Influential Albums: 751-757
Sat., Jun. 4. 2022 4:13pm 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.
751. Whitesnake – Whitesnake
Whitesnake's seventh LP is known simply as Whitesnake in North America, but in Japan it was called Serpens Albus. In Europe and Australia, it was titled 1987, because it came out in the early spring of that year, and Whitesnake's lead singer David Coverdale (who sang for Deep Purple from 1973-76) had already released a solo album named White Snake in 1977. Here in the United States, Whitesnake went to #2 and sold over eight million copies, spawning two huge hits, "Here I Go Again" (#1 pop, #4 rock) and "Is This Love" (#2 pop, #13 rock), thanks in no small part to their videos, which featured Coverdale's then-girlfriend and soon-to-be wife, Tawny Kitaen. A friend of mine had a pampered French poodle named Tawny at the time, so that kind of ruined it for me. Anyway, those were the second and third singles from the album. The first, "Still of the Night," was more popular than its chart record indicates (#79 pop, #18 rock). It was about the closest thing we could find to Led Zeppelin at the time, and its video also included Kitaen. A fourth single, "Give Me All Your Love" did OK, too (#48 pop, #22 rock), although its video did not contain Kitaen. Despite the success of the songs on the aforementioned album, Whitesnake's biggest hit on the rock chart was "Fool for Your Loving" (#37 pop, #2 rock), the first single from their 1989 follow-up, Slip of the Tongue. ApologetiX spoofed "Here I Go Again" in 2006.
752. Welcome to the Pleasuredome - Frankie Goes to Hollywood
One of my friends owned this on cassette. Released in October 1984 and produced by Trevor Horn (who first found fame with The Buggles and Yes), Welcome to The Pleasuredome was a rock rarity — a debut double-album. And a successful one, too. It only went to #33 in the States, but it sold half a million copies. Meanwhile, it entered the U.K. charts at #1 and sold almost a million there in a significantly smaller market. Four of its tracks were huge U.K. hits: "Relax" (#1), "Two Tribes" (#1), "The Power of Love" (#1), and "Welcome to the Pleasuredome" (#2). The only one of those songs to hit the U.S. Top 40 was "Relax" (#10), but two others hit the Top 50, "Two Tribes" (#43 pop, #27 rock) and "Welcome to the Pleasuredome" (#48). The album also included cover versions of "Born to Run" by Bruce Springsteen, "Ferry Cross the Mersey" by Gerry and the Pacemakers, "Do You Know the Way to San Jose" by Dionne Warwick, and "War" by Edwin Starr. When I was in college, "Relax" was a huge hit at parties and a surefire way to get people up and dancing. ApologetiX spoofed it as the opening song in our 80's medley in 2011. I also was a big fan of "Two Tribes." Frankie Goes to Hollywood blazed bright but didn't last long. Their second and final non-compilation studio album, Liverpool, came out in October '86 and contained their final three U.K. hits, "Rage Hard" (#4), "Warriors of the Wasteland" (#19), and "Watching the Wildlife" (#28), none of which hit the Billboard 200. However, the band experienced a resurgence on the U.K. charts in 1993-94, when the four singles from Welcome to the Pleasuredome were reissued and each hit the Top 20 — "Relax" (#5), "Welcome to the Pleasuredome" (#18). "The Power of Love" (#10), and "Two Tribes" (#16) — although "Welcome to the Pleasuredome" and "Two Tribes" were remixes. In 2000, new remixes of those two singles hit the U.K. charts a third time: "Two Tribes" (#17) and "Welcome to the Pleasuredome" (#45). Frankie say re-release.
753. Sunny Afternoon - Various Artists
I got a discount copy of this 1983 compilation on vinyl in 1986. It featured 20 songs, most of which were significant U.S. hits, including two each by The Lovin' Spoonful, The Byrds, The Kinks, The Turtles, Donovan, and The Mamas & The Papas, plus single selections by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, Fleetwood Mac, and Bobby Hebb. But I had all of those songs already. The four tracks that kept me coming back were two by Traffic — "Paper Sun" (#5 U.K., #94 U.S.) and "Hole in My Shoe" (#2 U.K.) and two by The Small Faces — "Itchycoo Park" (#3 U.K., #16 U.S.) and "Lazy Sunday" (#2 U.K., #114 U.S.). I already knew and liked "Itchycoo Park," and it probably was the reason I bought the record, but the other three weren't big U.S. hits, so they were new to me, and I'm really glad I found them. The remaining U.K. hit I wasn't familiar with, "Sitting in the Park" (#12 U.K.) by Georgia Fame and the Blue Flames, was pretty good, too. For a complete track listing, go to https://www.discogs.com/release/1799689-Various-Sunny-Afternoon
754. Ice on Fire - Elton John
Released in November 1985, Ice on Fire was Elton John's 19th studio album and his first in nine years with original producer Gus Dudgeon, who had produced all of his 70's classic albums from Elton John in 1970 through Blue Moves in 1976. Ice on Fire makes this list because it generated two of my favorite Elton singles of the 80's: "Wrap Her Up" (#20 U.S. pop, #12 U.K. pop) and "Nikita" (#7 U.S. pop, #3 U.S. adult contemporary, #3 U.K. pop), both featuring Wham's George Michael on backing vocals. "Nikita" also went to #1 in Belgium, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Switzerland. and #2 in Canada and Norway. A third single, "Cry to Heaven" went to #47 on the U.K. chart but was not a hit in the states, although it did go to #13 in both Belgium and the Netherlands. Sister Sledge sang backing vocals on the peppy opening track, "This Town," and Queen's John Deacon and Roger Taylor played bass and drums on side one's closer, "Too Young." Ice on Fire went to #3 on the U.K. chart, but only went as far as #48 in the States, where it sold just half a million copies. The title comes from a line in "Nikita," which says, "Ten of your tin soldiers in a row with eyes that looked like ice on fire."
755. Love Won the Fight - B.E. Taylor Group
Despite a powerful voice that rivaled Steve Perry's and a well-deserved "good guy" reputation, Pittsburgh icon B.E. Taylor and his group never quite got the national acclaim they deserved. None of their albums hit the Billboard 200, and when they finally achieved a Hot 100 single in 1984, "Vitamin L" (#66 pop), it wasn't even sung by B.E. himself, but by their drummer, Joey d'Amico. It did become a Billboard #1 regional hit, though. In the two years that followed, the group had two more charting singles, "Reggae Rock N Roll" (#102) in 1985 and "Karen" (#94) in 1986, and both of those were sung by Taylor. They'd already had one hit on the Billboard rock chart, "Never Hold Back" (#54), in 1982. I saw Taylor in concert four times — twice in 1982-83 at IUP, once at Kennywood Park in the early 90's, and once in Wheeling WV in the late 90's. The second time I saw him play, he was touring in support of the album Love Won the Fight as an opener for fellow local legend Donnie Iris. I was extremely impressed with the performances of both artists and their bands. "Vitamin L" was the big song on Love Won the Fight, but I was much more taken with the title track — which blew me away in concert — and a third song called "Just a Beat Away." Another tune with a memorable title was "Lonely at the Bottom." I got to meet B.E. a time or two ... at Kennywood Park and after one of his Christmas shows. Speaking of which, I'm a huge fan of his version of "Mary's Boy Child" from his 1994 solo album, B.E. Taylor Christmas. That song always gets plenty of airplay in our minivan during the holiday season, as my kids can attest. An extremely outgoing older ApologetiX fan named Dottie Infante counted B.E. and ApX as her two favorite artists, and she made sure he'd heard of us long before I ever met him. Three of the members of B.E. Taylor Group were previously in the progressive-rock band Crack the Sky: Rick Witkowski (guitar), Joe Macre (bass), and Joey D'Amico (drums). My old roommate Tom Dellaquila was a big fan of both B.E. and Crack the Sky. ApologetiX recorded the drums and bass parts for two our albums at Rick Witkowski's Studio L in Weirton WV, with Rick acting as our engineer: Recovery (2009) and Wise Up and Rock (2011). He was a super-nice guy, too.
756. Dirty Dancing - Original Soundtrack from the Vestron Motion Picture
Released in July 1987, the Dirty Dancing soundtrack spent 18 weeks at #1, selling
11 million copies in the United States alone and 32 million worldwide. That makes it the fifth biggest soundtrack of all time in the States, trailing only The Bodyguard, Saturday Night Fever, Purple Rain, and Forrest Gump. "The first single, "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" by Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes, went to #1 on both the pop and adult contemporary charts, but I bought it before that, because I liked it so much. Medley had already topped the charts twice in 1965 and '66 with The Righteous Brothers, and Warnes had done the same in '82 with "Up Where We Belong," her duet with Joe Cocker. Dirty Dancing spun off two other Top Five hits, "She's Like the Wind" by Patrick Swayze (#3 pop, #1 AC) and "Hungry Eyes" by Eric Carmen (#4 pop, #2 AC). A fourth single, "Yes" by Merry Clayton (best known as the female voice on The Rolling Stones' classic "Gimme Shelter"), just missed the Top 40 (#45 pop, #49 AC). Other tracks on the album included oldies that had charted decades earlier, like "Hey! Baby" by Bruce Channell (#1), "Stay" by Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs (#1),"Be My Baby" by The Ronettes (#2), "Love Is Strange" by Mickey & Sylvia (#11), and "In the Still of the Night" by The Five Satins (#24). A sequel to the soundtrack, More Dirty Dancing, followed in March '88 and went to #3 on the Billboard 200, selling four million copies in the States. It also went to #3 in the U.K., where the original soundtrack had only gone to #4. The big hit on More Dirty Dancing was "Do You Love Me" by The Contours, which had previously been a #3 hit in '62. Reissued as a single in '88, it went to #11. I didn't see the actual movie Dirty Dancing until my honeymoon in 2000. My blushing bride, Lisa, had suggested we spend the week in Mountain Lake VA (although we stayed at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville TN on our wedding night) at the lodge where much of the movie was filmed, so while we were there, we rented the film. It was sort of surreal to come out of our cabin and see the same scenery we'd viewed in the video, but I ... had the time of my life.
757. Fortune 410 - Donnie Iris
As I've mentioned before, I saw Donnie Iris in concert when I was a sophomore in college at IUP in the fall of 1983. Even though I already knew and enjoyed his songs "Ah! Leah!" and "Love Is Like a Rock," I was unprepared for just how great he and his band, The Cruisers, were live. That show was inspirational to me and further fueled my aspirations of becoming a touring rock performer someday. Donnie had just released his fourth LP, Fortune 410, several months earlier. The big single from that one was "Do You Compute?" (#64 pop, #20 rock), which translated well in concert. My favorite line was "I ain't go good with words." It reminds me of a classic quote from one of my roommates at the time, Joe Flickinger: "I'm not too well with words." I think Donnie was trying to be funny where as Joe was being unintentionally ironic. The other songs from Fortune 410 that I heard on our local rock stations were "Stage Door Johnny" and "She's So European" (not a cover of the 1980 Kiss song with the same title) although neither made the national charts. Incidentally, Fortune 410 refers to the style of Donnie's trademark glasses, which gave him an 80's Buddy Holly look. The album itself went to #127 on the Billboard 200. His next LP, No Muss ... No Fuss, went to #115 in 1985 and was his final one to chart. I love the title of his 2010 Christmas album, Ah! Leluiah! I bought a copy in May 2022 as an early Christmas-in-July gift for our bass player, Keith Haynie, who loves Christmas and Donnie Iris.
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.