Influential Albums: 540-546
Fri., Nov. 5. 2021 7:25pm 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'd 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.
540. Vital Signs – Survivor
Call it the Curse of Rocky Balboa: Survivor saw such substantial, surpassing, surprising success thanks to their themes from Rocky III ("Eye of the Tiger," which went to #1 for six weeks) and Rocky IV ("Burning Heart," which went to #2 for two weeks), that folks forget they had six other Top 40 hits, three of which also hit the Top 10. Two of them were on Survivor's 1984 album Vital Signs —"High On You" (#8) and "The Search Is Over" (#4), which also went to #1 on the adult contemporary chart for four weeks. Those were the second and third singles from that LP. The first, "I Can't Hold Back," only went to #13 on the pop chart but went to #1 on the mainstream rock chart for three weeks. I was particularly fond of "I Can't Hold Back" and "High On You." A fourth single, "First Night," stalled at #53. Those were the first four tracks on Vital Signs. It was Survivor's fifth album — their first with new vocalist Jimi Jamison — and went on to become their second most successful, selling over a million copies. The band would be back with another Top 10 hit on their next album, When Seconds Count: "Is This Love" (#9). ApologetiX has spoofed "Eye of the Tiger" twice, but I'd love to tackle the three heavyweight hits on Vital Signs, and I have parody ideas for each of them.
541. West Side Story - Original Cast Recording/Soundtrack
My first specific memory of being exposed to West Side Story was my cousin Chris Kistner playing "Gee, Officer Krupke" for me when we were both six or seven. However, I do remember seeing and hearing the album in our house. Ironically, I seem to remember seeing the Broadway original cast recording album from 1958, but I seem to remember hearing the movie soundtrack from 1961. It's more likely that we owned the latter: The Broadway album went to #5 and sold half a million copies, whereas the movie soundtrack went to #1 for 54 weeks — the most in history — and sold three million copies, making it the biggest selling album of the 60's! I've seen the movie a number of times and can't remember when I first saw it. The songs existed before I did, and "Somewhere," "Maria," and "Tonight" seem timeless anyway. But the sleeper soft song from West Side Story for me is "Something's Coming" ... it's a beauty. Of the jazzier numbers, I loved "Jet Song." I still remember the words to a parody of it that I read in Mad magazine as a kid. I've shown the movie to my wife, my older kids, and my younger kids at various times, and none of them could take the Jets and the Sharks seriously as gangs once they started dancing. They did appreciate "Gee, Officer Krupke," "America," and "I Feel Pretty," though; we Jacksons love our comedy. But my favorite song in the show may very well be "Tonight Quintet." What an incredible mash-up! I get chills listening to that one.
542. Chicago 17 – Chicago
Chicago had five #1 albums. Chicago 17 wasn't one of them (it peaked at #4), but it was their biggest seller ... six million copies ... probably the only time in rock history that an artist had to wait till their 17th album to achieve their greatest commerical success. Released in 1984, Chicago 17 had several things in common with Van Halen's 1984, which came out the same year (duh). Van Halen had five #1 albums, too, but 1984 wasn't one of them (it peaked at #2), despite being their biggest seller. And the lead singers for both bands left for solo careers after those albums. Furthermore, Chicago 17 yielded four singles, just like 1984. It didn't have a #1 hit like "Jump," but it did have two #3 hits, "Hard Habit to Break" and "You're the Inspiration." It also had two other Top 20 hits, "Stay the Night" (#16) and "Along Comes a Woman" (#14), which was my favorite of the bunch. My college housemate Dave Anthony had this album ... and everything else Chicago ever touched. I confess that I like Peter Cetera's four biggest solo hits — "Glory of Love" (#1), "Next Time I Fall" (#1), "One Good Woman" (#4), and "After All" (#6) — every bit as much as David Lee Roth's — "California Girls" (#3), "Just Like Paradise" (#6), "Just a Gigolo/I Ain't Go Nobody" (#12), and "Yankee Rose" (#16). ApologetiX has spoofed six songs by Chicago ... the same number we've spoofed by Van Halen. Baby, what a big surprise.
543. This Is the Moody Blues – The Moody Blues
I had most of The Moody Blues' albums from 1967-81 when I got to college, but I was missing On the Threshold of a Dream, A Question of Balance, and Every Good Boy Deserves Favour. Then along came Tom Dellaquila with This Is The Moody Blues. Released in late 1974, this two-record set contained 28 selections from the seven albums the group released between 1967-72. In addition to the big radio hits I didn't already have in my collection — "Question" and "The Story in Your Eyes" — my favorite new (to me) tunes were "In the Beginning," "Lovely to See You," "Dear Diary," and "Melancholy Man." ApologetiX finally got around to spoofing The Moody Blues in 2021. It was about time. However, the song we spoofed was not included on this album, nor was it on any of the Moody Blues albums I ever owned. I just realized that I posted this on a Tuesday; I guess I should have waited till afternoon.
544. Shaun Cassidy – Shaun Cassidy
David Cassidy's half brother Shaun had quite a year in 1977, with a starring role in a brand-new hit TV show, two million-selling albums, and three million-selling singles. His eponymous debut LP actually first came out in 1976 in Europe and Australia but wasn't released in the United States till June '77. It made up for lost time, however, reaching #3 on the album chart. The first single, "Da Doo Ron Ron," was a remake an old Crystals song. It hit #3 for them in June '63 and #1 for Shaun in July '77. The second single, "That's Rock 'n' Roll," did almost as well, reaching #3 in October. Those were the only two singles released from that album, but "Hey Deanie," the first single from his next album, Born Late, was released in November '77 and hit #7 in early January '78. I like all three of them, especially "That's Rock 'n' Roll." My childhood friend Jeff Henry bought Shaun's first album on a trip we took to the mall the day after Christmas in '77. We had been big fans of the Hardy Boys book series a couple years earlier, so we first became familiar with Shaun when he played the younger Hardy brother, Joe, on The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries TV show, which debuted in January '77. Although most of the people who bought Shaun's records were probably teenage girls, I really couldn't look down on Jeff for buying this album ... partly because he was two years younger than I and partly because I bought Captain & Tennille's Greatest Hits the same day! "That's Rock 'n' Roll" and "Hey Deanie" were both written by Eric Carmen, who had Top 40 hits of his own, including "All By Myself" (#2), "Make Me Lose Control" (#3), and "Hungry Eyes" (#4). The other song I really liked on Shaun's debut was "Holiday," a song he wrote himself. ApologetiX has never spoofed Shaun or Eric, but we have spoofed the band Eric sang with before going solo, The Raspberries.
545. Back in Black – AC/DC
AC/DC's seventh studio album, Back in Black, has sold an estimated 50 million copies worldwide (30 million certified, including 25 million in the United States alone), making it the second best-selling album in history after Michael Jackson's Thriller, which has sold an estimated 70 million copies worldwide (49 million certified, including 34 million in the United States)! It was the group's first LP with new lead singer Brian Johnson and was released just five months after the death of their previous lead singer, Bon Scott. Back in Black hit #4 on the album chart and featured their first two U.S. Top 40 hits, "You Shook Me All Night Long" (#35) and "Back in Black" (#37). ApologetiX has spoofed both of those songs, plus another cut from this album that got (and still gets) a lot of airplay, "Hells Bells." Incidentally, it agitates me that AC/DC didn't use an apostrophe "s" in the title of that song or in "Girls Got Rhythm" on their previous album. The group would only have one other Top 40 hit, "Moneytalks" (#23 in 1991), but they had eight more Top 10 albums, including three that went to #1 — For Those About to Rock We Salute You (1981), Black Ice (2008), and Power Up (2020). As of 2021, AC/DC has sold over 200 million albums worldwide, including 75 million in the United States. They're on the highway to sell!
546. Jim Stafford - Jim Stafford
Singer-songwriter-guitarist-comedian Jim Stafford only put out three LPs, and this self-titled 1974 release was the only one of those to make it onto the Billboard 200 album chart, stalling at #55. Nevertheless, it remained on the chart for 33 weeks and contained four Top 40 hits: "Swamp Witch" (#39), "My Girl Bill" (#12), "Wildwood Weed" (#7), and the million-selling "Spiders and Snakes" (#3). I loved novelty records as a kid and was quite fond of those last three. Consequently, I was delighted to discover this album in the big pile of old records my brother-in-law Dan gave me when I was a freshman in college. Stafford had two more Top 40 singles — both in 1975 — "Your Bulldog Drinks Champagne" (#24) and "I Got Stoned and I Missed It" (#37). In 1978, he married another famous singer-songwriter-guitarist, Bobbie Gentry, best known for the 1967 chart-topper "Ode to Billy Joe." Her haunting, aching lament is one of my all-time favorite songs, but it sure cuts quite a contrast to his humorous hits. Their marriage only lasted two years, but they did have a son together, Tyler Gentry Stafford.
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.