Sunday, April 27, 2014

Music Sunday, the Return: You Like Song Lists? Then This Book is For You

A NOTE: You're going to have to click through to YouTube to watch the videos I've included today. Sorry.

So I found this book at the library yesterday: 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die and 10,001 You Must Download, edited by Robert Dimery (2010, Quintessence Books; 960 pages).

And, no, I'm not going to read the whole thing straight through. It isn't that kind of book, but more the kind you dip into here and there when the spirit moves you. Also, it's a little heavy to hold, to read for very long at a time. But it is an interesting book, with some of the opinions expressed by the contributors a little surprising.

An example: One of the 1,001 songs highlighted in the book is the Paul Revere & The Raiders cover of "(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone)", recorded before the more well-known version by The Monkees. I wasn't aware until last year sometime that the band had even recorded the song, which is a little surprising considering that I was a bit Raiders fan back in the day (and still am, to be honest). Now, the Raiders have not gotten a lot of respect, either when they were recording or in the time since then. So I was a little taken aback, in a good way, when the contributor who wrote about this song started his short essay with this: "History has been unkind to one of the great bands of the Sixties", attributing this to the costumes they wore, and then continues a few lines later with this: "Bizarrely, the men in the tricornered hats were the first great punk band."

Really? That had never occurred to me.

Later on in the piece, he also holds that Mark Lindsay's vocals on the song put into doubt "Iggy Pop's claim to the title of 'Godfather of Punk'." Amazing, and again, something I'd never really thought about.

So, you know, there are some surprises in this book. Another surprise is that no Beatles song earlier than "Ticket to Ride" (1965) makes the cut into the 1,001 (the others are "A Day in the Life", "Eleanor Rigby", "Hey Jude", "Strawberry Fields Forever", and "Tomorrow Never Knows"), although a total of 32 Beatles songs make the cut into the 10,001 songs to download. Personally, I would have put "Help" as one of the 1,001, but that's just me.

One thing is clear - the contributors didn't stick to Top 40 songs when compiling these lists. I'm astounded at the number of songs and artists that made the 1,001 that I've never heard of. Some of this I can understand, especially from the Sixties. I had access only to AM radio (I didn't own a radio that received FM broadcasts until I was a teenager) and the music that was played on television. I didn't have the money to go out and buy records on an experimental basis. But there are also songs by artists I know that I just have never heard, or if I've heard them I'm not aware of it.

It's a fascinating book. If you are a fan of popular music anytime between the early 20th century, and especially between the 1950s and 2010, you will probably find something here to interest you, or to argue with. There is a short chapter on songs from before 1950, and then chapters for each decade since up until the book's publication date.

And, yes, they really do have the full 10,001 list of songs to download in an appendix at the end of the book. You might want to bring along a magnifying glass before you tackle those pages, though. While it takes over 50 pages to include all those songs, the print is still a little small.

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