Ten Influential Albums... just ten?... ok... here goes
So we were asked to list ten influential albums... influential to me, personally.. you might like some of these and you might not.. or you might think there are better albums from these artists.. but that is not the point.. these are albums that hit me just when the time was right, and maybe led me to discover other music from them, or other bands and artists... that is really what influential is all about... so here goes.. and they are in no order other than how they popped into my brain
Courtesy A&M Records
The Police- Zenyatta Mondatta
this was the first album I ever bought... the first with my own money... I remember the hits from this album, and the songs that were just "filler"- and I didn't know they were at the time.. I didn't know bands had deadlines to finish albums, and I knew nothing of the actual industry and pressure the bands had to get it all done. Instead- It was all magical and unknown to me how music was written and recorded- bands and artists might have well have been wizards and magicians to write these words and play these beats from around the world. And I could go to the mall and plunk down 12 bucks for this gorgeous artwork that I studied far harder than any classwork, and listen to every note and word and wonder what it all really meant... it led me to have the Police be the artist I probably listened to the most- and their short career hit just at the right time for me.
Courtest Elektra Records
X- More Fun in the New World
this, along with a couple Clash albums (Combat Rock and London Calling) , was my intro in the Punk rock world.. So-Cal punk was pretty accessible to the rest of the country- and pretty easy to listen to. This album was melodic and had great production and wasn't as raw as NY or DC punk.. or stuff from the UK I would soon discover. I was just learning to play guitar around this time and I really dug Billy Zoom's playing and style. I went to see X and the Replacements at the Syria Mosque with my friend Doug, and Renee, a girl I asked to come with. We were right against the stage and it was insane! Billy Zoom stepped on Doug's finger... Renee left with Tommy Stinson from the 'Mats and they went to the Electric Banana.. I bought more X albums but never bought one from the Replacements... you can see why...
This album led me to discover more punk like the Sex Pistols- who were already done, Charged GBH, 7 Seconds, Fear, Bad Brains and more-- It was a time, for sure...
Courtesy Warner Bros Records
Van Halen- Van Halen
It is raw energy that sounds like it was recorded live. Amazing riffs, solos, harmonies, attitude. It is what rock and roll is all about.. It was in my face and I made sure it was in everyone else's face. Probably the first music I head banged to. \m/0\m/ . This was a gateway album to any band that had Guitar, Bass, Drums and vocals.. that was it. It was everything i needed. I kind of forgave them many years later for the whole keyboard thing they would eventually do.. but I wasn't happy when that was happening to this beloved sound...
Courtesy Island Tuff Gong Records
Bob Marley- Natty Dread
So this was the result of learning that the Police were really into reggae.. so I had to go see why... and the reggae sound took me to another place entirely... songs like Lively up Yourself, No Woman, no cry, Them belly Full.. and more led me to discover other Marley music.. Like Kaya and Mr Brown- which haunted me at the time.. I didn't realize I was falling for a "trap" in music.. sad stories told in upbeat sounds.. but over time I learned what it all meant. And then I went on to listen to other reggae like Black Uhuru and Peter Tosh - who was one of the Wailers. Knowing that Bob Marley played his last show, ever, in Pittsburgh saddened me.. and knowing his death could have been preventable saddens me to this day. There are not a lot of artists like him that could speak for those who didn't have a voice yet still be entertaining to get that messaged heard by many. Even Clapton was so moved he covered Marley with "I shot the sheriff"...
Courtesy A&M Records
The Police- Synchronicity
At the time, this album was HUGE- the Police were the only band capable of moving Michael Jackson off the charts and were all over MTV. The Police were on every magazine, and I saw this tour at the Civic Arena.. it was the first concert I attended. I was obsessed with everything about this album.. Why the red, yellow and blue swooshes? Why were there 36 different album covers? What was in the reflection of Sting's glacier glasses in the photo ? How did Stewart make drums so melodic? I needed to know everything that went into this album, and back then that kind of info was really hard to come by .. but because of Sting's fascination with Carl Jung, and what Synchronicity (the philosphy, not the album) was all about- were were able to get a pretty good glimpse into the writing process.. So this album really led me to know how much thought and a person's beliefs influenced their music... and that took me back to believing in how music can transform your life and take you to a different reality.
Courtest A&M Records
So, they are without a doubt my favorite band from that era- I hesitate to label them grunge as they sounded so much bigger than that.. so much more authentic than anyone else.. they hit me harder, spoke to me louder, and made me go back to find out about Green River, and Mother Love Bone... and had me thinking that Chris Cornell was one of the best vocalists ever in rock began the moment I heard Outshined... and I still believe it.. Jesus Christ Pose... goosebumps.... Then I heard some Cornell solo music on the Singles movie soundtrack.. wow. Interviewing him was, to this day, a significant highlight of my career, and losing him one of the lowest moments... that caused real pain.
Courtest Def jam Columbia Records
Beastie Boys- Licensed to Ill
Up to here, I thought all music was played by people on stage or in a studio.. Sampling ? Loops? what was that about? Sure some bands put "techno" bits into songs at times, but few dropped beats and samples like the Beasties... It was on repeat for months with me... from cassette... and I went to listen to artists that influenced them too or that they liked (anyone else listen to Murphy's Law?!) and then realized that a producer- like Rick Rubin- had SERIOUS power and skills in developing a band's sound.. This album was such a soundtrack to parties and life, I am convinced I was listening to it years before it even came out... but that cannot be.. right? I took it at face value at the time, missing their inside jokes, not realizing how many were offended by the words.. and as time went on, the Beasties and the rest of us matured. Even when I interview Adam Yauch he wouldn't talk about the past, only the goodwill efforts he was working on at the time. I saw the Beasties once in Cleveland, and to this day it was one the best shows I have seen. They were supremely talented onstage.. Impressive how they just grabbed any instrument onstage and played anything while not missing a beat.
Courtest Arista Records
The Grateful Dead- Terrapin Station
This band is loved by many, and sterotyped by others. Sure, not everyone gets them, but this particular album, and especially side 2, sounds like nothing else to me. the "song" (16 minutes) "Terrapin Station" musically is just huge sounding.. lyrically (written by Robert Hunter with the Dead) it makes me wonder to this day what it all means, and the production- (it was produced by Keith Olsen who has a rock album resume a mile long, and done at Sound City - watch the documentary on that studio sometime) has me wondering how on earth they could get instruments to sound so much bigger than any I had ever heard before.. I had seen the Dead a few times, and this album was out wayyyyy before my time.. but after seeing them I went back to listen to the earlier stuff, and this is their Opus that I still put on in my car... I listen to music in a new way after hearing this, realizing the producer again makes the sound of the band-
Courtesy Geffen Records
Guns N Roses- Appetite for Destruction
For me the late 80's was a vapid wasteland of music... just awful... even rock was so full of hairspray it had no substance.. then, these guys came along and totally blew me out of the water. It was as real rock as the classic bands I was listening to to fill that rock void (lots of Clapton, Zeppelin, Steve Miller on the turntable instead of White Lion and Vixen) - GnR brought rock back to where it needed to be, and I was along for this ride.. Mr Brownstone blew me away as it still does. Night Train, Rocket Queen, front to back this is a rock album that defied its peers. And it made me feel alive again!
Courtesy Chrysalis records
Billy Idol- Billy Idol, Rebel Yell, Generation X, Kiss Me Deadly...
hard to pick one from his library of work he did in Gen X, and then with Steve Stevens.. he co-writer and guitar player when Billy went solo.. but Billy helped me learn about the punk scene, even with his more mainstream solo releases... the Generation X (later Gen X) albums were soundtracks for my weekends and the Rebel Yell tour at the Stanley was just fantastic! Rebel Yell the album is just a blast front to back, and I will forgive him for CyberPunk! Although technically that was a helluva album. It even came with a floppy diskette with a press kit, artwork and sound bites.. kind of huge at the time, but the album went nowhere!