Day: June 5, 2020

Ten Influential Albums

I think I’m done with Facebook for awhile. I’m not a huge user to begin with. But over the past week I’ve been disappointed at both Mark Zuckerberg’s continued stance that FB has no role to play in reining in posts that are meant to deliberately mislead people and spread lies and with a few friends who have posted/shared things I’ve found troubling following the George Floyd murder. I’ll check in to see who has a birthday and send them a message, but I don’t see myself scrolling through my feed or posting much again for some time.

My last act on the platform, for the time being, was to post my list of 10 influential albums in my life. The rules were that you just posted an album cover, no review, no commentary, no explanation. While I respect a strict set of rules that govern a music list as much as anyone, those constraints also maddened me. How am I supposed to share these albums without saying why they were influential? How can I not share a few words explaining that while album X isn’t one of my 10 favorites ever, it influenced me more than some of those favorites?

Fortunately I have a blog, so I can break free of those constraints here!

The Official Sesame Street 2 Book-and-Record Album, 1971
Yeah, some folks laughed. But this was the first album I ever owned, and I listed to the hell out of it. I think I was listening to it more in 1973–74, because I have pretty vivid memories of it. In addition to being the first album I owned, it laid the groundwork for my love of sad songs. Grover’s powerful vocal performance on “What Do I Do When I’m Alone” caused much distress in young me. I remember hiding in a corner behind a large plant and crying when I heard it, because I didn’t want Grover to be sad. I think my mom made me stop listening to it for awhile.

The Beatles 1967–1970, aka The Blue Album, 1973
I was obviously too young to hear any of the Beatles tracks when they were first released. But my parents owned The Blue Album and listened to it a lot. And I kind of hated it. But it planted the seeds for my love of pop music, and my love of the Beatles that would blossom 30 years later.

Stevie Wonder – Songs in the Key of Life, 1976
My mom listened to this album so, so much, and unlike the Beatles, I loved it.

Def Leppard – Pyromania,1983
The first cassette I ever purchased, at a Wal-Mart in Great Bend, KS while spending some time with my grandparents that summer. I didn’t own a cassette player, I had a knockoff Walkman that was AM/FM only, so I couldn’t actually listen to it until I returned home. This was the moment I stopped asking for albums for Christmas and my birthday and started purchasing music when I wanted to.

Prince and the Revolution – 1999, 1983
I had no idea what I was getting into when I ordered this from Columbia House. I knew “Little Red Corvette” and “1999”, but songs like “Let’s Pretend We’re Married,” “DMSR,” and “Lady Cab Driver” blew my mind. It was a long time before I appreciate those songs for more than just being about sex. Purple Rain is my favorite, but this is the one that opened my mind to everything Prince was offering.

Beastie Boys – Licensed to Ill, 1986
The first hip-hop album I ever purchased, and it helped me navigate the hallways of a new school in California where everyone seemed to know every line.

Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, 1988
Hip-hop wasn’t just about women and beer and proving you’re better than the sucka MC’s. It could have a powerful message attached to it, and feel as ferocious as the loudest rock band. Soon after listening to this for the first time I was reading *The Autobiography of Malcolm X” and shifting my views on racial and social justice matters towards those of the most militant of the Black community.

Pearl Jam – Ten,1991
After nearly six years of listening to mostly hip-hop and R&B, this album changed my listening habits dramatically. Soon my CD rack was filled with alternative and college rock bands. With that shift came another, a new appreciation for lyrics and finding meanings beyond the most obvious.

Arcade Fire – Funeral, 2004
Another shift. I had just become a father, music was beginning to be consumed online more than through physical formats. I honestly don’t know how to define the difference between the alt-rock era of the 90s and the indie rock era that followed, but this was the transition point for me. Also the first album I ever bought on the iTunes Music Store.

Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight, 2008
No album has grabbed and held my attention as much as this one did since perhaps Ten.

Friday Playlist

Another week in the books that was a little worse than the week before. I don’t know what the end point is, when things will start getting better, but I fear where the next worst week will take us.

For this week’s playlist, some songs that both sum up what’s happening and how I feel about it. Not the most uplifting playlist, I admit, but there are some damn good songs in here.

“What’s Going On” – Marvin Gaye
“Beds Are Burning” – Midnight Oil
“We Got to Have Peace” – Curtis Mayfield
“Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey” – Sly & The Family Stone
“You Haven’t Done Nothin’” – Stevie Wonder
“Free Your Mind” – En Vogue
“Fuck Tha Police” – N.W.A.
“Racist Friend” – The Specials
“Prophets of Rage” – Public Enemy
“Stop the Violence” – Boogie Down Productions
“Nazi Punks Fuck Off” – Dead Kennedys
“This Land” – Gary Clark, Jr.
“Heroes” – David Bowie
“Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud” – James Brown
“A Change Is Gonna Come” – Sam Cooke

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