Alternate 1001 Songs (you must hear before you die)

The original 1001 Songs book edited by Robert Dimery is a fabulous collection of songs and a great discussion starter for music nuts like me. Of course, if you’re going to play this game (and, let’s face it, it is a game) you can’t take it too seriously. Ultimately, everything is down to people’s opinions and knowledge, and nothing, no song selection is definitive (though maybe some come close). At best, you can point to certain artists who must be featured in a list like this. And they’re pretty obvious: Elvis, The Beatles, The Carter Family, Hank Williams, Michael Jackson, Led Zeppelin, Dusty Springfield…you get the idea.

Dimery and co focus mainly on the period from about 1955 to 2010, with a smattering of selections from the earlier part of the last century, and a handful from this decade. Although it’s quite eclectic, with everything from country and gospel to ‘world’ music, it does centre on pop chart music for the most part. There’s a terrific post on the Elite site’s forums that gives not only the breakdown of the list in songs per decades covered, there’s also other fascinating statistics, including artists with the most songs on the list. Check it out here, and don’t forget to download the Excel spreadsheet file that’s also there.

So I had a go at doing my own version of this. Like Dimery’s book, it’s flawed due to my own tastes and prejudices, and especially my lack of knowledge about music from the earlier part of the last century, and certain genres like world, blues and hip hop. I noticed the book doesn’t really include jazz, and I’ve mostly added just some token listings in that genre too.

This is mainly an attempt at an alternate version of the list, focusing heavily on what might be called ‘popular taste’ chart music, and with a special emphasis on Australasian artists and songs that I’m more familiar with. My original list was twice as long, and it included a lot of my own ‘personal taste’ non chart music. So I actually made two alternate lists: one (the one featured below) that’s about popular taste, and the other that’s about my personal taste. To give you an idea of how this breaks down I’ll use the example of Cat Stevens. Dimery’s book includes Cat’s song Peace Train, a good choice as it’s one of his most popular, and one of his best. For my ‘popular choice’ list I got to choose Father and Son instead – in my opinion an even better song. Then, for my ‘personal taste’ list I chose the far more obscure (but brilliant) Boy With the Moon and Star On his Head.

Anyway, I’ll stop crapping on now and present the list. It’s in pdf format, and there are two versions – one that’s in alphabetical order by artist (solo artists by their first name – so Dylan is found under B for Bob), and the other that’s in chronological order by date of release. I hope you find it interesting, and a good discussion starter for you own list. Let me know what you’ve come up with if you’ve done one of your own!

The Swamp Alternative 1001 Songs (by artist)

The Swamp Alternate 1001 Songs (by date)

When I’ve got the time and can be bothered, I’ll post my personal taste version of the list up here. It’s very different!



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