Influential Albums: 624-630
Sat., Jan. 29. 2022 4:35pm EST
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.
624. The Gift – The Jam
Released in March 1982, The Gift was The Jam's sixth album and final studio album, and it includes the band's only song to make it onto any major U.S. chart. "Town Called Malice" hit #31 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart and #45 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart. "Town Called Malice" was an even bigger hit in the U.K., going the whole way to #1. Furthermore, it's been featured in the movies National Lampoon's European Vacation and Spider-Man: Far from Home. That's ironic, since both of those films take place mostly in Europe but the bassline for that song sounds like it came straight out of Motown. A second single from The Gift, "Just Who Is the 5 O'Clock Hero," also hit the U.K. Top 10. Other highlights included "Ghosts," "Precious," "Running on the Spot," "The Planner's Dream Goes Wrong," "Happy Together" (not the Turtles song), and "Carnation."
625. Rock and Roll Over - Kiss
I was in seventh grade when Kiss' fifth studio album, Rock and Roll Over, came out in November 1976. I was always behind the times when it came to trends and wouldn't start actively listening to the radio on my own until the summer of '77. But I knew Kiss was extremely popular, and one of the cool kids brought this album to school and pulled it out in class when the teacher was out of the room. The cover art left quite an impression on me, even though I didn't know any of the songs at the time. It was done by an artist named Michael Doret, who also did a number of acclaimed covers for Time magazine and went on to do the cover for another Kiss LP over 30 years later — their 2009 comeback album, Sonic Boom. The second single from Rock and Roll Over became my first favorite Kiss song, "Calling Dr. Love" (#16), and I bought it up on 45. Meanwhile, the first single became one of my favorite Rod Stewart songs, "Hard Luck Woman" (#15). Yeah, I knew it's their drummer Peter Criss singing, but he sure sounds like Rod. Apparently, Paul Stanley wrote the song for him but Gene insisted Kiss do it, as they were coming off the mega-success of the ballad "Beth," which also featured Criss on lead vocals. His voice was certainly suited for the Stewart sound: Kiss = Rock and Roll Over, Criss = Rasp and Roll Over. Other highlights included "I Want You," "Take Me," and "Mr. Speed." ApologetiX released a spoof of "Calling Dr. Love" in 2014.
626. Jazz - Queen
Released in November 1978, Jazz was Queen's seventh LP. I didn't own the actual album, but it left an indeliable impression on my memory. I was in Camelot Records at Westmoreland Mall soon after it came out, and the staff was playing it. The two songs that really caught my ear were "Bicycle Race" and "Don't Stop Me Now." I thought they were both insanely catchy and clever. Those would end up becoming the two singles, reaching #24 and #86, respectively. "Bicycle Race" was actually part of a double A-sided single with "Fat Bottom Girls." ApologetiX spoofed that last song in 2018. It's one of my favorite things we've ever done ... and the closest I ever got to being a Jazz singer. ;) Well, I'd love to stay and chat, but now I have to scat!
627. Kenny Rogers' Greatest Hits - Kenny Rogers
I'll admit that I'd gotten a little sick and tired of Kenny Rogers by the early 80's, but the guy sure could sell a story song ... literally. My kids didn't know who in the world he was, but they still immediately took to "The Gambler" and "Coward of the County," as did I when those tunes first came out. Released in September 1980, Greatest Hits isn't the most comprehensive Kenny collection, but it was a decent start, with nine Top 20 hits. There were plenty more Kenny Top 20's to come — eight more, in fact, none of which charted lower than #15. I seem to recall seeing ads for this album on television, too. The big shiny new toy on it was the single "Lady," written and produced by Lionel Richie. It became Kenny's first #1 pop hit and stayed at the top of the charts for six weeks. That one didn't do much for me at the time, but I did like the #5 hit "She Believes in Me." Over the course of his career, including his work with the First Edition, Kenny notched 27 Top 40 hits, including 11 that made it to the Top 10 and eight that hit #1 on the adult contemporary chart. He also had 21 songs that went to #1 on the country chart. ApologetiX spoofed his second #1 pop hit, "Islands in the Stream" (from 1983) in 2015.
628. Aqualung - Jethro Tull
Released in March 1971, Aqualung was Jethro Tull's fourth album and by far their most popular, selling three million copies in the U.S. alone (none of their others sold more than half a million here). It went to #7, but its success helped the band's next three LPs go even higher on the charts — Thick as a Brick ('72) and A Passion Play ('73) both went to #1 and War Child ('74) went to #2. However, while you might hear one song from one of those albums on classic-rock radio ("Bungle in the Jungle" or perhaps "Thick as a Brick"), Aqualung features at least five such songs: "Cross-Eyed Mary," "Mother Goose," "Hymn 43," "Locomotive Breath," and the famous title track. Interestingly, when this album was released, the only song of those five that even sniffed the pop charts was the one I hear the least on the radio — "Hymn 43," which went to #91 in '71. "Locomotive Breath" didn't chart when it was released as a single that year, but it did reach #62 when it was rereleased five years later. The first person I remember ever liking Jethro Tull was one of the older kids in our neighborhood, Jeff Patterson. He lived across the street from my friend Jeff Henry and was instrumental in my learning to throw a Frisbee well. I talked about his mother, Mary, in my entry for the Flashdance soundtrack album. My brother-in-law Bob owned a few Jethro Tull albums, too, including War Child, Thick as a Brick, and, of course, Aqualung. I remember looking at them while exploring his record collection. I also remember when "Bungle in the Jungle" was the hot song on my school bus in fifth grade. It hit #12 in January '75, one of only two songs the band had that hit the U.S. Top 40 (The other was "Living in the Past," which went to #11 in January '73). I've had a spoof idea for "Bungle" since the 1990's and wouldn't mind doing it someday. As far as this album goes, ApologetiX spoofed "Aqualung" in 2010 and "Locomotive Breath" in 2019.
629. Les Plus Grands Succès De Chic: Chic's Greatest Hits - Chic
I remember where I was the first time I ever heard "Le Freak" ... doesn't everyone? It was the fall of 1978, and I was in Music City, a store at the edge of my neighborhood that sold instruments, records, and tapes (although it eventually moved across town and just focused on instruments — I bought a bass guitar guitar there in the summer of '83). I liked "Le Freak" instantly, and my friend Jeff Henry bought the single, so I didn't have to. That song wound up going to #1 for six weeks, starting in December '78. I already liked Chic's first top 10 hit, "Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)," which had gone to #6 in February '78. Come to think of it, there are three different artists with albums on this list that contain a song called "Dance, Dance, Dance," and I like all three, even though each is a totally different song. The others, by the way, are The Beach Boys, who took their "Dance, Dance, Dance" to #6 in 1964, and Steve Miller, who released his "Dance, Dance, Dance" in 1976. It wasn't released as a single, but it did make it onto his Greatest Hits 1974-79 album. Speaking of greatest hits, Les Plus Grands Succès De Chic: Chic's Greatest Hits was released in December 1979. I already had two and a half years of French classes under my belt by then, so I appreciated the title. The album included "Le Freak" and "Dance, Dance, Dance," plus Chic's other Top 10 hits, "Good Times" (#1) and "I Want Your Love" (#7). It also had their other U.S. Top 40 hit, "Everybody Dance" (#38), which was a Top 10 hit in England (#9). I didn't buy the album, but I considered it, and you know I eventually had to obtain those two #1 hits for my collection. Furthermore, I've owned many recordings that Chic co-founders Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards had something to do with, whether it be writing, playing, or producing. My favorites among those are three from Duran Duran: "The Reflex," "The Wild Boys," and "Notorious," plus assorted tracks by David Bowie, Madonna, Diana Ross, Mick Jagger, Thompson Twins, The Power Station, Robert Palmer, ABC, and The B-52's.
630. The Golden Age of Wireless - Thomas Dolby
Two roads diverged in the middle of the record store in the summer of '83, and I took the one that had Singles: 45's and Under by Squeeze ... but I came very close to taking the one that had The Golden Age of Wireless by Thomas Dolby. However, I could only afford to buy one cassette that day, and my college friend Dave Johnstone already had this one. I did eventually buy the singles "She Blinded Me with Science" (#5 pop, #6 rock) and "Europa and the Pirate Twins" (#67 pop, #37 rock). And to this day, I still sometimes spontaneously break into a chorus of the second track on this album, "Radio Silence," which is very catchy. One other song from The Golden Age of Wireless hit the rock chart, "One of Our Submarines" (#13). I did own an album on which Thomas Dolby played the main synthesizers, though — Foreigner 4 (1981). Ironically, he did not play on Foreigner's previous album, Head Games, which had a song called "Blinded by Science." Dolby's 1988 LP had one of my all-time favorite album titles, Aliens Ate My Buick. ApologetiX drummer Jimmy "Vegas" Tanner used to have a copy of that album cover on the wall of his studio. Jimmy is a big Thomas Dolby fan and has seen him in concert. I bought him Dolby's 2016 book, The Speed of Sound: Breaking the Barriers Between Music and Technology: A Memoir, as a gift a few years ago. ApologetiX spoofed "She Blinded Me with Science" as part of our 80's medley in 2011.
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.