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!
Eddy Grant – Electric Avenue (1982)
We’re leaving the UK today briefly, dear reader, and making a long journey to Guyana in South America, the birthplace of our guest today. However, Eddy Grant first came to the UK when he was 12 years old to join his parents who had emigrated to the country to earn a better living for the family. Grant was a founding member of The Equals in 1965 but departed by 1971 to focus on solo work. When we join him in 1982 he has left the UK and made for Barbados but his experience of British society is still raw in the form of Electric Avenue.
Electric Avenue is a song that sounds upbeat and maybe one you could dance to but, as is often the case, the reality is very different. Electric Avenue is an actual street in Brixton, London, the first to be lit by electricity back in the day, and it also has a big Caribbean community. Grant witnessed the Brixton Riots of 1981 and that was the inspiration for Electric Avenue. The song belies its positive sound with Grant describing a country where rioters vilified in the British media are actually human beings who are unemployed and struggling to put food on the table. Yes, there is violence unfortunately but this community is angry and desperate to survive. How can they be expected to be silent in the midst of such deprivation?
Electric Avenue is another popular track from the 1980s and would climb all the way to no.2 in the UK charts. I’ve heard it many times but as with a lot of songs I have never burrowed down deeply into its meaning. The song takes on a whole new complexion when you realise that Eddy Grant was lamenting a community of people seemingly forgotten and abandoned to their fate in an uncompromising British society. Today, I know full well that similar stories ring true in this country I call my home and that millions of people struggle each day to survive in direct sight of an unsympathetic government.
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)