Influential Albums: 765-771
Sat., Jun. 18. 2022 12:41am 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.
765. Greatest Hits - Air Supply
The dynamic duo from Down Under, Air Supply had eight U.S. Top 10 hits, and every one of them also made it to the Top 5. "The One That You Love" was their only #1 pop single, but two others hit #2: "All Out of Love" and "Making Love Out of Nothing at All," which was recorded for and released in conjunction with their first Greatest Hits collection in the summer of 1983. I never owned that album, although I think I bought their Now and Forever LP in '82 for my first girlfriend. Greatest Hits reached number #7 on the Billboard 200 and sold five million copies in the United States alone. It contained the three songs I already mentioned specifically, plus the others I alluded to: "Lost in Love" (#3 pop, #1 adult contemporary), "Every Woman in the World" (#5 pop, #2 AC), "Here I Am (Just When I Thought I Was Over You)" (#5 pop, #1 AC), "Sweet Dreams" (#5 pop, #4 AC), and "Even the Nights Are Better" (#5 pop, #1 AC). Most guys I knew in high school and college (including myself) wouldn't be caught dead listening to Air Supply at the time, but I've mellowed with age. Since I collected every song that hit the Top 5 in that era, I've had all of the aforementioned hits. Musically, my favorite is "Even the Nights Are Better," although I've grown to appreciate the lyrics to "Every Woman in the World," because the chorus reminds me of my wife, Lisa. The chorus to "The One That You Love" is pretty irresistible, too, and I've been known to sing it (tongue in cheek, of course) when the appropriate occasion arises. The man behind the music of Meat Loaf, Jim Steinman, wrote and produced "Making Love Out of Nothing at All," and he did the same for Bonnie Tyler's chart-topping single, "Total Eclipse of the Heart." That's particularly noteworthy, because those two singles occupied the #1 and #2 spots on the Hot 100 concurrently for three weeks in October '83. They'd entered the Top 40 the same week, too ... at #39 ("Total Eclipse") and #40 ("Making Love"). "Eclipse" was #1 for four weeks; it had to wait a week at #1 before "Making Love" got to #2. Air Supply had three other Top 40 singles that aren't on Greatest Hits: "Two Less Lonely People in the World" (#38 pop, #4 AC), "Young Love" (#38 pop, #13 AC), and "Just as I Am" (#19 pop, #3 AC). Ironically, they never had a Top 5 hit in their native Australia, and the single that came closest, "Love and Other Bruises" (#6), wasn't a hit anywhere outside of Oz.
766. Dr. Demento's Delights - Various Artists
Released in 1975, Dr. Demento's Delights was the first of at least 15 compilations curated by the funny physician. My cousin Mark Jackson let me borrow his copy, which I kept in my collection for quite some time. It contained a couple legit hits, like "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh" by Allan Sherman (#2) and "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!" by Napoleon XIV (#3), but most of the tracks were obscure oddities like "Who Put the Benzedrine in Mrs. Murphey's Ovaltine" by Harry "The Hiptser" Gibson, "The Cockroach That Ate Cincinnati" by Possum, and "Friendly Neighborhood Narco Agent" by Jef Jaisun. The crown jewel for me, however, was a cover version of The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" by Doodles Weaver. If you've never heard it, you really need to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CefwSeDhkGM. California-based DJ Barry Hansen became Dr. Demento in 1970 and amused audiences with his large library of novelty songs over the next 40 years. One of his listeners was a guy named Alfred Yankovic, who got his first significant airplay on The Dr. Demento Show in 1976. It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship between 'Weird Al" and the good doctor, who played the parody prince's offerings many times on his shows. ApologetiX was first featured on The Dr. Demento Show the weekend of May 16, 1998. He talked a little bit about the band and played "Plump," our parody of "Lump" by the Presidents of the United States of America. I don't know if he ever played us a second time; the biblical flavor of our parodies may be a bit of a deterrent. Then again, explain how we ended up having multiple songs played four different times in three years on The Howard Stern Radio Show! That Howard Stern is always pushing the envelope, isn't he? All that having been said, it's still makes for a great tagline: "The only band to be featured on the radio shows of both Billy Graham and Howard Stern ... and both The 700 Club and The Dr. Demento Show!"
767. The Lonesome Jubilee - John Cougar Mellencamp
I remember that when this album came out in late August 1987, Mellencamp was on the cover of Spin magazine. I couldn't believe how long his hair was getting! That sounds like something my mom would have said about me up until not so long ago! Anyway, I'd really enjoyed his previous two albums, so I borrowed a tape of this one from Tom Dellaquila. One of us — I can't remember who — had already owned the first single, "Paper in Fire." The second single was "Cherry Bomb," the song most people thought said "That's when a smoke was a smoke," when he was actually saying, "That's when a sport was a sport." As seems to happen many times on this list, it was the third single that I liked the best, "Check It Out." The fourth single, "Rooty Toot Toot," was pretty good, even though it only went to #61 on the pop charts. Two other tracks also hit the Top 10 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts, "Hard Times for an Honest Man" and "The Real Life," another tune I liked quite a bit, and not just because it talked about a guy named Jackson Jackson! One thing I loved about this album was the use of traditional folk and country instruments like the fiddle, accordion, mandolin, etc. That kind of sound always gets to me. Hey, here's something I just noticed that only a chart geek could love: On Mellencamp's Uh-Huh album, the first three singles went to #9 ("Crumblin' Down"), #8 ("Pink Houses"), and #15 ("Authority Song"). On The Lonesome Jubilee, the first three singles went to #9, #8, and #15, too. Isn't that interesting? C'mon, humor me!
768. Document - R.E.M.
In the fall of 1987, I bought my first new car — my only cool car ever — a blue '87 Camaro, complete with cassette deck. Document was the first new tape I bought to play in it, and it featured REM's first Top 10 hit, "The One I Love" (#9 pop, #2 rock). It also featured another catchy song that would go on to be the album's second single, "It's the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)" (#69 pop, #16 rock). I was always a sucker for rapid-fire wordplay and vocals. Other sungs that stuck in my mind were "Finest Worksong" (#28 rock), "Exhuming McCarthy," and "Lightnin' Hopkins." ApologetiX would go on to spoof three REM songs from three different albums — "Losing My Religion" (#4 pop, #1 rock #1 alternative), "Everybody Hurts" (#29 pop, #21 alternative), and "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" (#21 pop, #2 rock, #1 alternative) — but none from Document. For the record, my favorite REM song is still "Radio Free Europe" (#78 pop, #25 rock), which I used to sing (as best as I could discern the lyrics) in my last secular band back in 1987. My other favorites have included "Can't Get There from Here" (#14 rock), "Superman" (#17 rock), "Stand," "Shiny Happy People" (#10 pop, #8 rock, #3 alternative), and "Bang and Blame" (#19 pop, #3 rock, #1 alternative).
769. Bad - Michael Jackson
When is an album with an estimated 35 million copies sold worldwide, including 11 million in the United States, considered a disappointment? Only when it's Michael Jackson's follow-up to Thriller, which sold twice as many worldwide and over three times as many in the United States. Oh, well ... nice try, Michael. Thriller had been the first album ever to spawn seven Top 10 singles. Bad had a measly six, although it came close as can be with "Another Part of Me," (#11). However, Bad did yield a record-breaking five #1 hit singles (Thriller had just two): "I Just Can't Stop Loving You," "Bad," "The Way You Make Me Feel," "Man in the Mirror," and "Dirty Diana." They were the first five singles released from the album, as a matter of fact. "Another Part of Me" was the sixth. The final single, "Smooth Criminal" (#7), put Michael back in the Top 10 again. Two other songs from Bad became international hits but weren't singles stateside: "Leave Me Alone" (#2 U.K., #1 Ireland, #1 Greece, and Top 10 in at least seven additional countries) and "Liberian Girl" (#13 U.K., #1 Ireland, #4 Poland, #9 Finland). Released on August 31, 1987, Bad debuted at #1 on Billboard's album chart and stayed there for six weeks. I bought the first two singles, because I collected #1 hits, but in early '88, I quit the race and bequeathed my collection of #1 records to my roommate at the time, Tom Dellaquila, so he had to buy the other three. Incidentally, only one album since Bad has produced five #1's — Katy Perry's 2010 album Teenage Dream. Six other artists have put out albums that produced four #1's: Whitney Houston, George Michael, Paula Abdul, Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, and Usher. ApologetiX spoofed "Smooth Criminal" in 2002, but we replicated the style of Alien Ant Farm's 2001 cover version (#1 alternative, #18 mainstream rock, #23 pop). Our parody, "Smooth Grandmama," became a Top 40 hit on the R&R national Christian rock chart in 2002. It was our first of four Top 40 hits on R&R that I know of.
770. Walk Away Renée/Pretty Ballerina - The Left Banke
Formed in New York City in 1965, The Left Banke had an interesting sound critics called "baroque pop" or "Bach rock," because it incorporated classical string arrangements into the mix. The group came out of the gate strong in 1966 with their first two singles, "Walk Away Renée" (#5 Billboard, #2 Cash Box) and "Pretty Ballerina" (#15 Billboard, #12 Cash Box). I inherited "Walk Away Renée" on 45 from my sisters, and I discovered (and taped) "Pretty Ballerina" thanks to my college radio partner/mentor Brian Wolfe. Those were two incredible songs. Unfortunately, only one other single by the group even hit the Hot 100, and it barely squeaked in — "Desiree" (#98 Billboard, #127 Cash Box). The Four Tops had a hit cover version of "Walk Away Renée" in 1968 (#14 Billboard, #8 Cash Box). In his autobiography, Bruce Springsteen's sideman Steve Van Zandt says "Pretty Ballerina" was one of the songs he suggested for the last scene in the series finale of The Sopranos (a show in which he co-starred), but it was beaten out by "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey. Only one Left Banke LP hit the Billboard 200, and the title said it all: Walk Away Renée/Pretty Ballerina. That record was released in January '67 and went to #67. It also contained a third single, "She May Call You Up Tonight," which stalled at #120. Although that tune is pretty, too, it's probably for the best that it wasn't a hit ... calling the album Walk Away Renée/Pretty Ballerina/She May Call You Up Tonight might have been a bit much.
771. Time of The Zombies - The Zombies
This 1973 double album contains all three of The Zombies' Top 10 hits — "She's Not There" (#1 Cash Box, #2 Billboard), "Time of the Season" (#1 Cash Box, #3 Billboard), and "Tell Her No" (#6 Cash Box, #6 Billboard) — three of my favorite songs from the 60's. It also includes the entirety of their critically acclaimed second LP, Odessey and Oracle (Yeah, that's how they spelled it), which has a sound that reminds me of The Beach Boys (circa late-60's), The Moody Blues, The Hollies, The Association ... and The Zombies, of course. Although Odessey and Oracle only went to #95 when it was originally released in 1968, it is now regarded as a 60's masterpiece. Rolling Stone magazine ranked it as one of the Top 100 albums of all time in 2003 and 2012, and Mojo magazine did the same in 1995. Sadly, the album sold so poorly in '68 that The Zombies had broken up by the time its final track, "Time of the Season," was released as a single in '69 and sold a million copies. By then, two of the members, Rod Argent and Chris White, had left to form Argent, a band that would have its own Top 5 hit in 1972, "Hold Your Head Up" (#5 Billboard, #5 Cash Box). The Zombies would not reunite until 1989. Time of the Zombies also includes the singles "She's Coming Home" (#48 Cash Box, #58 Billboard), "Imagine the Swan" (#77 Cash Box, #109 Billboard), and "Whenever You're Ready" (#114 Cash Box, #110 Billboard). It does not include, however, "I Want You Back Again" (#92 Cash Box, #95 Billboard), "Remember When I Loved Her" (#122 Cash Box), and "Just Out of Reach" (#110 Cash Box, #113 Billboard). ApologetiX spoofed "She's Not There" in 2018. We haven't spoofed "Time of the Season," but I used to sing it in a garage band back in '86.
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.