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The Never-Ending Album Challenge: Wks 44-45
Thu., Mar. 18. 2021 10:36am EDT

J. Jackson, lead singer and lyricist for ApologetiX here again.

Here are the latest entries in the "albums that influenced me" series I started writing in May 2020. They are not listed in order of preference or excellence, but in chronological order of when they influenced me, as best as I can recall.

I forgot to include this feature in last week's newsletter, so you'll get a double dose this week:

302. Pretty in Pink – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
I was a big fan of the Brat Pack films, but I think I got the soundtrack for Pretty in Pink before actually seeing the movie. The big hit, "If You Leave" by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, went to #4 on the pop charts and brings back bittersweet memories of my last days at IUP, realizing the sun was about to set on my carefree youth. The movie was at least partially inspired by a 1981 song with the same title by The Psychedelic Furs, which they rerecorded for this album. That's a great tune. Other highlights for me were "Left of Center" (Suzanne Vega), "Round, Round" (Belouis Some), "Wouldn't It Be Good" (Danny Hutton Hitters), "Bring On the Dancing Horses ("Echo & the Bunnymen), and "Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want" (The Smiths).

303. The Who Sell Out – The Who
I'd always loved the cover of this album and had read a bit about it in rock books and magazines. I finally got around to listening to it during the summer of 1986. Everybody knows the single, "I Can See for Miles," which was The Who's only U.S. Top 10 hit. There's a lot of corny stuff on this record, but I still liked it a lot. My favorite songs were the lead-off tracks on sides one and two, respectively, "Armenia City in the Sky" and "Can't Reach You." "Our Love Was" and "Rael" were also strong. "Silas Stingy" and "Odorono," were pretty silly, but they still have their charms.

304. A Quick One – The Who
Since I'd just investigated The Who's third album (from 1967), I was keen to check out their second one, too (from 1966), best known for its mini rock-opera, "A Quick One, While He's Away." I'd seen a clip of them performing that live in the movie The Kids Are Alright. I also enjoyed "Run Run Run," "Don't Look Away," and "Whiskey Man." And don't forget "Boris the Spider," which I already knew and appreciated from my first Who album, Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy. That song would go on to become a fan favorite for four of my kids.

305. Let it Bleed – The Rolling Stones
As much as I liked the first and last songs on this album, "Gimme Shelter" and "You Can't Always Get What You Want," I never thought to check out all the songs between them until I heard the song "Monkey Man" one night on the radio while driving my car. Whoa, it sounded amazing! I went out and bought the cassette and soon was grooving to that, "Live with Me," "Let It Bleed," and the other four tracks. Not a weak link to be found. Incidentally, in case you're wondering, Let It Bleed came out a full five months before Let It Be by The Beatles, so this was one case when The Rolling Stones weren't following in The Beatles' bootsteps. This may very well be The Stones' best album. Or maybe the next one on my list is.

306. Sticky Fingers – The Rolling Stones
Déjà vu. I was quite familiar with both sides of the first single from this album: "Brown Sugar" and the song that put the "B-word" on a "B-side" (long before Elton John and Meredith Brooks put it on an A-Side). And I also knew "Wild Horses." But it wasn't till I heard "Dead Flowers" on the radio in the summer of 1986 that I realized there was more to Sticky Fingers. Much more, it turns out. My other favorites: "Sway," "Can't You Hear Me Knocking," and the majestically melancholy "Moonlight Mile." I liked "Dead Flowers" so much that I got the guys in my last secular band to do it. ApologetiX spoofed "Brown Sugar" in 2016.

307. Exile on Main Street – The Rolling Stones
Some people think this double-album from 1972 is the Stones' best. I agree that it's great, but I probably favor their previous two. I bought this one right after buying them. Maybe it's just because there's so much music (18 songs) to digest. "Tumbling Dice" and "Happy" were the hit singles; I prefer the latter, but I knew them both — and "Rip This Joint" — from Made in the Shade. There's plenty to like on Exile. These songs would be on the top of my list: "Rocks Off," "Just Want to See His Face," "Torn and Frayed," "Loving Cup," "Let It Loose," "Shine a Light," and "All Down the Line."

308. Southern Accents – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
I bought this album's first single, "Don't Come Around Here No More," in 1985, but I didn't buy the rest of it till the summer of 1986. It came highly recommended by Michael Ranieri. The other two singles, "Make It Better (Forget About Me)" and "Rebels," were great, too. They both missed the Top 40, stalling at #54 and #76 respectively, but they hit #12 and #5 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. Other tracks that still stick with me are the goofy "Spike" and the beautiful title track.

309. It's Only Rock 'n Roll – The Rolling Stones
As most Stones fans could tell you, they put out a series of albums in the second half of the 60's and first half of the 70's that compares with just about any other rock band for overall quality. Critics generally zero in on the four albums they released between 1968-72 as the apex, and I don't disagree. But this 1974 release has a heck of a lot of great tracks, too. I think it's considerably better than its predecessor, Goat's Head Soup (1973). The two hit singles were the title track (which ApologetiX has spoofed) and a great cover of The Temptations' "Ain't Too Proud to Beg." Other highlights include "If You Can't Rock Me," "Time Waits for No One," "Till the Next Goodbye," "Dance Little Sister," and "Fingerprint File."

310. Can't Stop Talkin' - The Watchmen
The editor at The Indiana Gazette knew I was a big music fan, so he had me cover a few different musical artists while I did my internship there. One was a local big-band leader, Phil Mruck of the Tommy Phillips Band; another was country music legend Porter Wagoner; and the third was a local Christian rock band called The Watchmen, who had just changed their name to Abraham. Believe it or not, back in the summer of 1986, the last thing in the world I wanted to cover was a Christian rock band. "These guys are probably going to be super-nice," I thought, "and being around them is just going to make me feel guilty, and they'll probably give me a free tape of their music." They were, it did, and they did. I gave the cassette a brief listen while working on the story. The title track was quite enjoyable, but "The Cross Calls Today" made me feel convicted. I stuck it in a drawer, and went out partying with my friends. A year or two later, after my outlook on life had changed, I dug out that tape and really started to appreciate it. Interesting note: When I met with The Watchmen, we did the interview in their tiny hometown of Clymer PA. At the time, they had already toured all over the United States and elsewhere, and they were leaving to play in Hawaii in two weeks. "If these guys are that popular," I thought, "how come I've never heard of them before?" Sixteen years later, ApologetiX would play a concert in Clymer PA. Our very next concerts, one week later, were in Hawaii. And countless other people have probably had the same thought about us that I had about The Watchmen. Does God have a sense of humor or what?

311. Best of the Byrds, Greatest Hits, Volume II – The Byrds
I think I borrowed this from my old neighborhood friend Keith Cornell, and I suspect he bought it by accident, not realizing it was Volume II and therefore didn't contain any Top 40 hits. However, it had some really beautiful songs, like "Ballad of Easy Rider," "Wasn't Born to Follow," "Chestnut Mare," "He Was a Friend of Mine," and a wonderful pre-Doobie Brothers take on the song "Jesus Is Just Alright." And that's just side one! The Byrds loosened up on side two with gems such as "Tiffany Queen," "Drug Store Truck Drivin' Man," "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere," and "I Wanna Grow Up to Be a Politician." Upon further review, I liked the second volume as much as the first.

312. Good Vibrations - Best of The Beach Boys – The Beach Boys
It took a long time, but The Beach Boys finally made it back onto my list! I think I got this compilation from Chris Marsh's brother, Dan. It's basically the best of The Beach Boys from 1966-73. There's no overlap with the songs on Endless Summer and Spirit of America. It contains six Top 20 hits: "Good Vibrations" (#1), "Sloop John B," (#3) "Wouldn't It Be Nice," (#8), "Heroes and Villains" (#12), "Darlin'" (#19), and "Do It Again" (#20). There are 12 tracks in all, including three of the most beautiful songs The Beach Boys ever recorded — "God Only Knows," "Surf's Up," and "Add Some Music to Your Day." And don't forget "Sail On, Sailor," a great tune that should have hit the Top 40 but missed twice (#79 in 1973 and #49 in 1975).

313. Play Deep – The Outfield
ApologetiX spoofed the Top Ten hit off this one, "Your Love," but it's nowhere near my favorite song on Play Deep. Maybe it's just because I heard that song so many times. I preferred the two subsequent singles, "All the Love" (#19 pop, #14 mainstream) and "Everytime You Cry" (#66 pop, #20 mainstream. Our friend Lori (a.k.a. Wubby) played this album for us a few times at a get-together or two, and I couldn't get over what a great sound the band had, especially the blend of the lead and backing vocals. My favorite tracks are the openers on side one and side two, "Say It Isn't So," and "Mystery Man." Other gems included "I Don't Need Her" and "61 Seconds." I have owned just about every Outfield album since, and they've had some shining moments, but the original is still the greatest.

314. Boomtown – David & David
This is the album I think of first when I remember my entry into the cold, cruel, post-college world of work. I had recently purchased (and loved) the single "Welcome to the Boomtown" (#37 pop, #8 rock), so when I saw its parent album featured at a super-low introductory price at a local record store, I took a chance. I'm really glad I did. I probably love the opening three tracks on Boomtown as much as the opening three tracks on any secular rock album I've ever owned. The aforementioned opening track, "Welcome to the Boomtown," was followed by "Swallowed by the Cracks" and "Ain't So Easy." Both of them eventually received a fair amount of airplay on rock radio and hit the Top 20 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts, but that happened later. I ain't gonna lie — this album's kind of bleak, but it ends on a hopeful note, with my other favorite track, "Heroes."

315. Come Dancing with The Kinks – The Kinks
This double album, which I bought on cassette, compiled hits and highlights of The Kinks' Arista Records albums from 1977-86. I already had almost all of the songs on it, but I didn't care, because it included their rare holiday record, "Father Christmas," which I wanted badly. It also had "Juke Box Music" and "Sleepwalker," two great songs from the 1977 Sleepwalker album. I think I owned that record either before or after buying this, but I rarely played it, whereas I played those two songs a ton on this tape. The final song on this cassette was a live version of "Celluloid Heroes," which I already owned on One for the Road, but I never could get enough of that tune. The 2000 CD reissue deleted four of the songs (including three of my favorites) and replaced them with three others. Not a great trade — but, as a long-suffering Pittsburgh Pirates fan, I'm used to that kind of thing.

Note: 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. However, we are currently in the fall of 1986, so you'll start seeing more Christian albums here soon enough