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…
Big Black – Kerosene (1986)
Welcome to 1986, dear reader, and what a pleasure it is to be here. We’re staying in the US today and making our way up to Illinois. Big Black were formed in 1981 with Steve Albini being the key member. They were not interested in commercial success and insisted on doing things their own way to the extent they sorted their own tours. When we join the group in 1986 it with their debut album, Atomizer, and 1001 Songs have favoured the song – Kerosene.
Kerosene is a dark portrayal of teenage life in a small American town where it is hard to find anything to entertain one’s self. In fact, for the youth of this town there are but two activities they seem interested in. The first relates to the “kerosene” of the title and reflects the penchant these alienated youths have for arson. The second concerns indulging in casual sex with the band confirming that the youths here seek out the one woman in town who sleeps with many men. Indulging lust and a desire to burn and destroy just isn’t enough though. The narrator eerily talks of being born and dying in this town and by the end they want to combine their two pleasures of sex and arson. Chillingly, they conclude with a desire to be set on fire, anything but this existence.
I was not familiar with Big Black but, I believe I am right here, Steve Albini would later work as a producer in 1993 with Nirvana on their In Utero album. Kerosene is a dark and heavy track, staring into the abyss of disillusioned American teenagers, just existing without much hope or desire for anything more. It’s a sad state of affairs but one’s background can often play a part in shaping your life for years to come.
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)