Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Rest of the 25 Albums, Or So, that Shaped My So-Called Life

#2, George Carlin, Class Clown
Class clown that I am, I'm going to do 27 albums--25 music, 2 comedy. I can't begin to say how influential this disc was, and not just for the dirty words. But yes, for the words. He made language so fun, so funny. He made context so clear. He made fun of going to Catholic school. I owe Carlin a ton, as do many un-normals in my generation, I'd guess.

#3, Jackson Browne, The Pretender
Yes, alas, I was a California "rocker" years before coming to CA. Or, as I like to see it, Browne was my first stop in the world of what I call pity pop (future stops, Ian Hunter, Billy Bragg's love songs), for I love music that's a wallow. Goddam I'm misunderstood. And I started out so young and strong, only to surrender. (Of course this moved me at 15, please....)

#4, Woody Allen, Standup Comic
Here's where I get to be witty and urbane, while actually being shitty and surbuban(e). And if you can have a sense of humor that rests between classic Allen and classic Carlin, that's me.

#5, Peter Gabriel, untitled (3)
On a road trip to the Jersey shore with my Jersey friends on the Jersey Turnpike I was told I had to turn this off as it was too weird. And that's when I learned something bout meself, as they say. Plus, after our house got hit by a car (true story) and there was the as-yet un-repaired hole from basement to living room, I was sure something would rise out of the basement as I listened to "Intruder" on headphones. Oh, and "Biko" started helping lefty me think outside the U.S. box.

#6, Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack
Have I ever fessed up to this? That I had a huge Rocky Horror phase? Don't dream it, be it. Half the fun was trying to come up with lines to shout out at screenings that people would laugh at. But given I wasn't getting anything at the time (high school), the idea that anything could be got seemed fascinating.

#7, The Clash, London Calling
Bought it in New York City, at a Sam Goodys on Sixth Avenue for $5.99. A double lp. And then I realized there was so much more to music, as there was so much to that album. The guys in that car for PG3 had no idea where my taste would lead me.

#8, Ian Hunter, Welcome to the Club
Great music and the beginning of some sense of history (perhaps Mott should be on the list, too). One of the albums of my high school graduation, and then I also had a fixation with pity pop classic "Irene Wilde" ("I'm going to be somebody someday" is the refrain the jilted lover clings to). And then it played in my freshman year dorm room, a woman in the room realized it moved me (my god, how did I look--what did I do?), but eventually she'd pop my cherry. So Ian Hunter's been very very good to me. Welcome to the club indeed.

#9, Roxy Music, Siren
I came to this record well after its release, but it provided me with much release through college. For it goes like this--you played side 1 on your way out the door for an evening, knowing that love was the drug and you needed to score. Then you came home, alone, sublimated with food from the snack bar, and listened to side 2, which ended reminding you love was just another high. Plus Paul Thompson's work on that last song is one of the best songs ever to air drum to.

#10, Lou Reed, Rock and Roll Diary 1967-1980
This sort of odd compilation of Lou and Velvets cuts was my real intro to that whole world, and so I owe it much gratitude. Plus it had liner notes by Ellen Willis so introduced me to her, too. (Can an album rock your world for its liner notes?)

#11, Bill Nelson, The Love that Whirls (Diary of a Thinking Heart)
Hyper-realized romance while in college made me very happy, and so, Mr. Nelson. That echo-ey, aching e-bow guitar. Plus he's sort of a bridge from Roxy Music to all the Japanese electro pop of that era, too--Yellow Magic Orchestra and its three guys' solos efforts.

#12, XTC, English Settlement
Can't begin to describe how much I was into XTC back in the day, although that's really faded (and that's kind of sad). My radio show through undergrad and grad school (81-88) was called "This Is Pop?" even. But this double album--of course I had the import, it was the age of being a geeky "get the import" guy--defined that era. Plus "All of a Sudden" is actually a pity pop gem, too.

#13, Elvis Costello Imperial Bedroom
Helped me bridge then current music with the songs my then-roommate jazzbo, Sinatra head liked. Even Chet Baker covered "Almost Blue." Catchy tunes, witty wordplay, and plenty of pity pop.

#14, Kate Bush, Hounds of Love
Aboundingly creative, this album. And while her videos are always pitched near hysteria ("Breathing" is the worst), the drama of these songs was very appealing. Plus she put out great B-sides on 12" singles in an era when I bought all the 12" singles. So this is here as an emblem of that, too.

#15, Billy Bragg, Talking to the Taxman about Poetry
I wrote poetry, then, and figured I'd never have nothing to talk to a taxman about. But it was darn fun being a writer. Plus "Levi Stubbs' Tears" is still one of my favorite songs and that's why this disc just edges out Workers' Playtime, but maybe they should be a twofer.

#16, The Mekons, Mekons Rock 'n' Roll
How can an album that opens with the lines "Destroy your safe and happy lives before it is too late," not wake one up? Especially when the violin rocks as hard as the guitars? And then there's secret weapon Sally Timms....

#17, The Pooh Sticks, Multiple Orgasm
I've gone on and on about my Multiple Orgasm on the blog, but perhaps I didn't say that this tape (for years I only had a dubbed copy) got played at every party I went to in 1991. And every time someone asked, "What’s that?"

#18, Pavement, Slanted and Enchanted
It might not be my fave Pavement, but it was quite an introduction to a band that still holds sway over my musical taste. Weird angles of lyrics and song all combine to make right. Plus this got played all year 1992.

#19, Uncle Tupelo, Anondyne
What incredible songs! Plus Tweedy finally got as good as Farrar, and that was very exciting--so much so the band had to fold.

#20, Yam, More Iowa, Less Worcester
This is the full length, cassette-only release by the band I was in 1993-94. Given it features the only songs I can play on an instrument, it's very important to me. Everyone should be in a band at least once in his or her life. You get free beer and can shout at people with a microphone to help you.

#21, Beck, Odelay!
This album seemed to be CA to me once I moved here, a wild and woolly mix. It should be paired with Los Lobos' Colossal Head, which came out the same year and also seemed to say "Welcome to CA." (Indeed, after moving here I finally could go back and get X, like I needed to live near LA to make sense of it.)

#22, Yo La Tengo, I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One
The album of the year of our wedding (yes, say awwww), 1997. I remember meeting with our very nice cover band folks before the reception and they asked what we wanted them to play beyond our instruction to get people to dance. They queried, "What's your favorite song right now?" And I thought, but didn't say, "Autumn Sweater," which would have been a weird wedding song indeed.

#23, The Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs
An incredible achievement. As with YLT, I'd been a big fan before this album that made the list, but with 69 I remember actually running to the computer and emailing friends six songs in, telling them they had to run out and buy this incredible record. Plus I actually presented an academic paper on the record, too.

#24, Fountains of Wayne, Welcome Interstate Managers
I like to recognize those who get by on clever, which for pop is enough. (So I guess I need to be pop.) But there's more to this than people want to give it credit for--really listen to "Valley Winter Song," say. Another good times album for its year.

#25, Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
Flat-out gorgeous. And I mean her singing, btw. Plus there's "Maybe Sparrow," a song that's ending almost always brought me to tears even before I somehow connected it to my mom passing away, so there's all that for the poor little bird to bear.

#26, Shout Out Louds, Our Ill Wills
My mom gets Neko, my dad this album. I actually bought it in NJ when back for his funeral. So it's far from sad in its music, but it's totally sad in my head. So really powerful. Plus there is a dark side to it, so that just gets deeper.

#27, Los Campesinos!, Hold On Now, Youngster
Given I just learned they canceled their upcoming Santa Barbara show, I sort of want to kick them off the list. But no CD in the past few years gets me going like this one--it's what Red Bull is supposed to be, but without the gross taste. Insta-adrenalin. And too darn smart, too.

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Anonymous Freealonzo said...

XTC's English Settlement is one of those great albums that has never gotten its due. If there was any musical justice in the world, all the kids would get that album to learn how real pop music should sound like, American Idol contestants would be singing Senses Working Overtime, cool bands would cover No thugs in our house, and there would have been a 25 year anniversary remastered album w/PBS special.

5:28 PM  
Anonymous Freealonzo said...

Oh I should also say that your Clash, Elvis C, Uncle Tupelo, Billy Bragg, Yo La Tengo, Mekons, and Pavement selections are all top notch. I don't know what I would do without those albums.

7:00 AM  
Anonymous James said...

Nice list. You reminded my I need to listen to Anodyne. Great record and it's been awhile. The YLT and Pavement are great ones also. I'll never forget seeing Pavement open for Sonic Youth right after S&E came out. I'd never heard of them, but what a revelation.

7:08 AM  
Blogger E-6 said...

A friend of mine has been hounding me for one of these for a while. Think I'll just send him yours. :-) (I kid.)

Nice post. Ditto with the Pavement, YLT, Tupelo, and Roxy Music.

8:42 AM  
Blogger E-6 said...

Oh, and by the way, free, if there was any musical justice in the world, American Idol would've been canceled mid-way through it's first season due to abysmal ratings.

9:15 AM  
Anonymous Freealonzo said...

E-6, hard to argue with that. But since it does exist, wouldn't it be better if the "singers" sang cool songs? Anyway, how about I amend that statement to Senses Working Overtime is the most popular song on Rock Band?

10:49 AM  

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