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Liam

1,001 songs to listen to before you die...

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The Les Paul and Mary Ford one is interesting right enough. It sounds like something that could have come out a good few years later and sounded modern or different then. 

The Lord Kitchener one is interesting. I've also heard another song with the exact same melody line and very similar feel and I'm trying to remember what it was.

The Fred Astaire one is nice enough.

 

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46.      

'Dust My Broom', Elmore James (1952)

The perceived story of this song is that a variation of it was taught to James by our good old friend Robert Johnson. The moment this version of the song kicks in, the electric slide guitar work just kicks this into a gear that I really enjoy and puts it above and beyond the original version that is also out there. James himself sings in a fashion that is perfectly pleasant, but it is the guitar work that gives this song a swagger that puts it high up on the list thus far for me.

47.      

 ‘Foi Deus’, Amália Rodrigues (1952)

A fine example of a song in which I can appreciate the work being done, but it is just not really for me. ‘Fado’ is a style of Portugeuse music that Rodrigues helped to popularise, though it is impressive to consider that this was recorded when she was just twenty two. Her vocals are very impressive, rising and falling to give the lyrics emotional weight that carries even though the lyrics are not in English. It doesn’t surprise me that Rodrigues would go on to have forty more years of involvement in the music industry as her voice is very beautiful and effortless in its transitions.

48.      

‘La gorille’, George Brassens (1952)

A very odd song as Brassens used the gorilla as a means to take a satirical swipe at anyone in positions of authority. The song had come from time he’d spent in a World War 2 camp, though it had been finetuned by the time it was released in 1952. ‘La gorille’ was initially a reference to camp guards; in time, people in authority. The playful tune allows Brassens to go off on a pretty surreal narrative that ends with the gorilla sodomising a judge after mistaking him for an old woman. Interesting, that is for sure.

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Elmore James is awesome, real pleasant surprise to see him here. Well deserved of course, he is the king of slide guitar after all.

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I like "They Can't Take That Away From Me," but way more for the Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong version than any other, definitely not Fred Astaire's. But then, their versions of most songs they did are my favorite versions of those songs.

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49.      

‘Singin’ In The Rain’, Gene Kelly (1952)

Alright, so I cheated a bit here and included the version as sung in the movie. It is easily one of my favourite movies and the scene itself, dancing and all, just adds to the whole package. It is little wonder that this is the version of the song that took off considering it had been floating around and used in other musicals from the 20s onwards. There are few more iconic moments from musical cinema and its longevity is testament to the quality of not only the music, but everything that came along to finally make the song stick in the conscious of the many.

50.      

 ‘Just Walkin’ In The Rain’, The Prisonaires (1952)

From singin’ to walkin’, this song by the Prisonaires is a beautiful song with Johnny Bragg’s vocals in particular highlight. The simplicity of the arrangement and the melancholy delivery work wonderfully together, whilst the story behind the song is an interesting one in itself due to this being recorded by five prisoners from the Tennessee State Penitentiary. These men were serving time for murder, rape, assault (charges denied by some), yet gained some element of celebrity as the song went into the Top 10. An excellent ballad with an eye-opening backstory.

51.      

‘Please Love Me’, B.B. King (1953)

It is the opening bars of this style of R&B song that get me as they always kick immediately into action, guitars wailing away and setting the tone for a raucously good tune. King’s singing about an unnamed woman and his yearning for her; his vocals hit the right tone of almost frustrated desire the whole way through. Transitioning into the 50s and moving into this era of R&B and the start of rock and roll, the noise has begun to get cranked much higher up. The wailing, the screeching, the relative aggression – I love it.

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I like all three! I didn't care much about the last 3 but all of these are great. Also, well played picking the movie scene because I'm also a big fan of the movie! 

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52.      

‘Crying In The Chapel’, The Orioles (1953)

One of the last hits for the Orioles, the strength in this track is how well the voices mesh. The baritone and bass vocals (or so the book tells me – I’m not big on music terminology) build the foundation through which the other vocalists can add their soaring delivery. It all adds to a very beautiful song that is all about the sum of the parts. The book mentions that it was able to skirt the line between R&B, country and pop fans, ensuring it a wide audience to enjoy it.

53.      

‘Riot in Cell Block 9’, The Robins (1954)

Richard Berry, the composer of ‘Louie Louie’ is the star in this song as his lazy drawl recounts the riot mentioned in the title of the song. Accompanied by an intro that throws in sirens and tommy guns, a tune built off of simple riffs and a wailing saxophone (at least I believe it is that) and a gang vocal chorus, this goes some way to trying to recreate the aggression, confusion and swagger that one might expect within a prison riot. The lyrics even leave things with a hint at a future attempt to attack once more, further adding to the slightly darker tone of the overall song.

54.      

‘Love For Sale’, Billie Holiday (1954)

Recorded in 1952 but only released in 1954, Holiday once again offers up a tantalising and beautiful vocal delivery that puts her in the position of a young prostitute peddling her wares. This possibly spoke to Holiday’s past as she had worked in a brothel in her younger years, whilst the lyrical nature of the song saw it banned for a period of time. Holiday’s arrangements always work well to promote her voice; the simplicity of the piano, nothing else, allows her vocals to shine.

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These are all good but I love Riot in Cell Block 9. I first heard it from the Dr Feelgood cover which is pretty good too:

 

 

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Lord Kitchener! I mentioned London/Trinidad calypso earlier in the thread, and that song is really the source of, and probably best example of, the whole thing. I adore it. The cover used in Paddington is superb too.

The Prisonaires have some beautiful songs aside from that one, but it's probably their best, and best known for that reason.

 

"La Gorille" was playing in a restaurant I was in recently, and I was wracking my brain trying to figure out where I knew the song from. When I realised what it was I laughed out loud, and then had to try and explain the song to the people I was with.

Jake Thackray covered it in English as "Brother Gorilla", which is worth a listen. He dispenses with most of the satirical edge and just focuses on it as a bawdy song, though.

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55.      

‘The Wind’, Nolan Strong and the Diablos (1954)

Another earnest love ballad, yet Nolan Strong has a voice that perhaps helps this to transcend the ones that have come before this. The vocalising in the background give this a somewhat eerie tone at points, a subtle clash with Strong’s melodious delivery that helps to tell the narrative of lost love. It isn’t hard to see why they were in such high demand following this, their second single, though it is sad to hear that they were locked up for minimal money in a exploitative contract rather than able to fully enjoy the fruits of their labour.

56.      

 ‘My Funny Valentine’, Chet Baker (1954)

With this song, Chet Baker manages to make being vulnerable seem cool in a way that hadn’t necessarily come before it on this list. A trumpet player by trade, some thought Baker was wasting his time with singing, yet this was – according to Baker’s biography – a song that fascinated Baker (it was originally written for ‘Babes in Arms’, a Broadway musical). The sadness of Baker’s life and demise adds a sad tinge to an already melancholy song.

57.      

‘Shake, Rattle and Roll’, Big Joe Turner and his Blue Kings (1954)

In the third decade of his career, Big Joe Turner had one of his biggest hits that would go on to be covered to great success by Bill Haley and Elvis Presley amongst others. The rhythm is simple yet insistent, doing enough to make the tune catchy, but also allowing Turner’s lyrics about his joyous lust for his lover to stand out. This is good ol’ fashioned R&B and rock and roll mixed into one enjoyable tune.

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They really love Billie Holiday! Just saw she had another song n this list. As for the last 3 I liked Nolan Strong's.

Shake Rattle and Roll was covered by pretty much everyone in the world of rock n roll (Chuck Berry, Bill Haley, Buddy Holly, Elvis, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, etc..). I respect the fact he created the song but have to admit I prefer their versions.

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Ha, yeah, I remember reading through this book and always being surprised when Billie Holiday popped back up, not that the songs weren't always good.

Chet Baker is tremendous, and his voice is perfect for the laid-back, melancholy music he put out. Big recommendation for his "I Get Along WIthout You Very Well,"       one of my all-time favorite vocal jazz songs.

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58.      

‘(We’re Gonna) Rock Around The Clock’, Bill Haley and His Comets (1954)

One of the better known (I feel) songs from this list thus far, it is implied within the book that it was Haley and this song in particular that brought rock and roll to white teenagers. Once again, there is a vibrancy to the song that makes it stand apart from some of the earlier music that we’ve heard. The tune is bouncing, the lyrics are easy and memorable, whilst the guitar breaks in-between verses are probably the stand out feature of the song as a whole. Interestingly, this song initially flopped until it was put into Blackboard Jungle, a film that caused outrage in America. Probably got quite a few more ears on this tune in the process.

59.      

‘I Get Along Without You Very Well’, Chet Baker (1954)

I have to take the book’s word for it that this is a technically impressive piece of singing; Baker makes it sound so effortless on a performance that can only really be described as poignant. As aforementioned, Baker was a trumpeter, but the musical arrangement of just piano, bass and drums is a fragile tune that perfectly accentuates the fragile-seeming nature of the vocal delivery, all the way to a muted crescendo to signal the end. Baker stands out from the rest of the singers thus far inasmuch as he isn’t just a good singer, but one that feels characterful and layered beyond just singing “well”. His music thus far has been a joy to listen to.

60.      

‘In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning’, Frank Sinatra (1955)

The opening song of a concept album that was designed to explore the nocturnal feelings of loneliness and remorse that accompanied the loss of love, Sinatra is hard to beat when it comes to pure listening quality. Whilst I’m not anywhere near the biggest Sinatra fan, it is the ease with which he delivered his songs that still impresses me after many years having access to his music. Without hearing the rest of the album, this song does at least set the tone for what is to come, effectively presenting a feeling of loss that is effectively amplified by the arrangement. A good first entry for Sinatra of what I can only assume will be several more.

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Bill Haley! The first name I listen to on a regular basis so far. Cool songs with a nice rhythm and back beat. Simple and lovely to dance to. Famous, yes, but still love it.

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ITWSHotM is a really good one. The whole album's good too. Probably the first "pop music" LP that's worth listening to in its entirety. That I know of, at least.

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61.      

‘Tutti Frutti’, Little Richard (1955)

That this song starts with Richard’s noises before either lyrics or music sets the tone for the raucous tune that followed. He was a larger than life performer and it is a larger than life performance from him across the two minute running time. It struggled to get airtime due to its lyrical content, yet when it did, it inspired a whole raft of different people, including the Beatles. Richard, at least in terms of what we’ve seen so far, feels like the first to really marry the music with the visual – an especially eye opening feat considering this was mid-50s America.

62.      

‘Only You (And Only You), The Platters (1955)

Another song that has transcended beyond its origins as the tune can be found in film, TV and advertising. The Platters were the first doo wop act to find its way into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, speaking to the influence of this song. According to the book, it was a rare case (at the time) of a ‘black’ song transitioning and gaining traction amongst white listeners. The lead vocals are strong, yet vulnerable enough to make the love song work, whilst it is another song that feels of an era but somehow timeless in equal measure. Good ‘pop’-ular music often retains that air of quality, it would seem.

63.      

‘Cry Me A River’, Julie London (1955)

There have been other examples thus far of the ‘torch song’, songs about lost love and presenting the woman singing them as vulnerable and sad. Part of what makes ‘Cry Me A River’ an interesting song is that it fit the general expectations of a torch song, yet London was unrepentant and strong in terms of the narrative that the song tells. The sparseness of the arrangement works twofold: it emphasises the melancholy that is inherent within the piece, yet it also allows London’s lyrics to stand out. It is unsurprising that this has become a jazz standard over the years.

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Is Little Richard the first entry on this list who is still alive? Maybe!

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I love Little Richard,  Tutti Frutti isn't my favorite of his, but I still like it and it is the obvious choice.

I do think it's important to note that he may borrowed liberally from a lesser known artist named Esquerita. Very similar in looks and style. Of course the music world likely has hundreds of Esquerita (essentially pioneering artists that probably didn't get their due on a wider stage).

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64.      

‘Sixteen Tons’, Tennessee Ernie Ford (1955)

Originally a song by Merle Travis that was considered somewhat subversive due to its exploring the exploitation of the working man (even getting banned by some radio stations), Tennessee Ernie Ford added a jazzier tone to the melody when he revisited it almost a decade later. There is a fullness in Ford’s voice that does a wonderful job of almost sounding like the type of person who might sink a few pints and a sing a few songs by the end of the night, something I can’t quite put my finger on. The finger clicking was to count the band in initially, but there was a realisation that it was incredibly catchy so left in across the song – definitely to the song’s benefit.

65.      

‘I’m A Man’, Bo Diddley (1955)

An inspiration for garage rock bands when The Yardbirds covered it in the 60s, they’d initially heard the song from Diddley when he toured in 63. The riff that powers the song along sounds pretty much ubiquitous when thinking about a certain rock and roll sound and it is the guitar in between the vocals that makes the song stand out. Diddley himself is a fine enough vocalist, but to me, it is the music that gets people tapping.

66.      

‘Blue Monday’, Fats Domino (1956)

There’s a swagger to the melody throughout ‘Blue Monday’ that feels at odds with the lyrical content for the most part. An early example of a musician complaining about the working week, the swagger helps build things towards Domino’s exaltation of the weekend, perhaps aiming to mimic the excitement that came alongside two days away from the grind. This was a song that had lyrics which spoke to many, so it wasn’t hard to see why it became a huge hit. That Domino had a soulful voice and played a mean piano was the cherry on top.

Edited by Liam

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The last two are great. I don't think I'd heard Sixteen Tons before. Sounds cool.

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Sixteen Tons is a song I like a lot, although I didn't realise the Tennessee Ernie Ford version was a cover. Johnny Cash later did a very good take on it as well.

 

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Oh yes I've definitely heard the Johnny Cash version before. I recognise that one.

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