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!
Public Image Ltd – Rise (1986)
” Rise” is a single released by post-punk group Public Image Ltd in 1986. It was the first single from , their fifth studio album. The song was written by John Lydon and Bill Laswell about apartheid in South Africa, specifically about Nelson Mandela as Lydon stated in a 2013 Glastonbury interview.
We’re returning to the UK today, dear reader, and to London so we can check in once more with Public Image Ltd. They last appeared in 1978 as a fledgling band led by John Lydon, once Johnny Rotten of Sex Pistols. Eight years on and the group have endured where the Pistols fell apart. However, Lydon is largely solo at this point as the group release their fifth album, Album. From there 1001 Songs have gone with the song – Rise.
With Rise John Lydon was concerned about two contrasting and controversial subjects in the 1980s: apartheid in South Africa and police torture in Northern Ireland. Lydon sings of the differences between people, how we might be right or wrong depending on perspective, how we are undoubtedly different in the colour of our skin but that should be all. It shouldn’t extend further than that but, of course, it does. In reference to South Africa, Lydon comments that to not be white comes with a price in apartheid. When focusing on Northern Ireland he again echoes this idea that we are different in our views but faced with the police you can be tortured into their way of thinking, having to cast aside your own beliefs that do not correlate with society’s norm. Lydon reaches out and offers a message of hope to these subjugated and repressed peoples; he is with them, shoulder to shoulder, and welcomes change.
I knew nothing of Public Image Ltd prior to starting this challenge but I am intrigued now. It is fascinating to see the development of John Lydon. Gone are the angry days of Johnny Rotten, but in their place still exists rage, only it comes across in a more subtle way. The group have continued to this day though did have a hiatus from 1992 to 2009 with Lydon busy with other commitments, including a Sex Pistols reunion. I guess the anger of youth is a hard flame to defuse.
Favourite songs so far: