I generally ignore Top Ten lists that float around Facebook, but when I saw the Top Ten Albums list, everyone sharing an Album a day that influenced them, I *secretly* wanted to be nominated. Just when I thought I never would, someone did! The only problem were the “rules.”
“10 albums which have greatly influenced my taste in music…one title per day, 10 consecutive days, no explanations, no reviews, only covers. Part of the game is to nominate another person each day to play. Today I nominate…”
I decided to follow the rules. No explanations allowed and I started a list of albums. My initial list was like 18, then I started comparing album to album. I ruled out Cranberries, because although I listened to about three songs obsessively, I couldn’t really call it an album. Same for REM. And 10,000 Maniacs. I was really pissed to have to eliminate The Rolling Stones, “Sticky Fingers” but again, the real focus was only a couple of songs. Then It got really tough… but in the end, here are the albums I landed on.
This time though, I get to break the rules…. here are my Top Ten WITH explanations….
In chronological order, the first album is…Pink Floyd. “Dark Side Of The Moon”. When I think of this album, I think of my middle school/ high school years. I think of long summer days and being up to absolutely no good. Riding in cars I should not have been riding in, with people who should not have been driving, and with “Money” blasting on the speakers. I also think of that teenaged luxury of just “Hanging out” and listening to music. I think of roaming the neighborhood aimlessly, of first boyfriends. This album has stayed with me forever. Always will.
Next came Jackson Brown: “Running on Empty.” Oh my goodness. This album, along with the one I had to nix, “Sticky Fingers” ruled my senior year of high school. (See how I stuck the Rolling Stones in?) I had a really great group of friends and we were ridiculous. We wrote Jackson Brown fan letters and we belted out songs from this album while driving with the windows down. It was just an anthem for us. And along with that… Skiing and parties at Alyeska. Scruffy little rock band playing “Honky Tonk Woman” in the living room of a cabin at the base of the mountain.
Hard on the heels of Jackson Brown and The Rolling Stones, came Led Zepplin IV. My introduction to this album was in the basement of a house in our neighborhood. Brian was a friend of my brothers. They played Dungeons and Dragons, and yes, I will admit I played off and on too. But the deal was, Brian had older brothers who, with their shaggy haired friends, had a band that played in an old rec room in the basement. I would occasionally go down there and sit on a slouchy couch and listen. One day, they played a song that made me sit up, it made me take notice. They played “Black Dog” and I was hooked.
With my own Led Zepplin IV CD in hand, that album became part of my young adulthood. Driving around with “Misty Mountain Hop” thumping, I was pretty much playing and skiing. I had a job as a ski instructor, and after work we would go to The Cabin Tavern, or Chikoot Charlies or some other rough little bar that would look the other way when I ordered because I was not quite old enough to drink yet. The band would be pounding away and always, always on the playlist would be Led Zepplin and I had to dance, sort of an early -version modified head-banging kind of dance.
A REALLLLY long time passed before I got obsessed with an album again. Somewhere between Black Dog and Nick of Time, I had a sweet little red-headed baby, Sarah Rose. She and I sat up at night, during those first months when she had day and night confused, and we watched MTV in 1984 when it first aired. Michael Jackson, Billy Idol and Madonna were what I sang along with for a few years.
And then Scott happened. I do have a side musical song story about our courtship. We would go out on a date, and when he was dropping me back off, we would sit in his car for hours talking and always the James Taylor CD would be on playing softly and those songs remind me of our courtship. I always thought “Sweet Baby James” was OUR song. I found out many years later that Scott did not particularly like James Taylor, he just knew it “worked with the ladies…”
So. That album does not get to be on my list.
Bonnie Raitt does. “The Nick of Time.” In case you cannot tell, my musical taste was changing a bit. It was 1991. Scott and I were just married. We went to Costco and bought a portable “boom box” CD player and a box set of Led Zepplin CDs (which got old fast). For my birthday my brother, Ray got me the CD, “Nick Of Time.” I had returned to college. Seriously this time. I was going to be a teacher. We were living in his parents house while they were in England for the year, and it was a glorious sunny fall and I played that album All. The. Time. Any song from that album will take me right back to crisp fall weather, sunny days and so much future ahead of me.
How funny is it that I have two albums named “Four” on my list?
Blues Traveler “Four” was the next influential album for me. By the time Blues Traveler had floated to my radar, Scott and I had bought a house. We had a beautiful grassy yard. We planted vegetables. I was pregnant again and I loved both Blues Traveler and Stevie Ray Vaughn. Blues Traveler beat out “Couldn’t Stand the Weather,” even though I actually SAW Stevie Ray Vaughn perform on his last tour (he died four weeks later). I had to miss seeing Blues Traveler perform though, because Laura was only 11 days old when they came to town. It was close, but I was more familiar with the album “Four” as a whole than of “Weather.” Sorry Stevie.
“Four.” I just loved this album. It moved with us from Anchorage to Ketchikan, and I was still playing it on the Boom Box we had bought when we first got married. Never a harmonica fan before, this one slayed me. And “Hook?” I can still rap right along with Mr. Popper.
The next was a feel-good family album. “Songs You Know By Heart.” Jimmy Buffet. The girls loved it, Gracie had joined our family by then. Three girls and they loved to sing and dance. They loved “Songs.” I loved “Songs” and Scott loved it. My life was busy now. Teaching, driving the girls to school, to soccer, to ballet and along it all, we listened and sang along with Jimmy Buffet. The girls would chirp out from the back seat, “Play the Volcano song Daddy!! The Volcano song!!” Yes. We indoctrinated our girls with this album. But still.
Surf, sand, steel drums and floral shorts. I secretly want to be a Parrot-head!
I am not sure if I should be embarrassed to list the next album. It feels a little Teeny-bopperish, but it had an important role in my relationship with Sarah. Alanis Morisette, “Jagged Little Pill.” When Sarah was in Sixth Grade she beggggged us for this album. This was about 6 months before she took down all the horse posters in her room and replaced them with Mia Hamm and girl band posters. We weren’t sure. The message was edgy. Alanis was edgy by the standards of the day. We only knew what we read, we never actually listened to it. But one day Scott came home from Anchorage with the album.
Turns out? I liked it as much as Sarah did. Our family enjoyed The Volcano Song together, but Sarah and I, we LOVED this album. It has been a life-long thing for us, we are super in tune to each other’s musical taste (except a brief period in her late teens when she listened to naaasty rappers), but we still really get each other that way.
Another artist we bonded over was Sheryl Crow. Don’t make me pick just one. “Tuesday Night Music Club,” or “The Globe Sessions.” I just can’t pick! So, I will select a third, “Sheryl Crow and Friends, Live From Central Park.” I really wanted to include the Dixie Chicks on my top ten list too, and Eric Clapton and Stevie Nicks… since they are all “Friends” on this Album, it is a perfect choice. Covers it all!
These albums were our background music. House Cleaning? Laundry? Road-Trips, and man we did a LOT of road-trips, it was Sheryl Crow and friends!
The girls and I. We beleaguered poor Scott. We listened to some danceable music….Is this where I admit that we listened to a LOT of The Spice Girls, “Spice World?” And Britney Spears, “Baby, One More Time?” Again, I think of times off the Island, of road trips, some with Ronan, and when “Wannabe” came on at his wedding we all danced together, one big group, and maybe he picked it out with that summer road trip in mind, maybe he didn’t, but we didn’t care, it took us right back to fighting girls in the back seat, Ronan in the middle to separate them, took us right back to good times and we- got – down!
And by contrast, “Tigerlily” by Natalie Merchant was on repeat often too, along with Sarah Mclachlan….. And there was the summer of The Red Hot Chili Peppers… I cannot list everything I guess. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. *sigh*
To round out this list…. Brandi Carlile, “The Story” is probably the last album I loved. I remember one rainy Sunday and Scott and I were working around the house and we had “Prairie Home Companion” on the radio. He announced a new artist and it was Brandi Carlile. And she sang “The Story.” And I immediately looked it up. And I texted it to Sarah. And we became her number one fans. All three girls love her too!
So I am not sure if I limited myself to ten. But who cares? Right? And if it was list of songs, it would be wayyyy different. There is nothing like Hendrix, “Hey Joe,” to remind you of a smoky bar, or “Good-bye Yellow Brick Road” to make you remember pink fruity drinks and feather boas with friends. Round glasses and gold baseball hats. Nothing takes you back to a freeway in Cali. The ocean, the blue skies, the palm trees like Tom Petty on the radio blasting out “Freefalling.’