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…
Japan – Ghosts (1981)
Well, we leave the US behind, dear reader, and make our way back to the UK. We find ourselves in London and in the company of a band who fell apart just when it seemed they were set for major and prolonged success. Always a shame. Formed in 1974, Japan began as a glam rock outfit but as the 1970s ended they moved over to a more electronic sound and proved influential. In 1981 Japan released their fifth and – what proved to be – final album, Tin Drum, and 1001 Songs have selected the track, Ghosts.
Ghosts was written by lead singer, David Sylvian, and was considered his most personal composition with the band. This song arose as the group were on the brink of oblivion and the lyrics seem to be of an individual who is deeply troubled and haunted by the “ghosts” of their past. In the first verse they are alone in a room and long to leave but the relentless rain outside keeps them indoors. In the second verse the narrator seems more lost than ever, longing for days from the past when life was more straightforward. They have a myriad of mixed thoughts and emotions and can’t seem to untangle themselves from the pandemonium. The “ghosts” always seem to get in the way.
I have heard of Japan but knew nothing of their songs or their sound until now. Ghosts is a slow piece but it is eerie and atmospheric, especially the use of the synthesiser. The music alone is worth your time. Throw in Sylvian’s tortured vocals that slice through the melody and with them we are in the company of a deeply troubled soul. Ghosts would hit the UK Top 5 in 1982, Japan’s biggest hit to date, but it was not enough. That same year they disbanded and David Sylvian pursued a solo career. Ghosts had been the group’s epitaph.
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)
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)
Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell (1977)
Queen – Don’t Stop Me Now (1978)
The Police – Message in a Bottle (1979)
Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart (1980)
Ultravox – Vienna (1980)