15 Albums That Changed Your Life

OK here is the challenge I just received:

Think of 15 albums, CDs, LPs (if you’re over 40) that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life. Dug into your soul. Music that brought you to life when you heard it. Royally affected you, kicked you in the wasu, literally socked you in the gut, is what I mean.

(Disclaimer: I tried to limit this to one album per group, otherwise the Beatles would be here more than once)

In no particular order:

1. The Beatles: Abbey Road. Once of the first albums I ever had, made from a copy of a cassette someone made for me. The only problem was that the cassette was 45 minutes long and the album is 47 minutes long, so for years I never heard anything past the drum solo in “The End”

2. The Monkees: Pisces Aquarius Capricorn and Jones Ltd. OK, I was just a kid, but watching the Monkees on TV and listening to this album convinced me that I wanted to be in a band too! I started learning how to play guitar after this.

3. The Ramones. What a kick in the teeth. Didn’t like it at first and then grew to love it. It was just so different at the time! Although later albums were better (Rocket to Russia especially) this one had the most influence on me.

4. Elvis Costello: This Years Model. The first album wasn’t released in America until just before this one (the second). I liked the first but when the second came out I played it over and over and then went back and saw the genius in the first. And the addition of the new band made all the difference; Steve Nieve especially who I later found played on many other albums I love.

5. Sparks: Kimono My House. What a revelation! Loud and fast before the Ramones, high and quirky before Queen, clever lyrics and complicated and catchy melodies. My music writing was definitely influenced by these guys.

6. XTC: Oranges and Lemons. OK, I was an XTC fan from early on, but their quirky music was always important to me. This album is my favorite — and one of the best mixed albums ever. Very complicated, but you can hear each instrument perfectly. I just love to wear the headphones for this one.

7. Warren Zevon: Genius. This is a collection of his greatest hits that I got after he died and although I always knew I liked him, this just blew me away at how much of, well, a genius he was.

8. Frank Zappa: Shiek Yerbouti. I remember when this first came out and a friend said “You have to hear this!” and we listened to the whole double album while reading the lyrics. My favorite Zappa album (except I usually skip the long guitar solos he likes to do)

9. Panic at the Disco: Pretty Odd. I fell over backwards when they released it. It was a departure from their original sound, and it caused the band to split in half afterwards because of it, but it’s my favorite. I’ve always loved the psychedelic creative mid 60s sound, and this recreates it better than anyone other than XTC’s “Dukes of Stratosphear” album.

10. Kate Bush: The Kick Inside. Although I hardly ever listen to this now, when it was released I fell in love with it. Such a unique voice and such clever songs. In retrospect it’s a bit pretentious, but hey, I was in college and was pretty pretentious myself then.

11. Split Enz: Mental Notes. Their first American album was one of the weirdest I had ever heard, and I still love it. Songs that have no verses or choruses, but just wander all over the place yet it all works!

12. Funkadelic: Tales of Kidd Funkadelic. I was working in a record store when one of the other employees stuck this on the system and I immediately fell in love with the fun, the silliness, and the funk! Saw them in concert but I don’t remember too much because of all the strange sweet smoke that filled the place…

13. The Clash: London Calling. One of the few perfect albums ever made. Not a bad song in the lot. Impossible for them to top and they never did, it was all downhill from there.

14. Talking Heads: More Songs About Buildings and Food. I actually won this and a bunch of other albums in a record store contest and along with all the top hits, I said “What is this weird group?” I eventually gave away all the other albums and played this over and over. My band Big House did a cover of “Found a Job” too.

15. Ack, only one left! OK, well, Bruce Springsteen: The Essential. A 3 CD set of all his greatest hits. No wait! They Might Be Giants: John Henry — the first album with a real band instead of a drum machine. No! Joe Jackson’s “Volume 4!” No! Say Anything! Weezer! Prince’s “Purple Rain.” Argh!!!

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