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!
Run-DMC – It’s Like That (1983)
After a long stay in the UK, we’re heading over to the US and find ourselves in Queens, New York. Formed in 1983, Run-DMC were made up of a trio of rappers – Joseph Simmons, Darryl McDaniels and Jason Mizell. The trio achieved legendary status and became one of the most influential hip hop acts in history, helping to popularise the genre and send it mainstream. When we join them in 1983 they are working on a debut album but before that we have their first single – It’s Like That.
With It’s Like That Run-DMC held up a mirror to the impoverished society around them and expressed the many ills and woes through thought-provoking verses. The song heavily explores the idea of poverty, how people face higher bills each month, yet their pay cheque isn’t increasing in turn. They lament war overseas and wonder why we all can’t just be united, they consider the uplifting feeling that comes with love but reminds us that romance doesn’t pay those bills in the end. The first half of the track looks at all of these issues and uses the refrain of “It’s like that and that’s the way it is”, suggesting there is nothing that can be done. However, the tone of the song changes with the group trying to give us hope and reassurance. The world isn’t that bad and there are the opportunities there to change one’s life if you can find them.
Run-DMC’s debut single would be well-received and the group would go on to have further hits including the memorable collaboration with Aerosmith on a cover version of their 1970s track, Walk This Way (1986). In 1997 Jason Nevins released a remix of It’s Like That and the following year it would be one of the biggest selling singles of the year, once more highlighting Run-DMC’s influence on hip hop. Recordings for the group became stagnant later in their career and the group ultimately disbanded in 2002 when Jason Mizell was tragically murdered in a recording studio.
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)