Influential Albums: 702-708
Thu., Apr. 14. 2022 4:36pm 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.
702. Star Wars - Original Soundtrack
In the summer of 1977, my sister Gayle's friend Steve Vater took both of us to see his new favorite movie, Star Wars. If I remember correctly, it was his 13th time. No, his last name does not have a long "a" sound, like Darth Vader. Rather, it rhymes with another cultural icon of that era, Mr. Kotter. Anyway, I loved Star Wars, as did all the other kids in my neighborhood. I bought the paperback adaptation and quickly read that. I also started collecting the Topps trading cards and pestered my parents to buy as many loaves of Town Talk bread, so I could collect the cards that came in those as well. Of course, back then, if you couldn't get back to the movie (no ride, no money, etc.), you looked for other ways to recreate the memories, so it was only natural for me to try and find it on 45. There were a couple different versions out there, and the first one I bought was "Star Wars Main Title" composed and conducted by John Williams and performed by The London Symphony Orchestra. It hit #10 on the pop chart and #4 on the adult contemporary chart. The flip side, "Cantina Band," also featured Williams and LSO, playing the music from my favorite scene in the movie, so I really liked that, too. It was one of the first singles I ever bought with my own money. I'm pretty sure that my childhood friend Jeff eventually got the entire soundtrack album, but I'm not positive. After all, it was a long time ago in a neighborhood far away.
703. Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk - Meco
I thought the "Star Wars Main Title" 45 I bought by John Williams and The London Symphony Orchestra was decent — and it sounded just like the movie — but I'd been hoping to get the disco version I'd been hearing on my local radio station. A school friend named Steve informed me that what I was looking for was actually "Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band" by Meco, so I purchased that single, too, which went all the way to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks in October 1977. Its parent album, Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk, hit #13 on the Billboard 200 album chart and #8 on the R&B chart, selling a million copies. Meanwhile, the single sold two million. The next thing I knew, Meco had a new song out, "Theme from 'Close Encounters'" (and a new album, Encounters of Every Kind), interpreting more of John Williams' music from Steven Spielberg's blockbuster Close Encounters of The Third Kind. That single only went to #25, but I liked it a lot, too, and taped it off the radio. This time around, John Williams' original version was the one that charted higher (#13). If I ever heard Meco's third Top 40 single, "Themes from The Wizard of Oz: Over the Rainbow/We're Off to See the Wizard" (#35), I must have blotted it out of my memory. But I definitely remember the fourth, "Empire Strikes Back (Medley)," which had no chart competition from John Williams and went to #18. His fifth and final Top 40 single, "Pop Goes the Movies Pt. 1" (#32), came out in 1982. Meco's real name was Domenico Monardo, and he was born in Johnsonburg PA, the home of my old college roommate Tom Dellaquila, who is mentioned many times on this list. ApologetiX has never spoofed Meco, but we did play a concert in Johnsonburg in 2006.
704. Excitable Boy - Warren Zevon
I remember first hearing this album at Rocket Records in Greensburg PA when it was fairly new. It's hard to forget songs like "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" and the equally macabre but deceptively peppy title track. But the songs on Excitable Boy that have gotten the most airplay over the years are "Werewolves of London" and "Lawyers, Guns and Money." Although merely intended as filler for the album, "Werewolves of London" became Zevon's first — and only — Top 40 hit, reaching #21 in May 1978. Two months earlier, Linda Ronstadt had hit #31 with her rendition of another song he wrote, "Poor Poor Pitiful Me," from his 1976 self-titled album (Terri Clark had a #5 country hit with her own cover version in 1996). I also used to have a 1980 recording of Zevon performing "Excitable Boy" and "Werewolves of London" at the Roxy Theatre in West Hollywood CA, with the lyrics to the latter altered to include iconic imagery from Los Angeles. John Landis' 1981 film An American Werewolf in London has nothing to do with that song, but it was also influential in my life. Allow me to elaborate: When I was a freshman in college, some friends convinced me to skip my health class and go see that movie at the IUP library, which had VCRs, viewing rooms, and a huge collection of videocassettes ... all relatively rare things back in '82. I'd never skipped a class before — not even in high school — but I still got an "A" in the class, which was a bit of "cake" course. Unfortunately, it deluded me into thinking I could skip other classes whenever I felt like it, and that took a serious toll on my poor, poor pitiful GPA the following semester. Thankfully, I learned my lesson and got the ship righted in time for sophomore year. ApologetiX spoofed "Werewolves of London" in 2016. Here's an interesting article on Warren Zevon's faith that a friend shared with me: https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2013/09/warren-zevons-secret?fbclid=IwAR3V6wKQ7RGI3h7PsU17LUk_XFs6XmO1VpCP_6R_BVysLK_YuffPv5OTBjY
705. The Very Best of The Statler Brothers - The Statler Brothers
I'd never heard of The Statler Brothers until I saw an TV commercial for this album in 1977. The announcer made it sound like those guys were a pretty big deal, and he wasn't exaggerating. Active from 1955-2002, The Statler Brothers won the Country Music Association's Vocal Group of the Year award nine times. In fact, the year this two-record set (or two 8-track tapes) came out, they won it for the sixth year in a row! The Statler Brothers had 59 singles that hit the country Top 40 ... and 33 of those hit the Top 10. Ironically, all four of their #1 hits came out between 1978-85, after this album. The group was a one-hit wonder as far as the pop charts went, but their sole Top 40 hit, "Flowers On the Wall," was a biggie, hitting #4 in January 1966. I wasn't even two years old yet at the time, but I do remember hearing it as a young kid, although I never knew the title, because I only remembered the line "smokin' cigarettes and watchin' Captain Kangaroo." That song gained new popularity in 1994 when it was used in the movie Pulp Fiction. It's one of the 20 tracks on this album and was featured at the beginning of the commercial, but the announcer was talking over that part, and they didn't use the "Captain Kangaroo" line, so I had no idea. Actually, it was a bunch of the other songs that caught my ear, like "Do You Remember These" (a #2 country hit for four weeks in '72 which also became The Statler Brothers' only adult contemporary hit), "The Movies" (#10 country) "Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott" (#22 country), and "Bed of Rose's" (#9 country). Those little snippets of songs stuck with me over the years, and I finally sought them out many years later. With all that having been said, my two favorite Statler Brothers songs aren't on this album — their cover of the old gospel classic "Just a Little Talk with Jesus" and their '67 country Top 10 hit "You Can't Have Your Kate and Edith, Too." Yes, the rest of that song is every bit as good as the title.
706. FM - The Original Movie Soundtrack
Released in April 1978, long before the internet made it easy to instantly obtain all your favorite tunes, FM was one of those higher-priced double LPs young rock fans like me gazed at longingly in the local record store, pondering what life would be like if we had more disposable income. It was also the only album where you could get the Steely Dan song "FM (No Static at All)" until it was finally included on their Gold compilation in 1982. The "FM" single went to #22 and the FM album went to #5. Joe Walsh's biggest hit, "Life's Been Good" (#12), made its first appearance on FM, too — a month before But Seriously, Folks ... Those were the only new songs out of the 20 tracks, but most of the "old" songs had just come out in the previous year or two. The track listing could easily have been your local rock station's current playlist at the time, with iconic offerings by such luminaries as Bob Seger, Steve Miller, James Taylor, Tom Petty, Billy Joel, Dan Fogelberg, Boz Scaggs, Linda Ronstadt, The Doobie Brothers, Foreigner, Eagles, Boston, and Queen. ApologetiX has spoofed six of the songs on FM and 13 of the 18 artists on that album. How could a 20-track album only feature 18 artists, you ask? Steely Dan was on there three times, with "FM (No Static at All)," "FM - Reprise" and, ironically, "Do It Again." I had wondered if the movie FM, which came out on April 28, 1978, inspired the TV show WKRP in Cincinnati, which debuted less than five months later, on September 18, 1978. However, the creator of WKRP claims it was already in development when FM came out. There are certainly some similarities, but one major difference between the two is the fact that WKRP was actually critically and commercially successful.
707. Too Low for Zero - Elton John
I remember being pretty excited when my college friends and I heard "I'm Still Standing," the first single from Elton John's 1983 album Too Low for Zero. It seemed like the guy was finally back to doing rock and roll. "I'm Still Standing" hit #12 on Billboard Hot 100 and #5 on the Radio & Records Top 30. The second single, "Kiss the Bride" (#23 Billboard, #13 Radio & Records), rocked even harder. The third single, "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" (#4), didn't rock at all, but it was a great tune nonetheless. Ironically, "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" hit #22 on the Billboard rock chart, whereas "I'm Still Standing" only hit #34 and "Kiss the Bride" didn't even register. Three other cuts had marginal pop success outside the United States — "Cold as Christmas (In the Middle of the Year)"/"Crystal" (#33 U.K.) and the title track (#52 Australia). But the best thing for me about Too Low for Zero wasn't even the songs. It was the fact that Bernie Taupin was back writing all of the lyrics (for the first time since 1976) and all of the main members from Elton's glory years (of the first half of the 70's) were back in his band — Dee Murray on bass, Nigel Olsson on drums, and Davey Johnstone on guitar — and, just as importantly, providing backing vocals once again.
708. Can't Hold Back - Eddie Money
If the first half of Eddie Money's career was pretty impressive, the second half was even more so. After four years without a big pop or rock hit, Eddie released a monster single — the biggest of his career — "Take Me Home Tonight" with female vocals by Ronnie Spector of the Ronettes. It went to #4 on the pop chart and #1 on the rock chart. The album it came from, Can't Hold Back, came out the same month (August 1986) and produced three other singles: "I Wanna Go Back" (#14 pop, #3 rock), "Endless Nights" (#21 pop, #10 rock), and "We Should Be Sleeping" (#90 pop, #18 rock). I loved "Take Me Home Tonight" and "Endless Nights" and bought the 45s for both. Over the next five years, the hits kept comin' ... "Walk on Water" (#9 pop, #2 rock), "The Love in Your Eyes" (#24 pop, #1 rock), "Peace in Our Time" (#11 pop, #2 rock), "I'll Get By" (#21 pop), "Heaven in the Back Seat" (#58 pop, #6 rock), and "She Takes Me Breath Away" (#5 rock). ApX alum keyboardist Bill Hubauer and I got to meet Eddie Money at an airport in October 2006. No, we didn't have two tickets to paradise; we'd actually just landed in Houston. We wound up at the same baggage carousel as Eddie and his band, but didn't want to disturb him. However, when Eddie noticed we were gathering guitar/keyboard cases, he approached and asked what band we were in. "Led Zeppelin," replied Hubie. "Didn't recognize us, did you?" That elicited a hearty laugh from Eddie. I then told him we were in a Christian rock band called ApologetiX. "That's great," said Eddie, shaking our hands. "Nothing like playing music for Jesus, huh, guys?" I said, "We know who you are, Mr. Money," and told him I especially liked "Endless Nights," from 1987. "That's a good song," said Eddie. "We should put that back in our shows." Hubie was amused that I referred to Eddie as "Mr. Money." I knew he'd started out life as Edward Mahoney, but "Mr. Mahoney" didn't have the same ring to it.
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.