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!
Suzanne Vega – Marlene on the Wall (1985)
We’re leaving the UK today, dear reader, and making our way over to the US and to California for an unquestionable talent. Suzanne Vega began performing in 1982 and had secured a record contract two years later. A gifted songwriter, Vega has been responsible for some memorable hits such as Luka and Tom’s Diner. We join her at the start though with her self-titled debut album in 1985 and 1001 Songs have gone with the song – Marlene on the Wall.
Marlene on the Wall concerns a narrator who is having relationship problems and seeks comfort and imagined counsel from a poster of German actress, Marlene Dietrich, that can be found on the wall, hence the song’s title. This relationship sounds like one where communication has broken down but the narrator still strives to make it work. When looking at the poster of Marlene the narrator sees a “mocking smile” and imagines Dietrich advising her with such wisdom as “don’t give away the goods too soon.” You get the feeling the narrator is doomed to make more mistakes though.
I have been familiar with Suzanne Vega for many years. A talented writer and singer, Vega has carved out an impressive solo career for herself. Marlene on the Wall is one of her most memorable songs, though I do prefer the likes of In Liverpool, while Luka remains the jewel in her songwriting crown. Suzanne Vega continues to perform to this day. Now 61, we hope she will be around for a good long while.
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)