1001 Songs Challenge,  1970s,  Music

1001 Songs Challenge #525: Babylon’s Burning (1979)

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 Ruts – Babylon’s Burning (1979)

We’re staying in the UK and in London today, dear reader, as we continue to see out the end of the punk rock movement of the late 1970s. The Ruts were formed in 1977 and their punk rock was influenced also by reggae music. The group began slowly, championed by DJs such as John Peel before signing with Richard Branson’s Virgin Records. We join them in 1979 with the release of their first single under the new record label and our song selection today – Babylon’s Burning.

Akin to a track by Ramones, Babylon’s Burning is a fast-paced 2½ minutes track. The song uses the metaphor of Babylonburning but there are no actual flames here. The group describe numerous scenarios of the burning but we’re not talking about a fire that the emergency services can put out, we’re talking about anxiety. A serious mental health condition, anxiety is all consuming, like flames if you will, and it is taking over in the song, gaining control of an entire city and leaving its inhabitants defenceless and vulnerable. 

Babylon’s Burning is a catchy song and I love the twist of the burning being one of anxiety rather than of fire which you might assume from the song’s title. It would lead to the group hitting the UK Top 10 but it proved to be as successful as they would get. By 1980 lead singer, Malcolm Owen, was dead from a heroin overdose with the remainder of the group continuing until 1983 when they disbanded. The group would reform in 2007 and continue to perform in the present 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)

Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell (1977)

Queen – Don’t Stop Me Now (1978)

The Police – Roxanne (1978)

My name is Dave and I live in Yorkshire in the north of England and have been here all my life. I hope you enjoy your visit to All is Ephemeral.

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