To be perfectly honest, from my earliest memories of a toddler, I loved to listen to music. From my toddler days hearing Mom listening to the latest hits by the likes of Paul Revere & the Raiders on the radio to watching the old Ed Sullivan, Smothers Brothers and other variety television shows with the latest rock and pop artists. My personal journey began with a little plastic record player on which I could listen to children’s versions of Broadway tunes at 45 rpm. If a record skipped, my parents would just tape a penny or two to the end of the tone arm just over the needle.
By the time we finally moved into the home in which Mom lived until she passed in February of 2019, I began to learn about music from all the neighborhood kids. By the time I started kindergarten, I was beginning to piece together the foundation of my musical tastes, with it running the gamut from Motown, Stax and other soul/R&B music, bubblegum music, some psychedelic music, some “acid” or hard rock and Top 40 music, though I was still a good four years away from discovering Casey Kasem’s radio program, American Top 40. These were the days of 1968 and 1969.
However, the whole musical world still had not completely opened to me until the 1969-70 school. That school year was my opening salvo in the public education system. But, it also represented the one area for massive information growth. In today’s world of the internet, this seems quaint, but when a kid in the Seventies begins to ride the school bus, a whole new world opens. Suddenly, all the things that my parents started to shield me from were now in my face. Oh, the cuss words were nothing new to me, what with my maternal grandfather, my maternal uncle and my own father’s language, in addition to spending so much of my life in and out of high school locker rooms. But magical topics like sex and music began to enter my peer-oriented discussions. Oh, certainly, I continued my sports and science obsessions, but they were nowhere as exciting as sex and music.
It was on the school bus where much of my education took place. I learned that the “F-word” just may be the most versatile word in the English language as it can be used as a verb, noun, adjective, adverb, interjection, and just about any part of speech other than a preposition. Additionally, I learned to discern certain desirable physical attributes of the female anatomy, how to and not to talk to a woman (though, in all honesty, these all represented very bad advice) and what was considered good and bad music. But, with music, I quickly out-learned my peers on music upon the discoveries of Creem, Hit Parader, Circus and Rolling Stone magazines in middle school, once again thanks to another kid on the school bus.
So, 1970 is the year when I began to experience music in real time. Sure, I admit that I actually did some catching up in regards to my critical tastes, but the foundation was being laid. Prior to 1970, I did not know that the FM band on a radio existed, that Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones or The Beatles were gods, or what on Earth was Woodstock, let alone the Monterrey Pop Festival or Altamont. Therefore, for me, the music of the Sixties remains something more of a prehistoric venture for me.
Unfortunately, most people’s musical wheelhouse either ends with their high school or college days, which coincides with one leaving behind the irresponsible days and beginning to hold down jobs and starting families. For whatever reason, my musical interest really did not begin to wain until my boys were in middle school, which meant they were developing their own musical tastes and no longer relying on my opinions. Suddenly, by the mid-Nineties, popular music began to loose many of the qualities in which I found enjoyment. Subsequently, music became more of an academic pursuit and no longer a celebration of my youth.
All of this means that my wheelhouse for music runs from 1970 through 1999, though I did find that I pushed an extra five years out of my comfort zone thanks to my students at Alexandria Monroe High School, where I had my first teaching job after my career change, and my boys.
To celebrate this 30-year window into my musical tastes, let’s count down my 50 favorite albums from each year, beginning with 1970, the end of my first grade year, through 1999, on the cusp of a new millennium.
50. Free – Fire and Water
49. The Doors – Morrison Hotel
48. Various Artists – Woodstock OST
47. Traffic – John Barleycorn Must Die
46. Funkadelic – Funkadelic
45. Tim Buckley – Starsailor
44. Rodriguez – Cold Fact
43. The Flying Burrito Brothers – Burrito Deluxe
42. The Temptations – Psychedelic Shack
41. Jimi Hendrix – Band of Gypsys
40. Curtis Mayfield – Curtis
39. The Velvet Underground – Loaded
38. Joe Cocker – Mad Dogs and Englishmen
37. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Cosmo’s Factory
36. Santana – Abraxas
35. The Rolling Stones – ‘Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!’: The Rolling Stones in Concert
34. The Who – Live at Leeds
33. The Move – Shazam
32. The Guess Who – American Woman
31. The Jackson 5 – ABC
30. David Bowie – The Man Who Sold the World
29. The J. Geils Band – The J. Geils Band
28. James Taylor – Sweet Baby James
27. Nick Drake – Bryter Layter
26. Syd Barrett – The Madcap Laughs
25. The Kinks – Lola versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One
24. The Band – Stage Fright
23. Badfinger – No Dice
22. Randy Newman – 12 Songs
21. Funkadelic – Free Your Mind…and Your Ass Will Follow
20. The Beatles – Let It Be
19. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin III
18. John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band – John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
17. Van Morrison – His Band and the Street Choir
16. Derek & the Dominos – Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs
15. Emitt Rhodes – Emitt Rhodes
14. Black Sabbath – Paranoid
13. Elton John – Tumbleweed Connection
12. Neil Young – After the Gold Rush
11. The Stooges – Fun House
10. Grateful Dead – Workingman’s Dead
9. Cat Stevens – Tea for the Tillerman
8. Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
7. Van Morrison – Moondance
6. George Harrison – All Things Must Pass
5. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Dèjá Vu
4. Elton John – Elton John
3. Grateful Dead – American Beauty
2. Chicago – Chicago II
1. Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge over Troubled Water