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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- King of the Delta Blues Singers, Robert Johnson
Strange what you uncover when you check out the influences of your influences. Blues! Who knew!!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cotton Club soundtrack
And then I discovered Duke Ellington, and I have John Barry and this soundtrack to thank for it.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?