Yesterday, I began a little journey through my music collection of albums, singles, CDs and mp3s to determine the 50 albums that had made the greatest impact upon my life. Let me clarify something about this list: it is NOT a list of which albums I feel are the best albums ever released. Instead, this list represents the albums that influenced me to change my listening habits or had something to them in their lyrics or music that changed me in some manner. I could never envision my listening habits being what they are today without these albums coming into my life. Many of you may be surprised to find out when I discovered some of these albums for the first time when compared to the album’s original release date. Yesterday, I released my first ten albums, so today I will give you my next ten.
11. Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True (1977). This was Costello’s debut album, and all of the music magazines that I was reading at the time were all singing the praises of this one. Needless to say, I HAD to go out and get this one. I was NOT ready for the energy of the songs, be it a reggae song (“Watching the Detectives”), power pop (“Angels Want to Wear My Red Shoes”) or ballad (“Alison”), no artist before Costello convey the same passion in every song on the album. This one opened me up to the wonders of Graham Parker and Joe Jackson, to name check a couple.
12. The Cure – Standing on a Beach (1986). We moved to Oxford, Ohio, back in 1986, so I could take my first job as a medical technologist at the tiny hospital in town. Oxford is a wonderful town of contradictions, like being the size of Pendleton, Indiana, but having a major college of 15,000 students living around town nine months of the year. Back then, the town also had one of the greatest independent radio stations in the USA, 97-X, that played alternative music. This Cure album was my third purchase from the record store our first weekend living in town. Next to R.E.M., The Replacements, Hüsker Dü, this album was my entry into alternative music. By the way, this one is a “greatest hits” collection from the first half of their career.
13. David Bowie – Scary Monsters (1980). I got this one after I became a college student, thinking that my music choices indicated maturity. Maybe my ears were more discerning, but I was still that squirrely, hyperactive Keller that I was in high school. But, this was my entrance into the world of Bowie, and what a trip it was. Once again, I took the path less traveled.
14. Devo – Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo. (1978). Saw them on SNL during the 1987-79 season but did not buy the album until 1980. First, I must have driven my girlfriend at the time crazy with my constant playing of the album. Second, it introduced me to the production work of Brian Eno, who would be producing many of my favorite albums of the late-Seventies and Eighties. But, it also gave me my entry ticket into the world of nerd rock that so many of my male colleagues in the science building would be listening to in the laboratory preparation rooms.
15. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours (1977). This spot was a battle between Eagles’ Hotel California and this one. I went with the Mac because this was an album about divorce that came out while my parents’ marriage was imploding. Sometimes, this album was the only thing that could ease that pain. I related to this pain, more than the Eagles’ brand of “I’m-so-successful-yet-still-so-depressed” music. Yes, there is a time and place for that brand of Hamlet inward looking, but not while your parents’ situation is the main cause of your brand of adolescent angst.
16. Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel (aka 3 or ‘Melt’) (1980). Wow! Someone was actually attempting to take an African drum sound, a funk bass sound, and tried to mess the two with some of the most stimulating new-sounding music called rock that I had heard up to that point. Gabriel finally took what he learned in Genesis as far as art rock was concerned and melded a metropolitan feel with some old world sounds. Plus, he introduced me to South African activist Steven Biko.
17. Daryl Hall & John Oates – Daryl Hall & John Oates (aka ‘The Silver Album’) (1975). Yes, I was a middle school kid who loved “Sara Smile” and wanted to remind myself of the slow dances of that song. Then, I discovered that this duo was creating some of the most sophisticated and challenging rock-wrapped-in-soul pop music ever. I became a HUGE Hall & Oates fan after that album, though I tried to keep it quiet until college.
18. Michael Jackson – Thriller (1982). Sure, I loved the old Jackson 5 singles, those by the Jacksons, as well as most everything by a young Michael Jackson. Then, he release Off the Wall in 1979. But, nothing prepared me for the overnight change in the sound of Eighties pop music after Thriller was dropped. Go back and listen to it. It’s no wonder that it is the biggest selling album of all-time.
19. (tie) The Jam – Snap! (1983) and The Style Council – My Ever Changing Moods (1984). Since I purchased these gems so close together, and both groups are lead by the great Paul Weller, I had to include both of them together. Once you listen to The Jam’s career overview with Snap!, go right into My Ever Changing Moods (the American version of the album; in England it is called Café Bleu) to hear Weller’s musical vision maturing right before your ears. These two albums seem like bookends to Weller’s career up to that point. When the Jam begins, they sound like a punk band with strands of R&B, while the Style Council sounds as though they are a R&B band with some rock leanings. The change is staggering.
20. Jellyfish – Bellybutton (1990). The first thing you notice on the album cover is that the band is visually influenced by some hippy-dippy version of Alice in Wonderland. Then, you put the record on, and your hear all kinds of influences, from Raspberries and Badfinger to Queen and ELO, with Squeeze sprinkled all around. Now, I have name-checked five of my favorite artists of all-time. Jellyfish lived up to the hype by creating some very sophisticated pop and power pop that at the time I thought was a lost art form. I was so very glad to find them during my hair metal malaise.
There you go fans! Twenty down, thirty to go. This list has been fun and a little bit revealing. Yes, I am a sucker for great pop music, yet I still love to rock out too! I guess that I’m a complex man. Oh well…
See you tomorrow!