Influential Albums: Wk 49
Sat., Apr. 17. 2021 1:40pm 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.
337. Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy – Elton John
I knew about this album, had seen the cover many times in the record store, and was quite familiar with "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" from the radio and from Elton's Greatest Hits Volume II … but the thing that finally got me to buy it was hearing the title track for the first time on the local classic rock station in the spring of 1987. How in the world had I missed such an incredible Elton John song, which had already been out for 12 years by then? I loved the music and the lyrics, which captured my rock-and-roll dream scenario. And it also included two great songs about writing songs — "Bitter Fingers" and "Writing" — something I loved to do. Other tracks that really got me going were "(Gotta Get A) Meal Ticket," "Tell Me When the Whistle Blows," and … gee whiz, I love all 10 tracks. In fact, this is probably my favorite Elton John album of all, which is really saying something, considering how much I like Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.
338. One Way Home - The Hooters
This album came out in July 1987. As much as I like Nervous Night, I think I like One Way Home even more. Nervous Night had four singles that all did better on the Billboard Hot 100 than anything on this album, but the big three from One Way Home — "Johnny B" (#61 pop, #3 rock), "Satellite" (#61 pop, #13 rock), and "Karla with a K" (#47 rock) — are all really great songs. Furthermore, there's also "Fightin' on the Same Side," "Washington's Day," "Hard Rockin' Summer," "Engine 999," and the title track. I'm sorry; I just can't take the one other song, "Graveyard Waltz," seriously. The music was good and the concept was interesting, but he lost me as soon as he sang, "we danced so close, we were teenage ghosts." I couldn't keep a straight face; it sounded too much like something from Casper or Scooby-Doo.
339. This is Spinal Tap (Original Soundtrack) – Spinal Tap
My old college roommate and housemate Lance Craig and I visited our old housemate Dave Anthony in New York City in the summer of '87. I was so impressed that Dave had moved to the Big Apple on his own. After all, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. While we were there, we rented This Is Spinal Tap on video. Dave and his New York buddies had already seen it but were eager to share the experience with us first-timers. Nobody needed to persuade me. I'd heard a lot about that movie, and it lived up to the hype. I've seen it countless times since then. Most people I know who've played in rock bands (whether famous or obscure) can quote from This is Spinal Tap at length. I certainly can. This soundtrack album includes full-length versions of just about all of the songs featured in the movie, from the earliest days of the band ("Gimme Some Money," "Cups and Cakes," and "Listen to the Flower People") to their heavy-metal heyday, ("Hell Hole, "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight" and "Stonehenge"). There were 11 tracks when I had my copy, and anybody who's familiar with the film would recognize them all, and they've since added a bonus track or two.
340. Rush – Rush
I got a kick out of the first Rush album — the only one without Neal Peart — when I finally gave it a listen after buying it as a discount cassette. Musicians may instantly notice the difference in the drumming; I instantly noticed the difference in the lyrics. I can't imagine Neal ever writing songs that said, "Need your — love!" and "I feel I'm in the mood." With that being said, the music for those two songs ("Need Your Love" and "In the Mood") ain't bad at all. The whole album packs a real whallop. My jam on this album was "Finding My Way." I also liked "Take a Friend" and "What You're Doing." And anybody who grew up listening to classic rock ought to know "Working Man."
341. The River – Bruce Springsteen
This double-album should have appeared a lot earlier on my list, although not as early as you might expect. I got into The River in the summer of 1984, almost four years after it came out. My co-worker Drew Vosefski got to me to go see Springsteen in concert and lent me some old albums (I already owned Born to Run), and I made myself cassette copies. I'd liked "Hungry Heart" when it was a hit in 1980 but wasn't too keen on the follow-up single, "Fade Way." The most memorable non-hits for me on The River were "The Ties That Bind" (I can see why Bruce chose it to be the first of the 20 songs the listener would hear), "Out in the Street," "Cadillac Ranch," "Point Blank," and the title track. Bruce was a heck of a storyteller both on stage and on vinyl; he really inspired me as a young lyricist. I later remember hearing "Out in the Street" performed by one of the characters on the soap opera Guiding Light (no, I wasn't a regular watcher) in the spring of 1985. Let's just say I preferred the original. As far as other cover versions go, the last secular band I was in, Nice Piranha, used to played "Cadillac Ranch" in 1987. ApologetiX eventually spoofed "Hungry Heart" in 2021.
342. Bangin' – The Outfield
I learned to juggle (sort of) while listening to this album. I was preparing for some stand-up comedy performances (my second year of doing so) at the Westmoreland County Arts & Heritage Festival. Bangin' came out in late June 1987, and I bought it soon after, because I loved its predecessor, Play Deep. Like my brief stand-up comedy career, Bangin' was a bit of a letdown, although it was pleasant enough to listen to. The "hit" was a song called "Since You've Been Gone," which went to #31 on the Billboard Hot 100. That was the last track on side two. As a former reporter, I would consider that "burying the lead," wouldn't you? Well, now that I think about it, maybe that wasn't such a bad idea. If you owned the cassette, as I did, it forced you to listen to the whole album, leading you on like a power-pop carrot on a stick. My favorite songs turned out to be the first two tracks: "Somewhere in America" and "Bangin' on My Heart," which is one of my favorite songs on any Outfield album (and I've heard them all). Before you ask, I have no idea what in the world the cover had to do with any of the contents. You could spend a lot of time bangin' your head against the wall trying to figure that out.
343. Graceland – Paul Simon
I think I borrowed this from my old friend Keith Cornell in 1987 after hearing the song "Graceland" on the radio. I'm pretty sure I'd already heard "You Can Call Me Al" by then. That song was released in August 1986 — the same time as the album — but it didn't become a hit till many months later, peaking at #23 hit in May '87. Both of those tunes are great, but that's only scratching the surface this record … and you don't want to do that! Even though I was a longtime fan of Simon & Garfunkel and Paul's solo work, I was amazed by what he had come up with. His lyrics were as witty as ever — no surprise there — but the music was so vibrant and exotic. My other favorites: "The Boy in the Bubble" (an incredible marriage of words and music), "I Know What I Know," "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes," "I Know What I Know," "Homeless," "That Was Your Mother," and "All Around the World or the Myth of Fingerprints."
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 well into 1987 now, so you'll start seeing more Christian albums here soon enough.