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!
Tom Waits – Heartattack and Vine (1980)
We’re heading back over to the US today, dear reader, and it’s way out west to California that we must go. We stop off at a bar and share a drink, or maybe two, with Tom Waits who makes his third appearance on our list. As we partake of a drink of our choice (whisky and coke for me), Waits has just released his seventh album, Heartattack and Vine, and 1001 Songs have gone with the title track.
Heartattack and Vine is based on Hollywood and Vine, situated in downtown Los Angeles and scene of the Hollywood Walk ofFame. Who knew? Well, probably anyone that lives in that part of town I should imagine, and a lot of Americans too. Tom Waits does not offer a celebratory tour of this famous area though. Instead, he substitutes “Hollywood” for “Heartattack” and guides us through the murky and inhospitable streets where a plethora of seedy characters can be found. Waits talks of drug addiction being plentiful, unsuspecting young women wandering around, how you’re bound to find someone you know there and there is plenty of “madness” for everyone, so long as you are willing to join the queue for the mayhem. It’s far from the American Dream, that’s for sure.
A third taste of Tom Waits and, again, his lyrical prowess is without question. This isn’t a pleasant place that Waits invites us to join him in but there is poetry to the way he conveys the lives and souls of those to be found on the streets in Heartattack and Vine. The gravelly voice Waits has may not be to everyone’s tastes but I find it completely apt for the subject matter here, as if Waits himself is one of the hardened individuals that has borne witness to the decadence of Hollywood, which it sounds like he has.
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 – Message in a Bottle (1979)