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…
Wire – Outdoor Miner (1979)
We’re staying in the UK, dear reader, but heading back down to London to dip back into the punk and post punk scenes that were prevalent around this time. Formed in 1976, Wire would gain a reputation as an experimental group, beginning with punk rock but later mixing things up by incorporating the likes of synthesisers into their repertoire. We join them in 1979 and the release of a single, Outdoor Miner, an extended version of a track that appeared on their 1978 second album, Chairs Missing.
Outdoor Miner is all about the natural world and concerns the Serpentine leaf miner which is the larvae of a particular type of fly found in Africa, the Pacific and the Americas. The verses of the song throw in some ambiguous imagery with mention of “leopard’s eyes” and a shepherd being terrified for his lambs. We hear of the leaf miner and how a leaf structure collapses. The chorus is the refrain of the leaf miner lying on its side, at one with the earth that it has known all of its short life. The imagery is intriguing but not necessarily easy to fathom for its meaning.
The Chairs Missing album signalled the beginning of Wire experimenting with their sound. This reworked version of Outdoor Miner would incorporate piano into the mix and it’s a welcome inclusion to the melody. The group would disband in 1980, reuniting a few years later and continuing to be on and off while shifting between the group and solo commitments. They remain active to this day and continue to favour the avant garde approach.
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)