Influential Albums: 456-462
Sat., Aug. 14. 2021 12:36am 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.
456. Nashville Skyline – Bob Dylan
I've been saying for years that Bob Dylan's lyrics and rhymes helped blaze the trail for rap and hip hop, and Public Enemy sort of confirmed that with their 2007 tribute song, "The Long and Whining Road," which name checks more than 20 titles of Dylan songs and LPs, including this one. But the Nashville Skyline album features Dylan in full-fledged country mode. For those of you who don't think he can sing at all, I challenge you to listen to it, particularly the songs "To Be Alone with You, "I Threw It All Away," "Peggy Day," "One More Night," "Tell Me It Isn't True," "Country Pie," and "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here with You." I love every one of those tracks, and you'll hear a very different voice than you've come to expect. The album's two most famous songs, however, are the opening tracks on side one and side two — "Lay, Lady, Lay" (a #7 pop hit in 1969) and "Girl from North Country," a duet with Johnny Cash. The vocals on "Lay, Lady, Lay" are decent, and it was one of the first Dylan songs I ever liked. The vocals on "Girl from North Country" aren't bad until the last minute, when the two legends try to sing together. That's when mayhem sets in, of the "so bad it's good" variety. Surprisingly, Johnny Cash is more of the culprit than Bob.
457. Photographs and Memories: His Greatest Hits – Jim Croce
Photographs and Memories: His Greatest Hits was released on September 26, 1974, just a year and a week after Jim Croce died in a plane crash. As I mentioned very early on this list, I inherited a copy of his 1972 album You Don't Mess Around with Jim from my sisters and played it many times growing up. But that record didn't include my favorite childhood Croce classic, "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown," his first #1 song, from the summer of 1973. It was one of the very first pop songs I ever knew all of the words to. This album, which I discovered during my senior year in college, has "Leroy," plus six songs from You Don't Mess Around with Jim, including "Time in a Bottle" (#1), "You Don't Mess Around with Jim" (#8), and "Operator (That's Not the Way It Feels)" (#17). Furthermore, it features his two other wonderful Top 10 hits, "I Got a Name" (#10) and "I'll Have to Say I Love You in a Song" (#9), and two additional Top 40 hits, "One Less Set of Footsteps" and "Workin' at the Car Wash Blues." A few other favorites of mine that aren't on either of the albums I've mentioned are "Alabama Rain," "Dreamin' Again," and "It Doesn't Have to Be That Way," which were all on his Life and Times album.
458. Night Moves – Bob Seger
This 1976 album was the one where everything finally came together for Bob Seger. He'd had a Top 20 hit in 1968 with "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" (an old favorite of mine) but hadn't been able to crack the Top 40 again, although he'd come close with "Katmandu" (#43) in 1975 (I bought that single in 1986). The title track from Night Moves was released in December '76 and hit #4 in early '77. He followed that up with "Mainstreet," which went to #24 (and #1 in Canada). ApologetiX spoofed that song in 2017. The third single, "Rock and Roll Never Forgets," just missed the Top 40, fizzling out at #41. That was hardly the end of Seger's success, however; he went on to have 16 more Top 40 hits in the ensuing years. Somewhere down the line, I bought the Night Moves cassette, which features a number of other classic-rock staples, including "The Fire Down Below," "Sunspot Baby," and "Come to Poppa." It also includes a cover version of an oldie I liked, "Mary Lou," a #26 hit in 1959 for Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks. After parting ways with Ronnie, The Hawks became Bob Dylan's backing band when he went electric in the mid-60's before renaming themselves The Band. We'll hear from them later on this list.
459. Beatles '65 - The Beatles
I can't remember for sure if I owned a vinyl copy of Beatles '65 — I may have gotten it in that huge haul from my brother-in-law Dan — but I know I had a cassette that featured most of the tracks. It was from a radio documentary segment I'd taped in 1979 or '80 about the U.K. album Beatles for Sale, which included eight of the 11 songs on Beatles '65 and had a much cooler album cover (in fact, I have a t-shirt based on that cover). And I knew the other three songs, because they were big hits — "I Feel Fine" and "She's a Woman" were a double-sided single, and "I'll Be Back" was part of the Stars on 45 medley that went to #1 in 1981. Here's a prime example of the glut of hits The Beatles had: "She's a Woman" went to #4 on the pop charts, yet you almost never see it on their hits compilations. "I Feel Fine" went to #1. ApologetiX spoofed both of them in the 1990's. My favorite non-hits were "No Reply" (also on the Stars on 45 medley), "I'm a Loser," and "I'll Follow the Sun," a song I'd first heard on a "Beatles A-to-Z" radio special back in 1978. I also liked "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby," but I already knew that one from Rock 'n' Roll Music compilation I owned. I'd been warned about "Mr. Moonlight" by a classmate in eighth grade; he said it was the worst of all The Beatles' songs. That's debatable, but I will say it's my least indispensable track on this album.
460. The Dream Weaver – Gary Wright
I bought this record by ex-Spooky Tooth member Gary Wright at an indoor flea market in Latrobe PA during the winter of 1982-83. Released in 1975, The Dream Weaver had a #2 hit leading off each side — "Love is Alive" and "Dream Weaver." Believe it or not, it wasn't the first non-anthology album to accomplish that feat. The Carpenters did it in 1971 on their album Carpenters, with the songs "Rainy Days and Mondays" and "Superstar." They weren't the first, either; Creedence Clearwater did it in 1969 on Green River (another album I owned) with "Green River" and "Bad Moon Rising." Anyway, those two Gary Wright songs were so awesome, who cares what the rest of the thing sounded like? Actually, with Gary singing and playing on every song, and with keyboards and synths dominating the mix, the rest of it sounded very much like its aforementioned singles. Although the album was released in 1975, those songs didn't become hits until the spring and summer of '76. The main other track I remember is "Can't Find the Judge," although I just took a listen again, and "Power of Love" is pretty catchy. There was also a third single, "Made to Love You," but it only went to #79. Wright just missed the Top 40 with the "The Light of Smiles" (#43), the first single of his next album. However, he did score a comeback hit in 1981 when "Really Wanna Know You" went to #16.
461. Seven Separate Fools – Three Dog Night
I bought a used copy of this record at that same time and place I got The Dream Weaver, Born to Run, and Damn the Torpedoes. The "seven" in the title presumably refers to the members of Three Dog Night. Although they are often thought of as a trio, they were actually a septet. Released in 1972, Seven Separate Fools included two Top 40 hits, "Black and White" (#1) and "Pieces of April" (#19). I remember buying sheet music for "Black and White" as a gift for my sister Kris at a music store in Greensburg PA called Butz Music Center. That place's name always made me giggle. I also bought my first kazoo there; longtime ApologetiX fans know how important that was. I also remember my sister Gayle liking "Pieces of April." I think both of those songs are great, and not just because my sisters said so. My other favorite tracks on this album are: "In Bed," "Midnight Runaway," "Freedom for the Stallion," and "My Old Kentucky Home," and not just because my wife is from Kentucky. After all, I got this album 17 years before I met her. Boss Beach Boy Brian Wilson ranked Seven Separate Fools #3 on his all-time Top 10 favorite records in a 2016 interview.
462. Talk Show – The Go-Go's
Released in March 1984, Talk Show was the third album by The Go-Go's, and I bought the lead single, "Head Over Heels," immediately. Over 35 years later, I'm still not sick of that song. I remember following its progress on the charts and being disappointed when it just missed the Top 10, conking out at #11. Love the piano throughout, love that bass solo. "Head Over Heels" plays a prominent role in one of my wife's favorite movies, 13 Going on 30, a 2004 romcom that even I enjoyed. But back to Talk Show, I'm pretty sure I bought that album used at Backstreet Records at IUP in '85 or '86. I also enjoyed the second and third singles, "Turn to You" (#32) and "Yes or No" (#84). The rest of the songs are all decent — I particularly remember "You Thought" and "Mercenary" — but the overall album isn't quite as distinct as the previous two Go-Go's LPs. I would later buy their Greatest Hits album in 1990, even though it didn't have any songs that weren't on the first three albums. I also bought lead singer Belinda Carlisle's single, "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" shortly after it came out in September 1987.
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.