:: Saturday, September 09, 2006 ::
The final countdown
Bet you thought I'd never finish this project. It was touch and go for a while, but I'm happy to say that it's all said and done now. Here are the final 10 albums on the countdown, with accompanying podcast.

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10. 77, Talking Heads (1977)

I love me some Talking Heads. This is a great debut album and one of my all-time favorites. Coming out of the CBGB scene that produced the Ramones, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, the Heartbreakers and other seminal NYC punk bands, the Talking Heads didn't quite fit the mold. They looked more like the Young Republicans than young, loud and snotty. But they made a mark by producing terse, cleverly written songs about psychopaths and civil servants. Evidence of their interest in postpunk musical stylings was present in 77, with the use of a Jamaican steel drum in "Uh Oh, Love Comes to Town", mandolin ("Don't Worry About the Government") and the stylings of tunes like "Psycho Killer" and "No Compassion." A killer album.

9. Some Girls, the Rolling Stones (1978)
Finally! A Rolling Stones album I could call my own. I grew up in the post-Beatles, post-Hendrix generation, and we thought the Stones were over, too. But Some Girls was a comeback that combined danceable tunes like "Miss You" with punk-esque arrangements ("Shattered"), and even a bit of country ("Faraway Eyes"). This album helped me to rediscover the Stones, and to appreciate their music anew. Of course, now that they're the Strolling Bones, I wish they'd hang it up. But oh well.

8. Diamond Dogs, David Bowie (1974)
This ain't rock and roll! This is GENOCIDE! My best friend Rich introduced this album to me, and its post-apocalypse theme resonated. Here was this skinny, androgynous freak with a mullet (we didn't even know what a mullet was back then). But the noises coming from this record were powerful. I offered Rich a swap: Diamond Dogs for Black Sabbath's Paranoid, and he took me up on it. Sucker!

7. London Calling, The Clash (1979 [UK]/1980 [US])
What can I say about London Calling? Quite a lot, but nothing that truly captures the magnificence of this recording. It's the best album ever by an amazing band that transcended punk and became a legitimate rock band. This was the Clash's shining moment. Opening with the title track, a stark, dark punk tune about some "nuclear error" that sent the world into an apocalypse, it quickly segues into rockabilly ("Brand New Cadillac"), jazz ("Jimmy Jazz"), punk rock again "(Hateful"), ska ("Rudie Can't Fail") and on and on. An eclectic vision of an album, it's all held together through front man Joe Strummer's hoarse, slightly off-key singing. Brilliant. I could listen to this album all day long. It's my "desert island" pick.

6. Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd (1973)
Ninth grade, and my best friend Dennis and I would go over to his house after school to listen to three 8-track tapes borrowed from his older brother. One was Dark Side of the Moon. We'd crank it up and space out, marveling at the sounds emanating from the speakers. How on earth could a guitar sound so martian? Where were these noises all coming from? Airports? Alarm clocks? An old Clint Eastwood spaghetti western? This was the Sgt. Pepper's of my generation.

5. Muscle of Love, Alice Cooper (1974)
Musically, this album is a weak sister to Alice Cooper's classic Billion Dollar Babies, which came out around the same time (and which was featured earlier in this countdown). But there's one reason and one reason only why I bought this record, and why it rates so high among the life-changing records: "Teenage Lament '74." I was 13 for the first 10 months of '74, in eighth grade, a dork, with no girlfriend, few "cool" buddies, and just coming to the realization that I didn't have what it would take to become one of the popular kids. I had the teenage depression, big-time. "Teenage Lament '74" spoke to me. "What are you gonna do? Gonna do? Gonna do?" What could I do? Cut my hair weird? Become a jock? No. I tried both, but fell short of the mark, both with looks and with athletic prowess. No, there was nothing to do but to go to my room, pick up my tennis racquet, and air-guitar my way through this song, over and over. Thanks, Alice, for helping me get through a tough year, and helping me to realize that I wasn't the only loser dork teen in the world.

4. Are You Experienced?, the Jim Hendrix Experience (1967)
This was one of the other 8-tracks Dennis and I would listen to after school. Cranked to the max, we'd air-jam to the sounds of Hendrix. Dennis preferred the hard-driving stuff, like "Purple Haze" and "Fire," while I liked the mellower, bluesier sounds of "Hey Joe" and "The Wind Cries Mary."

3. Q: Are We Not Men?, Devo (1978)
Music for nerds like me. Devo was a bunch of spazzy dorks from Ohio who wore flower pots on their heads and created manic, nervous tunes and showed me how to stop worrying about being cool and to just be myself.

2. Magical Mystery Tour, the Beatles (1968)
This is the first album I ever purchased. Not the greatest Beatles album ever, but it had some great tunes: "I Am the Walrus," "Fool on the Hill," "Baby You're a Rich Man" and "Strawberry Fields Forever."

1. One More From the Road, Lynyrd Skynyrd (1976)
Bet you didn't see this one coming, did you? Not exactly what a punk wannabe would confess as being the most life-altering album. But there's a very good reason for its placement at the top of this list, and it has very little to do with Lynyrd Skynyrd's music. On the inside cover of this album was a Rolling Stone write-up that I lifted and slightly revised, then turned in under my signature to complete a music review assignment for my 11th-grade journalism class. The teacher was so impressed with my writing style, she offered me a position on the high school newspaper staff as music critic. And so my career as a writer was born. I have Lynyrd Skynyrd and this album to thank for it.


Talking Heads, "Don't Worry About the Government" (from 77)

The Rolling Stones, "Shattered" (from Some Girls)

David Bowie, "Rebel, Rebel" (from Diamond Dogs)

The Clash, "Rudie Can't Fail" (from London Calling)

Pink Floyd, "Brain Damage" (from Dark Side of the Moon)

Alice Cooper, "Teenage Lament '74" (from Muscle of Love)

Jimi Hendrix, "The Wind Cries Mary" (from Are You Experienced?)

Devo, "Gut Feeling" (from Q: Are We Not Men?)

The Beatles, "Baby You're a Rich Man" (from Magical Mystery Tour)

Lynyrd Skynyrd, "Tuesday's Gone" (from One More From the Road)

The rest of the countdown

  • 100-91

  • 90-81

  • 80-71

  • 70-61

  • 60-51

  • 50-41

  • 40-31

  • 30-21

  • 20-11

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    :: Andrew 12:28 + ::
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