15 Albums That Changed My Life, Part 1

Since I’m doing this on the ol’ Facebook thang, figured I might as well share it here, too, in three parts.  Here’s the first, stay tuned for the other two installments…

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!

–Note: albums arranged chronologically as I experienced them–

1. The Beatles, Abbey Road
My parents bought a copy when this was released in ’69. I was three. I pestered them so much that they bought me own copy when I was four — my first record! It was all over from there, and the obsession with rock and roll has only intensified over the years.  Only people with no appreciation of music whatsoever are incapable of finding SOMETHING to like on this one.  Me, I like it all — except for Harrison’s songs, which I don’t dislike,  but usually skip.

2. Yes, Fragile
Anathema to my listening tastes now, but I spent many a year listening to this record with dear friends in junior high. “Mountains come out of the sky and they stand there.” And supposedly these guys didn’t do drugs (except for Rick Wakeman, ha ha ha). Hey, it was better than the Bay City Rollers. And Mark Kozelek covered “Long Distance Runaround,” so how cool is that?

3. Devo, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are DEVO!
Much more than a one-joke record, as many think. This is at least a 25-joke record, but that does nothing to diminish the genuinely tuneful AND forward-looking music herein. Sure, I know now how heavily they drew on fellow Ohio-ans Pere Ubu, but how many 12-year-olds knew about Pere Ubu in 1978? This album was critical in forming my distrust of consumerist impulses, science, art, literature, film, and authority in general. Plus, the “Produced by Brian Eno” credit at the bottom, coupled with the same credit on ANOTHER record on this list, was a guidepost to finding deeper realms of sonic bliss than I could imagine when I first heard this record.

4. Talking Heads, More Songs About Buildings and Food
Another gem from 1978, though I didn’t get it until two years later. Also “Produced by Brian Eno.” My dad loved “Take Me to the River,” so he picked up the album and didn’t like anything else on it. I didn’t like it all at first, but it crept up on me. It also began the process of me thinking, hey, I could do this…it doesn’t sound that hard.

5. Talking Heads, Fear of Music
The follow-up, and their best record. Also “Produced by Brian Eno.” The hit was “Life During Wartime” — you know, “This ain’t no party….” — and that’s the worst song on the record, which is really saying something. Brilliant lyrically and musically from start to finish, with “I Zimbra” pointing to the rock-african hybrid that would explode the next year on “Remain in Light,” and other cuts widening their white-soul aesthetic to include more elements of country, pure pop, and on the almost indescribably great “Memories Can’t Wait,” truly druggy psychedelia. This is still one of my favorite albums ever.

Side note: The entire repertoire of the first band I was ever in (with pals Dejan Kovacevic, Lee Markle, and Gary Anderson, all of whom later played in The Long Afternoon at one time or another) consisted of all of these two Talking Heads records, plus some of Talking Heads:77 and a couple of Gary Numan + Tubeway Army songs. Clearly, even in junior high, attaining wide commercial appeal wasn’t a high priority of mine.

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