Influential Albums: Wks 47-48
Sat., Apr. 10. 2021 3:24pm EDT
J. Jackson, lead singer and lyricist for ApologetiX here again.
Here are the latest entries in the "albums that influenced me" series I started writing in May 2020. They are not listed in order of preference or excellence, but in chronological order of when they influenced me, as best as I can recall.
323. Beggar's Banquet – The Rolling Stones
This 1968 release was the first of four phenomenal Stones studio albums in a row. I'd already purchased the other three the previous summer. You probably know the opening tracks on each side, "Sympathy for the Devil" and "Street Fightin' Man," but there were eight others. The ones that really stood out for me were "No Expectations," "Jigsaw Puzzle," "Stray Cat Blues," and "Salt of the Earth."
324. Animalization – The Animals
When I tried out for and joined my first post-college band, Bebaru, one of the songs they introduced me to was "Don't Bring Me Down" by The Animals. Now, I already knew "Don't Bring Me Down" by ELO, and I already owned The Best of The Animals, but this is a totally different song (a #12 hit in 1966) that wasn't featured on the aforementioned album, because it came out six months afterward. Anyway, I loved the song, so I bought Animalization, which also included two other Top 40 hits that came out after The Best of, "See See Rider" (#10) and "Inside-Looking Out" (#34). Although hailing from England, the band's lead singer would move to California and form "Eric Burden and the Animals" after this album. That second incarnation of The Animals would produce several more great hit songs, including "When I Was Young," "San Franciscan Nights," "Monterey," and "Sky Pilot." I knew those tunes already and had them on homemade cassettes by the time I got Animalization. Other memorable non-hits on this album included "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show," "She'll Return It," and "What Am I Living For."
325. 10 from 6 – Bad Company
Here's my gripe: There are indeed 10 songs on this "best of," but they only came from five of BadCo's first six albums. So it's really 10 from 5, not 10 from 6. For some reason, the record company passed on the chance to use the great title track from the band's fourth album, "Burnin' Sky," even though it was a single. Sure, it only went to #78 on the pop charts, but it gets played plenty on FM rock stations. Oh, well, I guess you could argue that false advertising is a bad company practice. As Tom Dellaquila reminded me a while back, I was so annoyed that this collection didn't include the Top 40 hit "Good Lovin' Gone Bad," I taped over my store-bought copy and replaced the non-hit "Live for the Music" with it. Dude, how could they include that song from Run with the Pack and not "Young Blood" or "Silver, Blue & Gold"? With that being said, there were plenty of great tunes on this one, including five that ApologetiX has spoofed, "Feel Like Makin' Love," "Can't Get Enough," "Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy," "Shooting Star," and "Bad Company." That would be 5 from 3.
326. Between the Buttons – The Rolling Stones
I was working my way backward on Stones albums, but I skipped their releases from June and December 1967 — one was a compilation and the other was notorious for being a musical misstep (I already had songs from each of them on other collections) — and went straight to Between the Buttons, from January '67. I already had the two hits, "Ruby Tuesday" and "Let's Spend the Night Together," on Hot Rocks. The "new" tracks that appealed to me the most were "Yesterday's Papers," "She Smiled Sweetly," and "All Sold Out."
327. Aftermath – The Rolling Stones
Released in June 1966, Aftermath is what many would call the first great Stones album. I thought it was decent, but maybe the greatness was dulled for me by the fact that I was already so familiar with its biggest hits, "Paint It, Black," "Under My Thumb," "Lady Jane." I'd loved all three of those songs when I first heard them almost a decade earlier, but I'd worn them out on compilations and homemade cassettes. The U.K. release also had "Mother's Little Helper" and "Out of Time" (a great tune), but I had the U.S. release. The non-hits I remember most are "Think," "Stupid Girl," "High and Dry," and "I Am Waiting." The album closer, "Going Home," was 11:35 in length — 14 seconds longer than Bob Dylan's "Desolation Row" — making it the longest recording in popular music at the time. It's also generally recognized as the first extended improvisation by a major act in rock music. I confess that I thought it was a bit of a snoozer at the time.
328. Licensed to Ill – The Beastie Boys
The first time I ever heard the name "The Beastie Boys" was in the summer of 1985 in an issue of Billboard magazine, when they were the opening act on Madonna's big tour. I thought it was one of the dumbest group names I'd ever heard. Little did I know that The Beastie Boys embraced stupidity. In fact, they reveled in it. Fast forward to the winter of 1986-87 when I first saw the video for "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!)" — I was instantly smitten, as I was embracing a bit of stupidity myself at the time. I immediately went out and bought the single. Not long after that, I heard the Licensed to Ill album being played in a record store. I was extremely amused by the Beasties' irreverent, absurd brand of humor and their amazing, incongruous use of samples in their songs — Led Zeppelin (multiple times), Creedence Clearwater Revival and the themes from Green Acres and Mr. Ed?!!! Sign me up! I bought it that very day. ApologetiX eventually spoofed The Beasties with "Fight for Your Right to Parody" in 2015. Although this should not be considered a blanket endorsement by any means, my other favorite tracks circa 1987 were "Rhymin & Stealin," "She's Crafty," "Girls," "No Sleep till Brooklyn," "Brass Monkey," and "Time to Get Ill."
329. Raising Hell – Run DMC
I gotta tell ya: Run DMC's version of "Walk This Way" didn't exactly wow me. It was hard to beat Aerosmith's original, although I was glad to at least have that song back on the pop charts in some form. However, I loved the two follow-up singles from this album, "You Be Illin'" and "It's Tricky." That eventually led me to the title track from their previous album, "King of Rock," which became another favorite tune for me. Although I never saw it coming, not too long afterward, I would be writing and performing a biblical rap tune about The Old Testament — "Old T. Rappin'" — and performing it at the campus Catholic church of my alma mater. When ApologetiX spoofed "Walk This Way" years later, we did the Aerosmith version, but when we spoofed The Monkees' "Mary, Mary," we did add a little bit of rap in the intro as a nod to Run DMC's version of that tune.
330. Rap's Greatest Hits - Various Artists
Believe it or not, the first person who ever told me about rap was my mother. She'd read an article about it in the newspaper and said it was supposed to be the next big thing. Talking over music instead of singing? The concept sounded absurd. Rap's influence soon started creeping into pop music with tunes like — ironically — "Pop Muzik" by M and "Rapture" by Blondie. I like those two tunes, but my first experience with full-fledged rap was "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. During the fall of my freshman year at IUP, my roommate, Kevin Bailey, played that record so much I had it memorized. I loved it and can still recite most of the lyrics. By early 1987, after I started getting into The Beastie Boys and Run DMC, I was eager to hear some more rap, and my friend Newell McNair let me borrow Rap's Greatest Hits, a 10-song compilation. My favorite tracks were "King of Rock" by Run DMC (mentioned in the previous entry on this list), "Fat Boys" by The Fat Boys, and "A Fly Girl" by The Boogie Boys. For a complete song listing, go to https://genius.com/albums/Various-artists/Raps-greatest-hits
331. The Collection - Amy Grant
In the spring of 1985, during my junior year in college, I participated in a production of Godspell at the campus Catholic Church, the Newman Center, located right up the street from the house where I lived. I also joined the worship team there. In the spring of '86, many of us were recruited to be a part of a Christian singing group called Oremus, and we did a show based on something called The Amy Grant Choral Collection. I had a tape of our performance, and one morning in early '87, I popped it in my cassette deck on my morning commute from Greensburg PA to my job in Latrobe PA. It was a beautiful, sunny (but cold) day, and the song "Angels" came on, and I felt something inside of me (I did not hear an audible voice) say, "Start reading the Bible; it's true." And so I did. And I really enjoyed it. As we'll see in entries to come, there would still be more stops on my long and winding road. But this was a significant moment. Six of the songs from the aforementioned Choral Collection wound up on this similarly titled album, The Collection, which came out in the summer of '86, but I don't think I bought it till early 1988. Note: I write these entries a couple weeks before I post them, and I try to do them chronologically, so I didn't specifically plan for this to be my Easter entry. But it worked out perfectly, didn't it?
332. Walk That Talk – Tom Franzak
Once I started reading the Bible and enjoying it in early 1987, I decided to visit my old high-school buddy Dave Rider, who had always been serious about matters of the faith and was in seminary by that time. Dave let me borrow two cassettes he owned by a Christian artist named Tom Franzak. I really liked them a lot. Walk That Talk was the older of the two, from 1983. It had a great mix of serious and humorous songs and I found them quite inspirational. Although I later set aside my spiritual quest for almost a year, I kept those tapes, and they would play a pivotal role in my own walk with God. I have many favorites from this release, but I'll name a few: "Walk That Talk," "The Call," "Messiah," "(You're Only as) Sick as Your Secrets," "Just Passing Through," "Thank You for Loving Me," oh, I liked the whole thing. And "I Know What Love's About" still cracks me up.
333. Shadowboxing – Tom Franzak
This was the second of the two Tom Franzak releases my friend Dave Rider lent me. Released in 1985, Shadowboxing had a little more of a mid-80's sheen to it. All nine of its songs bring back great memories, but a couple of them especially affected me at the time. One was the title track, which dealt with the battles we face in everyday life while trying to serve God (temptation, etc.) and the other was "Soon to Be a Major Attraction," which had a line in it that said, "Talk about depressing — how about waking up at 40 — looking back at 20 years of wasted time." I was 22 when I first heard those words, but they stuck with me. Back then, I was 18 years shy of 40, and now I'm 16 years past 40 — I'm so glad God intervened in my life when He did. Tom Franzak was based in Los Angeles when he released those cassettes, but he was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and he eventually returned. Although originally from the eastern side of the state near Philadelphia, he moved to the western side near Pittsburgh. I didn't know that at the time, but I saw a notice that he would be playing at a church in our area, so I went to see the concert. Afterward, I had the pleasure of meeting him in person and telling him the impact he'd made in my life. We met again in 2000 and 2004, and I try to send him a note every few years to remind him how much his music has meant to me.
334. The Joshua Tree – U2
Eventually, I got a little burned out from my spiritual quest. I had been endeavoring to live a pretty ascetic life — basically trying to make myself good enough for God — and that only gets you so far, especially when you're facing the temptations of a 22-year-old single guy. I basically sent up a prayer and said, "God, if You're up there, please have mercy on me and come back for me, but I have to go out and look for answers elsewhere." This biblical quote from Solomon pretty much sums up how I spent the rest of the year: "I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom, and also madness and folly" (Ecclesiastes 2:10-12a). The one "spiritual" album I did allow myself to listen to was U2's latest release at the time, The Joshua Tree. It was a bit less challenging than Amy Grant and Tom Franzak. but it still allowed me to yearn for something bigger than myself without having to really get serious about it. My favorite songs were "Where the Streets Have No Name," "Red Hill Mining Town," "In God's Country," "Trip Through Your Wires," and the incredible "One Tree Hill." I saw U2 in concert later that year at Three Rivers Stadium on October 13, 1987. I also started to get serious about learning to play the electric guitar, and this was an album I used to try to play along with (no lead parts, though), especially side two.
335. Saint Julian – Julian Cope
Don't be fooled by the title; Julian was not your typical "saint." This album had nothing to do with any of the Christian music I'd dabbled in. Wikipedia describes Cope as "an outspoken political and cultural activist with a noted and public interest in occultism and paganism." I didn't know that when I bought this album (although I knew it wasn't a Christian album), but I probably wouldn't have cared at the time. I'd heard the song "World Shut Your Mouth" (#84 pop, #22 rock) and thought it was crazy catchy. Then I heard side one of the album it came from in a record store and liked every song, so I bought it, and found side two to be almost as catchy. But there's something very dark about Saint Julian, particularly songs on side two like "A Crack in the Clouds," "Screaming Secrets," and the title track. I'm sure the music is as infectious as ever, but I'm a word guy, and I just can't sing along with Julian anymore. It wasn't just his lyrics; there was a certain vibe to the songs that started disturbing me. Not the music itself but the songs as a whole. But it was a very influential album for me at the time, and that's why it's on this list, which documents my musical journey and how it influenced my life.
336. Louder Than Bombs – The Smiths
One day I heard a song I really liked on the local alternative station … sung by some guy who said he was "sixteen, clumsy and shy" and had checked himself in at the YWCA. Somehow I found out it was The Smiths, although I had no idea what the title was. Their most recent release at the time was Louder Than Bombs, a reasonably priced double-album, so I took a calculated risk and bought it. As it turned out, the song I'd heard was indeed on this album (it's called "Half a Person"), and there were a bunch of others I liked just as much if not more. I didn't know it at the time, but Louder Than Bombs was actually a compilation of Smiths singles and B-sides, made especially for the United States, although it later become available in the United Kingdom as well. I was quite entertained by Morrissey's lyrics (and titles) and Johnny Marrs' guitars. I liked just about all of the tracks, but my favorites included "Is It Really So Strange?" "William, It Was Really Nothing," "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now," "Ask," and "Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want," which was also on the Pretty in Pink soundtrack.
Note: Just because the albums on my list influenced me back then doesn't mean I give them all a blanket endorsement now. I started actively listening to music in the early 70's and didn't become a born-again Christian until early 1988. However, we are currently into 1987, so you'll start seeing more Christian albums here soon enough