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!
Gorillaz – 911 (2001)
” 911″ is a song by British virtual band Gorillaz and American hip-hop group D12 and features guest vocals from The Specials member Terry Hall. The song was recorded during 2001 in West London, when D12 were left stranded in England after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City.
We bring an end to 2001, dear reader, by leaving the US and returning to the UK and to London. Damon Albarn has previously appeared on our list as the frontman of Brit band, Blur. In 1998 he created a virtual project by the name of Gorillaz which consisted of a quartet of animated members: 2-D, Murdoch Niccals, Noodle and Russel Hobbs. Purely a solo project, Albarn would collaborate with many other artists in the years that followed. We join him in 2001 with a new song by the name of 911.
911 came about by chance. D12, a hip hop group including Eminem, were stranded in the UK in 2001 when the 9/11 terrorist attacks shook the world. They stumbled upon Gorillaz in the studio and a collaboration took place. Albarn was even able to fulfil a long held wish of working with Terry Hall, frontman of The Specials, who contributed a vocal here. The song gives different verses to members of D12 though not Eminem strangely enough, while Albarn and Hall take the chorus together. The song seems to capture the respective members shock at the 9/11 attacks and their disillusionment with how messed up the world is in general with constant war and outbreaks of violence. This is lamentation for a world gone mad with no promise of respite on the horizon.
I have heard of Gorillaz and knew Damon Albarn was behind the project but have never really delved into their music. This was an interesting collaboration, allowing Albarn to leave behind his comfort zone of Blur and to branch out into new styles for himself, hip hop being the prevalent genre. The song would only be performed a handful of times live so it remains very much a union of the time and the moment, one brought together by one of the darkest days in history.
Favourite songs so far:
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
Simon and 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)
Tracy Chapman – Fast Car (1988)
U2 – One (1991)
Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah (1994)
Radiohead – Paranoid Android (1997)