On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging 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 everyday (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…
Sparks – Beat the Clock (1979)
We bid farewell to Sweden and make the long journey over to the US and to California to check in with Sparks. Brothers – Ron and Russell Mael – previously appeared back in 1972 with This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us. It led to success in Europe for the duo but an audience back home in the US continued to elude them. When we join the brothers in 1979 they have grown weary of rock music and are now moving in a different direction, a more electronic one and with synthesisers. Their eighth album, No. 1 in Heaven, was the result and from there 1001 Songs have gone with the track, Beat the Clock.
Thanks to work with producer Giorgio Moroder, Beat the Clock is a good example of how Sparks went from being a rock band into a synth duo, despite much eyebrow raising from music critics. The song itself is humorous and peculiar with Russell singing about living life fast, so fast in fact that he describes going to university at the age of 2 and obtaining a PhD the same day. As you do. Divorce comes at age three, he aspires to meet Liz Taylor and does so, before being rejected by the army, all before he is ten years old. It’s a testament to the pandemonium that is modern life.
Sparks are rightly considered one of the most influential music acts and often deemed far ahead of their time, even if commercial success has often eluded them. Beat the Clock is completely different to This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us but still retains the Sparks charm. Any group daring enough to try something new should be applauded. It doesn’t really sound as old as it is and despite reservations from the critics, Sparks would have the last laugh as synth acts would become prevalent in the 1980s. They had merely been one of the forerunners of the trend.
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)
Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell (1977)
Queen – Don’t Stop Me Now (1978)
The Police – Roxanne (1978)