Influential Albums: 674-680
Fri., Mar. 18. 2022 6:59pm 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.
674. Pat Boone's Greatest Hits - Pat Boone
My childhood friend Jeff Henry received Debbie Boone's debut LP, You Light Up My Life, from his mom as a (cringeworthy) Christmas gift in 1977 ... but that one doesn't light up my list. Years later, however, I did tape the title track, which was #1 for 10 weeks, making it the biggest hit of the 70's. Jeff had a brother named Pat, and Debbie's dad was named Pat, too. Debbie never had another Top 40 hit, but Pat had 38 of 'em, including six #1 records: "Ain't That a Shame," "I Almost Lost My Mind," "Don't Forbid Me," "Love Letters in the Sand," "April Love," and "Moody River." None stayed on top as long as "You Light Up My Life," but "Love Letters in the Sand" logged seven weeks at #1 and "April Love," six. As a matter of fact, aside from Elvis Presley, Pat was the most popular artist in the first five years of the rock era (1955-59). In my college quest to get recordings of every #1 record from 1955 on, I had to track down the aforementioned sextet of songs, although I wasn't keen on it. Much to my surprise, however, I wound up liking them. They may not be very "rock and roll," but it's to fun to croon like a Boone! Thank you, IUP library. Speaking of libraries, in the late 80's, I picked up a used copy of Pat's autobiographical book from the early 70's, A New Song, which details not just his life but his personal spiritual journey. I was amazed at how much I enjoyed it. That's twice that the man some think of as "Mr. Vanilla" exceeded my expectations. There would be a third time, but we'll talk about that later on this list. I don't want you to think my interest in Pat's music was limited to #1 records, though. When I was a young teen, my Aunt Louise — a Pat Boone fan herself — casually mentioned his 1959 minor hit "The Wang Dang Taffy-Apple Tango (Mambo Cha Cha Cha), and I thought that was one of the greatest titles I'd ever heard. In fact, I brought it up to her so many times as the years went by that she wound up giving me her copy of the 45 as a surprise gift in 1993. The song itself only charted at #62, but its flip side, "For a Penny" went to #23. ApologetiX has never official spoofed Pat Boone, but I have been known to do Pat-ronized versions of songs in soundcheck and in the studio to entertain the band members. In fact, we even used to occasionally do that in concert for the first half of a couple of our AC/DC parodies. I guess you had to be there. Too bad you probably weren't. Ain't that a shame.
675. Little Creatures - Talking Heads
Released in June 1985, Little Creatures was Talking Heads' first studio album after Speaking in Tongues (June 1983), which had included the Top 10 single "Burning Down the House." Unfortunately, none of the singles from Little Creatures even made it into the Top 40. In fact, the first single, "Road to Nowhere" didn't even hit the Hot 100, bubbling under at #105. It does have a catchy chorus, though, and I still sing it to myself from time to time. But the second single, "And She Was," went platinum on my personal playlist, even though it stalled at #54 on the pop chart. That was one of my favorite songs in the summer of '85. Both of those tunes did much better in the U.K., where "And She Was" went to #17 and "Road to Nowhere" went all the way to #6! Moreover, three tracks from Little Creatures hit the U.S. rock Top 40: "Road to Nowhere" (#25), "And She Was" (#11), and "Stay Up Late" (#24). I borrowed this cassette from a friend whose identity escapes me. The other songs that have left lasting snippets in my head are "Give Me Back My Name" and the countryfied "Creatures of Love." Another song, "The Lady Don't Mind," hit #8 in New Zealand but only went to #81 in the U.K. and did not chart in the U.S. All of those factors combined to make Little Creatures the band's biggest-selling album, with over two million copies sold in the U.S. alone and over half a million overseas. The Heads would return to the U.S. Top 40 one last time with the irresistible "Wild Wild Life" (#25 pop, #4 rock) in 1986. They also had a #1 modern-rock hit in the winter of '91-92 with "Sax and Violins." Byrne, baby, Byrne!
676. Hunting High and Low - A-ha
Released in October 1985, Hunting High and Low was the debut LP by the Norwegian trio A-ha. One of my housemates senior year, Steve James, had a vinyl copy. Everybody of a certain age in the 80's remembers the animated video for this album's first single, "Take On Me." That song went to #1 on the pop chart and #4 on the adult contemporary chart. I also liked the follow-up single, "The Sun Always Shines on T.V." It only went to #20 in the States, but it hit #1 in the U.K., where "Take On Me" had stalled at #2. A-ha only managed two more U.S. chart singles from subsequent albums — "Cry Wolf" (#50) and "Dark Is the Night" (#111") — but they had a total of 18 U.K. Top 40 hits, nine of which hit the Top 10. They also did the theme song from the 1987 James Bond movie The Living Daylights. I liked that song but searched in vain trying to find it on a 45 in the States. I figured it was a surefire hit, seeing as the previous James Bond single, "A View to a Kill" by Duran Duran had become the first #1 Bond hit just two years earlier. I don't know if "The Living Daylights" was ever released as a single here, but it never charted. It did hit #5 in the U.K., though. ApologetiX spoofed "Take On Me" as part of our 80's medley in 2011. That was my A-ha moment.
677. 21 at 33 - Elton John
Released in May 1980, 21 at 33 was Elton John's 21st LP, and he was 33 at the time ... get it? Like his previous two albums, it fell short of selling a million copies, but it did generate a million-selling single. "Little Jeannie" was never a song I waited by the radio to hear, but it was a tapeworm of an earworm ... it has stuck with me for over 40 years ... and I still find myself spontaneously singing it around the house. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one: It went to #3 on Billboard Hot 100, #2 on the Radio & Records Top 30, #1 on the Billboard adult contemporary chart, and #1 on Canada's RPM pop chart, becoming the biggest hit of the songs Elton wrote with Bernie Taupin's successor, Gary Osborne. My friend Jeff Henry got the 45 while it was still popular, but I took a flyer on a cassette copy of 21 at 33 I found in a bargain bin while in college. The main reason was I wanted to hear the album's second single, "Sartorial Eloquence (Don't Ya Wanna Play This Game No More?)." I'd read about it in my Top 40 book but had never heard it, which isn't surprising, since it only went to #39. I didn't even know what "sartorial eloquence" meant at the time; I had to look it up in a dictionary. Judging by most of the clothes I wear, many people might suppose I still don't know what it means. I'm too busy focusing on "satirical eloquence." The third single from 21 at 33 was the Gospel-tinged "Dear God." Unlike the XTC song with the same title released seven years later, Elton's seems to be a respectful and sincere prayer. Possibly as a result of that, it didn't have a prayer of doing well on any of the major charts; the best it could do anywhere was #82 in Australia. The album itself is fairly pleasant. There are even three songs with some pretty fierce guitars and a groovin' rhythm section: "Chasing the Crown," "White Lady White Powder," and "Two Rooms at the End of the World."
678. Bella Donna - Stevie Nicks
How many of us had that revelatory Fleetwood Mac moment in the second half of the 70's when we realized that Lindsey Buckingham was the guy and Stevie Nicks was the girl? The photos made it obvious, but the names sure didn't. Just in case anybody still wasn't clear about it, they each released solo albums in 1981. Lindsey's Law and Order went to #32 and included a Top 10 hit, "Trouble" (#9 pop, #12 rock, #14 adult contemporary), which I really liked. But Stevie's Bella Donna blew it away, hitting #1 on the Billboard 200 album chart, with four Top 40 hits: "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" (#3 pop, #2 rock), "Leather and Lace" (#6 pop, #26 rock, #10 AC), "Edge of Seventeen (Just Like the White Winged Dove)" (#11 pop, #4 rock), and "After the Glitter Fades" (#32 pop, #36 AC). Of course, guest appearances by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on the first single and Eagle Don Henley on the second didn't hurt. Not surprisingly, Bella Donna sold over four million copies in the United States. As some of you may already know, "belladonna" means "beautiful lady" in Italian, and it's also another name for a poisonous plant commonly called "deadly nightshade." Maybe that's why Stevie's first single from her next album was called "Stand Back" (#5 pop, #2 rock). Yet another famous guest star, Prince, played the iconic synthesizer parts on that song, by the way. It was one of seven Top 40 pop hits and 14 Top 40 rock hits Stevie would have after Bella Donna. With such sustained success to compete with, it's no wonder Buckingham's only other Top 40 pop hit was titled "Go Insane" (#23 pop, #4 rock). But he still did all right for himself. I really enjoyed his 1983 single "Holiday Road" from National Lampoon's Vacation. Although it stalled at #82 on the pop chart and didn't hit the rock chart, it has since been used in three of the sequels in that franchise. But here's a shocker for you: The first Mac member to hit #1 on the rock chart was actually Christine McVie, with the song "Got a Hold on Me," which also hit #10 on the pop chart and #1 on the AC chart in 1984. Stevie eventually got to #1 rock hits of her own, though: "Talk to Me" in 1985 and "Rooms On Fire" in 1989. Consequently, you could say she won the solo-career contest in a ... landslide.
679. Anytime...Anywhere - Rita Coolidge
Released in March 1977, Anytime...Anywhere was Rita Coolidge's sixth solo LP. It was also her most successful, going to #6 on the Billboard 200 and selling a million copies. It contained three Top 20 singles — each of them also a Top 10 adult-contemporary hit — "(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher" (#2 pop, #5 AC), "We're All Alone" (#7 pop, #1 AC), and "The Way You Do the Things You Do" (#20 pop, #9 AC). I especially liked the first two. I didn't know it at the time, but all three were cover versions of established popular songs (by Jackie Wilson, Boz Scaggs, and The Temptations, respectively). I had just started actively listening to the radio when this album came out, so I heard Rita's remakes before hearing any of the originals, and hers became the definitive versions for me. Coolidge first found fame as a back-up singer for Delaney & Bonnie, Leon Russell, Joe Cocker, and Eric Clapton. Russell's classic song "Delta Lady" was written about her. She was married to Kris Kristofferson from 1973-80 and had three more Top 40 pop hits — each of them also a Top 10 AC hit — in the five years after Anytime...Anywhere: "You" (#25 pop, #3 AC), "I'd Rather Leave While I'm in Love" (#38 pop, #3 AC), and "All Time High" (#36 pop, #1 AC). That last one was one of 10 songs from James Bond movies to ever hit the Top 40. The highest-charting ones were "A View to a Kill" by Duran Duran (#1), "Live and Let Die" by Paul McCartney & Wings, "Nobody Does It Better" by Carly Simon (#2), and "For Your Eyes Only" by Sheena Easton. The next three on the list all hit #8 on the pop chart: "Goldfinger" by Shirley Bassey, "Die Another Day" by Madonna, and "Skyfall" by Adele. Ironically, when measuring the pop-chart performances of all the Bond themes that hit the Top 40, "All Time High" was an all-time low. However, it was one of only two Bond songs to top the AC chart. To add further irony, the other was "Nobody Does It Better." Since they both hit #1, we'll call it an all-time tie.
680. Emergency - Kool & The Gang
Kool & The Gang formed in 1964 but had to wait 20 years for their biggest-selling album. Released in September 1984, Emergency was the Jersey-based band's 16th LP, and it sold over two million copies in the U.S. alone, thanks to four Top 20 singles: "Misled" (#10), "Fresh" (#9), "Cherish" (#2), and "Emergency" (#18). "Cherish" also topped the adult contemporary chart for six seeks. I bought the 45's of both "Fresh" and "Cherish." It's interesting how all four of the singles from Emergency had one-word titles. Maybe the guys in the Gang took stock of the fact that their two biggest hits up till then had been "Celebration" (#1) and "Joanna" (#2). From 1973-87, they saw 22 of their tunes hit the Top 40, with a dozen of those reaching the Top 10. And eight of those sold at least a million copies. Actually, "Celebration" sold two million. I first recall hearing that song at a pep rally in high school, and I liked it instantly. Kool & The Gang also had nine #1 R&B hits, including "Fresh" and "Cherish." They only had two more Top 40 hits after Emergency, and both went to #10 exactly — "Victory" (another one-word title) and "Stone Love." The first K&TG song I ever heard was also their first Top 10 hit, "Jungle Boogie," which peaked at #4 in '74. I still think that song is totally groovy. I also sometimes find myself spontaneously singing the chorus of their sixth Top 10 hit, "Get Down On It" (another song that went to #10 exactly), although I'm not too hot at remembering the rest of the words.
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.