Human League are one of the most famous synth-pop outfits from the late 1970s and early 1980s. However, when we join them in 1978 it’s with an early line-up, comprised of Philip Oakey, Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh. 1001 Songs have gone with an early track from the group entitled Being Boiled.
Being Boiled began as music written by Ware and Marsh with Oakey writing the lyrics and securing himself a place in the band when they were short of a singer. The song begins with reference to the voice of Buddha beseeching some of the ills of the world to end. There is a focus here in particular on sericulture which I had to look up because I am not very intellectual. It turns out sericulture is the production of silk and the use of silkworms for this purpose. There you go, lesson learned. In the song the Buddha initially condemns the cruel treatment of others, especially children, and calls for sericulture to end. The song then changes with the Buddha resigned to human nature’s path already being set and he idly sits by and allows the suffering to continue, even seeming to encourage it.
Being Boiled is from a period of The Human League I am not familiar with. I know the group better for their more commercial success in the 1980s. The hallmarks of what the group became are still here though this song is far darker than other tracks by the band. In 1980 both Ware and Marsh left The Human League to join Heaven 17, leaving Oakey alone with the outfit and its debts. He would soon meet and recruit two singers – Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley – to form a trio that remains together 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)
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)