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!
Yoko Ono – Walking on Thin Ice (1981)
Well, we’re leaving Leeds and the UK and making our way overseas to East Asia. We find ourselves in Tokyo, Japan, which is handy as Japan is my no.1 destination for travel but I have yet to grace the Land of the Rising Sun. Though born in Japan, Yoko Ono and her family would soon find themselves in the US when she was still a child. An artist by the 1960s, Ono’s fame was assured when she married John Lennon in 1969 and some critics have – unjustly – blamed her for the break-up of The Beatles and even suggesting that Lennon was akin to a mindless vessel such was her hold on him. Though continuing with her art, Ono also collaborated with Lennon in music, beginning with Plastic Ono Band. When we join her in 1981 it is with the release of a solo song entitled Walking on Thin Ice.
The background to Walking on Thin Ice is as significant as the content of the song itself. Yoko Ono had been working on the track in 1980 and fatefully completed it on 8 December 1980 with John Lennon staying late at the studio to help her, contributing guitar and producing the track. Lennon was said to be carrying a tape of the song when he and Ono returned home that night. Tragically, Lennon was fatally shot in the back by Mark Chapman, who had waited hours for Lennon’s return. Though rushed to hospital, Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival, his injuries too severe for any medical professional to save him. Walking on Thin Ice is hauntingly apt with what happened to Ono’s husband. The lyrics speak of the pain that comes with love when it goes wrong but also of life and its intricacies, how many of us find ourselves walking that thin ice in many a given situation. We hope to make it to the over side but some of us inevitably break through the surface and plunge into the depths.
I was not aware that Yoko Ono had released this particular track or that she had been working on it the night John Lennon was murdered. Understandably, Ono would describe the song as a painful one with the memories it inevitably evoked. Lennon was certainly no saint in his lifetime but his death remains undeniably brutal and tragic. Walking on Thin Ice has a dance/disco feel to it and was popular upon release. It seemed that a lot of the hate Ono had been subjected to had subsided somewhat in the wake of her husband’s terrible death, though many critics remain to this 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)
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)