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!
Icehouse – Great Southern Land (1982)
We have to leave the UK today, dear reader, and get many hours sleep as we take the ludicrously long flight Down Under to Australia. We’re heading for Sydney so may as well check out the Opera House while we’re here. Formed in 1977 as Flowers the band took the name of Icehouse in 1981with lead singer, Iva Davies, being the only constant member throughout the group’s entire history. When we join them in 1982 the band are working on their second album, Primitive Man, and 1001 Songs have gone with a track that was the lead single – Great Southern Land.
Charged with writing something epic, Davies came up with Great Southern Land, a tribute and testament to the history of Australia. The song contrasts the beauty of the land such as being able to see an “endless ocean” and listening to the “wind in the mountains” with the darker aspects of its past and, sadly, present. We hear about how Australia has been perceived in the past as a remote island for prisoners, somewhere Britain used to exile its convicts to. Australia has come a long way since then, of course; it’s a wonderful place to visit but problems remain. The song also makes reference to the fragile relationship between descendants of European settlers in Australia and the native Aboriginal people who have been largely ostracised on their own land. It’s an example of the bittersweet history that can be found in many countries, the delights of Mother Nature, in contrast with the evils of mankind that walk on the sacred land.
I wasn’t familiar with Icehouse and do not recall hearing Great Southern Land before even though it was a Top 5 hit in Australia and has been used as the walk out tune for the Australian cricket team. I found the contrast of beauty in the song with Australia’s history to be very apt. I visited Australia in 2008 and during my time there was respectful of the Aboriginal people, choosing not to walk on Uluru (Ayers Rock) as it is considered sacred and being able to see it up close was honour enough. Such sentiments were not shared by many tourists I saw sadly.
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)