Friday, May 01, 2009

Weekend Listomania Special It Ain't No Sin to Be Glad You're Alive Video Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental on-call trollop etiquette consultant Fah Lo Suee and I will be travelling to Hollywood, where we'll be attending a screening of I am Tiny Tim, a new documentary about crippled children, in the company of rightwing political commentator and film critic Debbie Schlussel. Debbie assures me the kids in the film are not really handicapped, just pathetic losers trying to make a fast buck, so I'm sure we'll all have a good laugh at their expense.

In any case, posting by moi will necessarily be sporadic for a few days.

But in my absence, here's a fun project for you all to contemplate:

The Post-Elvis Album(s) That Changed Your Life!!!

Self-explanatory, I think, so no arbitrary rules for a change. And yes, this time you're allowed to nominate something by the Beatles, for all sorts of obvious reasons.

Okay, here's my totally top of my head Top Eight, in no particular order:

8. The Loud Family -- Plants and Birds and Rocks and Things

When this came out in 1991, I thought it was the closest thing to the second coming of The White Album I'd ever heard, except it also took the collage/medley structure of side two of Abbey Road to a whole other level. The last genuinely psychedelic experience I've had under a pair of headphones, in any case, and for my money the best album of the 90s hands down. Best album title, too.

7. The Beatles -- Rubber Soul

A sort of concept album before Pepper -- the sort of concept being that it had a cohesive, almost chamber music/small band sonic signature and astoundingly grownup and creative songs. I thought it was the most breathtakingly beautiful music I'd ever heard at the time; that it was made by the same guys who'd been singing about holding your hand barely two years earlier was simply mind-boggling.

6. The Byrds -- Fifth Dimension

I'm not claiming this is the best of the Byrds five albums with their mostly original lineup, but it has a steely edge that I think was unprecedented in rock at the time; at their best, the songs here have the same riffy metallic brilliance as the similar things -- "She Said, She Said," "Dr. Robert," et al -- the Beatles were doing around the same time on Revolver. Plus: David Crosby's minimalist harmony vocals on the title song and "I Come and Stand at Every Door" are heartbreaking works of staggering genius, and I'm not kidding about that.

5. The Beach Boys -- Today

Actually, this one pre-dates Rubber Soul as far as being a sort of concept album -- the sort of concept being, again, that it had a cohesive, almost chamber music/small band sonic signature and astoundingly grownup and creative songs. But for sheer stem to stern imagination and inventiveness it's every bit as good. Actually, in some ways, it's even more audacious; the concluding Dennis Wilson sung ballad (above) is like Sinatra channeling Otis Redding or vice versa. Regardless of the fact that Mike Love is a dick, anybody who can listen to this stuff and conclude that the Beach Boys were white bread and/or fakes is seriously perverse of ears.

4. The Harder They Come (original soundtrack)

Apart from the fact that there isn't a weak track on the album (which was quite an accomplishment in 1973, believe me) this was your basic life changer because it was at once so utterly familiar (a mix of r&b, gospel, and rock) and alien (as heard and mutated by a culture that might as well have been on Mars as the Caribbean) at the same time. God knows how many people listened to it as obsessively as I did; fortunately, a lot of them went on to make music as a result.

3. Bruce Springsteen -- The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle

Okay, "Rosalita" has the open-hearted spirit and even some of the riffs of most of the great rock songs ever written up to that point. So how come I still can't pick out a specific influence or posit another band that sounds remotely like the E-Streeters here? Seriously -- if that song isn't a fricking miracle, I've never heard one. And don't even get me started on "Sandy."

2. The Who -- Sell Out

C'mon -- "I Can See For My Miles" isn't even the best track. That's how good this is.

1. The Replacements -- Let It Be

I really don't have the words to explain just how hard this album first hit me. Believe it or not, I had never even heard of these guys when I read a late 1984 piece about them in the Village Voice (by my old colleague and friend Glenn Kenny, currently doing business over at the sublime film blog Some Came Running). What he described sounded like the rock band of my dreams -- a bunch of smart, wise-ass funny, heartbreakingly honest bruised romantics with loud guitars, pop instincts and a touch of the poet -- and frankly I thought they sounded too good to be true. But I bought the album anyway, and from the minute I heard the low-fi twelve-string guitar/mandolin and Paul Westerberg's wounded ferret rasp of a voice on the opening "I Will Dare" I was moved to the bottom of my soul. By the time I got to "Unsatisfied," still the most gut-wrenching evocation of being precisely that in the history of popular music, I was warm Jell-O, and the concluding "Answering Machine" pretty much killed me. The rest of the album? Just moderately great, but overall the whole thing made everything else I was hearing on the radio sound like the work of artistic pygmies, and the fact that it was written and sung by guys who were a couple of generations younger than me struck me as both chastening and somehow inspirational. To this day I gotta say (in the words of Cameron Crowe) -- you still can't buy a better record.

Awrighty then -- what would your choices be?

[Shameless Blogwhore: My parallel Cinema Listomania -- theme: All-Time Coolest Aliens From Outer Space in a Feature Film -- is now up over at Box Office. As always, I'd take it as a personal and cushy job-protecting favor if you could see your way to going over there and leaving a comment.]


Who Am Us Anyway? said...

Kee-righst almighty steve you're a fine writer.

Brooklyn Girl said...

Well, several Beatles albums changed my life, and each one broke new ground ... but I have to go with "Meet the Beatles" simply because it was the first one.

"Having A Rave-Up With The Yardbirds", especially the first side ... improvisational rock and roll in 1965? Blew my mind.

The Kinks "Face To Face" ... sardonic, incisive songs and Hopkins on the piano.

U2's "Achtung Baby" ... the only album I would describe as circular ... strong no matter where you start it, each song is gorgeous, a perfect whole.

And I agree with your Bruce choice ... completely familiar and completely new at the same time.

Mister Pleasant said...

Great list. I discovered Sell Out and Today years after their release. Both of them hit me hard - in a wonderful way. I don't think The Who were ever better.

Gotta second Brooklyn Girl on Face To Face. It was the first Kinks vinyl album I purchased back in the day. Ray Davies had found his muse, and I found a band and songwriter that opened up a new musical world to me.

Andy Pratt's Resolution is still a watermark for me. Personal, reflective, and gorgeous beyond belief.

I only discovered 1970's Parachute by the Pretty Things a couple of years ago. It had the same effect on me as the first time I heard Abbey Road.

John Fowler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Fowler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Fowler said...

Chronological, in order of purchase

Beatles - Red & Blue greatest hits albums - ok, so this is cheating, with two and not 'real' albums to boot. Still, at a time (early 80's) and place (rural GA) where the staple music was Alabama & Charlie Daniels, getting this music in junior high really changed everything. Besides the day-to-day of being the oddball who loved a long-gone band, I read every Beatles book I could get my hands on, wrote a 50-page paper on them, and eventually subjected everyone in my class to “Why Don't We Do It In the Road?"” at our Senior Field Day. These albums set me on the path that led to Revolver and Abbey Road and (among other things) readership of this very blog.

the Police - Synchronicity – mentioned this in last week’s Listomania thread – somehow, ironically, this most-commercial album by the Police opened up my ears to music that was not on commercial radio – back through New Wave to Punk and forward to the then-current crop of ‘indies’, e.g., R.E.M. I must say, though, it’s been quite a number of years since I listened to the album, which is not true of the others on this list.

the Replacements - Let It Be - no need to say any more than Steve did – except, I would argue that “Androgynous”, “Sixteen Blue” and (for its crazed energy & humor) “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out” are better than moderately great. (a repeat link from an earlier Powerpop post)

Liz Phair - Exile in Guyville - this album lived in my car stereo, home stereo & work stereo for must be a whole year. It’s Phair’s voice, and attitude, and her lyrics, and the way in which she apparently so easily tossed together a whole set of great tunes. I haven’t heard the Loud Family (downloading it now, though), but this is the top of the 90’s for me, hasn’t lost any of its luster.

Beck - Sea Change - came out just before my Dad died suddenly, and somehow helped me through that difficult period. Pretty much a bummer of an album, but it’s a lovely sadness, definitely worth a listen if you need to share a depressed moment with some music. 4

Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood - came to this album by way of the New Pornographers, who are great, but this is better! A reminder that, even almost 30 years down the road from becoming pop music-obsessed, it is still possible to encounter new artists that provide a life-changing experience. The album – heck, “Star Witness” alone – is stunning in different ways on repeated listens. And Case’s voice is just a constant source of wonder.

NYMary said...

I don't actually have to answer this, do I? ;)

I think musically, I'm a generation off from many of you guys, so The Beatles didn't change my life so much as provide a sonic background for it. I was chatting with KidC the other night and mentioned that one of my earliest memories is an old box record player of my brother's with the pics that came in the White Album pasted up inside. "He can't be Paul! *You're* Paul!" I knew all the words to every song on Rubber Soul by the time I was about 8, and my 11th or 12th birthday present was tickets to Beatlemania.

So, yeah.

But in terms of change: the summer and fall of 79 were huge for me, obviously. Not just my beloved Shoes, but also 20/20, My Aim Is True, Candy-O, and yes, Get the Knack. (I was 12. So sue me.) And while no one of those albums changed my life (well, except maybe Present Tense), music was suddenly a thing that was *mine.*

I wouldn't have that experience again until 1991 or 2, when suddenly people started giving me music again. I wore to shreds a tape with Material Issue's International Pop Overthrow on one side and Nirvana's Nevermind on the other, I was assured that Matthew Sweet's Girlfriend was not a thing any sane person should try to live without, I was dragged to and thoroughly enjoyed the Pixies' first last tour. From 91-96, I swam in music.

This isn't much of a list, sorry. But it does explain what changed my life.

Feral said...

For me, and no doubt many others here, certain albums were soundtracks for various times in my life.

The Who - Quadrophenia. Being about the same age as "Jimmy" when this was released, and going through typical teenage angst, this album both rubbed raw and soothed open wounds.

Neil Young - Tonight's the Night. Misery loves company...

Elvis Costello - My Aim is True. Fed the Angry Young Man phase.

REM - Life's Rich Pagent. Hmmm, some of this Alt/Indy stuff is pretty good!

Matthew Sweet - Girlfriend. Pop music craft at the highest order.

Miles Davis - Kind of Blue. The start of a lifelong love of Jazz.

Dr. John - Gumbo. Sometimes music should be just plain fun.

TMink said...

Great choices Steve and all youse.

Revolver - from Taxman to Tomorrow Never Knows, it just rocked my world.

Project Mersh - The Minutemen - weird and frantic song structures, it taught me what punk could be.

Rocket To Russia - just because it was the first Ramones record I heard.

Kind Of Blue - it was the first jazz that I started to understand.

Burnin - Bob Marley and the Wailers - Get Up Stand Up made me try to grow dreads. Really. It was not pretty.

Electric Ladyland - cause it was the perfect soundtrack to the, well, explorations I was involved in at the time.

My Aim Is True - first line, "Now that your pictures in the paper being rhythymically admired . . ."

These were brought to my attention in the late 70s and early 80s. I could also add Cycles Per Second by the dBs. They all changed my life for the better, and I still listen to them now.


Gummo said...

That day in June '67 when my big brother sat me down between the speakers of our Lafayette semi-portable stereo, put on the newly released Beatles album, "Sgt. Pepper," and said, 'Shut up and listen to this!'

40 minutes later, I was a different person. He & I don't always get along, but I'm still grateful for that moment.

"Loaded" by the Velvet Underground, which I must have first heard 2 or 3 years after it came out. "Who Loves the Sun," "Sweet Jane," and "Rock and Roll," one of the greatest 1-2-3 punches to ever open a pop album.

As I mentioned last week, the Patti Smith Group's first album and The Ramones' first album changed my entire idea of what rock'n'roll was, and could be.

Pere Ubu's first album was an "I've never heard anything like that!" experience that I treasure. There are too few like that.

So many more, but I've been a bore on this subject before....

TMink said...

Feral, how could I forget Girlfriend? Outstanding choice.


steve simels said...

Burnin - Bob Marley and the Wailers - Get Up Stand Up made me try to grow dreads. Really. It was not pretty.
Oh. My. God.

Kid Charlemagne said...

Buzzcocks - "Singles Going Steady"

Power and melody all bundled up into one supertight, sweet pop confection.

"Kind of Blue" was my entry drug into jazz too. Also was blown away by "A Love Supreme."

Anonymous said...








Kid Charlemagne said...

When I heard the first Pere Ubu record it sounded completely sui generis.

Folks told me that if I liked Ubu, I would dig Capt. Beefheart, which I had never heard before. After checking him out, Pere Ubu made a lot more sense to me.

Anonymous said...

The couple that stand out to me (in the same sort of chronological order as Mr. Fowler)

Sounds Of Silence-Simon & Garfunkel - My introduction to music that actually told some sort of story

Quadrophenia-The Who - The first (and maybe the only) album that truly spoke to me. I suspect that my brother to this day still can't listen to this record since he had to hear at least 1 side every day for well over a year. Hey, it was my stereo

Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys-Traffic - My bong got a hell of a workout listening to this album

Blood On The Tracks-Bob Dylan - For my money the greatest (musical) storyteller that's ever been

Live(More Or Less)-Richard Thompson - I'd never heard of Richard Thompson or Fairport Convention until I read a review several years ago in Stereo Review-bought this album and have been very grateful for that glowing review ever since

London Calling-The Clash - Now I understand what the fuss is all about

Kind Of Blue-Miles Davis - what TMink said

msw said...

Far Side of the Moon -Everybody I knew loved it, I hated it. I had to find a whole new circle of friends.

Blonde on Blonde

Marquee moon

Aquashow (by Elliott Murphy, which I bought instead of The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, mainly because Murphy was dressed up like F Scott FitzDylan on the LP cover). It's a really good LP, but it delayed my discovery of Springsteen for a full year.

The Phantom Creep said...

Elliott Murphy was a snappier dresser than Springsteen back then, I'll give him that.

Unknown said...

John Mayall - Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton. It was the first time I'd heard electric guitar played with that kind of operatic emotion.

Little Feat - Dixie Chicken. I knew from nothing about New Orleans R&B. I had no idea you could write songwriterly songs that were also funky.

Music from Big Pink. The start of a life-long obsession.

The Rolling Stones - Aftermath. The first time I "got" the Stones.

Love - Forever Changes. The first time it occurred to me that a heavy band could have an soft side.

Wendy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wendy said...

Music from Big Pink. The start of a life-long obsession.

The Rolling Stones - Aftermath. The first time I "got" the Stones.

Love - Forever Changes. The first time it occurred to me that a heavy band could have an soft side.
All three of those ... absolutely.

Surrealistic Pillow ... revitalized American music and ushered in the Psychedelic Era, after so many years of Brit and Brit-sounding bands.

And Freak Out by the Mothers of Invention, which I bought just for the name alone. The most subversive music I had ever heard ... well, maybe except for the Fugs ... :-)

Who Am Us Anyway? said...

Like many before & after me, Rubber Soul was the very first LP I ever owned, & 10,000 listenings later, it's still one of my faves. I have only a couple points I can add to all the excellent ones you all have already made about this album. First, it was the cover art that snared me at age 12 & got me to part with my paper route money. The clever album title, the 4 guys looking down, unsmiling ... “WTF? This is the Beatles?” In Chronicles, Dylan says something to the effect of, he always admired performers who looked and carried themselves in a way that made you feel like they knew something you didn’t. And that’s what the Rubber Soul Beatles made me feel like. Plus, my parents absolutely hated this record, which baffles me to this day. How could that even be possible? I don’t know, but it was.

My second album, Highway 61 Revisited, was another happy accident. I was still going to Sunday school when I first was played the song Highway 61 at a friend’s house and it rang all kinds of bells for me, not the least being the one that awakened the whole concept that I wasn’t the only one in the world who found some of those Bible stories just plain weird and worrisome.

Of course I proceeded to buy many a crappy record throughout the rest of my life, but through sheer luck I did start off with an absolutely amazing 1-2 punch from which I happily have never quite recovered.

ms. rosa said...

I'm going to echo your sentiments on The Replacements, The Who, and Springsteen specifically because they are bands I didn't like as a teen, but who oddly enough are among my favorites now (in fact, "I Will Dare" I consider my personal anthem and "Rosalita" my theme song). And they are life changing because when I started liking them I realized I'd grown up. Other records that make me feel real grown up: Neil Young's 'On The Beach' and Van Morrison's 'Astral Weeks.

cthulhu said...

A trio of Who albums has to stand at the head of my list:

The first time I heard Who's Next in its entirety, I was completely blown away. Even in 1977, six years after its release, it sounded fresh and relevant. Even today, closing in on 38 years later, it has lost not one iota of its magic.

A little while later, I ran across a radio station that was playing some Who songs that featured some rain and thunder. I had found Quadrophenia. Has there ever been a disc (well, two discs to be precise) that spoke so eloquently to the tortured late-teenage soul? Today one can argue with the production, and a few of the songs don't hold up, but side 3 ("Sea and Sand", "5:15", "Drowned", and "Bell Boy"), plus the heartbreaking beauty and bombast of the album's closer "Love Reign O'er Me" are rock-and-roll Shakespearean romantic tragedy.

Finally, Live at Leeds, even in the crippled six-song single vinyl disc that was all we had until the more recent CD reissues, brought home to me the snarling power and sheer cool of the best live rock-and-roll. I had NEVER heard such a nasty rasping bass guitar as Entwistle's before; Moon's drumming was at its dizzying peak; Daltrey's vocals displayed a strutting confidence never quite captured in the studio; and Townshend's patented power chords were seamlessly melded with jaw-droppingly-good lead runs. Plus the rave-up to end all rave-ups on "Magic Bus"! One of my great regrets is that I discovered them too late to see them live before Keith Moon died...

A trifecta of the Who. Anybody who doesn't own these three at least is the poorer for it.

marcinko said...

Very insightful and well-said. Thank you especially for the write-up of PLANTS AND BIRDS..., not half as well-known as it should be by people who would like it a lot if they knew it was out there. You're not the only one who was reminded of ABBEY ROAD.

Noam Sane said...

Tot: Revolver was first the one that caught my ear, I was only 7 in '66 but I had three older siblings, so I was tuned in to the revolution.

High School: The Live Led Zeppelin album. I listened to it obsessively for a couple of years, at least. (Well, generally, I skipped the 14-minute drum solo). Just the heaviest sludge; perfect teenage music. To me, the guitar soloing on that record is utterly mind-boggling to this day.

College: The first Clash album - what can you say. It was a long time from that first Rolling Stone article on punk in '77 (wasn't it?) to finally hearing that record in '79. I didn't really grasp what all the fuss was about until that moment.

Post-college ennui period*: Japan's "Tin Drum" and "Gentlemen Take Polaroids" were bastardized into a single US album, I believe it was eponymously titled. It's of its time, for sure; savory, but for special tastes, probably. But those records are genius in their destruction/reconstruction of the elements of what was rock and roll to that point. I think their power has been diluted by virtue of the their influence, which is far greater than you might htink.

Kind of Blue for sure as an intro to the wonders of jazz, and I'd add Giant Steps - very accessible jazz record that grabbed me the first time I put it on.

*Post-college ennui period spans roughly 1981 - Present.Lots of great stuff here lately, thanks Steve and everyone.

cosmic tumbler said...

Freak Out by the Mothers of Invention.

Highway 61 Revisited by Dylan.

East-West by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

Déjà Vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

Blowin' Your Mind! by Van Morrison.

Disraeli Gears by Cream.

Cheap Thrills, Janis Joplin.

Big Pink by the Band.

I guess that's too many.

mwg said...

At the moment, my list would look something like:

Discipline, King Crimson. This is where I started to break with the mainstream.
REM, Reckoning. A revelation.
Zen Arcade, Husker Du. A revelation of a different sort...
Replacements, Let It Be. I've bought (and downloaded) solo Paul Westerberg records for years because of this record, even though I don't expect any of them to live up to it.
Half each of Slip It In and My War, Black Flag. I put the best half of each on a tape and forgot about the other halves.
My Favorite Things, John Coltrane. I like Kind of Blue better but I listened to this first.
Too Far To Care, Old 97's. Gateway to country, alt and otherwise. I drove around with it in my car for years.

Anonymous said...

Blondie: parallel lines, led me to Blondie and Plastic letters
Nick Lowe - Labour of Lust
Get the Knack - I did and took some hell for it in middle school...
Tom petty- damn the torpedoes
police-first album
kinks - one from the road, my intro to a favorite band
elvis - my aim is true
talking heads '77
and YES the Beatles' Red & Blue greatest hits packages plus White Album & let it Be
beach boys endless summer
elton - good bye yellow brick road

Thanks to my older siblings for leaving those last few lying around for me to discover. A family friend gave us the T-heads and Elvis for Xmas that year.