Influential Albums: 400-406
Fri., Jun. 18. 2021 7:08pm 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 were well into 1987, and you'll start seeing a lot of Christian albums once we get to 1988.
However, in May 2021, I realized that I'd neglected to include many influential albums along the way, so I've been 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.
400. Greatest Hits - Helen Reddy
I think Jeff Henry's mom owned this one, too, and I'm guessing that I borrowed it from him at some point for taping purposes, but my initial exposure to Helen Reddy was through the radio, television, and my sister Kris. All 10 tracks on this 1975 compilation were hit singles, including three #1 songs on the Billboard Hot 100: "I Am Woman," "Delta Dawn," and "Angie Baby." There were three other Top 10 hits: "Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress)" (#3), "Ain't No Way to Treat a Lady" (#8), and "You and Me Against the World" (#9). Three others hit the Top 15: "Peaceful" (#12), "I Don't Know How to Love Him" (#13), and "Keep on Singing" (#15). You may not remember that last one, but I have distinct memories of my sister singing it. Even the lowest-charting song on this album, "Emotion," just barely missed the Top 20 (#22). And it went to #1 on the adult contemporary charts, as did six other songs on Greatest Hits, and two went to #2. My daughter Heather is a big fan of "Delta Dawn," "Angie Baby," and "Leave Me Alone." I also know of an alum member of ApologetiX who had a serious crush on Helen Reddy for her role in the 1977 Disney musical film Pete's Dragon. I was more captivated by "Angie Baby"; that was one strange story-song. It was written by Alan O'Day, who wrote another #1 song for himself that I really dug in '77, "Undercover Angel." Reddy had three other Top 40 hits that came out after this album, and they went to #1, #2, and #5 on the adult contemporary charts. She was woman, and if you were around in the 70's, you definitely heard her roar. A lot.
401. Oklahoma! - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
And you thought the only Shirley Jones entries on this list were Partridge Family albums! Released in September 1955, this album spent four weeks at #1. I assimilated it thanks to my sister Kris. The numbers that have stuck with me through the years are "Kansas City," "The Surrey with the Fringe on Top," "I Cain't Say No," "Oh What a Beautiful Mornin'," and, of course, "Oklahoma." ApologetiX has played in Oklahoma 14 different times, and I'm sure that song has popped into my head a time or two. It was bound to do so sooner or later, right? The big crossover hit was "People Will Say We're in Love," which charted for Bing Crosby and Trudy Erwin (#2), Frank Sinatra (#3), and The Ink Spots (#11). Crosby and Erwin also had a hit with "Oh What a Beautiful Mornin'" (#4), as did Sinatra (#12).
402. Breaking Hearts – Elton John
I liked many of the singles Elton John put out after Greatest Hits Volume II, but I only owned a few of the albums. Of those, the 1984 release Breaking Hearts is the one I played the most. The first single, "Sad Songs (Say So Much)," became a smash success, reaching #5 on the charts. The second single, "Who Wears These Shoes," also hit the Top 20 (#16). The third single, "In Neon," just barely squeaked into the Top 40 (#38), but that was my favorite of the bunch. It had an old-time Elton feel, reminiscent of his stuff from the first half of the 70's that I love so much. Breaking Hearts produced another big U.K. hit, "Passengers," which went to #5 there but was never released as a single in the States. The two other most memorable songs for me were the first and last tracks on side one, "Restless" and "Li'l Refrigerator." I don't think the 80's production on Breaking Hearts has aged as well as his stuff from the 70's, but I'm still glad the guy stuck around. In fact, I thought the first two singles from his subsequent album, Ice on Fire, were fabulous; "Wrap Her Up" and "Nikita" are two of my favorite Elton songs on the 80's.
403. Highway to Hell – AC/DC
When I was in high school, I thought the title track from this 1979 album was unbelievably catchy (it even made it up to #47 on the pop charts), but I was scared to death of it for a couple of reasons. First, there was the subject matter itself, then there was the fact that the lead singer died six months after the album came out. Consequently, I found myself in a bit of a predicament when the guys in my first rock band, Terminal, asked me to start singing it in 1982. It's one thing to listen to somebody else sing the words "I'm on the highway to hell"; it's quite another to sing them yourself. Our lead guitarist, Mark Balchik, suggested that I could sing "I'm on the highway to jail" instead, to ease my fears and conscience. As much as I like parodies, I knew that wouldn't do. So I borrowed the cassette they gave me and learned it. It was the opening track, but I let the tape roll. I must have played it a bunch, because I remember all five songs on side one very well. The second song, "Girls Got Rhythm," was equally infectious. It was actually the first single but did not chart. Years later, ApologetiX would go on to spoof both of them. And five more AC/DC tunes from other albums. A third single from this album, "Touch Too Much," was also culled from side one and went to #106.
404. On Through the Night – Def Leppard
This 1980 album is significant because it was my introduction to Def Leppard. Considering the fact that it was their debut studio LP, it was a lot of people's introduction to Def Leppard, but I didn't discover it until 1982. The guys in my first rock band, Terminal, really liked Def Lep, so they had me borrow this record because they wanted me to learn the opening tracks on each side, "Rock Brigade" and "Wasted." Frankly, I thought the name of the band and the album cover art were kind of silly, but I was eager to please. Being a pretty straightlaced kid, I couldn't really get into the lyrics of "Wasted" (although the music was decent), but I thought "Rock Brigade" was awesome." The second songs on each side, "Hello America" and "Rocks Off," are strong, too. One of the things about this record that all the guys in Terminal got a kick out of was that, when the liner notes listed who played what, it said, "Joe Elliott, throat." Furthermore, the drummer, Rick Allen, was only 16 years old when it came out! Since we were all 17 or 18 at the time, that made anything seem possible.
405. Blizzard of Ozz – Ozzy Osbourne
The guys in Terminal had me borrow this album, too, so I could learn "Crazy Train." I think it's funny that it came out on Jet Records, since I'm so accustomed to seeing ELO records with that label. These days, Ozzy Osbourne seems as warm and fuzzy as Jeff Lynne, but back then he was kind of a scary dude, especially on tracks like "Mr. Crowley" and "Suicide Solution." By the time I borrowed Blizzard of Ozz in the first quarter of 1982, the follow-up album, Diary of a Madman, had already been out for a few months, too, and the title track from that one really gave me the creeps. But back to Blizzard of Ozz, "Crazy Train" wasn't that frightening, nor were songs like "I Don't Know" or "Goodbye to Romance." Ozzy's superstar guitarist Randy Rhoads gave a seminar/workshop just half a mile from my house on February 2, 1982. It was held at Music City, a store on the edge of my neighborhood that sold instruments and records, across the street from the convenience store where I bought most of my comic books, baseball cards, and candy. Randy's guest appearance happened right about the time I joined Terminal. I didn't attend, but Terminal's lead guitarist, Mark Balchik, did. Sadly, Randy died in a plane crash just a month and a half later. ApologetiX went on to spoof "Crazy Train" and one song each from Ozzy's next two albums.
406. Fair Warning – Van Halen
I was following Van Halen from afar for most of my high-school years. I remember when their third album, Women and Children First, was released in March 1980 and when their fifth album, Diver Down, was released in April 1982, but I somehow missed their fourth album, Fair Warning, when it came out in April 1981. This was another cassette my bandmates in Terminal had me borrow, because they wanted me to learn the song "So This Is Love?" I liked that tune immediately. It was actually released as a single but only made it to #110, bubbling under the Billboard Hot 100, although it went to #15 on the rock charts. Two other tracks hit the Top 15 on the rock charts, and those are my two other favorites and the ones you're most likely to have heard: "Mean Street" and "Unchained." The other most memorable track for me was "Sunday Afternoon in the Park," an instrumental that sounds like something out of a horror film.
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.