Influential Albums 1073-79
Fri., Apr. 21. 2023 12:12am 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:
1073. Isn't Wasn't Ain't - ApologetiX
It may seem somewhat self-serving to include offerings from my own band on this list, but we are listing albums that influenced me, after all ... and I'm certainly not going to rave about the musical merits of this one anyway. Recorded on June 3, 1993 (with overdubs added later) and released on July 17, Isn't Wasn't Ain't was the first ApologetiX project to be professionally mass-produced ... a thousand cool-looking clear cassettes (with the band's name and titles for the album and songs directly printed onto them), nestled inside full-color J-cards (no relation to yours truly) in classic plastic cases surrounded by shrink-wrap. That was a pretty influential event. We'd done three cassettes (one live and two studio) before that, but they were all homemade. This one was a real step up in production and reproduction at the time. Nevertheless, we didn't put out a CD version till 2003, in celebration of the album's 10th anniversary. Then we did a "director's cut" in 2005. It's funny how something that sounded so good to me at the time can make me cringe now. But I guess you could say that with a lot of albums on this list. In most of those instances, though, it's because of the lyrics. That isn't, wasn't, and ain't the primary issue here, although there was plenty of room left for growth there, too.
1074. Free at Last - DC Talk
DC Talk's third LP, Free at Last, was released in November 1992, but I don't consciously remember hearing any selections from it until July 1993. This landmark album featured seven cuts that reached the Top 15 on the Christian Hit Radio (CHR) chart, including three #1 hits: "Socially Acceptable," "Lean On Me" (a cover of the two-time pop-chart topper by Bill Withers and Club Nouveau), and "The Hard Way." It also featured two #2 hits: "Jesus Is Just Alright" (a rap-flavored update of the classic first made famous by The Byrds and Doobie Brothers) and "Say the Words." The other hits were "Time Is" (#12) and "Luv is a Verb" (#15). Having been a fan of both of the previously mentioned versions of "Jesus Is Just Alright," I wasn't really looking forward to another, but DC Talk surprised and impressed me with their innovative remake. In 2001, Free at Last was listed at #9 on CCM magazine's list of "The Greatest Albums in Christian Music." Despite all that success, the lads from Liberty were just getting started.
1075. Nevermind - Nirvana
Nirvana's second LP is generally recognized as the album that set off the grunge/alternative explosion of the '90s while simultaneously snuffing out the hair metal scene of the '80s. Released in late September 1991, Nevermind quickly and loudly made its presence known with a nifty little number called "Smells Like Teen Spirit," which hit #1 on the alternative chart, #7 on the mainstream rock chart and, most remarkably, #6 on the pop chart. The second single, "Come as You Are," did some damage, too (#3 alternative, #3 mainstream, #32 pop). Things slowed down slightly for the third single, "Lithium" (#16 mainstream, #25 alternative, #64 pop). Two other cuts made the alternative chart: "On a Plain" (#25) and "In Bloom" (#5). The album itself went to #1 in January '92. More significantly, it sold over 30 million copies worldwide. I should have put it earlier on this list, because ApologetiX spoofed "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on our first homemade studio cassette in 1992 (Karl loved that song as soon as it the radio and immediately brought it to my attention) and then again (a totally different parody) in 2002. I wrote a parody of "Come as You Are" in '94, which we released in 1997. We also alluded to Nevermind with the front cover of our 2014 CD Apoplectic, which spoofed 13 songs from the '90s alternative scene.
1076. Ten - Pearl Jam
When Nirvana popped up on this list, you had to figure Pearl Jam wouldn't be far behind, right? Believe it or not, their breakthrough album actually came out almost a full month before Nirvana's Nevermind. Released in late August 1991, Ten "only" made it made it to #2 on the Billboard 200, but it sold 13 million copies in the United States ... about two and a half million more than Nevermind. And Pearl Jam's next three albums would all top the charts, as would two later ones, although Ten remains their top seller. Both bands combined to put the Seattle sound on the music map, along with two other grunge greats who achieved significant success — Alice in Chains and Soundgarden. None of the songs from Ten hit the Top 40, but they became rock classics: "Alive" (#16 mainstream rock, #18 alternative), "Even Flow" (#3 mainstream, #21 alternative), "Jeremy" (#5 mainstream, #5 alternative), and "Black" (#3 mainstream, #20 alternative). Although it didn't chart, I also heard "Once" on the radio many times, which is ironic, considering the title. Speaking of which, eight tracks on Ten had one-word titles. The only two that didn't were "Why Go" and "Even Flow." And that makes me wonder: Why go and disrupt such an even flow of one-word titles? ApologetiX started jamming on tunes from Ten in '92 or '93. We eventually released spoofs of "Even Flow" in '94 and 2019 and "Alive" in '97. I also wrote a parody of "Jeremy" back in the mid-'90s, which we have to yet to record.
1077. Achtung Baby - U2
Released in November 1991, Achtung Baby was U2's seventh studio LP. It topped the Billboard 200 for just one week (displaced by Michael Jackson's Dangerous) but sold eight million copies in the States, second among U2 albums to The Joshua Tree. The first cut I heard on the radio was "The Fly" (#1 alternative, #2 mainstream rock, #61 pop), while driving home from Washington D.C. It was too avant-garde for my tastes at the time, but I later changed my tune on that tune. I remember Karl being fascinated with the biblical overtones of another track, "Until the End of the World" (#4 alternative, #5 mainstream), and straining to figure out all the words; those were the days when you couldn't just look up the lyrics on the internet. One song I did like as soon as I heard it was "Mysterious Ways" (#1 mainstream for 12 weeks, #1 alternative for nine weeks, #9 pop). ApologetiX spoofed that one in the summer of '92, although we only ever performed that parody in concert a couple times and never recorded it. My other favorite was probably "Even Better Than the Real Thing" (#1 mainstream, #5 alternative, #32 pop). Two additional cuts that charted were "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses" (#2 mainstream, #7 alternative, #35 pop) and "One" (#1 mainstream, #1 alternative, #10 pop, #24 adult contemporary), which I wouldn't mind spoofing someday.
1078. Blood Sugar Sex Magik - The Red Hot Chili Peppers
I think I initially heard about the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1986 through a fellow journalism major at IUP named Mike Pallerino — one of the funniest people I'd ever met — although I remember him more for being a fan of "You Belong to the City" by Glenn Frey and just about anything by Darryl Hall and John Oates. The main thing I remembered was their unusual stage attire (or lack thereof). Aside from that, the Chili Peppers stayed under my radar until their fifth LP. Produced by Rick Rubin and released in September 1991, Blood Sugar Sex Magik was the Los Angeles group's first album with John Frusciante on guitar and Chad Smith on drums. It also featured their first Hot 100 singles: "Give It Away" (#73 pop, #1 alternative) and the massive hit "Under the Bridge" (#2 pop for one week, #2 mainstream rock for 8 weeks, #6 alternative). Other cuts that got airplay included "Suck My Kiss" (#15 alternative) and "Breaking the Girl" (#15 mainstream, #19 alternative). There were 17 tracks in all — just five seconds short of 74 minutes of music. ApologetiX spoofed "Under the Bridge" in 1995 (we debuted it live on Cornerstone TV's Getting Together, of all places) and 2014. I also started work on a parody of "Give It Away" in the first half of the '90s, but nothing much came of it. We covered the Chili Peppers again in 2003, but that's another album for another entry. I haven't watched Saturday Night Live in ages and wasn't watching it in the early '90s, but some of their skits have permeated pop culture, so I can't think about Blood Sugar Sex Magik without hearing Joe Piscopo's concise, tongue-in-cheek, disparaging record review in my head. Nevertheless, it sold seven million copies in America alone and made it to #3 on the Billboard 200.
1079. Pocket Full of Kryptonite - Spin Doctors
Although it was released in August 1991, the debut LP by the New York rock band Spin Doctors didn't make it into heavy rotation until the second half of 1992, thanks to a trio of tunes: "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong" (#17 pop, #2 mainstream rock for four weeks), "Jimmy Olsen's Blues" (#78 pop, #8 mainstream), and the biggest of them all, "Two Princes" (#7 pop, #2 mainstream for seven weeks, #24 adult contemporary). I liked all three and started writing parodies of a couple of 'em shortly thereafter, which is why I bought the cassette. Two other tracks got a little bit of airplay: "What Time Is It?" (#26 mainstream) and "How Could You Want Him (When You Know You Could Have Me?) (#102 pop, #28 mainstream). Although it took a while, Pocket Full of Kryptonite became super-successful, reaching #3 on the Billboard 200 and selling five million copies in the United States and a million in Europe. Unfortunately, the band's next studio LP, Turn It Upside Down, proved they were not invulnerable. Released in July 1994, it sold only a million copies and generated just two mildly popular singles, "Cleopatra's Cat" (#64 pop, #22 mainstream, #22 alternative) and "You Let Your Heart Go Too Fast" (#42 pop, #8 mainstream, #20 alternative). I liked the latter, but it would be the last Spin Doctors song to chart. ApologetiX spoofed "Two Princes" in 1995 and 2013 and "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong" in 2017.