“Think of 15 albums that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life or the way you looked at it. They sucked you in and took you over for days, weeks, months, years. These are the albums that you can use to identify time, places, people, emotions. These are the albums that no matter what they were thought of musically shaped your world. When you finish, tag 15 others, including me. Make sure you copy and paste this part so they know the drill. Get the idea now? Good. Tag, you’re it!”
I got tagged by Dave Stewart, who got picked by Michelle McCallum.
Here’s mine, then, in a rough cronological order. Also, inexplicably, some must-haves, like Prince and The Police, are not in the list:
The Beatles – 1962-1965 & 1967-1970
I got into music because John Lennon died. I listened to music before that, but it was more or less just background noise; not integral to who I was, or who I’d become. After Lennon died, that all changed. My mom bought me Double Fantasy soon after he died, and that album led me directly to The Beatles. I bought the two double-album compilations, known as The Red Album and The Blue Album. But for the longest time, I only had the Red Album, which featured their earlier songs (which is probably why I am drawn to their early stuff). I remember driving home from a skiing trip to Campbellton with my best friend Paul and his older brother David. I Wanna Hold Your Hand came on the radio and I expressed my appreciation for the song. David dismissed it as fluff pop (and dismissed The Beatles in general) and I argued strongly against his position. It was the first time I had ever put forth MY opinion on music. My love and appreciation of The Beatles continues to this day, and I unwaveringly call them my favourite band. Sorry David, but you were wrong.
Tom Waits – Asylum Years
I think Tom Waits was my first personal-discovery artist. I heard The Piano Has Been Drinkiing on CBC Radio at my friend Wade’s house. I remember the moment as if it was today. It was like nothing I had heard before, and I loved it. I soon ran out (probably to Sam’s on the corner of Kent and University) and bought The Asylum Years, a Waits compilation double album, which had the song on it. I instantly fell in love with Tom Waits’ music, and played the LPs forever. I remember telling my friend Colin Kennefic (whose musical tastes I respected) about this new-to-me artist, and he scoffed at it. I was a bit hurt and more surprised that he would so easily dismiss Tom Waits, without even hearing him. Turns out he thought I was talking about John Waite’s (“Missing You”). Granted, if I was talking about Waite, I would have deserved the scorn. Once Colin heard Tom Waits, he too was smitten.
The Clash – The Clash
I discovered 70’s punk just after 70’s punk was dead. When I heard this album, my first punk experience I think, I knew it would be important to me. Despite being a good boy, I knew I had a bit of that anti-establishment attitude buried deep within me, and was glad to let a bit of it sneak out into the world. I absorbed as much punk as Sam The Record Man could deliver to me. This album, because it was my first punk album, is the one I consider the most important to me. I am not one to label people as “hero” or “genius”, but Joe Strummer is right there at the top of the list of people I don’t know who have had a big impact on my life. One of his last songs, Coma Girl, is one of my favourite songs. I miss him
My Aim Is True – Elvis Costello
Wow. What an album! Short songs. Powerful songs. Personal songs. Punk, but like it was written by a poet. An angry poet. A short review, in honour of the songs on the album.
Hank Williams – 20 Greatest Hits
It seems compilation albums are the way I discover new music. It had a bright yellow cover with black and white photos of this old-timey guy. His voice sounded like he was 80 years old, but he was only young. He sang about hardships and heartaches, and apparently he had plenty of that. He got kicked off the Grand Ole Opry, so he had some of that punk attitude too. Awesome songs. Who cares that they were “country”, because it turns out, just like Marie, I was a little bit country. Turns out, my father was a fan of Hank too, and we bonded a bit over our mutual admiration. Hank let me feel cool about liking country music. But only “good” country music. Bad country music is the worst music ever. Worse than Hammond Organ music.
R.E.M. – Reckoning
My friend Nick Grant turned me onto these guys. I can still remember the exact intersection (corner of Prince and Fitzroy, turning left onto Fitzroy) the car was when the first song came through the cassette deck. It was such a bright musical moment for me. Back in the early 80’s, their jingle, jangle rural rock sound was pretty unique and exciting, compared to the rest of the stuff being released, so that was very appealing. So was the voice of the lead singer, and the fact that you couldn’t really make out the words he was singing, but you figured it had to be profound. This was, at the time, the one band, more than any other, that I hoped and prayed would never “sell out”, would never become mass-popular. Oh well.
Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes
I immediately fell in love with this album. Acoustic music? Stand up bass? Bare to the bone production? And that trembling voice. These songs sounded so honest to me. To hell with you, Duran Duran, I just found the sound I was born to love. I got kicked out of CIMN (UPEI’s radio station) for playing the Violent Femmes. I played a song in which they swore the eff word. See, the thing is, it was my first day as DJ, and nobody was there to teach me how to work the panel. Turns out I didn’t turn on my mic to speak, so what people heard was a song… then silence as I spoke in the studio, thinking the mic was on… then another song… etc. Once I found that out, I got mad and played the Violent Femmes. “Why can’t I get just one fuck?” Someone heard it, complained, and I was kicked out of the radio group the next day. It was a proud moment.
They Might Be Giants – They Might Be Giants
The trick to appreciating TMBG albums, according to me: Listen to the new album you just bought. Totally hate it. Come back to it in a month or two and you’ll discover you have to play it over and over and over again because you totally love it. These guys create wonderfully weird songs, each seemingly a different genre or style from the previous. I appreciate that they are funny and entertaining and seemingly nonsensical while still being excellent musicians.
Soundtrack to “Grease”
For months after I saw the movie, my friend Wade and I choreographed our own routines to the album in his bedroom/den. That’s all I’m gonna say about that.
Loudon Wainwright III – Career Moves
I love Loudon Wainwright III. Love, love, love. I love the way he can have you laughing with one line in a song, and then on the verge of tears with the very next line in the same song. Great writer and performer. This album is a live concert recording of many of his bigger songs. He is what I would like to be if I was ever to be a professional musician. Except I’d rather not be such a shit to my family as he seems to be in his songs.
The Beat – I Just Can’t Help It & The Specials – Specials
I don’t know which album had more of an impact
on me so I’m listing both as one. I discovered both at almost exactly the same time. British 80’s Ska had a profound impact on me. Not so much politically, but oh man was it fun to dance to. Ska from later periods seems to be so much less fun than the music from this era. Remember when that band (was it The Hopping Penguins?) came to The Barn and they played a bunch of cool ska songs? Mirror in the Bathroom never fails to make me happy. Therefore I will say The Beat is the winner between the two.
George Jone – Anniversary: Ten Years of Hits
Sinatra called George Jones America’s second best singer. Holy smokes can this guy turn a phrase. So many phenomenal songs on this compilation album. I remember the exact moment, the exact location, the exact sights and smells the first time I heard “He Stopped Loving Her Today”. I totally got sucked into that song: I felt so bad that he spent so much of his life missing the woman; so happy that he was finally able not to cry over her; then having that bomb dropped on me that he wasn’t crying anymore, that he was all dressed up to go away because <spoiler> he. was. dead. Seriously, go listen to some George Jones. Awesome.
XTC – English Settlement
By far the best relatively unknown (to North Americans) band ever. I am amazed that these guys never got big here. Seriously crazy-good pop songs. Is “Senses Working Overtime” the best pop song ever…?
Pixies – Doolittle
…No, it might not be the best pop song ever. I think that might have to be “Debaser”. Seque to: I love The Pixies! Dave Stewart got me into this music, bless his soul.
Stompin’ Tom Connors – Bud the Spud
I’m a bit embarrassed to admit how much of an impact Stompin’ Tom has had on me. Other than local bands, he’s the only musician I’ve seen in concert more than once. Last time I saw him, I cried a few times. I cry for his sincerity, his honesty, his patriotism. He’s another one of those people who aren’t punk but who have that attitude. I think Dennis Trainor would make a kick-ass Stompin’ Tom.