:: Wednesday, July 26, 2006 ::
Thursday Thirteen: 10 more of the top 100 songs that changed my life, plus three more lists from three other bloggers

Welcome to the second installment of my countdown of 100 albums that changed my life. Today, we cover Nos. 90-81, with accompanying podcast. Read on to the bottom for a bonus of three other lists from three other bloggers who have posted their top 10 life-changing records, also with accompanying soundtracks of selections from each of their top 10 picks. And in case you missed it last week, here's the first installment of my list, Nos. 100-91.

90. Command Performance -- Live in Person, Jan and Dean (1964)

Yes, the Beach Boys were the undisputed kings of '60s surf pop, but this record by b-list surfer duo Jan and Dean was the one that really stuck in my skull. One of my older sisters was a big J&D fan, and that's where I first heard this record. Over and over. "Surf City," "Dead Man's Curve," "The Little Old Lady from Pasadena" -- I remember 'em all. This album was my real exposure to surf music. The Beach Boys, Dick Dale, the Ventures, et. al., would come later. To this day, I love the genre of surf music -- the harmonies, the trebly, twangy guitars, the primal rhythms, the subject matter (girls, dune buggies, surfboards and beaches). Plus, surf influenced a lot of garage and early punk. Jan and Dean may not have been the greatest surf duo around, but this live album served as an introduction for me into a genre I enjoy and appreciate to this day.

89. The Grand Illusion, Styx (1977)

This is one of those albums I utterly despise. It has no redeeming value. Not one song on this record is worthy of inclusion in this podcast. I toyed with the possibility of finding a file of Eric Cartman singing "Come Sail Away" to include as a substitute, but I decided, Why give any credence to arguably the worst rock album of the '70s? Despite sharing a title with Jean Renior's brilliant cinematic farce about the French aristocracy in World War I, The Grand Illusion has to be Styx's darkest hour, and they had many of them in the '70s and '80s. (Equinox was the sole possible exception.) But enough bashing. Much as I hate this record, there's no denying that it was influential in my adolescence -- and a key to my early success as a rock journalist. You see, when I was a junior in high school and had just won the coveted "music critic" beat on the school newspaper (more abgout this later), I stopped by a new record store in downtown Moberly, Missouri, to pick up this, the latest Styx album. As I proceeded to exchange cash for vinyl, I told the store owner that I was a music reviewer (I didn't know what a critic was) for the high school paper, and that I was going to do a write-up on this record. He asked me if I also sold ads for the school paper. I told him that I did indeed and signed him up for a year's supply of full-page ads. In addition, he offered me a free record each month to review if I'd mention his record store at the bottom of my column. Thus my career as a tool for the corporate music industry got off to a soaring start, and I have this crappy record by Styx to thank for it.

88. Cut, the Slits (1979)

This girl I used to date in college introduced me to this album around '81 or so. I wanted to impress her, so I got into it to. I'd heard Siouxsie and the Banshees, but no other UK punk bands fronted by a female. (Here it was '80 or '81, and I hadn't even heard of X-Ray Spex or the Raincoats yet.) The Slits were an all-girl band, and they were among the original UK punks. Raw and amateurish, but funky in a tribal, Gang of Four kind of way, Cut remains one of my favorite punk records and conjures up nostalgia for a certain time and place.

87. Sandinista! the Clash (1980)

A monstrous, jumbled mess of a project, Sandinista! was supposed to be the Clash's timeless classic. But the Only Band That Matters tried too hard to do too much with this album. They wore their prole politics on their sleeve, trying to shout it out through a disjointed mix of styles. The mix of styles worked on London Calling, but not so much here. Flavored by reggae, ska, dub, punk, jazz, gospel, pop and nascent hip-hop stylings into this three-record set. (Another part of the message was the Clash's insistence that Sandinista! be priced the same as a single-record album, to keep it affordable for the masses. That was a nice move on their part, but it didn't do much for sales, or their royalty payments.) Some of the tunes are among my Clash favorites, most notably "The Magnificent Seven" and "Police on My Back." Others, such as "Hitsville UK," just never struck the right chord with me. This is a brilliant album, if only for its ambitiousness, but it was a foreshadowing that the Clash's best work lay behind them. But a true believer, two years later I bought Combat Rock anyway.

86. Woodstock, various artists (1970)

The definitive '60s concert album. Joe Cocker, the Who, Jefferson Airplane, CSN&Y, Hendrix of course, Country Joe and the Fish -- even Sha Na Na! I'd never heard of Richie Havens before I heard this album. Woodstock taught me a lot about the '60s hippie counterculture and made me wish I'd been there.

85. Let It Be, the Replacements (1984)

What was going on in rock in the mid-80s? Nothing much, from where I sat. Punk and new wave had dried up, hip hop was still underground, and MTV was shoving a crop of weird postpunk groups from Britain you'd never heard of in our faces. (Some of them were pretty good, though, i.e., Eurythmics.) Then, just when I thought punk was washed up, along came the Replacements, a tight, hardcore-ish band from the heartland. The Replacements just seemed to show up (although they'd been around a couple of years already) and slapped down this fierce record with a title, copped from the Beatles, that sent a message. Don't worry about the crap on MTV, it said, punk rock lives! This album gave me hope for the future.

84. Streetcore, Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros (2003)

Joe Strummer's swan song. Streetcore was the third album the former Clash frontman made with the Mescaleros, and it was his finest. Released posthumously (Joe died in December 2002), Streetcore is a fitting final tribute to a rock pioneer.

83. Toys in the Attic, Aerosmith (1975)

One of my first real "guitar rock" albums, I fell in love with the fast beat, the Steven Tyler caterwauling, the Joe Perry lead. What can I say? I was 14. It didn't help matters that I saw them live in Kansas City just as Toys was coming out.

82. American IV: The Man Comes Around, Johnny Cash (2002)

Johnny Cash was a giant of country music, and the rock and roll sound owes a great deal to his style as well. (Just listen to his old Sun sessions recordings and you'll pick up on that rockabilly groove.) In the twilight of his career, the Man in Black got more interested in the music of many of the performers whose road he'd paved. American IV includes some great original music, but some terrific covers as well. Cash's take on Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus" is a favorite. His cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" is wonderful, too. But the song that makes this album so important to me is Cash's cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt." Who'd have ever thought the godfather of country music would cover a Trent Reznor tune -- and do it so well? In his quivering voice, worn down by time, and simple acoustic chording, Cash breathes new life and pain into this song, and makes it beautiful. Hearing this song -- and seeing the powerful video -- renewed my appreciation for Cash, a man whose songs my mother loved, and who I never fully appreciated until he was almost gone.

81. Bossanova, The Pixies (1990)

Most Pixies fans will tell you Doolittle is their greatest album. But the one that has had the most affect on me, the one I listen to more than any other Pixies album (I have four), is this one. I love the harshness of the guitar, and the urgency of Frank Black's vocals (and bassist Kim Deal's counterpoints). The Pixies influenced Kurt Cobain and grunge. But I actually didn't discover this band until grunge had run its course in the mid-90s. Late to the game, but still blown away by this style. In my opinion, Nirvana had nothing on this group.


90. Jan and Dean, "Surf City" (from Beach Boys/Jan & Dean /Deltas - Surfin' Beach Party -- Command Performance version unavailable)
89. No track available (from Styx, The Grand Illusion) because this album sucks
88. The Slits, "Instant Hit" (from Cut)
87. The Clash, "Police on My Back" (from Sandinista!)
86. Joe Cocker, "With a Little Help from My Friends" (from Woodstock)
85. The Replacements, "Answering Machine" (from Let It Be)
84. Joe Strummer, "Burnin' Streets" (from Streetcore)
83. Aerosmith, "No More No More" (from Toys in the Attic)
82. Johnny Cash, "Hurt" (from American IV: The Man Comes Around)
81. The Pixies, "All Over the World" (from Bossanova)

And the three other lists I promised (all with music):

  • Orgcha's top 10 will blow your mind with some psychedelic sound, bloody-fingered guitar riffs, and '60s wild child rock tempered by some chick rock and (gasp!) new wave!

  • Drake's top 10 with the funny title "Changed, or possibly damaged," includes an eclectic mix that reflects his "growing up in the tiniest of towns w/o an older sibling." (Looks like you did a pretty good job fending for yourself, Drake.)

  • Courtney's 10 life-altering albums, yet another patchwork quilt of rock influences, from '70s pop to grungy underground punk. Bonus: Thursday, July 27, is the two-year anniversary of Courtney's blog, so stop by and tell her congrats.

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    :: Andrew 15:50 + ::
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