Influential Albums: 667-673
Sat., Mar. 12. 2022 9:50pm EST
J. Jackson, lead singer and lyricist for ApologetiX here again.
We didn't put out a newsletter last week, so we have a lot of albums to catch up in the "albums that influenced me" series. Here are the ones that were supposed to appear last time.
667. Kilroy Was Here - Styx
Styx's eleventh LP, Kilroy Was Here, came out in February 1983, while I was a freshman in college, living in the all-guys dorm. One of my friends down the hall, Dave Anthony, bought the vinyl version, and I remember hearing him playing it. There were a couple big hits on this album, but the song I most distinctly recall blasting out of Dave's room was "Heavy Metal Poisoning." I'm not saying he played it more than the other songs; it just had a unique aural aroma that left an impression on me. Dave would later become one of my housemates junior and senior year, but I think he'd moved past Kilroy Was Here by then. Unfortunately, because of that album, a number of music fans had also moved past Styx by then ... including guitarist-vocalist Tommy Shaw. It sold a million copies, but that's only a third as many as its predecessor, Paradise Theater. It did go to #3, though, as did its first single, "Mr. Roboto," which hit #3 on both the Billboard pop and rock charts (and #1 on the Cash Box chart) and also sold a million copies. The second single, "Don't Let It End," was a ballad, hitting #6 on the pop chart and #13 on the adult contemporary chart. The third single, "High Time," only hit #48 on the pop chart. I admired Styx for having the guts to put out such a theatrical, thematic work, but I thought it turned out kind of silly. "Mr. Roboto" had some interesting musical moments, and it taught me how to say "thank you" in Japanese, but I just couldn't take that song seriously. My friend Thom Passante was a huge Styx fan when Kilroy Was Here came out, and his older brother, Art, heard "Mr. Roboto" first and teased him mercilessly about it. Years later, while at a truck stop with the rest of the guys in ApologetiX, I found a discount copy of a live Styx DVD called Caught in the Act, which featured them acting out the Kilroy Was Here album in New Orleans in April 1983. We watched it together on the band bus. Let's just say the stage production didn't age well. I think the guys in our band felt for the guys in their band. Speaking of which, back when Bill Hubauer (a longtime Styx fan himself) was still playing with ApologetiX, he would sometimes express agitation if we got a little too whimsical during soundcheck, and I would be forced to say "Killjoy was here." Now he's stuck with a bunch of other serious musicians, touring the world in the Neal Morse Band. Serves him right.
668. Valotte - Julian Lennon
Julian Lennon sure sounded Valotte like his famous father. I remember the first time I heard the title track, which was the first single from this album, in October 1984. I thought for sure it was John ... maybe a new cut from his recent posthumous LP, Milk and Honey, which had already yielded three singles that year: "Nobody Told Me" (#5 pop, #2 rock, #11 adult contemporary), "I'm Stepping Out" (#55 pop, #34 rock), and "Borrowed Time" (#108 pop). However, Julian's debut album would produce four singles ... with a lot more overall success: "Valotte" (#9 pop, #2 rock, #4 AC), "Too Late for Goodbyes" (#5 pop, #11 rock, #1 AC), "Say You're Wrong" (#21 pop, #3 rock, #6 AC), and "Jesse" (#54 pop). Milk and Honey charted higher than Valotte on the Billboard album chart (#11 vs. #17), but Valotte sold more copies in the long run. Sadly, Julian found it difficult to maintain that success, but he did have two songs after the Valotte album that hit #1 on the rock chart — "Stick Around" (#32 pop) in '86 and "Now You're in Heaven" (#93 pop) in '89. Of course, if you know your Beatles history, you're probably aware that Julian also inspired two #1 pop hits long before he ever set foot in a recording studio to do his own material — "Hey Jude" by The Beatles in 1968 and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" by Elton John in 1975. Valotte was named after a remote country chateau in France, Manoir de Valotte. ApologetiX spoofed "Too Late for Goodbyes" in 2021.
669. Barabajagal - Donovan
Released in August 1969, Barabajagal was Donovan's seventh studio LP. The gently used copy I owned had first belonged to my brother-in-law Dan. It came out seven months after Donovan's Greatest Hits. Consequently, that compilation doesn't include any of the singles from Barabajagal, even though all three of them hit the U.S. Top 40: "Atlantis" (#7), "To Susan on the West Coast Waiting" (#35), and "Goo Goo Barabajagal (Love Is Hot) (#36). That last one was recorded with The Jeff Beck Group, and I can't remember Donovan ever rocking harder (not that he was known for such things anyway). Sadly for the celebrated Scottish singer-songwriter, it was also the last of his 12 Top 40 hits. "Atlantis" was used to disturbing effect in the 1990 movie Goodfellas, in a famous scene where two of the main characters, played by Joe Pesci and Robert DeNiro, are beating up a fellow mobster called "Billy Batts." On a lighter note, 10 years later, Donovan performed a parody of "Atlantis" on the cartoon Futurama in an episode called "The Deep South," singing about the lost city of Atlanta: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKdd6xP5xNA
670. Whitney Houston - Whitney Houston
Sometimes collecting #1 hits could be a real test of endurance. Whitney Houston's self-titled debut LP produced three chart-toppers: "Saving All My Love for You," "How Will I Know," and "The Greatest Love of All." They were preceded by a #3 hit, "You Give Good Love." I bought all four of those singles (I eventually started collecting #3 hits, you see), although they were mostly placeholders in my collection. Yes, Whitney had tremendous talent, and I heard each of those songs many times, but none of them really did much for me. If I had to pick a favorite musically, it would probably be "Saving All My Love for You," although I wasn't keen on the adulterous tone of the lyrics, even back in my free-spirited college days. In fact, I noted at the time how it was odd that it was knocked out of the #1 spot by another song about an extramarital affair, "Part-Time Lover" by Stevie Wonder. Those kind of songs didn't hit #1 often. I can think of three — possibly four — in the 70's, but no others in the 80's that were definitely about cheating within a marriage, rather than just within a romantic relationship. The only possible 80's exceptions are "Keep on Loving You" by REO Speedwagon and "Human" by Human League, although neither of those are clearly about married couples. Composer Michael Masser co-wrote both "Saving All My Love for You" and "The Greatest Love of All," which had already been a #24 hit for George Benson in 1977. "Saving All My Love for You" was also originally done in the late 70's ... ironically, by married couple Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr., who celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2019. Anyway, the Whitney Houston album didn't need my support; it went to #1 on the Billboard 200 and sold over 22 million copies worldwide. My friend Kevin Carrai, who was our fraternity's president at the time, is the first person I remember owning it. In case you're wondering, my favorite Whitney Houston song is probably "So Emotional," which was one of four #1 hits on her follow-up album, Whitney, released in 1987. I have a friend who has told me he plays that song for his wife when she gets emotional about things. I think we all need to pray for him. Note: The 70's #1 songs about extra-martial affairs I referred to were "Me and Mrs. Jones" by Billy Paul, "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" by Vickie Lawrence, "Torn Between Two Lovers" by Mary MacGregor, and "Dark Lady" by Cher. "Torn Between Two Lovers" appears to be about a marriage, although there's a slight chance it could be just a steady relationship. "Dark Lady" could be either about a marriage or a relationship. "I Honestly Love You" by Olivia Newton-John is almost certainly sung by a married woman to a man who is married to someone else, but nothing is done to pursue the relationship further. In "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" by Ruppert Holmes, he attempts to cheat on his "lady," but winds up on a blind date with her. The 80's #1 hits "Upside Down" by Diana Ross and "Careless Whisper" by Wham both mention cheating, but each appears to be within the context of a romantic relationship, rather than a marriage. There's a remote chance that "Hard to Say I'm Sorry" by Chicago could allude to marital infidelity, but it seems unlikely. In "If You Don't Know Me by Now" by Simply Red, the singer is accused of cheating by his partner of 20 years, but he clearly states that he is not.
671. Chicago XI - Chicago
Even if Super Bowls had never existed, we'd still have the rock band Chicago to teach us our Roman numerals. Released in September 1977, Chicago XI was the band's last Top 10 (or should I say "Top X"?) LP until 1982 (or should I say "MCMLXXXII"?). The album's biggest hit by far was "Baby, What a Big Surprise" (#4), but two follow-up singles also hit the Billboard Hot 100 and adult contemporary Top 40 — "Little One" (#44 pop, #40 AC) and "Take Me Back to Chicago" (#63 pop, #39 AC). Each of those songs was sung by a different band member. Peter Cetera sang "Baby, What a Big Surprise," Terry Kath sang "Little One," and Robert Lamm sang "Take Me Back to Chicago" (with Chaka Khan on backing vocals). Unfortunately, "Little One" would be the last chart single sung by Kath, who died from an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound in January '78. Although he is best remembered as Chicago's phenomenal guitarist, Kath also sang lead vocals on a number of their hits, most notably "Make Me Smile," "Colour My World," "Dialogue (Part 1 and II)," and "Wishing You Were Here." Ironically, "Take Me Back to Chicago," which was released as a single several months after Kath's death, sounds like it could have been written about him, but it's actually about another fallen friend of Chicago drummer Danny Seraphine's named Fred Page (a.k.a. Fred Pappalardo) from the band Illinois Speed Press. It's a beautiful, bittersweet song and one of my all-time favorite Chicago tracks. My old neighborhood friend Jeff Henry got this record shortly after it came out, and I borrowed it from him.
672. National Lampoon's Animal House - Soundtrack
Five of the 14 tracks on the National Lampoon's Animal House soundtrack were oldies originally released in the 60's, but both of its singles were new recordings, although one was a remake and neither hit the Top 40 — "Animal House" by Stephen Bishop (#73) and "Louie Louie" by John Belushi (#89). However, the album did contain a pair of #1 hits, "Tossin' and Turnin'" by Bobby Lewis and "Hey Paula" by Paul & Paula. Furthermore, it featured Chris Montez's #4 hit, "Let's Dance," and two Sam Cooke classics, "Twistin' the Night Away" (#9) and "Wonderful World" (#12). But that's not what made it an essential party record when I was in college. No, the reason would be the penultimate track on side two — "Shout" by Otis Day and the Knights (Lloyd Williams). Even though that song was originally written, recorded, and released by the Isley Brothers in 1959 (for whom it went to #49) and its most successful pop version was by Joey Dee and the Starlighters in 1962 (#6), we wanted the one from the movie, man. Accept no substitutes ... even if they were around long before the film came out in 1978. One of my college friends had this record, and I think it was Dave Anthony. He was a great source when you wanted to tape something. Thank you, sir! May I have another?
673. The Honeydrippers: Volume One - The Honeydrippers
Jimmy Page! Robert Plant! Jeff Beck! Nile Rodgers! Uh ... Paul Shaffer? Well, he's a great musician, too, so this thing is gonna rock, right? Maybe not, but The Honeydrippers: Volume One EP still delivered two Top 40 hits — "Sea of Love" (#3) and "Rockin' at Midnight" (#25). Considering that it only contained five tracks, that's a pretty good return. "Rockin' at Midnight" also made it to #8 on the Billboard rock chart. But how stunning was it to see Robert Plant and Jimmy Page with a #1 hit on the adult contemporary chart? That's what "Sea of Love" became. And here's something even stranger: It actually hit #11 on the rock chart, too. Look, I loved that song (and "Rockin' at Midnight"), but are you kidding me?!! Then again, George Orwell warned us years in advance that things might get crazy in 1984. The original version of "Sea of Love" by Phil Phillips went to #2 in 1959 — his only Top 40 hit. "Rockin' at Midnight" was a cover version of a 1947 song called "Good Rockin' Tonight" by Roy Brown that also became Elvis Presley's second single on Sun Records in 1954. The Honeydrippers' version even hit #38 on the adult contemporary chart. The EP itself climbed to #4 on the Billboard 200 album chart and sold a million copies. No metal was detected but there sure was a lot of irony to be found.
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.