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11.02.23The Stories Behind the Songs on This Single

Influential Albums: 442-448
Fri., Jul. 30. 2021 2:18pm 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.

442. Best of The J. Geils Band – The J. Geils Band
As with most things pertaining to Geils, I can thank my old friend Michael Ranieri for letting me — no, making me — borrow this album, which was released in 1979. I borrowed it from him in 1980 or '81. The band had piqued my interest with their Love Stinks album, but I'd never heard the three earlier Top 40 hits on Best of The J. Geils Band — "Looking for a Love" (#39), "Give It to Me" (#30), and "Must of Got Lost" (#12). I think I may have already known "Ain't Nothin' but a House Party," though, and that song was awesome. I'd probably heard "Whammer Jammer (live)" on our local rock station, too. That's another great tune. And the album cover ... there sure is something familiar about that bowling ball. Three of the nine tracks on Best of The J. Geils Band are live, and they really showcase what a great front man Peter Wolf was. Ironically, I prefer the studio version of "Looking for a Love" rather than the live version here, but I prefer the live versions of "I Do" (on the 1982 album Showtime!) and "Must of Got Lost" (on the 1976 album Blow Your Face Out) to the studio versions here. Be that as it may, when ApologetiX spoofed "Must of Got Lost" in 2018, we did the studio version. But every time I see the way they spelled the title of that song, my blood runs cold; my grammar teacher just would scold. Oh no, I can't deny it. Oh yeah, I guess I gotta buy it.

443. Learning to Crawl – The Pretenders
I owned two Pretenders Top 20 singles that comprised 40 percent of this album — "Back on the Chain Gang/My City Was Gone" (#5) and "Middle of the Road/2000 Miles" (#19). Both sides of both singles were great. My old college housemate Dave Anthony had the whole album, and that's where I was able to access the rest of it, including my three other favorites: "Show Me" (a third single, which hit the Top 30), "Time the Avenger" (a #6 hit on the Mainstream Rock chart), and "Watching the Clothes." I have long thought that "Time the Avenger" was inspired by "Time Won't Let Me" a #5 hit in 1966 by The Outsiders. The music sounds similar to me, both song titles start with "Time," and both groups have roots in Ohio — The Outsiders were from Cleveland and Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders' lead singer, guitarist, primary songwriter, and only constant member) is from Akron, just 40 miles from Cleveland. Incidentally, the lead singer of The Outsiders, Sonny Geraci, later sang lead for Climax, with whom he had a #3 hit, "Precious and Few," in 1972.

444. Every Picture Tells a Story – Rod Stewart
I eased into this album, hits first. Tom Dellaquila owned a copy. I already knew "Maggie May" and was interested in "(Find a) Reason to Believe," because those two songs comprised one of the relatively few double-sided #1 singles in pop history. "Reason to Believe" was originally the A-side of the single and reached #62 before "Maggie May" overtook it, so some books list it as a #1 hit and others list it as a #62 hit. Regardless of chart position, it's a terrific tune. Every Picture Tells a Story also had an elegant 32-second instrumental called "Henry" that preceded "Maggie May" and really went well with it. And then there was the awesome title track, which became an all-time favorite for me. Years later, I'd get to the rest of the tracks. The second single, "(I Know) I'm Losing You," is a cover of a song that had already hit the Top 10 twice, for The Temptations and Rare Earth. Rod's version only went to #24 but takes a back seat to nobody, and the flip side, "Mandolin Wind," is a beautiful ballad and a Rod classic. On top of that, there's a wonderful cover of one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs, "Tomorrow Is a Long Time," not to be confused with "Seems Like a Long Time," another nice nugget on the same side of the album. And for the cherry on top, there's a rockin' remake of "That's All Right," the Arthur Crudup song made famous by Elvis Presley, followed inexplicably on the same track by "Amazing Grace."

445. Midnight Madness – Night Ranger
Released in October 1983, Midnight Madness was Night Ranger's second LP. My old friend Chris Marsh bought me the first single from this album, "(You Can Still) Rock in America," as a Christmas gift in 1983. It only went to #51 on the Billboard Hot 100 but hit #15 on the Mainstream Rock chart. I'd never heard it at the time, but apparently Chris felt I needed to, and it grew on me. Now, the second single "Sister Christian" was impossible to escape. It hit #5 on the pop chart and #2 on the rock chart. I wasn't a huge fan of the tune, but I found myself singing along when it came on the radio and singing it to myself even when it wasn't on. That's pretty powerful stuff. The third single, "When You Close Your Eyes," was the one I really liked. It went to #14 on the pop chart and #7 on the rock chart. Another track from the album, "Rumours in the Air," went to #26 on the rock chart. Night Ranger's follow-up album, Seven Wishes, launched three singles, too: "Sentimental Street" (#8 pop, #3 rock), "Four in the Morning (I Can't Take It Any More) (#19 pop, #13 rock), and "Goodbye" (#17 pop, #16 rock). Once again, it was the third single that got to me. I must have third-single syndrome or something. ApologetiX spoofed "Sister Christian" in 2011. We also spoofed "Don't Tell Me You Love Me," the big single from the band's first album, Dawn Patrol, in 2017. Later, we spoofed "Coming of Age," from Night Ranger bassist/vocalist Jack Blades' next band, Damn Yankees. I first heard about Night Ranger from Jerome "Z" Zider, the drummer in my first rock band, Terminal. He liked their song "Sing Me Away," the other single from Dawn Patrol. My wife, Lisa, never owned any Night Ranger albums, but she's a huge Midnight Madness fan ... if you're talking about the 1980 comedy film starring David Naughton (yeah, the guy who sang the 1979 Top 10 hit "Makin' It" and also starred in the 1981 horror classic American Werewolf in London). It also features the first film appearance of Michael J. Fox.

446. Cabaret – Original Broadway Cast Recording
My sister Gayle had a big role (Fräulein Schneider) in her college's production of Cabaret, and I remember going to see her in that. My parents may have also taken me to see Cabaret in Pittsburgh at Civic Light Opera (C.L.O.) in 1979. However, I think we had this 1967 soundtrack from the 1966 musical in our house before that. The songs I know best are "Willkommen," "The Money Song," and, of course, "Cabaret." Gayle's character sang four numbers (two solos and two duets). Of those, the most memorable for me was "So What?" Back then, Cabaret was a little edgy for this 15-year-old, although I now know it's based on a semi-autographical novel about what Berlin was really like in 1929-30 as the Nazis were rising to power. In 2020, I read a very interesting non-fiction book called Before the Deluge: A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920's, which helped me understand those times a little better. It even included a section about the play and the experiences that inspired the author of the book its based upon, Goodbye to Berlin. It also talked about and interviewed Lotte Lenya, the famous actress who originated the role my sister played. Followers of James Bond films will remember Lenya as SPECTRE agent Rosa Klebb in From Russia with Love. I first heard her name in Bobby Darin's #1 hit "Mack the Knife," where he sings, "Ooh, Miss Lotte Lenya and old Lucy Brown." That song originally came from the 1928 musical The Threepenny Opera, in which Lenya had her breakthrough role. It was written by her husband at the time, German composer Kurt Weill, although her name wasn't included in the lyrics until 1956 (six years after Weill died) when Louis Armstrong added that line while he was recording that song both as a solo and as a duet with Lenya. She also inspired another Top 40 hit, Donovan's 1968 song "Laléna" (#33).

447. The Very Best of Classics IV – Classics IV
Classics IV hit the Billboard Hot 100 a dozen times, although only five of their singles made it to the Top 40. But three of them were massive: "Traces" (#2), "Spooky" (#3), and "Stormy" (#5) in 1968-69. Two of those songs hit the Top 40 again in 1979 as remakes, "Stormy" (#32) by Santana and "Spooky" (#17) by Atlanta Rhythm Section, whose line-up included three Classics IV alumni: guitarist J.R. Cobb and keyboardist Dean Daughtry and manager/producer Buddy Buie. Meanwhile, a cover of "Traces" by The Letterman almost hit the Top 40 in 1970 (#47). One other Classics IV song you can still hear on oldies radio is "Everyday with You Girl," which went to #19. I just realized the irony: Classics IV wound up with four classics! Anyway, I bought The Very Best of Classics IV in college. It had all four of those biggies. Amusingly, in addition to "Spooky" and "Stormy," it also had a cover version of Bobby Hebb's hit "Sunny." Most of the group's hits were credited to "Classics IV Featuring Dennis Yost" or "Dennis Yost and The Classics IV." In 2004, ApologetiX played a big outdoor concert in Cincinnati, and the lady who had volunteered to run our merchandise table was very friendly, and in the course of our conversation I discovered she was Dennis Yost's wife, Linda. We had a nice talk, and she gave me his phone number and encouraged me to call him, but I chickened out. Sadly, he had an accident in 2006 and suffered serious brain trauma. He died in 2008 at the age of 65. I did talk again with Linda via Facebook in 2016, though, and discovered that her mom grew up in the same place that my dad did, a little coal-mining town called Standard Shaft, near Mount Pleasant PA.

448. Elvis' Golden Records – Elvis Presley
I first learned about this album in 1978 through a Scholastic Magazine called Bananas, when they published an article about the ten greatest albums of all time. It was the same article where I learned about Hot Rocks 1964-71 by The Rolling Stones. I finally borrowed Elvis' Golden Records from the campus library during my junior year at IUP (1984-85). That same year, I started co-hosting an oldies radio show called BackTracks at WIUP with a guy named Brian Wolfe, who went on to become a real-life radio personality and producer. Brian did all the work; I was just along for the ride. If you think I have an encyclopedic knowledge of pop music, you ought to talk to that guy. In fact, he sometimes comments on my daily album posts on Facebook, so now I really need to be on my toes with the facts! Anyway, during one show, we gave away a copy of Elvis' Golden Records, and people had to call in and answer some kind of trivia question to get it. If I recall correctly, one of the other guys who lived at my house was the person who won. I don't know if that's more reflective of the music-trivia expertise of my housemates or the size of the radio show's audience, but Brian and I both graduated to bigger and better things in music. But back to Elvis' Golden Records: Nine of the 14 songs were #1 hits: "Heartbreak Hotel," "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You," "Don't Be Cruel," "Hound Dog," "Love Me Tender," "Too Much," "All Shook Up," "(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear," and "Jailhouse Rock." One other, "Love Me," went to #2. Released in March 1958, it was the first of four volumes of "Golden Records" for the King. Not a bad start there, Elvis.

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.