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…
Depeche Mode – Personal Jesus (1989)
Are there any differences between the album and the single versions? Yes! The album version has a longer outro, shown on this page with the 2 instances of the refrain. Following this is an instrumental synthesizer section which fades to end the track.
We’re back in the UK today and it is a third appearance on our list for Depeche Mode. When we join them in 1989 the group are working on what would be their most successful album, Violator. It boasted, among other tracks, the legendary Enjoy the Silence but 1001 Songs have amazingly turned down that track. Given such a shock you assume they have something equally memorable in mind and you are not wrong for they have gone with Personal Jesus.
Songwriter Martin Gore took inspiration and indeed the song title from Priscilla Presley who once referred to her husband, Elvis Presley, as her own “personal Jesus”. The song pitches the idea of us embracing our own personal Jesus. This individual is manifest as someone who we can talk to, unburden ourselves with, and they will respond in kind by offering the kind of sanctuary we are looking for. Those who are lonely or struggling could make use of such a safe haven and the song details how one needs to only pick up the phone to get the help they need from their very own religious idol. Such reliance on an individual is dangerous of course, open to abuse and manipulation but when the service is this good, how can one resist?
Depeche Mode were constantly evolving in the 1980s and both Personal Jesus and Enjoy the Silence are symbolic of their peak years. Both songs are terrific but hard to compare given how different they sound. Unusually for the group, Personal Jesus is heavily driven by the guitar which offers a stunning riff here. Normally the band relied on synthesisers for their sound but here the melody works perfectly with Dave Gahan’s distant but still pronounced vocals. The music video is worth a look with the four members resembling cowboys and seeking out a local brothel to unburden their wearisome lives.
Favourite songs so far: