Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Essential Influential Albums - Part One

(Originally posted on MySpace on Sunday, July 08, 2007)

I originally started out this week to present to you the ten albums that influenced me the most. By influenced, I not only mean musically, but also mentally, socially, etc, etc…

But I found it next to impossible to cut down the list to a bare ten albums. In fact, I couldn't even cut the list down to the twenty most influential. So what follows is a list of thirty albums that I think are essential for any music collection. Granted, this is only the thirty albums I could think of off the top of my head right at the moment. There are literally hundreds more albums that I think are important and great, and that should be in any serious rock music collection. But the thirty albums below are the ones I find myself constantly coming back to. They are albums that shaped my musical tastes and my social thinking. I am who I am because of these albums. So, roughly in order of release (and I mean roughly):

Frank Sinatra – Sings For Only The Lonely

One of the most beautiful vocal albums ever recorded. This album is sad and romantic. I don't think that there would have been a Joy Division without this album. It was the first time I realized how melancholy love could be.

Doors – Doors

The album that started it all for me. Up until this album's release, I liked the bits of rock music that I heard on the radio, but nothing had really hit me as being essential and I had no thoughts of actually making a life in music. But at a party in 1967, I heard this album and my life was forever changed. Of course, now there's a lot of 60s music that I find essential, but if it wasn't for this album, I may not have ever noticed. (Jim Morrison was also the first man I can remember being sexually attracted to, so you heard it here first – The Doors made me gay!)

Beatles – The White Album

The album that led me to the future. This album was the first to get me thinking about the many paths and genres that rock music could inhabit. There are so many different styles on this album that it boggled my mind, and yet it all made sense and seemed so cohesive. After hearing this album, I knew that rock and roll had no limits.

Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath

I had never heard anything so heavy as this album when it came out. Heavy metal was a genre that was in its birth pangs and Black Sabbath was already pushing it to its limits. What really surprised me was that when each consecutive album came out after this, it was even heavier than the one before it. I had no idea how they did that and kept their sanity, if in fact they did keep their sanity.

Captain Beefheart – Trout Mask Replica

I spent my last two years of high school in Springfield, Virginia, a small suburb of Washington DC. There was a local music show on TV there whose title escapes me, but I discovered a lot of bands that I never heard of before seeing them on this show. Bob Seger System, Emmitt Rhodes and Humble Pie are just a few of the artists I first saw on this show. But the most surprising thing I ever saw was a performance by Capt. Beefheart and His Magic Band. It was indescribable. Weird and wonderful. And it even scared me in some primal way. I had no idea what I had seen. It was the blues, but deconstructed, and I had no clue as to how they recreated that sound live. I dropped everything I was doing and ran down to my local record store, where I picked up this album. The Beatles' White Album showed me that rock and roll had no limits, but this album proved it.

Alice Cooper – Love It To Death

On the same show that I first saw Captain Beefheart, I also saw the Alice Cooper Group do an amazing version of the song "Black Ju-Ju". The performance ended with Alice in an electric chair and the band threw the switch. Alice was toast and I was forever a fan. I had never seen this type of performance before. It was new and mind-bending for me. Rock and Roll as theatre. It was a concept that would follow me through David Bowie and into my own band in the early 80s.

Velvet Underground & Nico

Another mind-bending album when I first heard it. It was primal and frightening, yet beautiful at the same time. I had never heard anything so dark, yet so enticing before. I had never been to New York, but it entered my dreams, and my nightmares, after hearing this album.

Stooges – Stooges

This album marked the beginnings of my interest in punk rock, as far as I'm concerned. Hearing this album for the first time made me feel as if my brain was hemorrhaging. And I liked it. "We Will Fall" is still one of the greatest songs ever recorded, in my humble opinion.

John Lennon & Yoko Ono – Plastic Ono Band

These were two separate albums released at the same time, but they fit together so well that I tend to listen to them as one double album. The Beatles sound was getting more and more lush at the time they broke up, so the absolute minimal sound of these albums caught me by surprise when they were released. And as a teenager that was beginning to realize I wasn't really happy with the world that I found myself living in, the anger present in the lyrics and performances spoke directly to me. Yoko screaming "WHY" over John and Ringo's primal beatings for five minutes and then changing tact and screaming "WHY NOT" for another five convinced me that I was forever a fan of her art, much to the horror and amusement of most of my friends at the time. I'm glad to see that so many in the world these days have come to realize what a major talent she is.

Kraftwerk – Autobahn

The first electronic music that I can remember hearing and the album that led me into the early 70s German prog-rock scene. I actually first heard the band when I wandered into a concert promoting this album in the early 70s at the Santa Monica Civic. The song "Autobahn" was becoming a hit and the venue was full of college muscle-heads who thought the band was singing "Fun, Fun, Fun On The Autobahn". (They were actually singing "Farhen, Farhen, Farhen Auf Die Autobahn" I believe.) The audience sat bored through most of the set, screaming "BOOGIE" at key moments, hoping to force the band to finally play the hit. When they finally played it at the end, the crowd went wild. For my own part, I was mesmerized and immediately ran out and bought this album and the three that preceded it. It also convinced me that synthesizers really were a valid instrument.

Can – Ege Bamyashi
Faust – So Far

More from the German prog scene. Both these albums convinced me that rhythm, electronics and art could meld into one cohesive sound. It took awhile for the rest of the world to catch up. I used to use the Can album to drive customers out of the store I worked at when it was time to close. Now you can't find a cool indie band anywhere that doesn't claim to love the band. And Faust's "It's A Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl" is another of those songs that I think is simply one of the best ever recorded.

King Crimson – Lark's Tongues In Aspic

Every King Crimson album was a revelation to me. I first discovered the band when the record club I belonged to at the time accidentally sent their first album, "In The Court Of The Crimson King", to me. My mind was blown. But it was this album that really solidified their reputation to me. When I first threw this album onto my turntable, I accidentally had the speed set at 45 rpms and sat there screaming that I had never heard anything so great in my life. But even after discovering my mistake and correcting it, the album was still something that sent me into emotional turmoil. And I'm not kidding. I thought the music on this album was so beautiful that I would break into tears just listening to it. I don't do that any more, but I still think it's a thing of beauty. It was perhaps the first album to convince me that rock music could be seen with the same seriousness as classical music was.

Roxy Music – Roxy Music

I pretty much loved most of the bands that fell under the British Glam Rock tag. T-Rex, Slade, Sweet, and all the rest played some of the best pop rock I had heard since the early 60s. But most of it was still just fluff. And then there was Roxy Music. Their blend of 50s influenced rock, mixed with a heavy dose of electronics, glam and art was one of the most unusually things I had ever heard. More than even Bowie, this band convinced me that there was some serious music coming out of a movement that most people weren't taking very seriously.

Eno – Another Green World

Eno came out of Roxy Music and single handedly made people realize that rock and roll and electronic music could be the same thing. All his solo albums are worthwhile, but "Another Green World" is simply one of the best electronic pop-rock albums ever made.

This is a good place to split this as the next albums start out with the punk rock era. Comments are always welcome, as usual. See you next week.

No comments:

Post a Comment