Thursday, June 21, 2007

Albums of Influence

If you've got myspace, then you know that people can send out bulletins. These go to all your friends. One of these came through the other day, and most of the time, I don't really give a damn what they're about. My cousin sent one with the subject of "Why boys like girls." It was a list of about 25 items that what appeared to be "emo-boy" answers (sample: "How great she smells even if it's just her shampoo."). I replied with the 26th item, which stated, "Because the other choice would be to love a hairy man." I only reply to the sender of the message.

Anyway, one came through the other day with "Top 5 albums that influenced you," or something like that. I took a brief moment, took a sip of coffee, and then quickly pulled 5 out of my butt.

When I woke up at 4:00 a.m. this morning and couldn't fall back asleep, I decided to get up and expound on this topic.

KISS: "Destroyer"

This was the first album I claimed as my own. Everything else in the house was either mom or dad's. I begged for weeks to get this album. My mom and dad were not sure. I got verbally dogged for playing this album. Typical generation gap stuff. I probably played this album more than any other album I have ever owned. This is strictly based on format. There are CDs I have owned that I know I have played more, but this record was bought when we still had that all-in-one stereo from Sears. Eight track, record player, radio, two speakers. Soon thereafter, my dad bought a bunch of components, including a tape deck. My practice soon thereafter was to buy a tape with each record, play the record while recording it, and then store the record. Mostly, I got 7" records, which begat the creation of the "mix tape" concept, which is really what I miss the most about cassettes these days. Oh, sure, I can make you a "mix-CD" but I can only get about 70 minutes in there. 90 on a cassette.

This album would lead me into the heavier rock as I got older. I think I actually had this album just over the year, and then I sold it for like $5 to the kid down the street. The browbeating from my folks finally got to me. Plus, I was getting into tunes on the radio at the time.

Cheap Trick at Budokan

I have owned this album in every format except 8-track. It's just too bad that they didn't make this a double-live album. They released Budokan II, which was the second half of the same concert in 1994, and then after that, they put a package together of the whole thing, which I still want to get.

This might have been my first live album. My dad did have "Frampton Comes Alive" but that one had to grow on me. Cheap Trick was much more raw, and they were from my cousin's home town of Rockford, Illinois. I was never a big fan of the production on the first 3 Cheap Trick studio albums, and found the recordings on these albums to be more true to the band's sound.

This album developed a pattern for me liking new bands. If I was interested in a new band, I would buy a live album if they had one. If I liked a certain song, I would then go pick up the album with the studio version. I did this with Rush, for sure. I had a couple of studio albums by AC/DC, but I'm pretty sure "If You Want Blood, You've Got It" lead me to buy every album that Bon Scott sang on.

Wanted! The Outlaws and
Willie Nelson: "Red Headed Stranger"

Dad used to play these on Saturday and Sunday mornings while making breakfast. These two albums lead me to appreciate good country music. When I say "good" country music, I don't mean Garth Brooks or pretty much anything on country radio after 1986. Whereas Willie, Waylon, and these albums sort of gave rebirth to country music ("Wanted!" was the first country album to go platinum. Think about the history there.), Garth Brooks and the rest of Nashville killed country music. Oh, sure, they're selling more records now. But if you listen to the music and didn't know it was a country station these days, you'd say to yourself, "This is just cheesey pop" (especially if it's a woman country singer).

It was probably this appreciation that lead me to the Gear Daddies first, and then Uncle Tupelo second, in the 90's. Then came the whole alternative country movement, which never got its due credit. Who knows, maybe I'm the only one who likes the genre, but there were some great bands, that I bet if they would have received airplay on country stations would have had some great success. But they weren't from Nashville, and no one knew where to put them. Hell, I heard a Son Volt song ("Drown") on a mainstream rock radio station back in '95.

The Sex Pistols: "Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols" and "The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle"

There are some people (Andy) who would say that the Sex Pistols weren't really a punk band except for their image. The tunes were more rock or even early metal than punk. However, the Sex Pistols influenced me in two ways. First, my rhythm guitar playing was influenced more by Steve Jones than any teacher or other friend (save Dan Malkinski, that guy is solely responsible for explaining the Barre chord to me). On these two albums, Steve taught me to keep it simple. He taught me how to "arpeggio" a chord ("Lonely Boy"). He taught me how to rock out with my cock out. Thank you, Steve. Because of you, I was able to chip out a career in the minor leagues of rock and roll. Because of you, I am the Crash Davis of Indie Rock.

Secondly, these two albums opened the floodgates of punk rock for me and my friends perusing the record stores in Germany. These guys allowed us to buy records in the genre and sub-genres, including bands like the Angry Samoans, Black Flag, G.B.H., Alien Sex Fiend, and countless others. The Sex Pistols rock influence later lead me to appreciate my favorite punk rock band, The Descendents.

I'd be really interested to see what records influenced you in the comments section.

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Blogger Inhuman Eating Machine said...

Two things:
1. Are the Pistols a punk band? Arguing a band's genre is pointless, but I say they aren't really a punk band simply because their LP doesn't sound like any other LP in the genre- ever. When I was a teen, I didn't much like them, because I was a punk rocker, and to my ears, the "Bollocks" LP (I never got the "Swindle" record) sounded way too clean and polished to be real punk. Listen to those guitars. They're HUGE! I've read there's something like 12 tracks of guitar on that album. And Jones tracked them perfectly. No punk record (and not many "traditional" rock records) of the 70's has a guitar sound that big. That sound would totally work in an arena/stadium concert, but something like the Ramones or the Buzzcocks wouldn't. In later years, I learned to love the Pistols' LP as a great rock n' roll record. I think it wears better that way than when it's held up as some sort of touchstone for punk rock. BTW, they always talk about how Sid could barely play bass, especially when he was loaded, which he almost always was. That led me to wonder why the bass sounds so great on the Pistols LP. I recently learned that the bass sounds great because Sid didn't play on the LP. Jones played the bass parts, too, which is no surprise at all.

2. Alternative country never got its due credit? Are you high? In the mid-90's it was like the biggest indie/underground genre out there. There were tons of bands and No Depression was selling tons of copies of their zine. But like any other genre that takes itself too seriously, the bands became too concerned about the whole "idea" of the genre and less concerned about writing good songs and making good records. That's what happens with almost every genre. Although I'm still not a big Wilco fan, I acknowledge that they were able to endure as a band partially because they didn't allow themselves to be stuck in a musical ghetto. If they kept making "A.M." over and over, people would've stopped caring about them years ago. There are still tons of rock bands out there today who are influenced by country, but nobody seems to want to use that alt-country label anymore, simply because of the mediocre ideas the tag seems to connote.

8:09 PM

Blogger Bella said...


But what about the DBT's Southern Rock Opera?

Or were you just saying the whole alt-country genre of music?

I want to know what makes this album so special...

6:25 AM

Blogger Jez said...

The Southern Rock Opera pretty much is a continuation of the AltCountry stuff, but you can't really call DBT AltCountry. You maybe could have said that if they only had their first 2 albums out. But they've evolved.

I guess when I picked that on the original 5 album list, it was because that was the first album I got by them, and then that started my whole journey with DBT and Slobberbone, who are both still two of my favorite bands to this day.

6:30 AM

Anonymous flygrrl said...

I just haven't got the stamina to write lengthy explanations here, and I doubt I can come up with five, but here's a try (in no particular order):

1. Suicidal Tendencies/Suicidal Tendencies: My initiation into punk rock. I wore this cassette out. I remember walking home from school in 9th grade listening to this on my walkman, in my own little world of rage. I didn't fit in with the other kids, and now suddenly there was music for the soundtrack of my life.

2. The Cure/Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me: No explanation here. I just listened to it a lot in middle/early high school. I'm sort of amazed the Cure are still around, and I actually like what tiny bits of their more recent stuff I've heard.

3. Bauhaus/Bauhaus Singles 1979–1983: This album confirmed for me that I was born a few years too late. I first heard "Bela Lugosi's Dead" on a mix tape my cousin made for me one summer. I was hooked. I didn't know at that time what a goth was, but I wanted to be one.

4. PJ Harvey/Rid of Me: I never thought women could rock. I first heard this freshman year of college and finally felt like I was hearing a definite feminist side to a lot of the energy I liked in metal/punk I'd been listening to. Still love her. It wasn't until much later that I grew to like Ani DiFranco.

5. Tool/Undertow. Wow just wow.

So, a lot of these date from later experiences than Jez's influences, but I must say I mostly listened to crappy pop (Wham! anyone?) until the end of junior high, and though my dad was into Zeppelin, the Stones, stuff like that, and I appreciate all of that, these are the albums that really formed MY musical tastes and that I really remember as marked points in the growth of my musical knowledge/appreciation.

3:35 PM


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