Sunday, March 29, 2009

March 29, 2009: The Clash - "Death or Glory"

25 Albums That Shaped My Life

The Clash
London Calling
Epic, 1979

I started listening to the radio station KJ104 religiously sometime between 7th and 8th grades. It was quite an education on punk and alternative rock. They played The Clash constantly. Usually it was "Rock the Casbah" or "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" - the mammoth singles from Combat Rock, which was the first Clash tape I bought (from the cutout section at the Plymouth Holiday Plus). I can't remember if The Clash or London Calling was purchased next. I do remember buying them around the same time, and I remember devouring both of them.

I'm choosing London Calling for this list because it has become my go-to answer for many years when I'm asked "What is your all time favorite record?"

Saturday, March 28, 2009

March 28, 2009: Nirvana - "Smells Like Teen Spirit"

25 Albums That Shaped My Life

DGC, 1991

It was the album that changed everything. Nevermind changed music for me, just like it did for so many of you. Hell, it changed the world.

I still remember the first time I heard "Smells Like Teen Spirit." I was in my bedroom, listening to KJ104 and reading comic books. I biked to Holiday Plus the next day to look through their tapes, but they didn't have it. It wasn't out yet. It came out the following Tuesday. My mom drove me to Down in the Valley in Golden Valley and I bought this funny tape with the naked baby on the cover. And it changed everything.

Friday, March 27, 2009

March 27, 2009: Public Enemy - "Welcome to the Terrordome"

25 Albums That Shaped My Life

Public Enemy

Fear of a Black Planet

Def Jam, 1990

I was introduced to Public Enemy and Fear of a Black Planet by my friend and neighbor Tommy, who lived across the street from me for a couple years. His family moved to Plymouth, Minnesota from Cincinnati. We hit it off immediately and were damn near inseparable until his family moved to Florida.

Tommy was unlike any of the other friends I had in my lily-white suburb. He idolized Bo Jackson and Ickey Woods and on occasion would proclaim, "I want to be black!" Before he got Fear of a Black Planet, my exposure to rap music was limited to the humorous (Beastie Boys) and poppy (MC Hammer) mainstream acts. Fear of a Black Planet was an eye-opener. At 12-13 years old, I was well on my way toward seeking rock music of substance, so I guess it makes sense that Chuck D's words had such a profound impact on me.

Tommy is now Tom. After losing track of him for about 15 years, he tracked me down on Myspace a couple of years ago. He is a stand-up comic in Los Angeles. He's bigger and hairier than I remember him, and I can only assume he wears sweatpants in public less frequently, but he's always been the funniest dude in the room. Thanks for the PE, Tom.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

March 26, 2009: Anthrax - "Antisocial"

25 Albums That Shaped My Life

State of Euphoria
Island/Megaforce, 1988

I was very close to selecting Def Leppard's Hysteria in this slot, seeing as how we're going in chronological order. I decided against it. Aside from the embarrassment of sending out a Def Leppard song to everyone, I simply felt in the end that my brief Def Leppard fixation at age 10 was only a part of my musical progression... not a landmark.

From Springsteen, I made my way through other '80s pop-rock (Huey Lewis, John Cougar Mellencamp), which led to Bon Jovi after Slippery When Wet exploded. From there, hair metal was a natural next step. I did love Hysteria, and from there the music kept getting heavier and/or raunchier. Poison followed Def Leppard. Then it was Mötley Crüe. Then Guns 'N Roses. Then Metallica.

When I hit Anthrax - probably around early 1989 - I found something that I really loved. First of all, they rocked hard. They played fast and loud, and that was all right by me. I think the real appeal was that they didn't seem to take themselves too seriously. Even at that young age, I had started to notice that the makeup and hair metal stuff was pretty peabrained. Metallica and Megadeth, meanwhile, seemed to be so serious and dark. Anthrax had their serious moments, but they were more likely to write songs about comic books or movies. Their look was genuine, too. Concerned neither with tattoos and leater nor the "all black" look, they were comfortable in their Vision Street Wear topped with a hockey jersey groove. I dug their humor and I dug their sincerity. I still do, even if I don't enjoy their music quite as much as I did back then.

Make no mistake, they were a metal band (and one of the best of 'em), but their acceptance and endorsement of rap and punk went a long way toward my own welcoming of those genres.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

March 25, 2009: Bruce Springsteen - "Born In the U.S.A."

25 Albums That Shaped My Life

Bruce Springsteen

Born In the U.S.A.

Columbia Records, 1984

My parents' 8-Tracks triggered my interest in music, but The Boss set me on the path to rock 'n' roll. Prior to 1984, I was really into the pop-country of the day. I have memories of watching Hee-Haw at our first house in St. Louis Park and playing Mom's Kenny Rogers, Kendalls, and Oak Ridge Boys tapes, but hearing "Born In the U.S.A." at age 7 closed the door on country music for me for the next dozen or so years.

Seven is an extremely impressionable age. Growing up in the middle class suburbs during the Reagan '80s, I was immediately drawn to the unforgettable synthesizer hook and anthemic chorus. Like many did (and still do), I interpreted the song as a proud national anthem. Obviously, at that age it wasn't really my fault. So many of the millions who made the song and album a blockbuster chose to ignore the verses while bellowing the chorus. I was simply too young to understand them.

Thankfully, there was so much more to love on the album beyond the misunderstood title track. I especially loved "I'm Goin' Down," "I'm On Fire," "Bobbie Jean," and of course, "Dancing in the Dark." I was about to turn into a rock 'n' roll machine. I began listening to WLOL and KQRS religiously and I kept wanting to rock harder... as you'll see in the days to come.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

March 24, 2009: Joe Sun - "Old Flames (Can't Hold a Candle to You)"

25 Albums That Shaped My Life

Joe Sun
Old Flames (Can't Hold a Candle to You)
Ovation Records, 1978

When I last posted, about two
weeks ago, I promised that this new feature would be beginning shortly. A very busy schedule pushed it back a little further than anticipated, but here we are. The goal here is to showcase songs from the 25 albums that have had the biggest impact on my life. I'm going for total honesty, and baring all my musical skeletons. We begin at ground zero...

I was about two years old when I first discovered the stereo in the basement and my parents' collection of 8-Track tapes. By age three, I was obsessed with them. My mom will tell stories to anyone who will listen of how I would fall asleep while organizing and memorizing them (see the picture to prove it). My favorite was the 1978 debut from Rochester, Minnesota-born country singer Joe Sun, which I played so often that it drove my parents to hide the tape from me.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

March 12, 2009: Neil Young - "Walk On"

I listened to On the Beach - my favorite Neil album - a few times earlier in the week, and today woke up with "Walk On" stuck in my head. It remained there the rest of the day.