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!
Nick Drake – Black Eyed Dog (1979)
A brief stay in Italy, dear reader, as we need to make our way back to the UK. We revisit with Nick Drake who is highly regarded in the present day but sadly did not gain the recognition he deserved in his lifetime. Struggling with depression, Drake died in 1974 at the age of 26 from an overdose of painkillers. Whether this was suicide or accidental has never been determined. What we do know is he released only three albums during his short life. When we pick up the story five years after Drake’s death an album of his complete works has been released – Fruit Tree. From that record 1001 Songs have gone with Black Eyed Dog.
The black eyed dog of the title is based on a metaphor, famously used by former UK Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, to describe depression. There have been books published in recent years that have also used this metaphor of the black dog, an unwelcome guest in the home, but one that stays by your side when you really don’t want it to. Nick Drake takes the image and potentially describes his own struggles. The dog is knocking at the door and it knows Drake’s name. He longs for home, for safety but the black dog is ever present, an unwanted weight on Drake’s soul.
Dying young is always a tragedy but so often we hear of individuals, of artists, that perish long before their time. Nick Drake is another such example. Black Eyed Dog captures his struggles, his own inner demons which may have ultimately cost him his life, as depression does to too many people each year. It remains an illness that is not taken as seriously as it should be. Fruit Tree would allow critics and new fans to revisit the work of Nick Drake and recognition was finally his but, sadly, too late for him to appreciate it.
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)