1001 Songs Challenge,  1990s,  Music

1001 Songs Challenge #737: Only Love Can Break Your Heart (1990)

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…


Saint Etienne – Only Love Can Break Your Heart (1990)

Only Love Can Break Your Heart

” Only Love Can Break Your Heart” is a song written by Neil Young. It has been covered by many bands, including a 1990 single by Saint Etienne. The song is the third track on Neil Young’s album After the Gold Rush .

Lyrics (via Genius)


We’re leaving the US today, dear reader, and making our way back to the UK and to London. Formed in 1990 by Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs, the duo originally intended for Saint Etienne to work with a range of different singers from album to album. However, when they worked with Sarah Cracknell she became the band’s permanent singer. We join the group at the beginning with their debut album, Foxbase Alpha, and 1001 Songs have gone with the track, Only Love Can Break Your Heart

Although Sarah Cracknell joined Saint Etienne and performed on their debut record, she did not sing on this track which is a cover of a Neil Young song. The premise is the exploration of love and life, the idea that we can go through our lives without pain so long as love doesn’t come into play. Any other challenges we can defeat but, inevitably, we do fall in love, we need to, it is part of being human after all. The song serves as a cautionary tale about love though, beseeching the listener to pursue this emotion but to be very careful as they do so, to avoid being hurt.

Combining pop, dance and synth, Saint Etienne blended a range of genres with their music and provide an interesting alternative to Neil Young’s original composition. I am most familiar with the group’s 1993 hit, You’re in a Bad Way, which is a great song all these years later. The group tended to flirt with the UK Top 20 when it came to their singles though have made it into the Top 10 as well. They continue to this day and retain a loyal following.


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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