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 Slits – Typical Girls (1979)
We have to leave the US today, dear reader, but we’re not finished with our exploration of punk rock just yet. We find ourselves back in the UK and once again we book a hotel in London for an overnight stay. Formed in 1976 The Slits were a quartet of young women – Ari Up, Palmolive, Viv Albertine and Tessa Pollitt – who became part of both punk rock and post punk music circles. We join them in 1979 with the release of their debut album, Cut, and 1001 Songs have opted to go with the track – Typical Girls.
In Typical Girls, The Slits describe gender expectations when it comes to women and girls. We hear about about how they have their heads in magazines, how they are emotional, do not rebel, conform to society’s guidelines and seem to be at the mercy of men. However, The Slits crucially challenge these girls and women to be different. They ask towards the end of the song when a new model of girl will be coming out, perhaps an improved and more independent version. The song concludes that all of these traits one finds in the “typical girl” are essentially a training exercise to allow her to meet the “typical boy” that is out there. This makes me think of the celebrity world and how expectations of women are they remain beautiful, thin, keep that make up on and set the example for young girls looking on. In a world of fake news and photoshop such imagery is, of course, very dangerous and creates the impossible image of beauty.
I was not familiar with The Slits but it was refreshing to hear about a punk band made up entirely of women. I suspect it wasn’t the easiest of journeys for them to be taken seriously but their debut album is highly regarded to this day which is quite an achievement. Typical Girls has a good message for women and girls but it saddened me to think that today, forty years on from this song, societal expectation has not become any easier for women.
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)