:: Thursday, August 24, 2006 ::
100 albums that changed my life: Nos. 40-31
Listen while you read:

40. Violent Femmes, Violent Femmes (1983)
Last semester of college, spring '83, and the Violent Femmes burst forth from Wisconsin with this pre-indie, not-quite-punk-but-not-really-postpunk acoustical Velvet Underground-inspired grunge. I was this close to graduation and in the doldrums. "Gone Daddy Gone" inspired me. So did "Blister in the Sun," a little ditty about a favorite pastime in college. And that's all I'm going to say about that.

39. Fly Like An Eagle, Steve Miller Band (1976)
Another one of those bargain buys from Columbia House or whatever record club it was that gave me 11 albums for a penny. Steve Miller's spacey guitar and blissed-out vocals on the title track was all over the radio in '76, and that tune inspired me to get this record. The album included some fine folksy/country stuff ("Wild Mountain Honey," "Dance, Dance, Dance"), and the luscious cover of "Mercury Blues" is unparalleled. The 30th anniversary edition of this CD is now out. Do yourself a favor and pick it up.

38. Damn the Torpedoes, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (1979)
Hard to believe Tom Petty is still going strong after all these years. A younger, skinnier Petty graces the cover cover of Damn the Torpedoes. But what catches the eye isn't the homely, skinny kid from Gainesville, but the ax he's clutching: that sweet Rickenbacker 12-string. And what catches the ear on Damn the Torpedoes are some of the best pop tunes from an uncertain era. With punk on the wane and disco fighting new wave for pop supremacy , Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers cut a wide swath with "Refugee," "Here Comes My Girl," "Even the Losers" and "Don't Do Me Like That." I remember this album most for "Here Comes My Girl," a silly song I used to sing to a junior college flame.

37. At Folsom Prison, Johnny Cash (1968)
In 1968, my parents divorced, and in the few short years left in her life, my mother listened to a lot of "hard country" -- Hank Williams, Merle Haggard and, of course, Johnny Cash. Musicians who lived hard and rough and knew a thing or two about the injustices of life. (Well, she listened to Marty Robbins, too. For some reason.) Two Johnny Cash albums -- At Folsom Prison and the live one recorded at San Quentin a year later -- were staples. I used to love listening to Cash do "Folsom Prison Blues," "Orange Blossom Special" and "Give My Love to Rose." My redneck roots run deep.

36. Remain in Light, Talking Heads (1980)
Another one from the cool college roommate, the album that solidified David Byrne and Brian Eno's collaborative style and probably led to the ultimate unraveing of the Talking Heads. But what a great album it was! African polyrhythms mixed with funk, reggae and danceable rock with the soaring guitar of Adrian Belew and less geeky vocals from Byrne. This album was a delight and a surprise, and broadened my punk wannabe horizons.

35. Live Bullet, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band (1976)
Another great deal from my record club -- one of the 11 albums I got for a penny. And a double album at that. An underappreciated rocker from the early '70s, Bob Seger finally got some recognition in '76 with this album and Night Moves, both of which were released that year. Live Bullet is a great jam/boogie album. And apparently, "Turn the Page" is a great makeout song (so says Debi).

34. Horses, Patti Smith (1975)
Patti Smith is the poetess of punk rock. Drawing from the Beats, reinterpreting '60s rock classics (her "Gloria" a reinvention of Van Morrison's hit), experimenting with sounds from reggae ("Redondo Beach"), and tying it all together with an amazing sing-songy voice, the voice of a little girl grown up -- a Lolita seductress. This album wasn't even on my radar in 1975. I discovered it in 1978, from this odd chick who moved to our hick town from some suburb of a big city back east. She was a jockish sort, a star on our girls' tennis team, but also liked to party. Close to the end of our senior year, we were at a beer bust and snuck off to her car to light up, and she put this tape in and played "Gloria." It blew me away.

33. Boy, U2 (1980)
Gotta give props to the cool roommate once again. He introduce me to both Boy and October. I absorbed the sound -- Bono's magnificent voice, the Edge's spiraling chimes on guitar, and the steady rhythm section of bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen. The band was just a bunch of kids when they created Boy, but they produced a tight sound that was unique for the time.

32. Abbey Road, the Beatles (1969)
The best Beatles album ever (my opinion), Abbey Road was created in the final days of the band. This was my study album during college. I would just put on side 2, a mix of beautiful snippets of song transitioning into one another -- "Sun King" to "Mean Mr. Mustard" to "Polythene Pam," all the way to "Her Majesty" -- and read away. No wonder I was such a brilliant student in college.

31. Rust Never Sleeps, Neil Young and Crazy Horse (1979)
Hey hey, my my -- what a great album! The music of Neil Young was some of the first music I tried to replicate on the acoustic, and it didn't take me long to figure out that part of the Neil Young magic is to throw in the odd minor seventh or ninth chord here and there. But Rust Never Sleeps introduced Neil Young the rocker to me, and reintroduced me to an acoustic (and songwriting) master.


Violent Femmes, "Promise" (from Violent Femmes)

Steve Miller Band, "Dance, Dance, Dance" (from Fly Like an Eagle)

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, "Even the Losers" (from Damn the Torpedoes)

Johnny Cash, "Folsom Prison Blues" (from At Folsom Prison)

Talking Heads, "Crosseyed and Painless" (from Remain in Light)

Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, "Katmandu" (from Live Bullet)

Patti Smith, "Redondo Beach" (from Horses)

U2, "Out of Control" (from Boy)

Beatles, "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" (from Abbey Road)

Neil Young and Crazy Horse, "My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)" (from Rust Never Sleeps)

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:: Andrew 17:09 + ::

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