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!
Pet Shop Boys – West End Girls (1985)
We’re staying in the UK today, dear reader, and find ourselves in London once more. Formed in 1981 by Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, the duo met by chance in a hi-fi shop and having a mutual interest in music formed Pet Shop Boys. Tennant worked for Smash Hits magazine at this time and was able to put forward demos from the duo. An early song – West End Girls – gained some traction in 1984. The duo then gained a record deal in 1985 and decided to rerecord West End Girls.
West End Girls pitches the wealthy West End of London against the poorer East End. The song captures the struggles of the boys from the East End, with some having fallen into crime and surrounded by a bleak and sometimes violent landscape. Encounters with the West End girls promise not just the chance of love but perhaps an opportunity to leave behind the bleak society they have always known and to enter a world of luxury and comfort instead. The song paints everyday life as a battle, dangerous and challenging, with no time to sit and relax for fear of being swept aside by the mad rushing wave that is life.
West End Girls was released in the UK in late 1985 and slowly rose to the top of the charts, reaching the precipice in 1986. It would be the first of four chart topping songs for the duo who continue to this day and have recorded an impressive array of albums and successful singles. I prefer the likes of Suburbia and the well-judged cover of Alway on My Mind but West End Girls represents the core of Pet Shop Boys’ sound and is a welcome addition on this list.
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)
Ultravox – Vienna (1980)
Don Henley – The Boys of Summer (1984)
The Smiths – How Soon Is Now? (1984)