10 Albums

As a quick footnote to my last post, I have recently been pondering at what point I should become concerned and/or seek medical attention (NOT from Dr. Julia Hoffman, of course) when I find myself resonating with sentiments expressed by David Collins? (He only tried to kill his father…twice? Has been possessed a handful of times, made friends with ghosts, been accused of being an insane liar…totally respectable!)

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(That point has passed. You went past go, Brittany, but you did not collect $200. )

Moving on…

I was recently “tagged” on social media to post about ten albums that have had an impact on me. This task was particular difficult for me because it’s easier for me to think of individual bands and musicians who had an impact on me, as I have this obsessive personality that requires me to listen to everything they ever recorded and consequently makes it hard to narrow down which album has had the most impact. But hey, let’s give it a whirl…

10. Graham Nash, Songs for Beginners (1971) 

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I am a simple man
And I play a simple tune
Wish that I could see you once again
Across the room
Like the first time

I’ve said it before, and I guess I’ll say it again: Graham Nash is undoubtedly my favorite member of CSN. Compare Nash’s first solo effort to those of the other members (which aren’t too shabby, don’t get me wrong–I love CSN), and you’ll hear why. The album is full of raw, emotional songs about Nash’s breakup with Joni Mitchell and fervent cries for political activism, but each song is so carefully crafted to pop/singer-songwriter perfection. I listened to this album a lot as a teenager–no regrets.

9. Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here (1975)

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Remember when you were young? 
You shone like the sun
Shine on you crazy diamond 
Now there’s a look in your eyes
Like black holes in the sky 
Shine on you crazy diamond 

As a teenager, I had a vague notion of Pink Floyd but didn’t really become interested (translation: obsessed! I can’t have interests like normal people, remember?) in the band until I discovered Syd Barrett and his music. “I’ve got a bike/You can ride it if you like/It’s got a basket, a bell that rings and/Things to make it look good/I’d give it to you if I could, but I borrowed it.” Ughh, love that stuff. Everything about that era of the band is so unique–the sounds, the lyrics, even the delivery of the lyrics…nothing like it in the world, methinks. Ice creeeeeam, tastes good in the afternoon! Ice creeeeeam, tastes good if you eat it soon!

But the fact of the matter is that the band endured and made more music without Syd Barrett than they did with him. The band could not have happened without Syd Barrett, but it also could not have lasted with him at the helm. Still, the band found ways to acknowledge his importance and pay tribute to him in some of their most famous works, Wish You Were Here included. (Even though Roger Waters has stated, in his usual stubborn way, that only one song off the album is really about Syd, but I find his influence permeates so much of the album, albeit if not always so forthrightly as “Shine on You Crazy Diamond.”) During the recording of the album, a shaven, overweight Syd Barrett visited the studio, shocking his former bandmates and reducing them to tears. The emotional weight this album carries is palpable in its lyrics and music.

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How I wish, how I wish you were here
We’re just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl
Year after year
Running over the same old ground
And how we found
The same old fears
Wish you were here

When I bought the album on CD (that used to be a thing, you know), I specifically ordered a version that also included the early Pink Floyd singles–“Arnold Layne,” “See Emily Play,” “Candy and a Currant Bun,” “Apples and Oranges”–as bonus tracks, making it the perfect CD for me, as it melded my favorite non-Syd Barrett Floyd album with some of my most favorite Syd Barrett songs.

8. Pulp, Different Class (1995) 

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You will never understand
How it feels to live your life
With no meaning or control
And with nowhere left to go.

(Now I’m wondering why I didn’t re-create this album cover at my wedding? Uhh, because those are some ugly flowers, that’s why, the second voice in my head says.)

Oh, Jarvis.

What can I say? I spent a good portion of my life obsessed with and worshipping that guy. And for good reason.

Pulp spent a long time (what, fifteen years or something) in the music business without much to show for it. (And that would be because some of the early Pulp music is really, really not very good. Just trust me on this one.) With Different Class, Pulp’s recognition and success reached a whole new level. They had top ten hits, nationwide fame, and Jarvis Cocker–the guy who once fell out of a window trying to impress a girl with his Spider-man impression and spent months in a wheelchair as a consequence–was suddenly a sex symbol at 32.

Different Class is full of some of his best songwriting, dealing with themes of sex (Jarv’s fave), the class system, drugs…yet all set to a flagrantly POP beat. There’s the scathing, vengeful “I Spy” (in which Jarvis advises that you should take him “seriously, very seriously indeed ‘cos I’ve been sleeping with your wife for the past sixteen weeks”), anthemic call to arms for all the mis-shapes, mistakes, misfits, the depressing come-down at “Bar Italia” “where other broken people go”, the infectious sing-a-long “Disco 2000” about the one that got away, and the ultimate ATTACK on the clash of the social classes “Common People” (really a shame how the video/single omits the final, most biting verse). And then there’s “F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E.”, “Live Bed Show,” “Underwear,” “Monday Morning,” “Pencil Skirt”….

It’s impossible to choose a best or even favorite track. This is the album that catapulted a mild interest in Jarvis Cocker to a full-blown obsession, kicking the door open for all the rest of “Britpop.” It would be years before any other musical genres would be allowed to enter the fortress.

7. Frank Sinatra, A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra (1957) 

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I love those J-I-N-G-L-E bells, oh 
Those holiday J-I-N-G-L-E bells, oh 
Those happy J-I-N-G-L-E B-E-DOUBLE L-S 
I love those J-I-N-G-L-E bells, oh 

If you’re surprised that there’s a Christmas album on this list, then you CLEARLY haven’t listened to this Christmas album. I listen to this album year-round. A song from this album made its way to my wedding reception playlist. It’s Sinatra. It’s perfect.

I first got into Sinatra after being assigned to read Gay Talese’s magnificent profile of Sinatra, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” during my next-to-final quarter of college (the first time around), and I thought, “Wow, he has to be the coolest guy, ever.” And guess what? He is. I just don’t wanna live in a world where there is no Frank Sinatra. In the words of Dean Martin, “This is Frank’s world, and we’re just living it.” Amen, brother.

6. The Smiths, Hatful of Hollow (1984) 

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I am the son, and the heir, of a shyness that is criminally vulgar
I am the son and heir, of nothing in particular

It was difficult to choose one Smiths album; truthfully, any of their albums could be inserted here. But I may or may not still be wearing an oversized, pit-stained Smiths t-shirt, an heirloom passed down from an older sister, with this album cover on it, so I’d say its impact is pretty obvious.

Morrissey has a lyric for every situation in my life:

Struggling with the state of yourself and your life? “Every day you must say, how do I feel about my shoes?”

Feel like your work is not meaningful or productive? “But sometimes I feel more fulfilled making Christmas cards with the mentally ill.” 

When someone finally asks your honest opinion of them? “Frankly, Mr. Shankly, since you ask: you are a flatulent pain in the arse!”

Have to deal with the consequences of telling someone your honest opinion of them? “Sweetness, sweetness, I was only joking when I said I’d like to smash every tooth in your head.”

Feeling under the weather and someone asks you how you’re feeling? “Oh mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head.”

Just something I may or may not say every day: “Oh, I’m too tired/I’m so sick and tired/And I’m feeling very sick and ill today.” (I am a “delicate flower”!!!!)

Someone says “I love you”? “So…scratch my name on your arm with a fountain pen. This means you really love me.”

Moving onto a new obsession and your previous obsession starts to feel left out? “I still love you, oh, I still love you/Only slightly, only slightly less than I used to, my love.”

PMSing and carrying around some extra “water” weight? “You’re the one for me, fatty/ You’re the one I really, really love/And I will stay/Promise you’ll say/If I’m ever in your way/A-hey!”

And ad infinitum.

I mean, these lyrics just roll off the tongue. So good.

(I recently saw a headline about a study that concluded that “Smiths fans were neurotic.” Was such a study necessary? I mean, really????????)

If you want to have a fun game of charades sometime, try using Morrissey lyrics. “Punctured bicycle, on a hillside, desolate.” Ahhh, fun times.

5. Oasis, Definitely Maybe (1994) 

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You’re the outcast, you’re the underclass
But you don’t care, because you’re living fast
You’re the uninvited guest who stays ’till the end
I know you’ve got a problem that the devil sends
You think they’re talking ’bout you but you don’t know who
I’ll be scraping your life from the sole of my shoe tonight

As a young child, my brother and I would go upstairs to my older sister’s lair and deface the posters of her musical heroes with sticky-tack: Morrissey’s nipple magically grew one very long hair and the Gallagher brothers’ noses always had dangling boogers. I had a strong aversion to the Gallaghers in particular because I knew one of them (who also thought he was John Lennon) had called George Harrison a “nipple” (“NIP-PLE”) and I got tricked into watching one of their concerts instead of getting to watch A Hard Day’s Night for the nth time because I was told John Lennon was in it. (He was–in photographic form at the conclusion of “Live Forever.”) So it was a long time before I sold my soul to this rock ‘n’ roll band.

But oh boy, when I did, there weren’t no turnin’ back. Noel Gallagher’s latest solo effort asks, “Who built the moon?” Uhhhh, you? Would follow that dude to the moon and back, no questions asked.

What a debut album–it kicks in with “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” and never, ever lets up. Soul sold.

4. Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home (1965) 

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Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky
With one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea
Circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate
Driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow

I cycled through many musical obsessions as a teenager, but I think perhaps my obsession with Bob Dylan lasted the longest and had the greatest impact, which is odd considering I probably listen him to the least out of any artist that appears on this list. I devoured all his albums, watched Dont Look Back more than was healthy, and wore sunglasses a lot. Yeah, not healthy behavior, but having a thorough knowledge of Dylan’s catalogue is something I consider worthy of being mentioned on my resume. Once, I had to explain to a dense individual how important Bob Dylan was to music. Like, they legitimately didn’t get it. It was sad. Don’t be that person.

Bringing It All Back Home is my favorite Dylan album, as it blends both acoustic and electric Dylan and contains some of my favorite Dylan tracks (which I did NOT play at my wedding reception!)–and Rick Nelson’s, too. I know, I have great taste.

3. The Jam, The Gift (1982) 

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Why are you frightened can’t you see that it’s you
That ain’t no ghost it’s a reflection of you
Why do you turn away an’ keep it out of sight
Oh don’t live up to your given roles
There’s more inside you that you won’t show

Paul Weller is the man who knocked down the walls built by Jarvis Cocker.

My first exposure to The Jam was the video for “Going Underground.” I thought, “Good song, lead singer is a bit odd-looking.”

Ha. Ha. Ha.

I feel like with each of my obsessions, it just got worse. Like, I spent A LOT of time obsessing about Paul Weller. Way more time than I spent obsessing about Jarvis Cocker, even. The only reason I don’t spend so much time doing it anymore is because…well, I found more fulfillment in my work and life, I guess. And I also sought medical attention. Only kidding, ha. Maybe I should have.

Anyway.

The Gift may not be my favorite Jam album (but it includes my favorite Jam song, bar none), yet it is their most musically diverse and adventurous. And it has so, so, so many good songs.

And it’s their last. Weller, at age 24, announced the dissolution of the band at the height of their fame. Guts, man.

Bring on The Style Council!

(Never forget the time I threatened to turn this blog into an analysis/discussion of Style Council videos.)

2. The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds (1966) 

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Sometimes I feel very sad
Sometimes I feel very sad
(Can’t find nothin’ I can put my heart and soul into)

I don’t even know what to say about this album. I love it so much. It is absolute perfection from start to finish. It’s a spiritual kind of thing, don’t you think? Yes, yes, it is. Yet there are still people who don’t “get” this album. Don’t be that person. Make the world a better place. Listen to Pet Sounds, preferably at least once a day. You just have to listen…listen.

1. The Beatles, Rubber Soul (1965) 

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Was she told when she was young
That pain would lead to pleasure?
Did she understand it when they said
That a man must break his back
To earn his day of leisure?
Will she still believe it when he’s dead?

Any Beatles album could hold the top spot on this list. As many musical obsessions have come and gone, The Beatles were the first and remain the most intense and innate part of my existence. The Beatles are the sound of my beating heart.

It’s odd (to me, anyway) to think of how this is the album that so influenced Brian Wilson to write Pet Sounds, yet he and I listened primarily to different versions. Brian was listening to the Capitol version, with a different track listing (including the false-start version of “I’m Looking Through You”), and I have always listened to the original UK version. (Capitol may have been onto something, actually: omitting “What Goes On” is downright inspired and inserting the folksy “I’ve Just Seen A Face” and “It’s Only Love” blend in well with the musical landscape of the album.) Yet we both have the same intense love affair with the album. Revolver may have opened the doors for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Sgt. Pepper is certainly more advanced technology-wise, but neither has the heart of Rubber Soul. In fact, as much as I love each of their albums, I might go as far to argue that no other Beatles album has the heart that Rubber Soul does. The empathetic drumming Ringo lends to John in “In My Life”? Just…my heart.

I’ll stop now. I find it hard to express my feelings about this band of brothers for, like Cordelia, my love’s more richer than my tongue…

I know everyone stays up REALLY late at Collinwood, but it’s way past my bedtime…

P.S.

Because no one has found out that he’s a vampire from another century.

Can’t stop, won’t stop. HELP!