Influential Albums: 386-392
Fri., Jun. 4. 2021 4:58pm 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. Rather than listing the albums in order of preference or excellence, I've been listing them in chronological order of when they influenced me, as best as I recall. We are well into 1987 now, and you'll start seeing a lot of Christian albums once we get to 1988.
However, I've recently realized that I neglected to include many influential albums along the way, so I'm going to catching up on those for a while before we get to that momentous moment in '88 when my life and musical trajectory was forever changed. You'll still see plenty of secular albums after that, but music was never the same for me after.
386. Barry Manilow Live – Barry Manilow
I believe my sister Kris had this double album on 8-track, and that's where I heard it. Released in 1977, Barry Manilow Live became Barry's first #1 LP. The hit single from it was "Daybreak," which I'd heard and liked on the radio, but the other songs that grabbed me were "Jump Shout Boogie Medley" and "A Very Strange Medley" (a.k.a. VSM), a medley of well-known commercial jingles he wrote and/or performed before becoming a pop star. I really enjoyed the way Barry interacted with his audience. He was one of the few 70's pop stars who consistently came up with songs my mom liked, most notably "Weekend in New England," "I Write the Songs," "Copacabana," and "Can't Smile Without You." I think she probably made me sing each of those at one time or another (actually, numerous times) while she played the piano in our living room. Years later, I occasionally sang "Can't Smile Without You" a cappella during soundcheck before ApologetiX concerts to amuse the other guys in the band and the crew. For the record, my favorite Manilow tunes are "Could It Be Magic," "Mandy," and "It's a Miracle." And I've been saying for years that I'd like to do a spoof of "Looks Like We Made It" about Adam and Eve after they ate the forbidden fruit and their eyes were opened. I'd call it "Looks Like We're Naked." Incidentally, Barry finally had a second #1 LP in 2004: "Greatest Songs of the Fifties."
387. Phoenix – Dan Fogelberg
I think I picked up a used copy of this album while I was in college. It did have a #2 hit ("Longer") on it, after all. It also had the #21 hit "Heart Hotels," which went to #3 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. They played both of those on my favorite FM station back in 1980 along with another song that was anything but adult contemporary, the hard-rocking "Face the Fire." The seven-minute-plus title track on Phoenix is very strong, too (reminds me of mid-70's Eagles), so don't write Dan Fogelberg off as just some wimpy balladeer. My college friend Barb Hunter also liked the track one on side two, "Wishing on the Moon." My first exposure to Fogelberg was "The Power of Gold," a #24 hit he had along with Tim Weisberg in late '78. I liked that one a lot. He'd had a Top 40 hit three years earlier, "Part of the Plan" (#31), but I wasn't listening to the radio attentively enough back then to know much more than the biggest pop hits. My sister Gayle got into him while she was in graduate school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the same college Fogelberg had attended a little over a decade earlier. That's how I first found out about his Nether Lands album. I think the title track from that LP is beautiful. I ended up buying Gayle his double-album The Innocent Age for Christmas in 1981, I think. It contained three Top 10 hits — "Same Old Lang Syne," "Hard to Say," and "Leader of the Band" — and another that hit the Top 20, "Run for the Roses." But once I met Tom Dellaquila early in my freshman year at IUP in the fall of '82, I realized that my sister merely dabbled in Dan … Tom was fully immersed in Fogelberg. He even got me to draw a full-color portrait of the guy. That October, the inevitable Greatest Hits album arrived, with two new Top 40 hits — "Missing You" (#23) and "Make Love Stay" (#29). I especially liked "Missing You." I also liked the lead single from his follow-up album in 1984, a #13 hit called "Language of Love." The most-recent single I remember hearing by him was "She Don't Look Back" (#84 pop, #13 rock in 1987); Tom had the 45 while we were bandmates sharing an apartment that year. Sadly, Dan died of cancer in December 2007 at the age of 56, but, as far as I know, Tom remained a loyal fan to the end.
388. Wild Planet – The B-52's
I bought a cassette copy of this 1980 release at the IUP campus bookstore in 1984. Wild Planet was the second album by the self-described "tacky little dance band from Athens GA." I didn't own their first album, but Wild Planet was still my second B-52's purchase, because I'd previously bought a reissue single of "Rock Lobster," a #56 "hit" from their eponymous debut. The flip side of that single was "Private Idaho" a #74 "hit" from this album. Tom Dellaquila had told me about several of the other songs — "Party Out of Bounds," "Devil in My Car," "Quiche Lorraine," and "53 Miles West of Venus" — and they sounded funny. Indeed, they were. "Runnin' Around" was amusing, too. Surprisingly though, my favorite track turned out be a rather low-key song called "Dirty Back Road." The B-52's wouldn't have their big breakthrough till 1989, when their fifth album, Cosmic Thing, spawned the mega-hits "Love Shack" and "Roam." Both went to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. ApologetiX spoofed the first of those (with the group Everlife providing the female vocals), and it became one of our most popular parodies.
389. Ram – Paul and Linda McCartney
I bought "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" as an oldies 45 in 1978 (while visiting my sister Kris in New Jersey, the same day I bought the Grease soundtrack album) and immediately also loved the flip side, "Too Many People." That's the opening track on McCartney's second solo album (although it's attributed to both him and Linda), Ram. I didn't listen to the rest of the album till my junior or senior year in college, but was pleasantly surprised when I finally did, considering the overall consensus of the critics back then. It was goofy at times, unpolished and experimental at others, but so was "The White Album." I'm not equating Ram with that classic, but it does have quite a few non-hit songs I really like, including "Monkberry Moon Delight," "Smile Away," "Eat at Home," and "Heart of the Country." There were others I also enjoyed, but those were my four favorites. Time has been very kind to this album. When it first came out in 1971, Rolling Stone called it "incredibly inconsequential" and "monumentally irrelevant"; In 2013, they called it a "daffy masterpiece" and "a grand psychedelic ramble full of divine melodies and orchestral frippery." In 2020, the same magazine named it one of their 500 greatest albums of all time.
390. Greatest Hits: Rock 'n Soul Part 1 – Daryl Hall & John Oates
Released in October 1983, this compilation was noteworthy because it contained two new songs and both of them hit the Top 10: "Say It Isn't So" (#2) and "Adult Education" (#8). In fact, 11 of the 12 tracks on Rock 'n Soul Part 1 were Top 10 hits. The remaining track, "Wait for Me," was a live version of an old hit that had gone to #18. For some reason, they left off "Family Man" (maybe because neither of them wrote it) and "Did It in a Minute" (which Hall did co-write) or it would have had 13 Top 10 hits. And Darryl and John still had three more Top 10 hits up their sleeve. Ironically, a fourth future song that went to #11 was titled "So Close." ApologetiX has spoofed three of the tunes on this album, "Rich Girl," "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)," and "Maneater," all of which went to #1. There were two other #1 songs on it, "Kiss on My List," and "Private Eyes." But there was another #1 yet to come.
391. Flesh and Blood – Roxy Music
I heard Roxy Music's "The Midnight Hour" (their cover of the classic "In the Midnight Hour") on the radio in late 1980 and just had to have my own copy. I'd never heard of the band before, but the man at the record store had. He expressed his approval as I bought the 45. Although Roxy Music did have a U.S. Top 30 hit in 1975 with "Love Is the Drug," my purchase of The Midnight Hour" only got it as far as #106 on the Billboard Hot 100. My friend Michael Ranieri seldom bought anything as pedestrian as a 45 (unless it was a rare, imported, Clash 45), and he was well acquainted with Roxy Music, so he later lent me his copy of Flesh and Blood. In addition to "Midnight Hour" and its flip side, "Flesh and Blood," the album had a cover version of The Byrds classic "Eight Miles High" to attract my interest. Speaking of covers and attraction, that album art with two blonde ladies throwing javelins didn't hurt, either, when trying to get a 16-year-old guy's attention. But the music is what matters, especially now. Besides, I have my own beautiful, flesh-and-blood, blonde lady now to keep me on point and on track ... and she's about 20 years younger than those ladies! My favorite track on this album is "Oh Yeah," which is one of my favorite songs, period. It went to #102 in the U.S. but #5 in the U.K. Other memorable tracks included "Over You" and "Same Old Scene." There would be more Roxy Music in my future, but not for a while. Those guys had 11 Top Ten hits in the U.K. and seven others that hit the Top 40, so I still had some exploring left to do.
392. Tusk – Fleetwood Mac
Although I had purchased Fleetwood Mac's eponymous 1976 LP and their 1977 mega-seller, Rumours, of my own volition, their 1979 album, Tusk, was an unexpected "gift" from the Columbia House Record Club. Thanks for the two-record set, Columbia; how much do I owe you for that? Hoo boy. Even though the title track was released as the first single and went to #8, it took a little while to grow on me. The second single, "Sarah," was pretty and went to #7, but it ran a bit long to hold my attention for its entire 6:22 running time. The third single, "Think About Me," just barely made the Top 20, but was quite likable and listenable. I never heard the fourth single, "Sisters of the Moon," on the radio, which may explain why it only went to #86. Or vice versa. The other memorable tracks on this album for me were "Over and Over," "Not That Funny," and "The Ledge." These days, many music critics hail Tusk as an experimental masterpiece. But they also say that about McCartney II. Just sayin' … what they're sayin' … peace out!
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 '88. However, I hope you'll see (as I do) how God's hand was at work behind the scenes from the start, preparing me for the work I believe He intended for me to do.