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!
Violent Femmes – Blister in the Sun (1983)
Well, it’s about time we left the UK and visited somewhere else I think, dear reader. We’re actually returning to the US and heading on over to Milwaukee in Wisconsin today. Formed in 1981 Violent Femmes were in the right place at the right time when James Honeyman-Scott, a member of Pretenders, spotted them busking outside a venue his band were due to play that same day. Chrissie Hynde invited the fledgling group to play that very night and from there their career began to take shape. When we join them in 1983, Violent Femmes’ self-titled debut album has been recorded and 1001 Songs have gone with the opening track – Blister in the Sun.
Blister in the Sun is all about teenage adolescence and focuses on girls and drugs. The opening verse sees the narrator feeling “high as a kite” and looking for a girl. The second verse has led to much debate with mention of “stain my sheets” which clearly sounds like ejaculation while close by the narrator’s girlfriend is weeping. A lot of fans have interpreted this as a song concerned with masturbation but it could also point to sexual difficulty with the narrator perhaps orgasming too soon while his partner is left rejected and unsatisfied as a result. Violent Femmes songwriter, Gordon Gano, was amused by the masturbation interpretation when interviewed once and insisted that this hadn’t crossed his mind when writing the song but he could understand the perception from the lyrics.
Blister in the Sun is one of those classic teen anthems which opens with a memorable guitar riff, instantly recognisable, and the brief run time in no way diminishes the song’s impact. The group’s debut would prove to be a big success and set them on the way to a memorable career. The band have split up a couple of times though, notably in 2009, two years after bassist, Brian Ritchie, sued singer, Gordon Gano, for allowing Blister in the Sun to be used in a Wendy’s commercial. Given that Gano wrote the song you would think Ritchie would not have a case here but that did not stop him pursuing legal action. Gano and Ritchie have since reformed the group and at the time of writing all seems well.
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)