Influential Albums: 1024-1030
Sat., Mar. 4. 2023 9:35am EST
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:
1024. Cycles - Doobie Brothers
Released in May 1989, Cycles was the 10th studio LP by The Doobie Brothers, and their first since '82. It marked the return of lead vocalist/guitarist Tom Johnston, who had been replaced after an illness by Michael McDonald on the previous four albums. Drummers Michael Hossack and John Hartman also returned for the first time since 1974 and '79. Cyclesyielded two singles "The Doctor" (#9 pop, #1 rock) and "Need a Little Taste of Love" (#45 pop, #3 rock). Not surprisingly, those tunes sounded just like the classic Doobie Brothers stuff I loved so much. A third cut, "South of the Border," reached #30 on the rock chart. I think I actually first heard "The Doctor" performed by The 101 Band on those local Christian cruises I've talked about before. It was a current or recent hit at the time, and they basically played the song "as is" but substituted the word "Jesus" for "music." It was theologically correct, and it sounded a lot like the original. That may have been what inspired me to spoof "China Grove," although I changed a lot more than one word. Of course, some people might argue that "The Doctor" itself was inspired by "China Grove" (and maybe "Rockin' Down the Highway") if you listen to the music. I bought a used copy of Cycles on cassette at Jerry's Records in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh in the spring of 1992. ApologetiX eventually recorded and released the aforementioned "China Grove" parody in '92, '98, and 2015, but I know I was already singing and playing it in public by the time I met Karl Messner in the spring of '90. We would release spoofs of three other early Doobie Brothers hits in '93 and '94.
1025. Live at Carnegie Hall - Buck Owens and The Buckaroos
This album was originally recorded in March 1966 and released as Carnegie Hall Concert three months later. Karl Messner bought the CD reissue and wound up giving me a crash course in Buck Owens by playing it so many times in my presence. Before that, I thought of Owens mainly as the other guy next to Roy Clark on the Hee Haw television show, although I knew he was mentioned in the Creedence Clearwater Revival hit "Lookin' Out My Back Door." I also knew he'd had one Top 40 hit, "(I've Got a) Tiger by the Tail" (#25 pop in 1965). That song hit #1 for five weeks on the Billboardcountry chart, too, but it was just the tip of the iceberg. All told, Owens had 21 songs that hit #1 on the Billboardcountry chart, and he was recognized as the top country artist of the '60s. And what a showman! We really enjoyed his onstage banter, and it probably influenced our early shows once we got ApologetiX rolling. In addition to "Tiger by the Tail," my favorite songs on this album were "Buckaroo" (#1 country, #60 pop), "Waitin' in the Welfare Line" (#1 country, #57 pop), "Above and Beyond" (#3 country), "Excuse Me (I Think I've Got a Heartache)" (#2 country), "Love's Gonna Live Here" (#1 country for 16 weeks!!!), and "Act Naturally" (#1 country). I'd always loved The Beatles' cover version of that one, too. ApologetiX eventually released a parody of "Tiger by the Tail" in 1994.
1026. The River - Allies
Released in 1990, The Riverwas the fifth Allies LP. As I mentioned earlier on this list, I was already familiar with their fourth, Long Way from Paradise. Karl picked up a copy of The River and played it a bunch. The songs I remember best are the humorous "Island Song" (you can hear echoes of that in our parody "Should I Pray or Should I Go?"), "Take Me to the River" (not the same song as the one made famous by Al Green and Talking Heads), and the ten-minute "Can't Stop the River." Another noteworthy tune, "Burden Down," had a hint of Led Zeppelin's "Misty Mountain Hop" to it. That shouldn't be surprising, since the title track of the Long Way from Paradise was reminiscent of "Black Dog." Come to think of it, "Black Dog" and "Misty Mountain Hop" were the opening tracks of sides one and two of Led Zeppelin's untitled fourth album (a.k.a. "Zoso"), and "Long Way from Paradise" was the first track on side one of its album while "Burden Down" was the first track on side two of The River. Ooh ... it makes me wonder.
1027. Baby Boomer Classics: Rockin' Seventies - Various Artists
In 1989, I joined a young-adults singles group called YAMS at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Pittsburgh. For one of our retreats, we decided to have a '70s party, and I offered to supply the music. Since I no longer had my old extensive record collection, I went shopping at the record store, looking to get as much bang for my buck as possible. One of the albums I ended up with was Baby Boomer Classics: Rockin' Seventies. The main thing I remember is that it had "Looking for a Love" by J. Geils Band (which I briefly used as background music on my answering machine, but not because of the title) and "Radar Love" by Golden Earring. When I take a look at the track listing now, it's stunning how many songs ApologetiX went on to spoof. Of the 10 remaining tracks, we've released parodies of seven of them: "Go All the Way" (Raspberries), "Hold Your Head Up" (Argent), "Your Mama Don't Dance" (Loggins and Messina), "Long Cool Woman" (The Hollies), "Crocodile Rock" (Elton John), "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" (Bachman-Turner Overdrive), and "Rock On" (David Essex). The other three tracks were "I Shot the Sheriff" (Eric Clapton), "Ride Captain Ride" (Blues Image), and "Slow Ride" (Foghat). I'd previously purchased a few other albums in the Baby Boomer Classics series when I was a senior in college, and I'd buy at least one more down the road.
1028. Led Zeppelin (Boxed Set) - Led Zeppelin
Released in September 1990, this four-disc collection contained only two previously unreleased tracks, "Travelling Riverside Blues" and "White Summer/Black Mountain Side," plus one new mix combining a couple previously released songs, "Moby Dick/Bonzo's Montreux." It also had one other track that had never been on a Led Zeppelin album before, "Hey, Hey, What Can I Do" — one of my all-time favorite Led Zeppelin songs — previously only available as the B-side of the "Immigrant Song" single. I had owned that 45 record and all of Led Zeppelin's studio albums, so the boxed set wasn't a deal to me (aside from the fact that it was on CD), but it was a revelation to Karl, who obtained a copy for himself. There were 50 other tracks, and I'd already written spoofs of two of them, "Good Times, Bad Times" and "Rock and Roll," before we met. In fact, those were probably the two songs that piqued his interest in what I was doing in the first place. In the years to come, ApologetiX would release recordings of those two plus a dozen other Zep parodies. All of the ones we spoofed were on this collection except "Living Loving Maid (She's Just a Woman)." I don't know which is the bigger mystery: 1. Why they left it off the boxed set (after all, it was one of only 10 Zep songs to hit the Billboard Hot 100). 2. How the record company thought it would be OK to still include "Heartbreaker" without it (those songs were always played back to back on rock stations I listened to, in accordance with their sequencing on Led Zeppelin II). They did put it on a supplemental Boxed Set 2 in 1993 with the 30 other tracks from their studio albums that didn't appear on the previous collection, plus a new recording called "Baby Come On Home." I bought that two-disc set as a gift for Karl at some point myself.
1029. UHF - Motion Picture Soundtrack and Other Stuff - "Weird Al" Yankovic
Karl spotted a used copy of this cassette at a flea market or yard sale in 1990 or '91. It had a piece of masking tape across the front that said "Too much comedy for $1." He told the guy who was selling it, "That istoo much comedy for a dollar; I'll give you 50 cents." Sold. At the time, we hadn't yet seen the UHF movie, although we eventually would ... numerous times. Both the film and the soundtrack LP were released in July 1989. I hadn't been paying much attention to "Weird Al" Yankovic since I'd picked up his Polka Partyalbum in early '87, and I was pretty impressed with his progress. I hadn't been paying much attention to secular music, either, so I became familiar with the UHF parodies "Spam," "She Drives Like Crazy," and "Isle Thing" before the original hits they spoofed ("Stand" by R.E.M., "She Drives Me Crazy" by Fine Young Cannibals, and "Wild Thing" by Tone Lōc). I was, however, already familiar with "Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits, the source song for the other parody, "Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies." The album also included two skits from the UHF movie, "Gandhi II" and "Spatula City," and I liked those even better than the parodies. And then there was "The Hot Rocks Polka," a brilliantly segued medley of 12 classic Rolling Stones tunes adapted for accordion accompaniment. So well done! But I liked some of Al's originals on this album best of all: "UHF," "Generic Blues," "Fun Zone," "Let Me Be Your Hog," and "The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota," an epic homage to classic story songs by Gordon Lightfoot and Harry Chapin. Years later, after the first or second time ApologetiX played the big Sonshine festival in Willmar MN (we played there five years in a row), we happened upon the giant twine ball Al was singing about ... just 35 miles away in Darwin MN. What a thrill! ApologetiX eventually spoofed "Money for Nothing" and "Wild Thing," too. We've also spoofed R.E.M. and Fine Young Cannibals — just not those particular songs. In conclusion, the cash for that cassette was 50 cents well spent!
1030. Appetite for Destruction - Guns N' Roses
Released in July 1987, Appetite for Destruction went on to become the bestselling debut album in U.S. history, with 19 million copies sold in the states and 30 million worldwide. The first person I knew who owned it was a guy I worked with at Foothills Litho named Jeff Ludwig. I never listened to his copy, but it got me curious, and I bought the cassingle of "Sweet Child O' Mine" around the time of my "lost weekend" in August '88, as described in my previous entry for Steve Winwood's Roll With It LP. Appetite for Destruction spawned three Top 10 pop singles, "Sweet Child o' Mine" (#1), "Welcome to the Jungle" (#7), and "Paradise City" (#5). You'd think that those tunes would have done even better on the rock charts, but only "Sweet Child O' Mine" even made the rock Top 10 (#7). "Paradise City" went to #14 and "Welcome to the Jungle" only went to #37. A fourth song, "Nightrain," reached #26. Even though I wasn't actively listening to mainstream radio at the time, I was aware of the three singles, and I thought they were all catchy and had a very interesting sound. Karl knew them all better than I did, and he also liked another song on that album called "Mr. Brownstone," which was actually released (along with the song "It's So Easy") as the first Guns N' Roses U.K. single in June '87 and went to #84 there. When we'd get together with Jeff and Andy to jam, we'd mess around with GNR songs sometimes, and I'd make up new words on the fly. ApologetiX later released spoofs of "Sweet Child O' Mine" in 1992, 2012, and 2013; "Paradise City" in 1994 and 2018; and "Welcome to the Jungle" in 2004. I also wrote a full set of parody lyrics to "Mr. Brownstone," although I doubt we'll ever record that one. Of course, Guns N' Roses would have additional hits on other albums, and ApologetiX would release additional GNR spoofs, but I'll mention those later. I know people have widely varying opinions about Axl Rose as a lead vocalist, but I thought he was innovative and dynamic, particularly in the way he could bellow low notes one moment and belt out high ones the next.
Don't worry; there are still plenty of Christian albums to come on this list, including the next couple entries.