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!
This Mortal Coil – Song to the Siren (1983)
We’re continuing in the UK, dear reader, and trying something a little different today. This Mortal Coil was not a group as such; instead they were made up of Ivo Watts-Russell, founder of the 4AD record label, and John Fryer. This Mortal Coil became a project where members of bands signed to 4AD could branch off from their day jobs and experiment under the handle of “This Mortal Coil”, removing pressure and expectation with their material. This would be similar to The Beatles pretending to be Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and creating whatever music they wanted to rather than what the fans and critics expected. In 1983 This Mortal Coil have just begun and they have brought in Elizabeth Fraser and Robin Guthrie of Cocteau Twins to record the track, Song to the Siren.
Song to the Siren was originally written by Larry Beckett and Tim Buckley with the latter including it on his 1970 album, Starsailor. This version from This Mortal Coil sees Elizabeth Fraser on vocals and she sings of pursuing a distant love out on an empty ocean. Singing can be heard, the voice of a siren luring our narrator’s boat towards perilous rocks. Upon reaching this one they desire there is confusion. She that has waited seems torn on whether they love the narrator or not, wants them to come back another day yet wants them to remain. The narrator has come a long way and risked many things to be with his love but this is a far from straightforward union.
Song to the Siren is a hauntingly beautiful cover of the original track from Tim Buckley with the vocals in particular being exquisite. The song would barely make an impression on the UK charts, sadly, but in the UK Indie Chart it would spend more than a year on the list so clearly resonated with many people. This Mortal Coil continued to work with a range of artists until concluding in 1991.
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)