Influential Albums: 695-701
Sat., Apr. 9. 2022 3:13pm 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. Rather than listing the albums in order of preference or excellence, I'd been listing them in chronological order of when they influenced me, as best as I recall. We were well into 1987, and you'll start seeing a lot of Christian albums once we get to 1988.
However, in May 2021, I realized that I'd neglected to include many influential albums along the way, so I've been catching up on those for a while before we get to that momentous moment in '88 when my life and musical trajectory was forever changed. You'll still see plenty of secular albums after that, but music was never the same for me after.
695. Xanadu - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Considering what a critical and commercial failure the 1980 movie Xanadu was, it's amazing how well the music fared. The soundtrack LP hit the Top five on both sides of the pond (#5 U.S., #2 U.K.) and sold over two million copies. Moreover, it spawned five U.S. Top 20 singles: "Magic" by Olivia Newton-John (#1 pop, #1 adult contemporary), "Xanadu" by Olivia Newton-John and Electric Light Orchestra (#8 pop, #2 AC), "All Over the World" by Electric Light Orchestra (#13 pop), "I'm Alive" (#16 pop), and "Suddenly by Olivia Newton-John and Cliff Richard (#20 pop, #4 AC). It was a simple formula for success: ONJ + ELO = AOK. I remember looking at this album a number of times in the store and trying to decide if it was worth it to get the ELO tracks. Since "Magic" was a #1 record, I had to get that song eventually, but my personal fave of the five was "All Over the World." In 2020, when ApologetiX was looking for a song that started with X to complete our alphabetical list of original titles spoofed, we briefly considered "Xanadu" but eventually decided on "XXX's and OOO's (An American Girl)" by Trisha Yearwood. I think most of the guys in our band would have loved to do "Xanadu," though ... if it had been Rush's song with the same title (but very different music and lyrics) from their A Farewell to Kings album.
696. Infinity - Journey
I had a used copy of this one on cassette, but I don't remember where I got it. I do remember why I got it, though: "Wheel in the Sky," baby. That was my jam ... although I didn't discover it until the 80's. Released in late January 1978, Infinity was Journey's fourth album, and their first with new lead vocalist Steve Perry, although keyboardist (and previous lead vocalist) Gregg Rolie shares lead vocals with Perry on tracks two and three, "Feeling That Way" and "Anytime." Those songs go hand in hand and back to back on most rock stations, like "Heartbreaker" and "Livin' Lovin' Maid (She's Just a Woman)" by Led Zeppelin; "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and "With a Little Help from My Friends" by The Beatles; "We Will Rock You" and "We Are the Champions" by Queen; and "You're All I've Got Tonight" and "Bye Bye Love" by The Cars. Some people call them "two-fers" or "Siamese twin songs," and I know of at least 20 examples. Interestingly, the Queen, Cars, and Journey songs all had the same producer, Roy Thomas Baker, and they all came out in a seven-month span between late October '77 and early June '78. None of the three singles from Infinity hit the Top 40 — "Wheel in the Sky" (#57), "Anytime" (#83), and "Lights" (#68 — but they're all well known to longtime listeners of rock radio. Interestingly, "Feeling That Way" didn't appear on the "Anytime" single, not even on the flip side. There's a good chance I first heard all three of them on our local rock station, WDVE, in my high-school art class. Miss Lazar, my art teacher from the middle of sophomore year through the end of senior year, allowed us to play the radio in class, so I got an art and music education simultaneously.
697. Greatest Hits - Steely Dan
I wrote about Steely Dan's sixth LP, Aja, much earlier on my list, and I hope to expound upon virtually all of their albums eventually. However, this two-record set was the only other one I bought besides Aja until the early 2000's. I got it as a bargain-priced 8-track tape in the early 80's, and the poor sound quality would have appalled Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, because they always strove for audio perfection in the studio. I eventually got it on CD years later and enjoyed it so much I wound up buying their other non-compilation albums. Steely Dan had 15 singles hit the Billboard Hot 100, and 1978's Greatest Hits contains 11 of them ... plus another that bubbled under at #103. The only ones missing are two that had just come out that year and two that wouldn't come out until a couple years later. My first memories of Steely Dan on the radio are the songs "Reeling in the Years" (#11) and "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" (#4), which were the prime reasons I was interested in Greatest Hits. ApologetiX has since spoofed both of them, plus another song on this collection, "Josie" (#26). There are 18 tracks in all here, including one that was previously unreleased, "Here at the Western World" (an outtake from their 1975 album, The Royal Scam), which holds it own among the hits. Although I'm not a huge jazz-rock guy, I love the witty lyrics of Steely Dan and the way Donald and Walter just plopped you down in the middle of a story and expected you to have the intelligence to figure out what was going and to get obscure references they made to other things. Actually, I think they probably didn't care whether you got them or not; they were amusing themselves first and foremost. I'm a sucker for interesting titles, and this album is loaded with them, like "Any Major Dude," "Bad Sneakers," "Dr. Wu," "Kid Charlemagne," "The Fez," "Haitian Divorce," "Show Biz Kids," "Pretzel Logic," "My Old School," and "Black Friday." I could go on and on here, but I'll wait to elaborate. Otherwise, when I got to their non-compilation albums, I'd just have to "Do It Again."
698. Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch - Frank Zappa
OK, I didn't have this album, but I loved the title and cover concept, and I did buy the big hit single from it, "Valley Girl," which was Frank Zappa's (and his daughter Moon's) only Top 40 hit. It went to #32 on the pop chart and #12 on the rock chart and was one of the first new songs I encountered and embraced as a fledgling freshman in college. "Valley Girl" reached its chart peak on September 11, 1982, when I'd only been at IUP for a couple weeks. I remember coming home and singing the whole thing — including Moon's monologue — to my parents, who were quite amused. Released in May '82, Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch, was Zappa's 35th official LP. It had only six tracks (half studio, half live), but still went to #23 on the Billboard 200. In 1980, I had purchased Zappa's non-album single, "I Don't Wanna Get Drafted" without having ever heard it before ... I just figured it would probably be a good novelty record. I never heard it anywhere afterward, either, except on my record player, where it was played many times. "I Don't Wanna Get Drafted" only went to #103 in the States, but it did hit #3 in Sweden! I figured it was worth a gamble, because I'd liked the two tunes of his I'd heard on the radio before: "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow" (#86 in '74) and "Dancin' Fool" (#45 in '79). The year after I graduated college, my friend Lori played us a couple comedic cuts from Zappa's 1979 album Joe's Garage, Act 1. I particularly liked the title track, which never charted over here but did hit #4 in Norway. Yes, the man must have been a Scandinavian sensation! My favorite Zappa album title and cover combo is Weasels Ripped My Flesh, which he released with The Mothers of Invention in 1970. ApologetiX has never spoofed him, but "Weird Al" Yankovic did a phenomenal Zappa-esque genre parody in 2003 called "Genius in France." It's one of my favorite things Al ever did: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwFf9vGRqcs
699. British Steel - Judas Priest
Released in April 1980, British Steel is Judas Priest's sixth studio LP. My neighborhood guitarist friend Chris had a copy and knew the guitar parts to "Living After Midnight," so I learned the lyrics in order to sing along. Although none of the songs on British Steel charted in the United States, three of them hit the U.K. Top 40: "Living After Midnight" (#12), "Breaking the Law" (#12), and "United" (#26). I became quite familiar with all three of those tunes in ApologetiX, as we spoofed the first one twice (in 1992 and 2003), and our bassist, Keith Haynie, played the other two (and the rest of the album, probably) many times while driving our band vehicles. Moreover, the first two get plenty of airplay on U.S. rock stations. British Steel reached #34 on the U.S. album chart and sold a million copies. I bought a used cassette copy in the 1991 or '92 for parody purposes. British Steel even appeared as one of the Chu-Bops — a unique candy product in the early 80's — miniature album sleeves that contained record-shaped pink bubble gum and sold for 29 cents each. I remember thinking how odd it was for that particular album to be one of them ... not only was it metal, it also had a razor blade on the cover, which just didn't seem to go well with bubble gum. For more info on Chu-Bops, check out: https://www.discogs.com/lists/Chu-Bops/281095. The only Judas Priest song to ever hit the U.S. Hot 100 was "You've Got Another Thing Coming" (#67 pop), which also made it to #4 on the rock chart. ApologetiX released a spoof of that one in 2013. When I was growing up, My Uncle Joe Kornides used to use the expression "Judas priest" sometimes, and I honestly thought he was talking about the band. Hey, why not? He was a big Pittsburgh football fan, and British Steel does close with a track called "Steeler." In reality, though, my uncle was making use of a euphemistic expression that has been around since as early as 1910, long before the band existed or its members were even born. In fact, it existed at least 40-45 years before the birth of rock and roll: https://www.dictionary.com/browse/judas-priest It was used as a substitute expression, just as people use the words and expressions "gosh," "darn," "heck," and "for Pete's sake." Note: Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus, is not the only Judas in the New Testament. If you check out the King James Version, there was another Apostle named Judas (John 14:22, Acts 1:13) and another prophet and companion of Paul named Judas (Acts 15:22-32). So technically, only 33.3% of the guys named Judas have negative connotations associated with their name.
700. Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd
A lot of my friends were much more into this album than I was, and I've never listened to it while simultaneously watching The Wizard of Oz. Nevertheless, I used to check every week in the mid-80's to see if it was still on the Billboard 200 album chart. Released on March 1, 1973, The Dark Side of the Moon was Pink Floyd's eighth studio LP and became their first Top 10 album in the United States, peaking at #1 for one week on April 28 that year. What happened afterward was even more impressive. It stayed on that chart for 736 non-consecutive weeks (out of a possible 800 weeks) between March 17, 1973 and July 16, 1988, registering its final appearance (and 741st week) on October 8, 1988. On May 25, 1991, Billboard introduced a new chart, Top Pop Catalog Albums, to monitor sales of classic LPs, and The Dark Side of the Moon started making regular appearances there instead. As of May 5, 2006, the album had appeared a total of 1,716 combined weeks on those two charts. When the Billboard 200 changed its methodology in 2009, it enabled classic LPs to appear on that chart, which gave The Dark Side of the Moon renewed vitality. As of February 2002, it had spent a total of 962 weeks on the Billboard 200, selling an estimated 45 million copies worldwide in the process. How appropriate that the album's hit single (the first of only two times Pink Floyd ever hit the U.S. Top 40) was "Money" (#13). A second single, "Us and Them," bubbled under at #101. Neither of those songs charted in the United Kingdom, but the album did go to #2 there. Other tracks from The Dark Side of the Moon you'll hear frequently on classic-rock radio include "Time," "Breathe (In the Air)," and the back-to-back tracks "Brain Damage" and "Eclipse." Those last two are probably my favorites of the bunch, although I do love the beginning of "Time." Floyd went on to score four more #1 albums: Wish You Were Here, The Wall (which was covered earlier on this list), The Division Bell, and the live two-CD set Pulse. Incidentally, if my Wizard of Oz comment earlier left you puzzled, go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Side_of_the_Rainbow
701. Live at the Royal Festival Hall - Glen Campbell (with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra)
My neighborhood friend Jeff Henry got this two-record set for Christmas in 1977. It had just been released the previous month. Jeff's parents seemed to buy him a lot of eclectic musical selections as gifts, and I'm guessing his mother was the driving force behind that. At the time, Glen Campbell was still pretty popular, having just scored a #1 pop single that spring with "Southern Nights." He'd followed that up with a #1 adult contemporary hit, "Sunflower," that summer. Although there are versions of both of those on Live at the Royal Festival Hall, the album only went to #171. It also featured renditions of most of Campbell's other big hits, like "Rhinestone Cowboy" (#1 pop, #1 AC), "Wichita Lineman" (#3 pop, #1 AC), "Galveston" (#4 pop, #1 AC), "Try a Little Kindness" (#23 pop, #1 AC), "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" (#26 pop, #12 AC), and "Dreams of the Everyday Housewife" (#32 pop, #6 AC). Those are all songs I really enjoy, and I eventually obtained the original studio versions for myself. I also like his hits "Gentle On My Mind" (#39 pop, #8 AC) and "Country Boy (You've Got Your Feet in L.A.)" (#11 pop, #1 AC), which were not on Live at the Royal Festival Hall. However, the album did feature five Beach Boys songs, and Campbell's spoken introduction to that section was where I first learned he had briefly filled in for Brian Wilson on bass and falsetto harmony vocals in the mid-60's (December '64 through March '65) before new Beach Boy Bruce Johnston took over. ApologetiX has never spoofed any Glen Campbell songs, but a couple of our guys did spot him in an airport once, and we spoofed a song he played guitar on, "Mary Mary" by The Monkees, in 2018.
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 '88. However, I hope you'll see (as I do) how God's hand was at work behind the scenes from the start, preparing me for the work I believe He intended for me to do.