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!
Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Relax (1983)
We’re staying in the UK, dear reader, and from Manchester we head a short distance west to Liverpool. We enjoyed this city a few times with The Beatles but today we are going for some controversy because everyone likes to get a little naughty every now and again, right? Formed in 1980 Frankie Goes to Hollywood dabbled in pop, dance and synth music and made one of the biggest impacts in the 1980s UK music scene. We join the group in 1983 with the release of their debut single – Relax.
Though the group did not initially admit to it, Relax is a song about sex, pure and simple. Lines such as “Relax, don’t do it, when you wanna come” don’t really leave much to the imagination. There is even advice about chewing rather than sucking and I don’t think we’re talking about Werthers’ Originals here. Lollipops maybe! Relax was a slow burner in the UK charts, gradually climbing in late 1983 but it really took off when the BBC banned the song for being too outlandish. If there is one thing guaranteed to pique someone’s interest about music it is being told not to listen to it because it is too offensive and so it proved here.
Relax holds up as a classic 1980s track and the story behind its rise to the UK no.1 spot is memorable. The BBC had to endure 5 gruelling weeks of the track topping the charts in Jan/Feb 1984 and in the summer of that year they had their heads in their hands as it climbed back to no.2 with the group’s other song, Two Tribes, at no.1. By the end of 1984 the ban was lifted and Frankie Goes to Hollywood were ready to admit that Relax was indeed about sex all along. Thanks to the BBC it remains one of the biggest selling singles in UK chart history. Proof that sex does indeed sell.
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)