1901

Album: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009)
Charted: 84

Songfacts®:

  • This is the second track on French rock band Phoenix's fourth studio album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. It was released as a free download on February 23, 2009 when Phoenix's redesigned official website was launched.
  • Phoenix singer Thomas Mars told the Washington DC free newspaper Express: "Anthems are good. '1901' really worked because we wrote almost all the song in 10 minutes, but it took us almost a year to finish it. We had the idea of the verse, and the chorus, the bridge, the rhythm, all the arrangements and everything, and then it was really hard to finish. So, I think you can feel there's something more sophisticated, maybe a production that's maybe new to us."
  • This featured prominently in TV commercials for the 2010 Cadillac SRX.
  • Thomas Mars explained the track is about the French capital city: "It's a song about Paris," he said. "Paris in 1901 was better than it is now. So the song is a fantasy about Paris."
  • On the Billboard Alternative Songs (formerly Modern Rock Tracks) chart dated February 20, 2010 this reached #1 in its 31st week on the chart. In doing so it created a record for the longest climb to the pole position since the tally's 1988 inception.
    Nine months later, the Neon Trees track "Animal set a new record when it reached #1 in its 32nd week on Alternative Songs.
  • The song's success in the US was a significant achievement for Phoenix's label Glassnote Records, as it was only the fourth Alternative Songs #1 on an independent label. The tune followed the Offspring's "Come Out and Play" (Epitaph, 1994), Everlast's "What It's Like" (Tommy Boy, 1998) and Silversun Pickups' "Panic Switch" (Dangerbird, 2009) as an independent chart-topper.
  • This was one of the first Phoenix songs they worked on with producer Philippe Zdar. When the band brought it to Zdar, it most mostly developed, so the big changes were to the structure. Zdar said he took on a coaching role during the sessions, and was constantly encouraging them to be "Modern." He was surprised when they gave the track away, but was thrilled with the positive response.
  • Phoenix's 2009 performance of this song on Saturday Night Live was a career-defining moment for the band. Daniel Glass, head of Glassnote Records, recalled getting the initial call from SNL looking to get the band on the show just after the label had leaked "1901." "We gave the song away for free and it shot up to number one on the blogs," Glass explained to Radio.com. "They wanted to book the band in a few weeks, which was unheard of because the band would be on SNL way before their album would be out."

    Thomas Mars added that guesting on the show was the best way to introduce themselves to an American audience, to actually have them see the band live and in the flesh. "There was no misunderstanding possible. People didn't hear the song and think we were two DJs or a Scottish trio, which happened to us many times before," the singer explained with a chuckle. "It was nice to start the relationship with the US. in a good way on a good basis. It wasn't a blind date."

Comments: 3

  • Dan from New York, NyI really liked the digital sounds over the organic rock guitars and drums, and it's a good tune all around. The lyrics actually do sound like they were written in 10 minutes... or rather that they retain a nonsensical quality (a mashup of different song meanings all rolled into one cryptic pop tune) they seem to have mastered.
  • William Swan from Wichita, Ks, KsA foot tapper
  • Jon from Enumclaw , WaThis song is just awesome!
see more comments

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