The Expanding Album Challenge: Week 34
Fri., Jan. 1. 2021 8:46pm EST
J. Jackson, lead singer and lyricist for ApologetiX here again.
It has become apparent that I'll need more than 365 days in the "albums that influenced me" series that I started in May 2020. Will 500 be enough? I don't know. We'll make like superintendent Schneider and take it one day at time. Here are entries from this past week:
233. Grand Funk Hits – Grand Funk
Released in 1976, this album features Grand Funk's hits from 1972 on — after they split with former manager Terry Knight. As a result, it's missing earlier Top 40 hits "I'm Your Captain (Closer to Home)" and "Footstompin' Music," two of their very finest. But it does have the Top 5 hits "We're an American Band," "The Loco-Motion," "Some Kind of Wonderful," and "Bad Time." Plus three other Top 40 hits: "Rock 'N Roll Soul," "Walk Like a Man," and "Shinin' On." I'm a fan of all those songs, but another tune contained herein that I think should have been a bigger hit is "Take Me," which went to #53 in early '76. ApologetiX has spoofed two of the aforementioned Top 5 hits.
234. Uh-huh – John Cougar Mellencamp
I had really liked "Hurts So Good" and "Jack & Diane" from American Fool, but the first time I heard "Crumblin' Down," the lead single from this album, I thought it was the new Stones single. And I thought it was fantastic. I bought that 45 and its follow-up, "Pink Houses," after it came out. The flip sides, "Golden Gates" and "Serious Business," were pretty decent, too. I also liked "Authority Song" and "Play Guitar" from the radio, so I eventually bought the cassette. My favorite among the rest of the tracks was "Warmer Place to Sleep." ApologetiX has spoofed three of the songs on this album — one of them multiple times and another only on one of our early cassettes.
235. Heartbeat City – The Cars
Tom Dellaquila and I couldn't wait for this album to be released. Then came the first single, "You Might Think," with that spectacular (for the time) video. Then "Magic." Loved that song. Then "Drive," their biggest hit. Then "Hello Again" — loads of fun. The fifth single, "Why Can't I Have You?," was my least favorite of all 10 tracks, but I bought the 45 anyway, because it had a phenomenal flip side, a previously unreleased song called "Breakaway." When I revisited this album a year or ago, I was amazed at how great songs like "I Refuse," "Stranger Eyes," and "Lookin' for Love" sounded. We went to see them in concert on the Heartbeat City tour at Pittsburgh's Civic Arena on July 27, 1984. Sounded just like the record but didn't have much to say. But at least Wang Chung opened for them, and they already had two Top 40 hits under their belts — "Don't Let Go" (#38) and "Dance Hall Days," which had peaked at #16 three weeks earlier.
236. Seven and the Ragged Tiger – Duran Duran
The first single from this album, "Union of the Snake," was OK but didn't thrill me as much as previous Duran hits. But I sure did like the second single, "New Moon on Monday"; I love me some Simon LeBon vocal histrionics. And the third single, "The Reflex," was phenomenal, especially after Nile Rodgers of Chic remixed it for radio. No wonder it became their first #1 U.S. hit. Of the non-hit tracks, my favorite was "I Take the Dice." And those lyrics throughout the album — did even LeBon, Rhodes, or any of the Taylors know what they meant? Were they ingeniously impenetrable or simply silly? Please, please tell me now!
237. Van Halen – Van Halen
This album should appear earlier on the list, but I don't know where to put it. At one point or another, in one form or another, ApologetiX has spoofed five of its tracks: "Runnin' with the Devil," "Eruption," "You Really Got Me," "Ain't Talkin' 'bout Love," and "Ice Cream Man." We've also spoofed "Tone Lōc's "Wild Thing," which famously borrowed the lick from "Jamie's Cryin'." That's six out of 11 songs. So, yeah, it was kind of influential. I also sang both "You Really Got Me" and "Ain't Talkin' 'bout Love" in my first rock band, Terminal, back in early '82.
238. Born in the USA – Bruce Springsteen
I saw Springsteen two times in Pittsburgh on the Born in the USA tour — September 21, 1984, at the Civic Arena and August 11, 1985, at Three Rivers Stadium. In the 11 months between those two shows, he had obviously increased his fanbase a bit. An album with seven Top 10 hits will do that for you. ApologetiX has spoofed two of them. I kept waiting for Columbia to release my favorite song on this album, "No Surrender," as a single, but they never did. Instead, Corey Hart released "Never Surrender," and it went to #3 in August 1985, the same month I saw Springsteen the second time.
239. Purple Rain – Prince
Yes, "When Doves Cry" was innovative and cool (spending five weeks at #1), but "Let's Go Crazy" (two weeks at #1) was my jam. I once did 86 consecutive push-ups to it, as a matter of fact. I even bought the 12" extended play dance mix. This album had three other Top 40 hits — "Purple Rain (two weeks at #2)," "I Would Die 4 U" (#8) and the underrated (but not by me) "Take Me with U" (#25). Of the non-hits, "Computer Blue" was quite the earworm, but for my money, you can't beat "Baby I'm a Star." Doctor!
Note: The albums are not listed in order of preference or excellence, but in chronological order of when they influenced me. Also, just because the albums on my list influenced me back then doesn't mean I give them all a blanket endorsement now.
I started actively listening to music in the early 70's and didn't become a born-again Christian until early 1988, so it's going to be a while before we get to the Christian albums, but there will be many of those when the time comes (literally).