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 Smiths – This Charming Man (1983)
We’re staying in the UK, dear reader, but heading north to Manchester for what is a real treat. Formed in 1982 The Smiths were spearheaded by singer and lyricist, Morrissey, and guitar maestro and composer, Johnny Marr. Their songwriting partnership led to many classic tracks from the group but when we join them in 1983 it is still early days. Their debut album is a year away but the group have landed a session with DJ John Peel on the radio and they have a new song by the name of This Charming Man.
This Charming Man sees Morrissey sing about a down on his luck and poor young man whose bicycle has developed a puncture and he is struck in the middle of nowhere. The “charming man” of the title stops his car and interacts with the young man, offering him a lift in his luxury car and the two engage in conversation, possibly mild flirtation. The young man insists that he would love to go out that night but he hasn’t “got a stitch to wear.” The charming man is incredulous that his passenger should care about such things given how “handsome” he is. The song has been interpreted as a gay relationship between a rich and older man with a young and poor man, bridging the gaps between age and wealth. The song doesn’t explicitly state that a sexual relationship takes place or is going to so remains very much open to debate.
The Smiths are one of the great bands from the 1980s, one of my favourites, though they are more a cult and influential act than a commercially successful one. They never topped the UK charts but did have a handful of Top 10 hits. This Charming Man is one of their best known songs but I have always preferred tracks like What Difference Does it Make?, Panic, I Know It’s Over and Girlfriend in a Coma but that just demonstrates the array of great songs the quartet recorded. It wouldn’t surprise me if we saw more of the group in the songs still to come.
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)