LISTENING PROJECT- THE HEART OF ROCK @ SOUL- DAVE MARSH’S 1001 GREATEST SINGLES EVER MADE

 

Back in 1989 rock critic Dave Marsh released a great book “The Heart of Rock & Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made.  He would update the book in 1999. I love lists and I love music so I immediately went out and bought and read it. Over the years I’ve read it a few times. I have always toyed with the idea of making my own list of favorite/ best singles or songs. I’ve written down an incomplete list of songs over the course of time but have never put them in any order outside of grouping a top 25. That is a project I am going to get back to- but as a way of keeping me motivated to do that I thought start a new listening project. This book has always been on the book shelf and the other day my eyes set on it. I picked the book up and in flipping through it- realized that I hadn’t heard many of the songs that Marsh had in his 1001 songs. When the original book came out nearly thirty years ago there was no internet. Some of these songs would have been next to impossible to find but now in 2018 they are just a mouse click away on the internet. My goal is to listen to at least ten songs here a day and make a comment on the songs I listen to. Marsh in his book he makes no claim that the list is exact- the book was written to start a discussion. As I go through the countdown- in reverse order starting at 1001 I will read the comments Marsh makes on each song. It is a great book and I highly recommend it. Would be great if he upgraded it! I have the 1989 version of the book. I have seen copies of the 1999 update and he has added a list of songs from 1989-1999 that were worthy of inclusion. I don’t agree of course with all of his selections- some baffle me but no two lists would be exact and that is great. In starting my listening I have decided to listen to each song twice before moving to the next song.

  • 1001: “No Way Out” – Joyce Harris 1960 Infinity- Did Not Chart.  This song is a great one to end the book with and to start my listening. Marsh’s story adds to listening experience- this song did nothing at all on the charts. A college student who was working at the college radio station tapped a bunch of songs that various DJ’s at the station had played during finals week- and a few years sat down to listen to his tape. He had failed for some reason to write down the title to this particular song and to who the artist. It took years of having critics and music fanatics listen to this song before anyone had an idea who sang it or the title of the song. Finally someone knew- Joyce Harris ‘No Way Out”– this is a weird ‘primal scream of a record” and Joyce Harris does not sound white at all but she is. I had never heard this song before today’s listening.
  • 1000: “I’m Nobody’s Baby Now”- Reparata and the Delrons:  1966: RCA- Did Not Chart. Written by Jeff Barry of “Da Doo Ron Ron”, “Be My Baby”, “Then He Kissed Me” fame. Sounds like a song out of the Phil Spector factory but it wasn’t. Note- this group later sang background on The Rolling Stones “Honky Tonk Woman” I’d never heard this song before today.
  • 999: It’s Over”- Roy Orbison :1964: #9 Billboard: I am a big Roy Orbison fan. Seven Orbison singles make Marsh’s book. This is a perfect song for Orbison’s voice. Who else could have pulled this off. I’ve heard this song hundreds of times. A great one and If I had my 1001 singles list -it would be on it.
  • 998: “The Cheater “Bob Kuban and the In-Man: 1966: Musicland: Billboard #12: St.Louis group and this was their one hit. The story tells is a chilling one of life imitating art. I don’t recall ever hearing this song.
  • 997: “Don’t Fear The Reaper”-Blue Oyster Cult: 1976: Columbia: Billboard #12. The song is a staple on AOR and 70’s oriented radio. I could never figure out where Blue Oyster Cult fit -they were certainly too smart to be called a pure heavy metal band. This was their biggest hit-  “Burnin’ For You” peaked at #40. This would probably make my Top 1001.
  • 996: “America The Beautiful” Ray Charles: 1987: Dunhill: Did Not Make The Pop Charts: Ray Charles version of “America The Beautiful” is perfect. Ray Charles pound for pound the greatest singer of the 20th Century- as far as being able to sing successfully in any style of music? I’ve heard this song many times. It would be in my Top 1001.
  • 995: “Criticize”-Alexander O’Neal: 1987: Tabu: Billboard #70. I had never heard this song again and on the first listen I was like ‘this is ok’ on the second listen I liked it a lot more, making my idea of listening to the songs twice seem like a good idea and not a waste of time. Produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.
  • 994: “No Sell Out”- Malcolm X with Keith LeBlanc: 1983: Tommy Boy: Did Not Make Pop Chart:  On numbers 992-994 Marsh takes a shot at Reaganism. Remember this book came out in 1989 right after President Reagan left office. I don’t think any of these songs are even considered for the book if the first edition was written in 1998, 2008 or 2018. This is the most interesting song of the three. Percussionist Keith LeBlanc heard album of Malcolm X speeches and adds to it. I had never heard this before.
  • 993: “The Sign Of The Times” Donna Fargo: 1983: Columbia: Did Not Make Pop Chart: Overly sentimental. I had never heard this song before and its so dull I had to force myself to listen to it the second time. It was even worse the second time. I’d wasted six minutes of my life.
  • 992: “5 Minutes: Bonzo Goes To Washington: 1984: Sleeping Bag: Did Not Make Pop Charts: Back in 1983 in warming up for a weekly radio address President Reagan said of the USSR “We begin bombing in 5 minutes”- Jerry Harrison of The Talking Heads and Bootsy Collins turned it into a song. Interesting. I had heard this song a few times before today.
  • 991: “Every Breath I Take”- Gene Pitney : 1961: Musicor:  Billboard #42: A Goffin-King song. I was surprised this only went to #42 on the Top 100 because I’ve heard the song many times- from the Phil Spector box set. This song may have flopped on the charts but Pitney’s career would soon take off. I like the song but it wouldn’t make my Top 1001.
  • 990: The ABC’s of Love- Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers: 1956: Gee: Billboard #77. Marsh makes an effort to include music from all the different styles and eras. 1956 was Lymon and the Teenagers year-they placed four songs in the Top 100, their biggest hit being “Why Do Fools Fall In Love?” They were rock’s first all teenage act. I had heard this song before from Doo Wop anthologies.
  • 989: “Shot By Both Sides”-Magazine: 1978: Virgin: Did Not Make Pop Chart: Written by Howard DeVoto and Peter Shelley of The Buzzcocks. The title of the song came out of a political argument that Devoto had with his girlfriend in which she ended up telling him “Oh, You’ll end up shot by both sides.” Good song. I had heard if a couple times previously.
  • 988 “Rock Your Baby:- George McCrae: 1974: T.K. Billboard #1 for two weeks. One of those songs that dominated pop radio in the mid 1970’s. Co-written by H.W. Casey would would end up torturing music lovers for the rest of the day as front man for the mindless K.C. and The Sunshine Band. A friend of mine for years has insisted that KC should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame- and one of the things he brings up is that he wrote the first disco hit “Rock Your Baby.” I’ve heard this song many times back in the day as teenager. Not that often lately. But I will say there were worse things to assault the airwaves.
  • 987: “The Boys Are Back In Town”- Thin Lizzy: 1976: Mercury: Billboard #12: I wonder if Bruce Springsteen has ever done this in concert? If you are reading this Boss- give it a try. Phil Lynnot and Thin Lizzy were great- this probably isn’t my favorite song of theirs but if I were making my Top 1001 I am sure it would make it.
  • 986: “Barbara-Ann”- The Regents” 1961: Gee: Billboard #13. The most famous version of this song is The Beach Boys version but the original is the best. I had heard this a number of times before today.
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