I just re-discovered this. I had it on Facebook a couple years ago. Since I am not currently on that particular social/stalker network, I thought I’d put it on here! It was fun to think about and consider and make the difficult album choices. If you have a spare few hours to ponder something like this, I suggest you pull out all those old long-playing friends, with the busted edges and familiar skips and crackles, and have a nice loud trip down memory lane.
Here is the original question from a friend: think of 15 albums that had such a profound effect on you that they changed your life. Dug into your soul. Music that brought you to life when you heard it… ready? Go!
OK. Music has defined my life. (That’s me with the headphones.) Beginning with my parents taking me to all the psychedelic shows in San Francisco when I was a baby in 1970. Music has never NOT been there. Looking back, I realize that my life is segmented and categorized by music: the memory folders in my head are filed under the various audio phases I’ve gone through. So. These albums (and many others) really have shaped my life. I don’t think I would be the same person without them. I’m gonna blabble about how or why they changed me, too, because I’m just that self-obsessed. And I REALLY don’t feel like working today. So, pretty much in order —
1. Beatles – Sgt. Pepper. I taught myself to read by singing along and following the words on the inner sleeve when I was young…. I think listening to this album from year zero in my life just kind of shaped everything for me. It’s pretty much my musical measuring stick in terms of lyrics, vocals, harmonies, orchestration, visuals, everything. I can’t help it – I am a product of the late 60s.
2. Fleetwood Mac – Rumors. Same as above. My sister and I would put on ‘concerts’ playing tennis rackets to this album. I think I know every note, every drum beat, every pause. My brain is filled with this kind of thing. This and lyrics to, like, Air Supply songs. Why Air Supply? Why??
3. Duran Duran – Rio. My rad cousins from LA came up to visit the winter I was 12 (1982), and they brought all their NEW WAVE music tapes – Adam Ant, Madness, Bow Wow Wow, Tears For Fears, X, Duran Duran. A little different from the Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor that my parents listened to. Hearing that music, and DD in particular, shifted my focus from horses to music and eyeliner… and I STILL love Nick Rhodes. Rio is a great album! It’s almost all about John’s bass skills…
4. Brian Eno – Another Green World. The teenybopper obsession with DD led me to listen to all the stuff they cited as influences and vastly improved my music taste – Velvet Underground, Grace Jones, Talking Heads, David Bowie, Brian Eno. And this album… oh man. I had to listen to it every day. Spooky, lonely, leafy, warm, soothing.
5. Talking Heads – Remain in Light. I got it because Nick Rhodes loved it. And it’s just fucking brilliant. Always and forever.
6. The Buzzcocks – Another Music in a Different Kitchen. Hooray for the punk phase! The first time I heard this album was at my friend Hylan’s house. Hylan used household bleach to make his hair white and wore thrift store clothes, pegging his pants with tons of safety pins. Back in those days, mid-eighties in Nevada County, this was unheard of! He also had a veritable WALL of records that he let me tape, because I couldn’t afford records. The Buzzcocks blew my mind OF COURSE. Obnoxoius but arty, in your face but sublime, punk with pop sensibilities. Suited my shitty teenage mood perfectly. Still makes me want to bounce off the walls when I hear it. SEE ALSO: Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks, Killing Joke – Killing Joke.
7. The Damned – Live at Shepperton. I love ALL the Damned up to Phantasmagoria (Especially The Black Album and Strawberries), but this album was just so fast and frenzied and furious and LOUD!! It’s the Damned Distilled! I could never get the volume high enough when I listened to this album.
8. Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon. LOTS of mushroom-taking going on. LOTS of trippy pictures were drawn, dude. I was exploring the darker side of my personality, which is embarrassing to say, but true. Everyone should go moody and serious when they are a teen, to get it out of the way, or at least begin to get a handle on their emotional capacities. SEE ALSO: Tones on Tail, the Cure, Bauhaus. I still miss my ratty black hair.
9. Stevie Wonder – Innervisions. I pulled this LP out of my dad’s record stack one time when I was home visiting from England, and it just floored me. I had bad impressions of Stevie because of “I Just Called To Say I Love You”, but I liked the Innervisions cover. I was also beginning to have an interest in music for music’s sake, and was open to listening to ANYTHING, not because it was cool to listen to, but because I just liked it. So: Hello Stevie, hello Bach, hello Ella Fitzgerald, Patsy Cline and Stéphane Grappelli. Innervisions is a magical and heartbreaking work of genius. Another once-a-dayer…… SEE ALSO: Sly & The Family Stone – Fresh.
10. David Bowie – Hunky Dory. I had always loved Ziggy Stardust, Scary Monsters, and Station to Station, but when I started getting into this one it just eclipsed all the others. It’s so haunting and creepy – or maybe that was my mindset at the time. I still can’t listen to just one song alone off this, I need to listen to the ENTIRE album. There’s a story woven through the sequence, somehow, of nighttime life in England well after last call, orange street lights and dark rooms, and Mr. Bowie seems more honest here – he’s not trying too hard to be yet another one of his adopted personalities. Still need to fully learn the piano part for Oh! You Pretty Things.
11. IT’S A TIE! Massive Attack – Blue Lines and The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses. The first years I lived in England were dominated by these 2 albums. You could not exist in that country without knowing them by heart. Heralding huge changes in British music, and you knew it when you heard these songs. Still totally amazing.
12. Blur – Parklife. ah, Britpop! 1995! Heady days. Art school! Going to the Wag club on Wardour Street in London, Wednesday nights! £5 for a bottle of crappy Budweiser! Damon Albarn was pretty much my neighbor! Perfectly mouthy, poppy, clever, timely album. Graham, you and your guitar riffs… please. I am about the same age as the members of Blur, and so felt an affinity with them. Because of Britpop I missed out on a whole decade of American music, that whole 90s hip hop thing. I still have no idea what you were all on about. I was busy listening to Blur.
13. Frank Sinatra – Nice n’ Easy. Oh I just love Frank. What an asshole. What a voice! What drama. What fun to sing along to! My growing appreciation of mid-century design led me to listen to the music of the era… SEE ALSO: Dean Martin – The Lush Years.
14. John Spencer Blues Explosion – Orange. How can you NOT love an album when you can shout lyrics like “BABY BABY YOU SURE KNOW HOW TO FUUUUCK! BABY BABY BABY AWWW YEEEAHHH!!! TAKE A WHIFF OF MY PANT LEG BABY! FULL GRO-O-O-O-WN WOMAN!!!” Jesus. It’s so good! Is this what the naysayers meant when they described rock and roll as the devil’s music? I agree, and I need more.
15. Jackpot – Weightless. This album got me back into the U.S. (Literally. I moved back) and I re-remembered how loose, raw, and energetic American music could be after years of living in England and watching Top of the Pops every Thursday night. Unpolished diamonds. I love this band, I love the people in it, I loved seeing them live as much as possible. They were my transition back to living here in the States – and becoming friends with these fools who play this wonderful music was just the icing on the cake. I love the mistakes-and-all attitude, of Jackpot and all my friends’ bands, of their willingness to try a noise out just for the joy of it. The imperfections make it beautiful.
There have been so many other albums since then, so many bands, so much music, so many backstage after-parties, so many load-ins and soundchecks, so many late nights working out harmonies. But no one particular life-changer… it’s all been a steady snowball of life-change, rolling and building upon itself: songs and the friends who bash them out. The music I listen to is increasingly created by people I know and adore. Being there from the first two-chord idea just endears (and exasperates) me all the more.
Now I need to go back and listen to everything.