1001 Songs Challenge,  1980s,  Music

1001 Songs Challenge #717: Can’t Be Sure (1989)

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…


The Sundays – Can’t Be Sure (1989)

Can’t Be Sure

” Can’t Be Sure” is the 1989 debut single by the British indie pop group The Sundays. It was the first (and in the United Kingdom, only) single to be released from their album Reading, Writing and Arithmetic , which was released a year later.


Lyrics (via Genius)
Learn more about this song (via Genius)


We’re staying in the UK today, dear reader, but we’re heading down south to London. Formed in 1988 The Sundays slotted into alternative rock and had a career that produced three albums but they would last less than ten years. We join the group at the very start in 1989. Their debut album is a year away but we have their first single in the form of Can’t Be Sure.

Can’t Be Sure is concerned with the idea of desire. This isn’t a desire that is directed at any one person or even a material thing. Instead, the song generalises the concept of desire and the narrator describes it as being a “terrible thing.” The chorus refers to England and its miserable weather but there is still much to be loved in the country. By the end of the track, the narrator seems to have reconciled their conflicting feelings and have come to terms with the desire that has caused them so many problems.  

Can’t Be Sure is heavily driven by guitar and keyboard with some pleasant vocals from lead singer, Harriet Wheeler. The band’s opening album came in 1990 and was well received both critically and commercially. Problems with the group’s record label restricted new releases for a time and by 1997 they had disbanded with some of the band members leaving touring behind to focus on family commitments.


Favourite songs so far:

The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)

Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)

The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)

The Doors – The End (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)

The Smiths – How Soon Is Now? (1984)

Tracy Chapman – Fast Car (1988)

My name is Dave and I live in Yorkshire in the north of England and have been here all my life. I hope you enjoy your visit to All is Ephemeral.

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