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Liam

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

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On 02/02/2020 at 02:18, Malenko said:

I feel he may be in if rumble is in. I love most of the songs being played lately, but the lack of Chuck Berry material still upsets me. :(

Yeah I was also a bit surprised by that but I looked up the dates (it’s hard to really know them for singers you experienced through greatest bits collections or whatever) and we’ve still got Johnny B Goode and Back in the USA. The former is almost certainly going to be in and maybe the latter too.

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91.      

‘Johnny B. Goode’, Chuck Berry (1958)

You have to be a pretty special track to be sent into space as a marker of your country’s musical and cultural output. That was what happened to ‘Johnny B. Goode’ in 1977, a fair turn compared to the unease that some felt at the time when it was released. A black man playing music and singing with such swagger? Unheard of. The riff at the start is one of the greatest intros for a song, setting the tone and pace of the song that never lets up until the very end. NASA made a good choice, that’s for sure.

92.      

‘Move It!’, Cliff Richard and the Drifters (1958)

It always boggles my mind that Cliff Richard might have ever been considered even somewhat cool, but I guess there was a time for everyone. It helped that it was the closest thing this side of the ocean to what was happening with people like Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry in the US. People loved Richard’s sexy vocal stylings, but I actually mainly enjoy the fuzzy guitar that the song is built upon. This is perfectly fine, but does feel a step behind everything else that has been going on elsewhere at this point in time.

93.      

 ‘La Bamba’, Ritchie Valens (1958)

This is one that I cannot talk about without thinking about my own personal take on this song – I’ve loved it since I was a child and it has stuck with me until now. The lyrics are taken from a popular Mexican wedding song, with Valens adding his guitar (reluctantly at first, apparently) to make it a much more rocking song. It is another song where the feeling of urgency and noise just is exciting, even over sixty years later. They call them classics for a reason.

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These are all good. I actually think Move It is a great song. Cliff was only 17 when he sang it. Not bad.

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La Bamba. Beautiful song. What a tragedy to lose Richie at such a young age. Of course that extends to Buddy Holly and Big Bopper as well:(

The La Bamba story was my grandma's favorite movie.

And my buddy in the military taught me that the La Bamba is a form Hispanic dance? I guess the song is about a naval captain courting a woman and talking about dancing the La Bamba.

And there is the Chuck Berry we expected

L.

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13 hours ago, metalman said:

Yeah I was also a bit surprised by that but I looked up the dates (it’s hard to really know them for singers you experienced through greatest bits collections or whatever) and we’ve still got Johnny B Goode and Back in the USA. The former is almost certainly going to be in and maybe the latter too.

I know Johnny b Goode was always making the list but Roll over Beethoven didn't and while music is art and art is subjective, if we're talking classics that is definitely a big one and really should be in it. I know I would have put a lot more songs in it because I'm a fan but at least that one not making it seems unfair.

 

3 hours ago, VerbalPuke said:

La Bamba. Beautiful song. What a tragedy to lose Richie at such a young age. Of course that extends to Buddy Holly and Big Bopper as well:(

The La Bamba story was my grandma's favorite movie.

And my buddy in the military taught me that the La Bamba is a form Hispanic dance? I guess the song is about a naval captain courting a woman and talking about dancing the La Bamba.

And there is the Chuck Berry we expected

L.

I guess so. The lyrics are repetitive and mostly about dancing la bamba. You can assume he's a naval captain from that one line but it's not like it's a very elaborate story. Still fun though!

Cliff's song was nice too.

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1 minute ago, Malenko said:

I know Johnny b Goode was always making the list but Roll over Beethoven didn't and while music is art and art is subjective, if we're talking classics that is definitely a big one and really should be in it. I know I would have put a lot more songs in it because I'm a fan but at least that one not making it seems unfair.

 

I guess so. The lyrics are repetitive and mostly about dancing la bamba. You can assume he's a naval captain from that one line but it's not like it's a very elaborate story. Still fun though!

Cliff's song was nice too.

In the case of Chuck Berry I'm probably going with School Day myself, catchy dance tune.

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Just now, VerbalPuke said:

In the case of Chuck Berry I'm probably going with School Day myself, catchy dance tune.

Great song too!

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love "Just A Gigolo" - my favourite version is Alex Harvey's, which follows Louis Prima's lead of combining the two songs wonderfully. 

Lonnie Donegan was my grandad's favourite, and I regret that I only got into his music after my grandad died. It's so unlike anything else you'd have heard in the UK at the time, and while some of it hasn't aged well, some still sounds fresh and interesting now. Rock Island Line is great, but "Frankie & Johnny" is my favourite, and still holds up.

 

As for Chuck Berry, in terms of importance, it has to be between Johnny B. Goode and Roll Over, Beethoven. Both are statements of intent as much as they're great rock and roll songs - in the fine tradition of early rock and roll songs being about rock and roll, but taking it a bit of a step further. Johnny B. Goode almost functioning as an origin story, and Roll Over, Beethoven being a black rock and roller effectively telling the white music canon to step aside because his time has come.

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94.      

‘Yakety Yak’, The Coasters (1958)

A song that, until now, I hadn’t realised was about parents trying to get their children to do chores (I’ll be honest – not paid that close attention to the lyrics before). The Coasters were well known for their comedic short songs and the squealy saxophone noise that is perhaps one of the more memorable elements of the tune. For a song that comes in at under two minutes, it feels like they do a lot in terms of shifts in dynamics and sound, or at least it feels like they do. The success of this song on soundtracks, especially children’s films/television, cemented its legacy, and is probably where I heard of it first.

95.      

‘At The Hop’, Danny and The Juniors (1958)

The moment this started, it sounded like the type of song I’d expect to hear in any 50s high school dance scene of a film…and that is pretty much what this song was all about. The Hop was the high school slang term for a dance and this was a celebration of that moment that unsurprisingly caught on with teenagers. It is another song that feels very busy, though more in terms of the persistence of the percussion underneath the pretty repetitive lyrics. It’s definitely a song, just one of the least I’ve heard so far in my own opinion.

96.      

‘Stagger Lee’, Lloyd Price (1958)

This was not what I expected when the song first began whatsoever. ‘Stagger Lee’ was a traditional story about an argument between two men that saw Lee kill a friend called ‘Billy’ Lyons. Lee himself is a character who isn’t exactly celebrated, but he isn’t exactly chastised either. To turn it into a swinging R&B number was definitely a shout by Price and this is a surprisingly groovy take on a murder, especially considering white America’s occasional distrust of black people. Outside of the lyrical content, there is also something about the song that makes it sound more modern than many – it definitely doesn’t feel its sixty years.

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I've said it plenty of times in this thread but I like all 3. I had been wondering if the Coasters would get a mention with Searching or Charlie Brown and I totally forgot about Yakety Yak.

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97.      

‘Summertime Blues’, Eddie Cochran (1958)

Eddie Cochran does not sound like a teenager on this song, one of his biggest hits before tragically dying at the age of just 21. What the song does do is add that element of teenage angst to the world of rock and roll. Up until now a lot of the tunes had been about having fun and being edgy – this was a song that was about being fed up with the world you lived, the work you had to do, and the money you didn’t have. Lyrically, it feels a lot more conscious of the world at large in a way others haven’t; music as introspection, rather than for escapism.

98.      

‘Dans mon ile’, Henry Salvador (1958)

There seemed to be myriad different versions of this, so I stuck the video of the film version that attracted the interest of a Brazilian composer who was trying to develop bossa nova. I’ll be honest with you, I played this song about three times and have nothing much to say about it. It is pleasant enough, but unless you are a book telling me I must listen to you before I die, I wouldn’t have considered it anything special. Wrong time, wrong place, etc.

99.      

‘Lonesome Town’, Ricky Nelson (1958)

In an interesting addition to the book, this is the first song with a little section that tells me this:

Influenced by: I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry • Hank Williams (1949)   

Influence on: Wicked Game • Chris Isaak (1989)   

Covered by: The Ventures (1961) • Shakin’ Stevens and the Sunsets (1975) • The Cramps (1979) • Paul McCartney (1999) • Richard Hawley (2008)

Always helpful. I initially thought this might be another case of good looking boy singing songs that teenagers love, but it is much more along the ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ lamenting love style of tune. It was seen as the turning point for Nelson who had been known up until this point for his TV career and some rock and roll that distinctly lacked edge. This may not be mindblowing in any capacity, but its appeal to the market that had begun to be cultivated by other rock and roll stars is clear.

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100.       

‘Fever’, Peggy Lee (1958)

Influenced by: Calypso Blues • Nat King Cole (1950)   

Influence on: Bad Day • Carmel (1983)   

Covered by: Frankie Avalon (1959) • Elvis Presley (1960) • Ben E. King (1962) • Conway Twitty (1963) • Suzi Quatro (1975) • Boney M. (1976) • The Cramps (1980) • Joe Cocker (1989) • Madonna (1992) • Beyoncé (2003)

There are certain songs that I’ve come across in this project so far that I’d never have placed in terms of the time I assumed they were recorded against when they actually were. This is one of them, though this itself was a cover and it has been covered a lot since it was most famously done by Lee. The arrangement of this version is a lot simpler than the original, focusing purely on the bass, drums played by hand and the irresistible finger clicking that somehow feels like the essence of this song to me. Sultry and somewhat mysterious, Fever is still a pretty cool little song.

101.      

‘One For My Baby (And One More For The Road), Frank Sinatra

Originally sung by Fred Astaire in a musical and already tackled twice by Sinatra, this ended up being the defining version of this song. Again, simpler was better as the piano supports the melancholy nature and delivery of the song, allowing Sinatra’s understated but effective vocals to sell the narrative. The fluctuations between his lamentations and the acceptance of his situation are a great sell job of the song’s persona, for lack of a better way of putting it. This was part of a suite of songs that were designed to explore sadness and loss – something that this song absolutely nails.

102.      

 ‘Le poinçonneur des Lilas’, Serge Gainsbourg (1958)

Gainsbourg is a name that I’ve seen many times before, but feel like I haven’t really heard any of his songs. This is definitely one I hadn’t heard and whilst the song itself is catchy, it is the lyrics themselves are most interesting. With love songs, swaggering songs, songs about loss all out there, this was Gainsbourg choosing to sing about a bored ticket collector who was contemplating mass murder/suicide. Mimicking the noise of the train as he talks about potentially getting a gun and going on a killing spree, it definitely is something different.

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I love the Gainsbourg one. It’s probably his best song along with L’Anamour and Nazi Rock. 

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15 hours ago, How The Cloud Stole Christ said:

Huh, I did not know The Cramps covered Peggy Lee. The Cramps is one of my punk blind spots, though.

It's kind of telling that we've had two great songs covered by The Cramps in very short order, getting very much into that classic '50s aesthetic here. The Cramps' version is brilliant - they often play it quite safe with covers, but less so here.

Serge Gainsbourg was a master, just doing things in the field of pop music that no one else would even consider for decades. 

I love that Sinatra track - "...Sings For Only The Lonely" is one of my all-time favourite albums, as it feels so much more intimate and personal than he normally does. It doesn't feel like a big glitzy Vegas production, or a swaggering big band, it feels very down and out, end of the bar crooner stuff, and better for it.

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103.      

‘Volare (Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu)’, Domenico Modugno (1958)

A song that has a chorus hook that is hard to stop from singing along to and little else in all reality for me. I mean, it is a perfectly enjoyable song, but so much goodwill is born out of the ‘volare’ chorus that the rest of the tune doesn’t really need to do too much else. This was 3rd place in the European Song Contest for Italy in 1958, whilst it was only beaten by Waterloo as the best song of the competition’s history according to a vote during the 50th anniversary celebrations for the effort.

104.      

 ‘All I Have To Do Is Dream’, The Everly Brothers (1958)

This is one where the significance is a little beyond me in terms of my knowledge of music and what was/wasn’t around. The high harmonies of Don and Phil Everly were different to a lot of different things out at this time, whilst this song followed ‘Wake Up Little Susie’, so the Brothers were busting out some top quality hits during this time period. What helps this song is length – it is perfectly sliced at around two minutes more as any more would threaten to become boring.

105.      

 ‘To Know Him Is To Love Him’, The Teddy Bears (1958)

The first of what I can only assume could be a number of Phil Spector songs. This was written by him when he was just a teenager, yet spent three weeks atop the Billboard 100 as he struck gold with pretty much his first tune. The song is catchy enough and the juxtaposition between the sweetly melodious voice of Annette Kleinbard and the simplistic accompaniment works together to create an enjoyable couple of minutes of music. It isn’t difficult to see why this got some traction and launched Spector’s career.

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I absolutely love "Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu," that's one of the songs I discovered from this book that's stuck with me the longest. I had no clue "Volare" was a cover and where the Dean Martin version is just the chorus for me, I really love the whole package here. All the non-chorus parts are really just tablesetting but I like the relative sparseness building up to that soaring chorus.

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106.      

‘Brand New Cadillac’, Vince Taylor and the Playboys (1959)

According to the book, Vince Taylor’s rise and fall became the model for the story of Ziggy Stardust told by David Bowie in the 70s. This was Taylor (Brian Holden) at his best though as he took everything he knew from time spent in the US about rock and roll and unleashed it on an unwitting UK audience. The driving rhythm of the guitar holds everything together whilst Taylor maintains that swagger that had felt ever present in the US rock and roll songs up until this point. An example of the UK beginning to catch up with larger trends, perhaps?

107.     

 ‘What’d I Say (Part 1 and 2)’, Ray Charles (1959)

Ray Charles is another musician that I assume I must have heard something from in the past, yet I couldn’t name you a specific song. The story behind this tune is that it was pretty much improvised to fill part of a fifteen minute live spot, eventually becoming a song that Charles often ended his shows with. Claimed to be mainly about how the sum of the parts can create a greater whole than expected, this is quite a simplistic song (as songs like this go) but it feels as lively on record as you’d imagine it does in person. The keyboard and drumming in particular create a feeling of spontaneity, ably assisting Charles’ simple, yet effective lyrics with vocals that eventually turn into a call and response with the backing vocalists. Great fun.

108.      

‘I Only Have Eyes For You’, The Flamingos (1959)

Assured immortality due to its use in multiple films and television shows, this was one of the only real hits for The Flamingos. They’d been largely unsuccessful before this and would fade back into obscurity, but they do hit it out of the park here. The arrangement allows the vocals to be at the forefront, with the backing ones in particular creating a somewhat ethereal tone throughout the song.

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109.      

 ‘Ne me quitte pas’, Jacques Brel (1959)

Influenced by: Les feuilles mortes • Yves Montand (1946)   

Influence on: Once Was • Marc & The Mambas (1983)   

Covered by: Nina Simone (1965) • Sandy Shaw (1967) • Scott Walker (recorded as “If You Go Away”) (1969) • Daniel Guichard (1972) • Serge Lama (1979)

Another one that comes across as ‘just a song’ to me, though I do like the impassioned nature of Brel’s voice as the song progresses. The accompaniment couldn’t be more simple and reflective of a melancholy that is fundamental to the song as a whole. Brel became more well known, or at least his songs did, when they were translated into English and sung by others,  though often without the lyrical wit that Brel apparently had.

110.      

‘Shouts Part 1 and 2’, The Isley Brothers (1959)

Influenced by: Lonely Teardrops • Jackie Wilson (1958)   

Influence on: White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It) • Grandmaster Melle Mel (1983)   

Covered by: Lulu & The Luvvers (1964) • Joan Jett (1980) • Grandmaster Melle Mel (1983)

It is hard not to focus on this song in the light of Lulu’s version that I am significantly more aware of. However, this does offer both parts of the original song, thus including a big breakdown in Part 2 which is all about the call and response. Coming from gospel backgrounds, the writers were used to this style of vocal and it makes up the end minute or so of the song. The – perhaps apocryphal – origin of the song involved ‘You know you make me wanna shout’ being sung during an encore, with the crowd responding in kind. If that is the case, it wasn’t hard to see why – few songs have the ability to get people not only moving, but singing along as well.

111.      

‘Mack The Knife’, Bobby Darin (1959)

Considered by none other than Frank Sinatra as the definitive version of this song, Darin’s ‘Mack The Knife’ was a chart topper in both the UK and the US. This is a particular favourite song of my stepdad, so it already maintains positive memories for me. It is a swinging tune that tells a story of death and robbery, instantly making it a different kettle of fish compared to a fair few of the songs that were out at this time. Toe tapping, finger clicking, always swinging; the song is three minutes of gold.

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I'd never heard the original Brand New Cadillac but I like the Clash one. I like this one too.

What'd I Say is obvs a classic.

Flamingo is nice, didn't know that was them.

Ne me quitte pas is nice but not really one of my favourite Brel songs.

Shout is fun.

Mack the Knife is obviously amazing and yeah I think the Bobby Darin one is my favourite version, though the live Ella Fitzgerald one where she forgets the words gets a big thumbs up too, as does Louis Armstrong. But it's such a good song. Even Robbie Williams couldn't mess it up. It's good in its original German too, but quite different:

 

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The only version of "Mack the Knife" I've ever heard and not liked is a version that's a duet between Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Buffett and is just way too goofy and buddy-buddy for a song about a murderer. Otherwise it's an incredibly hard song to screw up.

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