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…
The Associates – Party Fears Two (1982)
Back to the UK today, dear reader, and we find ourselves heading far north into Scotland where we decamp in Dundee for the night. Formed in the late 1970s, The Associates were initially a duo comprised of Billy MacKenzie and Alan Rankine who earned themselves a record contract by releasing a cover of David Bowie’s Boys Keep Swinging without his permission. The song gained enough airplay to land them a recording deal and when we join the duo in 1982 they are working on their second album, Sulk, and about to have their biggest hit in Party Fears Two.
Party Fears Two saw MacKenzie write the lyrics while Rankine came up with the synth heavy music. The song itself seems to be from MacKenzie’s perspective and offers the listener a window into his troubled soul. The narrator here seems to be cautious and hesitant about the prospect of forming any kind of meaningful relationship with another person. By this point in his life MacKenzie had briefly married an American woman but left her after less than a year of marriage and she never saw him again. The song evokes a desire for distance, not wanting another person to turn around and have to face them, while at one stage communication seems to be an area that causes our narrator great concern and confusion, a thousand speculations proving too much for their muddled mind.
I think I have heard the name “The Associates” but wouldn’t have been able to tell you anything about them prior to this song challenge. Party Fears Two slots into the eighties synthpop wave with delightful music while Billy MacKenzie’s vocals are hauntingly beautiful throughout. It would land them a UK Top 10 hit and all seemed to be going well. However, Alan Rankine left the group in 1982 and MacKenzie’s aversion to touring hit The Associates’ future prospects hard. He kept the group going until 1990 before turning solo. Sadly, MacKenzie struggled with depression later in life and this, coupled with his mother’s death, led to his suicide in 1997. He was only 39 years old.
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)