Influential Albums: 659-666
Sat., Mar. 5. 2022 12:21am 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.
659. Primitive Love - Miami Sound Machine
Confession time here: A couple of my guilty pop pleasures in college were the first two hit singles of Gloria Estefan's career. The songs were "Conga" (#10) and "Bad Boy" (#8), and the album they came from was Primitive Love by Miami Sound Machine. Gloria would score many more hits in years to come — including three chart-toppers ("Anything for You," "Don't Wanna Lose You," and "Coming Out of the Dark") — but none of them compared to that first pair of singles, in my eyes (or ears). Released in November 1985, Primitive Love sold over three million copies and spawned two other successful singles, "Words Get in the Way" (#5 pop, #1 adult contemporary) and "Falling in Love (Uh-Oh)" (#25 pop, #3 AC). I never deliberately sought out either of them, but "Falling in Love (Uh-Oh)" still pops into my head from time to time, even over 35 years later. "Uh-oh" indeed. Addendum: I hadn't heard "Bad Boy" in years ... then the day I wrote this or the day after, I heard it playing in the grocery store.
660. Partners in Crime - Rupert Holmes
Rupert Holmes holds the unique distinction of having the last #1 hit of the 70's and the second #1 hit of the 80's ... with the same record, "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)." He hated the parenthetical portion of that title, by the way. The song was supposed to simply be called "Escape," but people who heard it on the radio kept going to record stores and asking for "The Piña Colada Song," so the record company begged and pressured him to tack it on. Kids from subsequent generations have heard that tune in movies like Shrek and Guardians of the Galaxy. Holmes says the original first line of the chorus was "If you like Humphrey Bogart and getting caught in the rain ..." but he made the change to "piña coladas" just as he was getting ready to sing it at the mic in the studio. Somehow, I don't think you would be reading (or I would be writing) this entry if that last-minute alteration hadn't happened. But there was much more to Partners in Crime — the album from whence "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)" came — including two other Top 40 hits: "Him" (#6 pop, #4 adult contemporary) and "Answering Machine" (#32 pop, #12 AC). The guy really knew how to write a good story song. His 1981 follow-up album, Adventure, also had three singles. None of them, however, achieved much success. The first and third singles, "Morning Man" (#68) and "I Don't Need You" (#56), hit the Hot 100 but missed the Top 40, although they both went to #21 on the AC chart. The second single, "Blackjack," only bubbled under at #103 and didn't even make the AC chart. Nevertheless, I was a big fan of that song and spent years searching for it before the digital age made it easily available. But there was much more to Rupert Holmes, too. In his earlier days, he co-wrote and played on the infectious, confectious, bubble-gummy, Top 40 hit "Jennifer Tomkins" by Street People, which went to #36 in 1970. He gained greater fame (or infamy) a year later for writing and playing on the song "Timothy" by The Buoys, a #17 hit about cannibalism (in the midst of a mining disaster) that scared the living daylights out of me as a kid. After he stopped having pop hits of his own, Holmes went on to write the 1987 hit "You Got It All" by The Jets (#3 pop, #1 AC). Furthermore, he became a successful playwright, best known for the Tony Award-winning musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1985) and the Tony-Award-nominated play Say Goodnight, Gracie (2003), although he has been involved in many other productions. As you can see, when you're talk about Rupert Holmes, there's a lot more to him than "Him."
661. Working Class Dog - Rick Springfield
Plenty of rock songs topped the pop chart in the decade of the 80's, but not many did in 1981. Aside from "Keep on Lovin' You" by REO Speedwagon (which some people wouldn't even consider a rock song), the closest thing was "Jessie's Girl" by Rick Springfield, which hit #1 in August ... right after "The One That You Love" by Air Supply and right before "Endless Love" by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie. I rest my case. "Jessie's Girl" also reached #10 on the newly established Billboard rock chart. It was the first single from Springfield's fifth album, Working Class Dog. I'd argue that the second single, "I've Done Everything for You" (written by Sammy Hagar), was even more of a rocker, but it didn't hit the rock chart. It did hit #8 on the Billboard Hot 100, though. The third single, "Love Is Alright Tonite," put Springfield back on both charts (#20 pop, #40 rock), and that tune is where the term "working class dog" came from. It probably didn't help Rick's rock credentials that he also played Dr. Noah Drake on the television soap opera General Hospital. Nevertheless, he racked up 17 Top 40 hits on the pop chart, seven of which hit also hit the Top 40 on the rock chart. "Jesse's Girl" was actually his second pop hit ... "Speak to the Sky" (#14) was the first, way back in 1972. His Top 10 hits after Working Class Dog were "Don't Talk to Strangers" (#2 pop, #11 rock), "Love Somebody" (#5 pop, #13 rock), and "Affair of the Heart" (#9 pop, #23 rock). ApologetiX spoofed "Jessie's Girl" in 2011, but I remember singing the original with my first band, Terminal, at a practice back in 1982. My favorite Springfield songs are "I've Done Everything for You," "Love Somebody," and "Bruce" (#27 pop). That last one — written in 1978, released in 1980, and re-released in 1984, when it finally became a hit — was a humorous take on people who mistook Springfield for the more-popular Bruce Springsteen. It's not just their names that are similar: Rick was born on August 23, 1949, and Bruce was born exactly one month later, on September 23, 1949. Rick used a stage name, but it's not like using his real last name, Springthorpe, would have made solved the problem. And dig this: "Jessie's Girl" won a Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male, and one of the four other nominees it beat out was "The River" by Springsteen. Now you don't have to look up all that trivia yourself; I've done everything for you. A friend named Drew at my summer job in college was a huge Springsteen fan and resented the fact that our local rock station also played Springfield, somebody he considered a pretty-boy poser. "He sweats in pastel colors," Drew complained. I just saw one of Springfield's old videos, and it appears Drew was right! But, to me, the Springfield video which is not to be missed — because it epitomizes the excesses of epic 80's videos — is "Bop 'Til You Drop" (#20 pop):
662. The Firm - The Firm
With Paul Rodgers (of Bad Company and Free) on lead vocals and Jimmy Page (of Led Zeppelin) on guitar, The Firm had a ready-made audience for their 1985 eponymous debut LP. I borrowed it in college from somebody in my circle who had it on cassette — possibly my senior-year housemate Mikey. Three of its tracks hit the rock charts, two of those hit the Hot 100, and one of those hit the Top 40. There was "Radioactive" (#1 rock, #28 pop), "Closer" (#19 rock), and "Satisfaction Guaranteed" (#4 rock, #73 pop). ApologetiX spoofed "Radioactive" in 2016. Other curiosities among the contents included a cover of the Righteous Brothers classic "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" and a nine-minute closer called "Midnight Moonlight," which was based on a previously unreleased Led Zeppelin song. The Firm hit #17 on the Billboard 200 album chart. I guess we shouldn't have been surprised that the record's title was the same as the band's name: Bad Company and Led Zeppelin did the same thing with their debut LPs (for some reason, Free waited until their sophomore effort to do it). Although Zep and BadCo already had a dozen multi-million-selling albums between them, and neither group had released anything new in years, The Firm only sold half a million copies. Ultimately, I preferred the 1993 movie (starring Tom Cruise) to the 1985 album. It still did well enough to warrant a follow-up LP, Mean Business, which went to #22 in 1986 but did not even sell half a million. Nevertheless, that second album's first single, "All the King's Horses," topped the rock chart for four weeks. There was also a British novelty band called The Firm who had a #1 U.K. hit with a song called "Star Trekkin'" in 1987. Although it didn't chart in the United States, that single sold almost half a million copies in the U.K. alone. I heard "Star Trekkin'" on our local alternative station at the time, and it was love at first listen. Years later, that song became one of my kids' favorites, too.
663. The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get - Joe Walsh
I think I got The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get along with a bunch of other used records from my brother-in-law Dan in January 1983 ... although I don't think I "got" the title till much later. Released in June 1973, it was Joe Walsh's second LP after leaving The James Gang, where he had gained acclaim for the classic rock hits "Walk Away" (#51) and "Funk #49" ( which, ironically, only went to #59). Walsh's first two "solo" albums were actually group efforts by his new band, Barnstorm, formed with drummer and multi-instrumentalist Joe Vitale and bassist Kenny Passarelli. Keyboardist Rocke Grace joined in time for The Smoker You Drink. The opening track, "Rocky Mountain Way," went to #23 on the pop chart but became an all-time album-rock classic. Another fine tune, "Meadows" (with a laid-back, spaced-out groove and an amusing, kooky, a cappella intro), led off side two and was released as the second single, going to #89. The rest of the record is a lot more mellow and melodic than "Rocky Mountain Way" ... parts of it reminds me of Carole King's Tapestryand early Steely Dan. Other tracks I like include "Book Ends," "Wolf," "Happy Ways," "Dreams," and "(Day Dream) Prayer," but there's not a bad tune on it. The album itself went all the way to #6 and sold half a million copies. It was Walsh's biggest album until five years later, when he released his fourth solo LP, But Seriously, Folks ... I remember being in Rocket Records in Greensburg the first time I ever heard that — specifically "Life's Been Good" (#12) — in the spring of '78. It sounded great on the store's stereo system, and it was so funny. I had no idea who Joe Walsh was back then, but I would learn soon enough. In addition to his great work with The Eagles ("Life in the Fast Lane," "Pretty Maids All in a Row," "In the City," etc.), Walsh released a number of other notable rock hits after But Seriously, including "All Night Long" (#19 pop), "A Life of Illusion" (#1 rock, #34 pop), "The Confessor" (#8 rock), "The Radio Song" (#8 rock), "Ordinary Average Guy" (#3 rock), and "Vote for Me" (#10 rock). ApologetiX spoofed "Rocky Mountain Way" in 2006.
664. Just a Game – Triumph
One of my old neighborhood friends was the first person I knew who had Triumph's third LP, Just a Game, which was released in January 1979. Not surprisingly, he was also the first person I knew who had any Rush albums. I don't want to stereotype Canadian power trios, but I've always felt that Triumph was sort of like "Rush for the Masses." After all, in this album's first single, "Hold On," lead vocalist and guitarist Rik Emmett does say, "I sing this song for the common man." That was the tune that taught another friend of mine the difference between rock stations and pop stations as a young teen. He'd heard the 2:59 version on his local pop station, and then one day he heard the full-length 6:06 album cut on a different station. Whoa. Big difference. He didn't even know it was the same song until halfway through, because the single had lopped off that big, beautiful, balladic intro. The second single, "Lay It on the Line" (#86), didn't do as well on the pop charts as "Hold On" (#38), but they both became album-rock standards. Another track I particularly liked on Just a Game was "American Girls." It rocked just as hard as "American Woman" by The Guess Who — which was also written from a Canadian perspective — but expressed a very different attitude toward feminine U.S. citizens. My friend later purchased Triumph's fifth LP, Allied Forces (1981), too. A couple cuts I really liked from that one were "Magic Power" (#51 pop, #8 rock) and "Hot Time (In This City Tonight)." Their sixth LP, Never Surrender (1982 Canada, 1983 U.S.), yielded their two highest-charting rock hits, "All the Way" (#2 rock) and "A World of Fantasy" (#3 rock). But Triumph's biggest pop hit, "Somebody's Out There" (#27 pop, #9 rock), would have to wait until their eighth LP, The Sport of Kings (1986).
665. RSO Chart Busters - Various Artists
If you bought 45's in the second half of the 70's, chances are you recognize the famous RSO red cow on the cover of this album. That logo was supposed to symbolize good health and good fortune, but it might as well have meant "cash cow." Released in 1979, the RSO Chart Busters LP contained five #1 hits by Andy Gibb ("I Just Want to Be Your Everything" and "Shadow Dancing"), Frankie Valli ("Grease"), Player ("Baby Come Back"), and Yvonne Elliman ("If I Can't Have You"); three more Top Five hits by Suzi Quatro & Chris Norman ("Stumblin' In"), John Stewart ("Gold"), David Naughton ("Makin' It"); a #6 hit by Paul Nicholas ("Heaven on the 7th Floor"); and Linda Clifford's disco remake of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," which stalled at #41. That's pretty impressive for a compilation, but it could have been even better. Consider the source: From the fall of '77 through the summer of '79, the music of RSO Records dominated the pop charts, including a 21-week stretch where RSO artists had six consecutive #1 singles. In 1978 alone, eight of the 19 songs to top the Billboard Hot 100 were on RSO. And the last #1 hit of '77 and the first #1 of '79 were also on RSO. Another notable artist who enjoyed his greatest pop success while with RSO was Eric Clapton, who gave them four Top 10 hits between '74 and '81 — "I Shot the Sheriff" (#1), "Lay Down Sally" (#3), "Promises" (#9), and "I Can't Stand It" (#10). And don't forget Rick Dees, whose '76 smash single, "Disco Duck," not only hit #1 but also sold a mind-boggling two million copies for RSO! The letters in the label stood for the Robert Stigwood Organisation. In addition to co-founding that company, Stigwood managed Cream, The Bee Gees, and Andy Gibb. He also produced the first theatrical version (and the film version) of Jesus Christ Superstar and the movies Saturday Night Fever and Grease ... and those are just some of his more successful ventures.
666. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - Soundtrack
In December 1977 and June '78, Robert Stigwood gave us Saturday Night Fever and Grease — massively popular movies with mega-platinum soundtracks. In July '78, he released what he hoped would be another cinematic blockbuster, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Well, two out of three ain't bad. The critically disclaimed film starred The Bee Gees, Peter Frampton, and a host of other stars who would prefer to remain nameless. The accompanying soundtrack album went to #5 and stayed there for six weeks, selling a million copies. And it yielded three Top 40 hits: "Got to Get You Into My Life" by Earth, Wind & Fire (#9), "Oh! Darling" by Robin Gibb (#15), and "Come Together" by Aerosmith (#23). A fourth single, "Get Back" by Billy Preston (who played on the original version by The Beatles in '69), went to #86. Our local pop station played another cut or two as well. Not a bad showing, right? Wrong! The Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band soundtrack is infamous for becoming the first record to "return platinum" ... the supply far exceeded the demand, and over four million copies were shipped back from the stores to the distributors. And then there were Robin Gibb's imprudent predictions before the film and soundtrack came out: "Kids today don't know the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper. And when those who do see our film and hear us doing it, that will be the version they relate to and remember. Unfortunately, the Beatles will be secondary. You see, there is no such thing as the Beatles. They don't exist as a band and never performed Sgt. Pepper live, in any case. When ours comes out, it will be, in effect, as if theirs never existed. When you heard the Beatles do 'Long Tall Sally' or 'Roll Over Beethoven,' did you care about Little Richard's or Chuck Berry's version?" That kind of reminds me of John Lennon's infamous comments in 1966: "Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that. I'm right and I'll be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now. I don't know which will go first, rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me." I confess that I have purchased both the Sgt. Pepper's soundtrack CD and the DVD ... but I did so as playful Christmas gifts for a couple other members of ApologetiX. Why? "Because." Where else can you get The Bee Gees and Alice Cooper in the same song? Or Steve Martin performing "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"? Or George Burns doing "Fixing a Hole"? Unfortunately, this version of Sgt. Pepper was a black hole no amount of star power could fix.
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.