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!
Joy Division – Dead Souls (1980)
Back to the UK and northwards we go to Salford, dear reader. Joy Division appeared back in 1979 with the track, Transmission. We reunite with the group in 1980 and 1001 Songs have gone with a song that was actually a B-side and did not appear until a compilation album in 1981 by the name of Still. By that point lead singer, Ian Curtis, had died at the age of 23 and Joy Division were no more. The song in question is Dead Souls.
Beginning with a two-minute instrumental that showcases the musical talents of Ian Curtis’ bandmates, Dead Souls later introduces Curtis’ vocals. The song is said to be concerned with the singer’s personal struggles at this time and the lyrics do have a sense of foreboding about them. Curtis sings of inner turmoil in the opening verse with personalities that are clashing and a desire for someone to rid him of troubling dreams. The chorus uses the refrain of someone or something calling out to Curtis, their persistent voices leaving him deeply unsettled. The “dead souls” of the title could point to ghosts from the past or maybe these are Curtis’ own inner demons that offer him no respite. It’s an ambiguous, dark and unnerving song.
I hadn’t heard Dead Souls before and being a B-side it’s one of those potential gems that can easily go overlooked. I particularly enjoyed the musical intro here, a contrast to Transmission which we previously enjoyed. The song does sadly feel like a cry for help from Ian Curtis whose tragic death at just 23 would come in May 1980, on the eve of the group’s first tour of the US. Dead Souls is a reminder of the darkness that Curtis could convey through music but the rest of Joy Division helped to manifest these struggles with their contributions.
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)