This meme ran around Facebook for a while, and it was so popular even I saw it. If this list looks familiar to you, it’s because I’ve already posted a version over there. It was a fun exercise, though, and worth expanding a bit and sharing in more intimate environs. After some thought I’d probably change some of these, but it’s not just a list of albums, it’s a list of memories, of little stories set in a time long ago.
The challenge was, without too much thought, to list ten albums that influenced you as a teenager. But “teenage” spans an enormous amount of time in terms of changes to who you are. In those few years I changed more than in all the years since. So I limited myself to my first teen phase: The time when I got my first radio and my first record albums, but before I traveled to England for a year — which was an entire phase of my teen life all by itself.
So here’s the list I came up with over in Facebook land:
Pink Floyd, The Wall — I’ve come to like other Pink Floyd albums much more, but this was was a gigantic concept album that told a story. Isn’t this where we came in?
Electric Light Orchestra, Out of the Blue — A big, ambitious album that needed the double-LP-sized canvas to carry its imagery. Kids these days don’t get the experience of opening up that super-glossy double album to see neon spaceships. Night in the City (oh, oh, oh) Madness at midnight.
BTO, Four Wheel Drive — Fuck yeah. This album spanned my various teens and carried me into adulthood. In a car, loud.
Steve Miller Band, Book of Dreams — I still had dreams of making my own synthesizers when that came out. While my friends were all about “Fly Like an Eagle”, this is the album that did it for me.
Eagles, Best Of (So Far) — That record belonged to my sister, and for a while it was the only pop album in the house, permanently installed on her clamshell record player. (By the end of that album’s life, there were two pennies taped to the tonearm of the record player.) You might think that such repetition would scar a guy, but honestly, while the world seems intent on hating the Eagles these days, I think they wrote some pretty good songs.
Fleetwood Mac, Rumors — More storytelling. I had no idea at the time what disfunction in the band created this magic, but this was the second pop album in the house, followed immediately by the Record Club Deluge. When Tusk came out I was dismayed, as was the world, but historians will revere the latter over the former. Yet the album was not just beautiful music, it was well-constructed, gently moving your mood from one place to another.
Kiss, the album with “Detroit, Rock City” on it — Pompous, giant guitars, the first album that got mom to tell me to turn it down. “Beth” was also there, but come on. If I had this in my digital library I’d listen to it right now.
Robin Trower, Bridge of Sighs — Memorex sponsored the “Blank Tape Special” once a week, playing an entire album starting with “hit the record button… now” followed by a pause to give time for the leader to pass over the heads. (Can you imagine that happening today?) Late at night, headphones on, half asleep in a beanbag chair, letting that bass do its magic. The next morning I wasn’t sure just what I’d heard, but I knew it was great. It took a long time for me to actually hear the music. I kind of went into a trance whenever I put it on.
Boston, Boston — The solid wall of sound. I still hum those tunes. I met a girl named Mary Ann in Wallingford, and that song became the story of my life.
Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks — I save this for last, but of all these albums it had the greatest impact. At a party in West Hagbourne the album came out and they thought it would blow me away, but it was already part of my vocabulary. This album changed me almost as much as it did the recording industry. Of the ten listed here, this one shaped my view of the world the most. After Punk went mainstream (*ahemRancidahem*) I turned to Riot Grrl for my musical anger.
There you have it.
I have subsequently thought of many albums that could arguably be on the above list, albums I listened to many times, from ABBA to ZZ-Top. But these are the ones that came to mind first, so I’m riding with them.