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 Specials – Ghost Town (1981)
We’re continuing in the UK, dear reader, and heading north to Coventry to check back in with The Specials. They previously appeared on our list in 1979 with Gangsters. When we join the septet in 1981 things are going very wrong indeed. Internal divisions within the group over their developing sound, coupled with a horrifying tour of the UK, have left the band at breaking point. What they witnessed on their latest tour led to a new single, their final one, with this line up and 1001 Songs’ chosen track today – Ghost Town.
Ghost Town is a finger on the pulse of British society in 1981, two years into an unpopular government led by Margaret Thatcher (1979 – 1990), albeit one that would secure two further terms in office. The song touches on some aspects of a troubled country with unemployment rife, nightclubs closing down, young people being forgotten and violence being prevalent on dance floors. The days of Dancing Queen seem long ago. As The Specials toured the UK they observed a similar theme of disgruntlement and violence in each town they played, this rage spilling into fury at their gigs. Ghost Town depicts a chilling UK and the resonance of the song’s message appears very strong as I write these words in post-Brexit and Covid-19 struck Britain of 2020.
Ghost Town is eerie both in its lyrics and in the evocative music that gives it a sinister atmosphere. I wasn’t alive at this time to tap into UK society but I know the Conservative government in the 1980s was a contentious one, just as the current Conservative government we have today is. Ghost Town is a fantastic track and it was achieved by a group tearing themselves apart and arguing in the studio. The song would top the UK charts and was released during the England Riots of 1981. Shortly before performing the song on Top of the Pops, members – Terry Hall, Neville Staple and Lynval Golding – informed the rest of the group they were leaving to form a new band which became Fun Boy Three. The surviving members continued until 1984 when they split up but the group has been reformed in recent years with many of the original line up back together to once again wander the Ghost Town.
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)