Influential Albums: 884-890
Fri., Oct. 14. 2022 5:26pm 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.
884. The Best of Firefall - Firefall
Colorado soft-rock group Firefall is best remembered for the songs "You Are the Woman" (#9 pop, #6 adult contemporary) and "Just Remember I Love You" (#11 pop, #1 AC). But they had four other Top 40 hits: "Strange Way" (#11 pop, #24 AC), "Cinderella" (#34 pop, #35 AC), "Headed for a Fall" (#35 pop), and "Staying With It" (#37 pop, #46 AC). Released in 1981, The Best of Firefall wasted no time getting down to business, leading off with their four biggest hits in the order of their success. All six Top 40 hits were included on the album, plus two songs that missed the pop Top 40 but hit the AC Top 10: "Goodbye, I Love You" (#43 pop, #10 AC) and "Love That Got Away" (#50 pop, #9 AC). The Best of Firefall also featured the almost-hit "So Long" (#48 pop) although it was missing their first single, "Livin' Ain't Livin" (#42 pop), for some unknown reason. I was a big fan of "You Are the Woman," "Just Remember I Love You," and "Strange Way" at the time. Of the others, my favorite musically is the haunting "Cinderella," although I wish the characters lived happily ever after like the fairy tale.
885. London Town - Wings
This album came out in 1978 when I was in the midst of my personal Beatlemania, but I didn't buy it, even though I owned a number of other McCartney albums. I did buy the "With a Little Luck" single (it was a #1 hit, after all), which had "Backwards Traveler" on the flip side (like most McCartney B-sides, it was a good tune), but that was it. However, in the later months of 1987, I finally gave it a listen. I already knew and liked the rockin' second single, "I've Had Enough," which went to #25. I hadn't previously heard the third single, "London Town," which went to #39, but it quickly became a guilty pleasure — painfully corny but irresistibly catchy. Same goes for "Café on the Left Bank," "Deliver Your Children," and "Morse Moose and the Grey Goose."
886. The Very Best of Jay & The Americans - Jay & The Americans
When I was a kid, one of my older sisters had a piano/vocal songbook that featured sheet music for 100 hits from the 60's and early 70's. The front cover showed the titles of all the tunes, presented in numerical order like a Billboard Hot 100 chart. That's where I first heard of the New York-based vocal group Jay & The Americans, who had multiple songs in the book. They also had multiple Jays. John "Jay" Traynor sang on their first hit, "She Cried," and Jay Black (born David Blatt), sang on the rest of them. That dude could really do some wailing! Released in 1975, The Very Best of Jay & The Americans featured all four of their Top 10 singles: "Come a Little Bit Closer" (#3), "Cara Mia" (#4), "She Cried" (#5), and "This Magic Moment" (#6). It also included "Let's Lock the Door (And Throw Away the Key) (#11) and "Only in America" (#25). Sadly, the compilation was missing the excellent "Sunday and Me" (#18). It didn't have "Walkin' in the Rain" (#19) or their hit remake of Roy Orbison's "Crying" (#25), either. From 1970-71, Jay & The Americans' touring band included a couple nondescript musicians named Walter Becker and Donald Fagan, who were only about a year away from subversive stardom as the co-founders of Steely Dan. Cara mia! Only in America!
887. Kick - INXS
Released in October 1987, Kick was the sixth studio album by INXS. I already liked a number of songs by them before that: "The One Thing" (#30 pop, #2 rock), "I Sent a Message" (#77 pop, #41 rock), "What You Need" (#5 pop, #3 rock) and "Good Times" with Jimmy Barnes (#47 pop, #3 rock). But Kick took the Australian rock band to superstar status in the States, selling over 20 million copies worldwide (including six million here), thanks to four huge hits: "Need You Tonight" (#1 pop, #12 rock), "Devil Inside" (#2 pop, #2 rock), "New Sensation" (#3 pop, #8 rock), and "Never Tear Us Apart" (#7 pop, #5 rock). Two other tracks from Kick hit the U.S. rock charts: "Mystify" (#17 rock) and the title track (#33 rock). INXS would have nine other songs hit either the mainstream-rock or modern-rock Top 10 (introduced in September '88) after that, but only two hit the pop Top 10: "Suicide Blonde" (#9 pop, #1 mainstream rock, #1 modern rock) and "Disappear" (#8 pop, #6 mainstream rock, and #10 modern rock). ApologetiX spoofed "Devil Inside" in 2022. Rich Mannion and his wife, Nettie, used the song "Never Tear Us Apart" as their wedding song.
888. 16 Greatest Hits - B.J. Thomas
Born in Oklahoma but raised in Texas, pop-country singer B.J. Thomas had two #1 pop hits, and both were significant. "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" was the first #1 hit of the 70's, and "(Hey Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song" was the longest-titled #1 hit, not counting the Stars on 45 Medley, which technically included the names of 11 songs. Both of those singles also topped the adult contemporary chart and "Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song" hit #1 on the country chart, too. But Thomas had a dozen other Top 40 hits, including two additional #1 AC hits, "I Just Can't Help Believing" (#9 pop) and "Rock and Roll Lullaby" (#15 pop). Those are both great tunes. His other Top 20 hits were "Hooked on a Feeling" (#5), "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" (#8), "No Love at All" (#16 pop, #4 AC), and "Don't Worry Baby" (#17 pop, #2 AC). Two of his most interesting tracks went to #34: the depressing "Billy and Sue" and the uplifting "Mighty Clouds of Joy" (#8 AC). Released in 1976, 16 Greatest Hits featured his first 12 Top 40 hits but did not include the last two, "Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song" and "Don't Worry Baby." Thomas began recording Gospel music after becoming a Christian in '76. He also had two more country #1 hits in 1983, "Whatever Happened to Old Fashioned Love" (#93 pop, #13 AC) and "New Looks from an Old Lover."
889. Stay Hungry - Twisted Sister
Released in May 1984, Twisted Sister's third LP, Stay Hungry, gave the world the rock anthems "We're Not Gonna Take It" (#21 pop, #7 rock) and "I Wanna Rock" (#68 pop, #35 rock) along with a couple iconic accompanying videos. Most people don't realize or remember this, but there was also a third single, "The Price" (#107 pop, #19 rock), and it was a bit of a power ballad. The album itself made it to #15 and sold three million copies, helping to put Twisted Sister in the crosshairs of the Parental Music Resource Center (PMRC). That eventually led to nationally publicized hearings for the committee, explicit-lyrics warning labels for albums, and an even higher profile for Twister Sister's lead singer, Dee Snyder. However, the band was unable to maintain momentum on their next LP, Come Out and Play, which came out shortly after the hearings in the fall of '85. It only sold half a million copies. I did buy the first single, though — a cover version of the old Shangri-Las hit, "Leader of the Pack," that put a different spin on the story. I thought it was a clever concept, but the single stalled at #53 on the pop chart (#32 on the rock chart), the same position the album peaked at on the Billboard 200. During senior year, my roommate Lance and I had a miniature cut-out of Dee Snyder on a pulley system, so we could make him fly across our room. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Synder could probably say the same thing about when he filed his front teeth into points (also in the fall of '85). ApologetiX spoofed "We're Not Gonna Take It" in 2014. Four years later, National Public Radio (NPR) mentioned ApologetiX by name and played a clip of our parody during a feature they did on the longstanding, broad-based appeal of "We're Not Gonna Take It."
890. The Troggs Greatest Hits - The Troggs
British garage-rock band The Troggs are best known for their 1966 proto-punk piledriver, "Wild Thing" (#1 U.S., #1 U.K.) and rightly so ... the vocals and guitars are dripping with attitude, perfectly complementing the lyrics and music. But at least half of their hits were surprisingly sweet and delicate songs like "Love Is All Around" (#7 U.S., #5 U.K.), "With a Girl Like You" (#29 U.S., #1 U.K.), "Anyway That Want Me" (#8 U.K.), and "Little Girl" (#37 U.K.). Released in 1984 on Rhino Records, Best of The Troggs had all of the aforementioned tracks, plus the band's other hits: "I Can't Control Myself" (#43 U.S., #2 U.K.), "Give It to Me" (#12 U.K.), and "Night of the Long Grass" (#17 U.K.). Of those, the one that most closely recaptures the vibe of "Wild Thing" is "I Can't Control Myself."
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.