On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging 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 everyday (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…
Wayne Smith – Under Mi Sleng Teng (1985)
We’re leaving the UK today and heading over to Jamaica to sample some more reggae. What we have in store today is something innovative and different. Wayne Smith and King Jammy worked together on the first computerised riddim (rhythm). Working from a Casio MT-40 keyboard rhythm, the sequence was replicated and slowed down to create what became known as Sleng Teng. Wayne Smith and other artists would use the sequence and put vocals to it but it is Smith who gets the nod with Under Mi Sleng Teng.
Under Mi Sleng Teng seems to be concerned with drugs. Wayne Smith sings about not having cocaine in his brain because that can make one go insane. However, he then regales us about being under the mi sleng teng and how his eyes are red (lack of sleep) and there is smoke coming out of his mouth and nose. He knows about how to make this drug without spoiling it and he and his neighbour like to smoke the stuff, passing it back and forth through their respective windows. It feels like a celebration of getting high.
I have really enjoyed sampling reggae on this list and it was interesting to see how the genre progressed as we moved into the 1980s. Although I wasn’t 100% sure of the lyrics here I think I may have got the gist. Wayne Smith will be remembered for his contribution to Sleng Teng which would prove so influential going forward. Sadly, his life was cut short at the age of 48 in 2014 when he was taken to hospital with stomach pains and died three days later.
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)