As a new year approaches, I always wonder how the previous one will be remembered. Some years have been immortalized through songs, such as “1979” by the Smashing Pumpkins, “1985” by Bowling for Soup and “1973” by James Blunt. All three songs look back in time. David Bowie was looking from the early 70s into the future when he recorded “1984,” a year had already been immortalized by author George Orwell. The Rolling Stones also gazed into the future when they wrote “2000 Man” in 1967.
Other than the three tunes already mentioned, here are ten more songs, each mentioning a specific year in its title.
10. “Born Late ’58” by Mott the Hoople: The piano and guitar-mixed rock certainly indicates classic Mott the Hoople, but the vocals are not from Ian Hunter but from bassist Overend Watts. Nevertheless, the song is fun, just like everything else on the album called The Hoople.
9. “Summer of ’69” by Bryan Adams: I was drawn to the song from the first time I heard its opening line: “I got my first real six-string, bought it at the five and dime.” That year brings back the memories of his friends forming a band and also of that special girl holding his hand. She said it would last forever, but neither the band nor the romance endured. All that remains from that summer is one of the best songs Adams ever recorded.
8. “1999” by Prince: The star from Minnesota recorded this before he gained music and film fame with Purple Rain. In the upbeat pop tune he sings about the impending end of the 20th century, not with gloom but with celebration. Again the first line is perhaps its best, even if it sounds suspiciously similar to one in “Deacon Blues” by Steely Dan: “I was dreamin’ when I wrote this, forgive me if it goes astray.”
7. “45” by Elvis Costello: The gifted songwriter often used words with double meanings, and here he has taken a number with several connotations. The first verse describes the victory bells chiming after the end of World War II in 1945. The second verse mentions the 45 rpm records. The 45 in the last verse is the gun used to take a life.
6. “In the Year 2525” by Zager and Evans: This song really gazes into the future, about five centuries. The prediction is not a pleasant one, but it so far appears to be fairly accurate. The duo who recorded it foresee pills controlling our thoughts and words, machines replacing our body parts, and test tube babies.
5. “Disco 2000” by Pulp: This song looks into the future, but only several years ahead. It is a very poignant song from the point of view of a guy remembering how he worshipped Deborah, the girl who lived next door, even after his friends had tried to undress her.
4. “Nineteen hundred and eighty five” by Paul McCartney: All of Paul McCartney’s album in the 70s contained a hidden gem that received no airplay. London Town had “Deliver Your Children,” Back to the Egg claimed “Old Siam Sir,” and Venus and Mars contained “Medicine Jar.” Perhaps his most popular album with the Wings, Band on the Run, includes this grunting piano tune that builds to an eerie crescendo.
3. “December 1963” by The Four Seasons: The writer of this pop narrative got a memorable Christmas present just a few months after JFK was assassinated. No male can listen to this song without recalling the first time he enjoyed the pleasures of the female body. One line in the song, though, is unpleasant for older men to admit: “As I recall it ended much too soon.”
2. “’39” by Queen: Guitarist Brian May created this story about a crew that embarks on a travel into space. They are away for what they think is one year, but which ends up being 100 years on earth. It’s a beautiful song, allowing May to demonstrate his gift for playing acoustic guitar and vocals, proving that Queen was not just Freddie Mercury.
1. “Teenage Lament ’74” by Alice Cooper: Although the album Muscle of Love was a disappointing follow-up to the excellent Billion Dollar Babies, this tune made the record worth the purchase. The theme is similar to “Eighteen,” only instead of anger the song exudes uncertainty. The chorus asks him “What are you going to do?” to which Cooper admits he has no answer. Thus the song seems prescient: his group disbanded after this album. Thank goodness they stayed together long enough to record this popanthem.