Influential Albums 1094-1100
Thu., May. 11. 2023 6:40pm 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:
1094. Do Something. Alternative - Various Artists
This 10-song cassette was produced by Sony Music Special Products for Taco Bell, believe it or not, and that's where I got my copy in 1994. The main attraction for me was a song by Cracker called "Low" (#3 alternative, #5 mainstream rock, #64 pop), which I'd heard numerous times before on our local rock station. Cracker had another hit shortly thereafter called "Get Off This" (#6 alternative, #5 mainstream, #102 pop), which I also liked. The group's first hit was the witty-but-edgy "Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)" (#1 alternative, #27 mainstream) in 1992. Those last two weren't on Do Something. Alternative, but I felt the need to mention them. Of the remaining songs that actually were on this collection, my favorite was Enigma's "Return to Innocence" (#2 alternative, #4 pop). Other selections included the haunting "Possession" by Sarah McLachlan (#4 alternative, #73 pop), "I'll Take You There" by General Public (#6 alternative, #22 pop), "Leave It Alone" by Living Colour (#4 alternative, #14 mainstream), "Slowly, Slowly" by Magnapop (#25 alternative), and "Miles from Nowhere," the final chart hit for The Smithereens (#17 mainstream). There was also a non-hit by Spin Doctors called "Mary Jane." It didn't quite have the zing of their famous tunes, but it has still stuck with me over the years.
1095. Twisted Christmas and I Am Santa Claus - Bob Rivers
Everybody knows about "Weird Al" Yankovic; he's been putting out parodies since the late '70s. Older listeners may remember an older super-spoofer, the late great Allan Sherman, who had three #1 albums from 1962-63, the last of which even yielded a #2 pop hit — "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (A Letter from Camp)." Those two guys were icons of ironic imitation, but in 1994 I discovered another impressive and prolific parodist, Bob Rivers, through his first two LPs, Twisted Christmas (released in 1988) and I Am Santa Claus (released in 1993). If I remember correctly, one of Karl's housemates owned both of those albums. Rivers, who got his start as a DJ and radio personality, wasn't always as "family friendly" as Al or Allan, but he sure knew how to write and produce parodies. His lyrics were laced with acerbic wit, and whomever he used for vocals and instrumentation did an amazing job of replicating the sound of the songs they covered. Although probably best-known for his Christmas albums (more of which would follow after these two), Rivers put out parodies dealing with a wide variety of topics, often whatever was in the news at the time. My favorite bits from Twisted Christmas were "We Wish You Weren't Living with Us" (a parody of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas"), "A Visit from St. Nicholson" ("The Night Before Christmas" reimagined with The Shining star Jack) "The Restroom Door Said 'Gentlemen'" (a parody of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"), and "Wreck the Malls" (a parody of "Deck the Halls" that sounds a bit like Joan Jett). The highlights for me from I Am Santa Claus were "Didn't I Get This Last Year?" (a parody of "Do You Hear What I Hear"), "O Little Town of Bethlehem," sung to the tune of "House of the Rising Sun" as performed by The Animals, and the title track (a parody of "Iron Man" by Black Sabbath). I Am Santa Claus sold over 100,000 copies and reached #106 on the Billboard 200. Ho ho ho.
1096. The Hits - Garth Brooks
Unless you're a country fan, you probably underestimate the impact of Garth Brooks on the history of popular music, because he never had a top 40 pop single ... aside from "Lost in You" (#5 in 1998) under the pseudonym Chris Gaines. Oh, sure he's had 19 #1 country hits, but that's just a niche thing, right? Well, consider this: During the 1990s, the Oklahoma singer/songwriter/guitarist garnered six #1 albums, two #2 albums, and one #3 album on the Billboard 200, which covers all styles of music. Moreover, six of his albums sold at least 10 million copies, and three others sold at least seven million. That's massive. The first I remember hearing Mr. Brooks was the song "Friends in Low Places" in 1990 while visiting my next-door neighbor Bud in Oakmont PA. He ran an obedience school for dogs, and the bumper sticker on his truck said it all: "I love country music." ApX guitarist Karl Messner loved country music, too — and Garth Brooks. I remember him calling my attention to three songs in particular: "The Thunder Rolls" (#1 country), "Rodeo" (#3 country), and the macabre-but-incredibly-clever "Papa Loved Mama" (#3 country). So, when the first big Brooks "best of" came out, I bought myself a copy at Walmart to see what all the fuss was about. Released in December 1994, The Hits was only available for a limited time, but it topped the Billboard 200 for eight weeks and sold 10 million copies. It didn't contain every single one of his biggest hits, and some of the songs included weren't as big as some that were left off, but it did feature a dozen #1 country hits and five others that made the country Top 10. Of the tunes on this collection I hadn't heard before, my favorites musically were "Callin' Baton Rouge" (#2 country) and "Standing Outside the Fire" (#3 country). My favorite thematically was "Unanswered Prayers" (#1 country). ApologetiX released a parody of "Friends in Low Places" in 1995 and '99. We also performed it live on Cornerstone TV's Getting Together in '95.
1097. Dookie - Green Day
This entry represents a paradigm shift ... and a parody shift. During the Christmas season in the winter of '94-95, I made a decision and a number of musical purchases that dramatically altered the course of what we did in ApologetiX. We'd been receiving an increasing number of invitations to play for youth-oriented events, and I felt that like we needed to spoof more modern music in order to reach those audiences. We'd already done several spoofs of songs from the early '90s, but music gets old quickly at that age. I thought of it like a missionary learning to speak the native language of the country where he's going to live and serve. While at a family event over the holidays, I happened to catch a rerun of The 1994 MTV Video Music Awards, which included a performance by the California punk-rock/pop-punk trio Green Day. I'd read about them a few months earlier in a newspaper article that said they were the next big thing, so I was already interested. I started talking to my nephew, who was in high school at the time and was also watching that MTV show with me, about the music that was popular with his peers. Then I went out and bought the double-sized year-end issue of Billboard magazine, something I used to do in college but hadn't done since. It featured the top songs of '94 in a wide variety of music genres, but I specifically focused on the top modern-rock (alternative) songs and the top album-rock (mainstream) songs, because they were the easiest for our little four-person rock band to replicate at the time. I also checked out the charts for that particular week and looked at the top albums. Then I made a shopping list of the songs and albums I thought had the most potential and bought a bunch of them at once. Looking back, it was a relatively small financial investment, but I still second-guessed myself and felt drained afterward. Nevertheless, those purchases proved providential and provided a plenitude of parodies, both immediately and in the years that followed. The first item on my list was Dookie, Green Day's breakthrough third LP. Released in February 1994, it went to #2 and sold over 10 million copies in the United States, primarily because of these three chart-toppers: "Long View" (#1 alternative, #13 mainstream, #36 pop airplay), "Basket Case" (#1 alternative, #9 mainstream, #26 pop airplay), and "When I Come Around" (#1 alternative, #2 mainstream, #6 pop airplay). ApologetiX spoofed all of those in '95 and later did more-polished parodies of "Basket Case" in '97 and 2018 and "When I Came Around' in 2005. Two other cuts that made the charts were "Welcome to Paradise" (#7 alternative, #56 pop airplay) and "She" (#5 alternative, #18 mainstream, #41 pop airplay). Green Day had many more hits to come, and we'd spoof some of them later.
1098. Smash - The Offspring
The second album on my early '95 modern-rock shopping list was by another California-based punk band, The Offspring. I really appreciated the no-frills, do-it-yourself feel of a lot of the alternative artists at the time; they reminded me of the British Invasion groups of the first half of the '60s and the punk and new-wave acts of the mid-to-late '70s. Released in April 1994, Smash was The Offspring's third studio LP and made it all the way to #4 on the Billboard 200, selling six million stateside. I was immediately taken by the album's first single, "Come Out and Play" (#1 alternative, #10 mainstream, #38 pop airplay). I knew I could work with that one, so I set about spoofing it immediately. When we finally got around to doing a studio recording, we liked it so much that we used it to kick off our first all-alternative CD in 1997. We later spoofed the second single, "Self Esteem" (#4 alternative, #7 mainstream, #45 pop airplay), although we didn't record a proper version until 2018. A third cut, "Gotta Get Away," also made the charts (#6 alternative, #15 mainstream, #58 pop airplay). The Offspring would go on to have many more smashes, including two more alternative chart-toppers ("Hit That" and "You're Gonna Go Far, Kid") and two mainstream chart-toppers ("Gone Away" and "Coming for You"), but they are perhaps best remembered for their 1998 single "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)" (#3 alternative, #5 mainstream, #53 pop), which "Weird Al" Yankovic spoofed in '99. But we'll get to that later.
1099. Out of Time - R.E.M.
R.E.M.'s seventh studio LP, Out of Time, was released in March 1991. That was a bit "out of time" for my January '95 shopping list of "modern" music for potential parodies ... but I wanted to spoof the album's first hit, "Losing My Religion" (#4 pop, #1 mainstream rock, #1 alternative), so I bought it anyway. Three other tracks made the charts: "Shiny Happy People" (#10 pop, #8 mainstream, #3 alternative), featuring backing vocals by Kate Pierson of The B-52's; "Radio Song" (#11 alternative, #43 mainstream); and "Texarkana" (#4 alternative, #7 mainstream). ApologetiX never played in Texarkana, but we did do a concert about 30 miles away, in Hope AR, in October 2007. ApologetiX finally released a parody of "Losing My Religion" in '95 and 2014. Meanwhile, R.E.M. performed a spoof of "Shiny Happy People" called "Furry Happy Monsters" with a bunch of Muppets on an episode of Sesame Street that originally aired in '99. I know there are R.E.M. fans out there who thought the original version was already too silly, but I always liked it. Out of Time became R.E.M.'s first album to top the Billboard 200, selling over 18 million copies worldwide, including over 4.5 million stateside.
1100. Hints, Allegations, and Things Left Unsaid - Collective Soul
Another item on my January '95 shopping list was Hints, Allegations, and Things Left Unsaid, the debut LP by Georgia-based rock band Collective Soul. The album had originally been released in 1993 on an indie label called Rising Storm Records but was rereleased by Atlantic in March '94. Like everybody else listening to pop or rock radio that year, I'd heard the single "Shine" (#11 pop, #4 alternative, #1 mainstream for 8 weeks) many times. The year-end issue of Billboard listed it as the top album-rock (now called "mainstream rock") song of '94. By the end of the '90s, Collective Soul had racked up seven #1 mainstream-rock singles, which spent a total of 47 weeks at the top of that chart! They put out three others between '95 and 2000 that peaked at #2 for a total of 12 weeks. However, only one other cut from Hints, Allegations, and Things Left Unsaid got any measurable airplay — "Breathe" (#12 mainstream). ApologetiX released a live parody of "Shine" in '95 and a studio version in '97.