Friday, 29 May 2009

Fifteen Albums That Changed Your Life

Then one fine morning she turned on a New York station
Couldn’t believe what she heard at all!
She started dancing to that fine, fine music
You know her life was saved by rock n’ roll . . .

- Lou Reed, from ‘Rock n’Roll’

After yesterday’s fiscal fraudulence (Tax cuts. Yeah right.) we’ve almost earned ourselves a frivolous Friday, don’t you think?  And what’s more life-saving than music, eh?

Anyway, a friend was talking last night about a Facebook thread she’s on where folk are discussing the Fifteen Albums That Changed Your Life – and since we started making a wee list over a few drinks I figured I’d offer up the benefit of my research.

So here they are in autobiographical order – each one of which at one time lifted back the scales from my ears and drew back a curtain from my soul. It’s not as if you won’t know most of them already, to be fair.

  1. Hello Sailor, by Hello Sailor
    Heard it, bought it, played it every night for two years.  Wore it out. This was my just what this particular thirteen-year-old ordered.
  2. Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols
    As the poet said, Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven.  Or something like that anyway.
  3. 1969:Velvet Underground Live, by the Velvet Underground
    It seemed for a while there that the universe contained two kinds of people. Those who ‘got’ the VU, and those that didn’t.
  4. White Album, Beatles
    Friend’s older brother got sick of us playing air guitar to the Buzzcocks one afternoon, and dropped the needle on ‘Helter Skelter’ to show us who was boss. Turned out old hippies could rock out too!
  5. King of the Delta Blues Singers, Robert Johnson
    Strange what you uncover when you check out the influences of your influences.  Blues!  Who knew!!
  6. Ninth Symphony, Ludwig van Beethoven (LSO)
    Figuring there was more to this music gig than I’d heretofore discovered I started mining the second-hand classical record bins.  I stuck in my thumb and pulled out . . . this!  My God, I never knew music could do this.
  7. Second Piano Concerto, Sergei Rachmaninov (Moura Lympany)
    Then one fine morning I turned up this wee beauty, and I really and truly couldn’t believe what I heard at all.
  8. Jazz Classics in Digital Stereo.  Vol 3: New York
    It was that Jimmy Lunceford song ‘Stratosphere’ that did it.  What started out as a cheap tape full of tiddlywink music to play while studying suddenly told me that a whole world of jazz awaited my discovery. And the whole world got even bigger, and more exciting.
  9. Cotton Club soundtrack
    And then I discovered Duke Ellington, and I have John Barry and this soundtrack to thank for it.
  10. Tosca, Giacomo Puccini (Leontyne Price/Giuseppe de Stefano)
    Scratched to hell this old record was, even when I first got it, but it scratched an itch I hadn’t even known I had.
  11. Smoke & Strong Whiskey – Christy Moore
    He offers one hell of a rousing welcome to this particular cabaret.  Almost literally intoxicating, this was the drive-home-after-a session music for every Irishman I knew in London.
  12. The Essential Wagner – The Legendary Toscanini Recordings
    Another cheap cassette tape picked up in a Shepherd’s Bush bargain basement opened up a whole new world. I played it and played it as background music -- until one day something just happened.  I stopped it, rewound it, and just sat there and actually listened to it.  As friends will testify, I really haven’t been the same since. The thing is, after Wagner nothing else can ever sound the same again.
  13. Bossa Nova/Nevermind/Generation Terrorists
    While my back was turned, these buggers showed that the lost decade of music that was the eighties would finally result in something exciting.  Youngsters could still do it for themselves, and it could still be alright.
  14. Let Love In – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
    I’d lost track of old Nick over the years, never realising that he’d discovered melody in his middle ages.  I heard this, and I let Nick back in.
  15. Four Last Songs, Richard Strauss (Elizabeth Schwarzkopf)
    Balm.  Just balm. When the mood is right, these four songs can justify the whole world. I’ve since heard it sung better (thanks, Jesse Norman), but this album is still a well-played sentimental favourite.

So there’s my fifteen (and thanks Les, Francis, Graham, Tanja, Martin, Lindsay et al for some of the introductions).

What are yours?


  1. OK, they might not have chinged my life as such, but these albums all set me on different paths with my music tastes, and that's always a good thing.

    A Clockwork Orange Soundtrack
    Motorvatin' - Chuck Berry
    Best of - Elvis
    Midnight Special - Sonny Terry & Brownee McGee
    A Day at the Races - Queen
    London Calling - The Clash (still my favourite album)
    Bleach - Nirvana
    Lady Day - Billie Holiday
    Texas Flood - Stevie Ray Vaughan
    Exit Planet Dust - The Chemical Brothers
    Fat of the Land - The Prodigy
    Berlin - Lou Reed

  2. I went to FB and pasted my list

    Tallahassee, FL (1964-81)
    1. The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club BandMy first album dating back to 1967. Yes, I so remember going to see Yellow Submarine downtown on Monroe Street across from the old library. Not their best album, but I loved it all … well except of course for George's "Within You Without You."

    Cambridge (1981-5)
    2. Miles Davis, A Tribute to Jack JohnsonA Harvard Coop purchase; I used to browse the general books downstairs and often thumb Christgau's 1970s record guide. I was intrigued that a rock critic was giving props to a Trumpeter. Miles proves here it's not how many notes you play as long as you play the right ones at the right time (see also Thelonious Monk's entire oeuvre).

    3. The Smiths, Hatful of HollowThis is my first cheat as it's really a compilation between the first and second album with new (often BBC studio live) versions of previously released tracks, some singles, and the epochal "How Soon Is Now". But The Smiths always did follow their own mantra: "Re-issue Re-package Re-package Re-evaluate the songs."

    4. Mission of Burma, Mission of BurmaThis compilation is kind of a cheat as it contains their first ep Signals, Calls, and Marches, the one studio album, Vs. some live tracks a few other rarities. But I got it soon after moving back to the States in the Bay Area and it was such a nostalgic object.

    5. Sam Cooke, Live at the Harlem Square ClubI wrote the odd record review in The Harvard Independent. My first a slam on Dylan's Infidels. The turn to Christianity for Zimmerman was as bogus as that disc was bad. The best review I ever wrote was the summer after graduation. About a rediscovered concert of Sam Cooke's from the old "chitlin' circuit" of African American clubs, in this case one in Miami. Gone was the colorless crooner replaced by a libidinous back door man. Still one of the greatest live albums ever produced.

    York (1985-6)
    6. The Pogues, Rum Sodomy, & The LashThe 1985-6 academic year was a musical annus mirabilis for me. I had a Rotary Fellowship to study at the University of York; I began my career as a college radio DJ at Britian's oldest independent radio station; and I discovered a motherload of great records/bands.

    7. Jesus & Mary Chain, Psychocandy8. The Wedding Present, George BestStanford (1986-96)
    9. Hilliard Ensemble, Perotin
    Western music (of the polyphonic kind at least) begins here, France in the 12th century. A fantastic British vocal ensemble produces a brilliant if controversial reading of Pérotin, the master of discant-style liturgical pieces and the first composer to write for four voices ("Viderunt omnes" and "Sederunt principes"). If you're a fan of Orf's Carmina Burana or Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, you'll enjoy this medieval post-modern artefact.

    10. My Bloody Valentine, Loveless
    11. Guided By Voices, Alien Lanes12 Marvin Gaye, Here, My DearStarkville (1996-present)
    13 The Fieldstones, Memphis Blues Today!14. The Mountain Goats, Tallahassee15 Young Marble Giants, Colossal Youth

  3. Radiohead - Kid A
    Massive Attack - Blue Lines, Mezzanine, 100th Window
    Skinny Puppy - The Greater Wrong of the Right
    Faithless - Reverence/Irreverence
    Bjork - Vespertine, Homogenic
    Archive - Londinium
    Frontline Assembly - Artificial Soldier
    Jordan Reyne - Passenger
    Pink Floyd - Echoes
    The Orb - Cydonia
    The Cure - Disintegration
    Tool - Aenema

  4. Hmmm. In no particular order:

    Sun Kil Moon - April

    Dead Kennedys - Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables

    Godflesh - Selfless

    This Will Destroy You - S/T

    JD Blackfoot - The Song Of Crazy Horse

    Kristin Hersh - Hips And Makers

    Tarwater - The Needle Was Travelling

    UK Subs - Endangered Species

    Roots Manuva - Run Come Save Me

    Isis - The Red Sea

    Bill Laswell/Tetsuo Inoue - Web

    Painkiller - Execution Ground

    Future Sound Of London - ISDN

    The Hasselhoff Experiment - Always Outnumbered Always Outgunned

    Juryman - The Hill


    (PS - As proof of the worth of these kind of posts, Bulb's effort above has reminded me to pull out my My Bloody Valentine albums. I'm going to be seeing them live in August - suffer in your jocks.)

  5. Sean Fitzpatrick30 May 2009, 13:04:00

    No particular order

    Tarot Suite - Mike Batt

    Sticky Fingers - Rolling Stones

    Lateralis - Tool

    Dogman - Kings X

    All the Worlds a Stage - Rush

    Who are You - The Who

    Going for the One - Yes

    Larks Tounges in Aspic - King Crimson

    Minstrel in the Gallery - Jethro Tull

    Making Movies - Dire Straits

    Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd

    Rum, Sodomy and the Lash - The Pouges

    Flying in a Blue Dream - Joe Satriani

    In the Heat of the Night - Pat Benetar

    Live After Death - Iron Maiden

    Honorable mention - Disraeli Gears by Cream

  6. The Allman Brothers' "Eat A Peach."

    The Music Machine "Talk, Talk."

    Jethro Tull "Aqualung."

  7. Not in any particular order
    REM - Automatic for the people
    Siouxsie & the Banshees - The looking glass
    The Clash - Londons calling
    Travis - The invisible band
    Moby - Play
    Coldplay - Parachutes
    The smiths - Hateful of Hollow
    The smiths - Strangeways here we come
    REM - New Adventures in HiFi
    New Order - substance 1987
    Nivana - Nevermind
    Split Enz - Enz of an Era
    Violet Femmes - The Best of
    Jesus and the Mary Chain - Psychocandy
    Green Day - American Idiot

  8. (written in reverse chronological order.)
    Tall Dwarfs -Hello cruel world
    Simple minds -best of
    Travis -The invisible band
    Coldplay -A rush of blood to the head
    Strawpeople -best of
    Radiohead -OK computer
    Bob Dylan -The times they are a changing
    Echo & the bunnyman -Ocean rain
    Joy Division -Substance
    Bailter space -Tanker
    Headless Chickens -Stunt lown
    The Fixx -Phantoms
    The Stranglers -Aural Sculture
    Pink Floyd -Echoes
    Alan Parsons Project -Turn of a friendly card

  9. I'll put Michael Jackson's Thriller as my number #1 album of all time.

  10. These didn't change my life as such, but they all steered my musical taste in new directions. Some very recent..

    Infected - The The
    If I Left The Zoo - Jars Of Clay
    Brazilian Romance - Sarah Vaughan
    Squeezing Out Sparks - Gaham Parker
    In The Wee Small Hours - Frank Sinatra
    The Final Cut - Pink Floyd
    Triage - David Baerwald
    The Animal Years - Josh Ritter
    The Last In Line - Dio
    Infidels - Bob Dylan
    (What's the Story) Morning Glory - Oasis
    Dusty In Memphis - Dusty Springfield
    Wrecking Ball - Emmylou Harris
    Laughter And Lust - Joe Jackson
    Good Old Boys - Randy Newman

  11. The Velvet Underground - the Banana Album;
    The Stooges - 1st Album;
    Street Hassle - Lou Reed;
    This Years Model - Elvis C & the Attractions;
    Never Mind the Bollocks, Heres the Sex Pistols;
    Berlin - Lou Reed;
    Transformer - Lou Reed;
    Lust for Life - Iggy Pop;
    Raw Power - Iggy Pop;
    Before and After Science - Brian Eno;
    Secondhand Daylight - Magazine;
    Unknown Pleasures - Joy Division
    Substance - Joy Dvision
    Heavenly Pop Hits - The Chills
    Urban Hymns - The Verve

    and lots more...

  12. For my $0.02 I would like to say that compilations, greatest hits and retrospective albums should be disallowed, because they are not really albums (in the sense that an album is a self-contained artistic piece of work). A live album might qualify, but only if it is genuinely 'live' - i.e. a recording on one show from start to finish with no (glaring) fixes. No putting together a collection of songs recorded live at various concerts and calling it a live album.

    Having said that, I started making my own list before coming to the realisation that I have absolutley appalling taste in music.

  13. Joy Division, Unknown Pleasures, Closer.
    Television, Marquee Moon.
    Kraftwerk, Trans Europe Express.
    Echo & The Bunnymen, Heaven Up Here.
    Wire, 154.
    David Bowie, The Man Who Sold The World.
    The Teardrop Explodes, Wilder, 2000 re-issue.
    Wolfgang A Mozart, #33 in B-Flat Major, K 319, Dennis Davies, Bonn Orchestra.
    Rachmanivov, 2nd Symphony, Andre Previn, LSO.
    The Modern Dance, Pere Ubu.
    Aphex Twin, Selected Ambient Works.
    The Birthday Party, Junkyard.
    Tackhead, Tackhead Tape Time.
    Husker Du, Zen Arcade.
    Linton Kwesi Johnson, Bass Culture.

  14. Curse you Cresswell! I am compelled. And great taste, one and all.
    Not going to limit it to fifteen. These are just hugely influential albums in my life for reasons expalined below.

    Sergeant Peppers. First discovery of the Beatles. Unable to listen to anything else for almost a year.

    Revolver. Made the year I was born but not discovered for some time. "For no one' is simply one of the greatest songs ever.

    XTC - Skylarking and Oranges & Lemons. Able to condense all that has gone before in music and make it special.

    Any album by Kevin Bloody Wilson. Made me move to New Zealand, not Australia.

    Tchaikovsky Piano concerto No1. My mothers favorite music.
    And violin concerto - I had just never heard - or imagined - such virtuosity.

    Van Halen debut album. Deliciously over the top - music could be what it wanted, even LOUD, when only 14.

    Pink Floyd the wall, bought the day it came out on vinyl, but I was on holiday in Cape Town and had to wait to get home to listen. Absorbed every word and picture (gatefold sleeves, remember?) - even though I did'nt know what it was actually about. Ditto Animals and WYWH.
    DSOTM was the first album I heard on my dads friends fabulous stereo - my first listen to a Linn Sondek, and stated me on a life in pursuit of the ultimate fidelity. And poverty.

    Nick Drake - Five Leaves left & Bryter Layter. So fragile at a time when I was.

    Wilco - Sky Blue Sky. That a band could so easily produce three completely flawless pop songs on one album almost made me think anything else was futile.

    The Waterboys - this is the sea. My first live concert - whole of the moon - in Wolverhampton. Big music.

    U2 The Joshua Tree - First album I heard on my first weekend leave military conscription. Powerful.

    Barber - ADAGIO FOR STRINGS discovered in the movie platoon - one of my favorite movies - the scene where sergeant kills sergeant.

    The Smiths - Hatful of hollow. Impossible to get Smiths albums in South Africa - but I did.

    Mary Black - No Frontiers. Saw her live first concert attended with my wife.

    Radiohead - OK computer. The Pink floyd of my generation.

    Porcupine Tree - Deadwing - just when I thought I had heard it all, the Pink Floyd of THIS generation.

    Boston - Don't look back. Learned to play drums to this album - in 30 minutes at age 12. Have never improved.

    The Police - Regatta de Blanc. My career of coveting albums started here.

    Beck - Odelay - ruleless music. Sea Change - Beautiful ruleless music.

    Mary Chapin Carpenter - State of the Heart - country music could be damn fine.

    Bjork - debut. My first crush on a weird pop star

    Blondie - Parralel Lines. My first crush on a pop star.

    Van Morrison - Astral weeks. First love and first broken heart.

    Sadly, the list goes on and on.


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