Influential Albums: 730-736
Sat., May. 14. 2022 12:37pm 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.
730. Himself - Bill Cosby
Regardless of what I may think of Bill Cosby or any of the other artists on this list now, I include their albums because they influenced me then. The Himself LP was released by Motown Records in December 1982, but my college buddies and I first became aware of it thanks to the film version from 20th Century Fox, which came out in May '83. We didn't see it in the theater, and we watched it multiple times, so I'm guessing it was on HBO, which my three sophomore roommates and I subscribed to as soon as we moved into our own apartment in the fall of '83. I think my housemate Mikey had the audio cassette during my senior year, too. Consequently, all the routines made a comeback in my life in '85-86. When I was in college, I didn't really care if a comedian's material was clean or not, but even Cosby's edgiest stuff was pretty mild, and I appreciate that in retrospect as a middle-aged dad. Obviously, events in his life since then have cast a heavy shadow over him, but the routines have stuck with me, especially signature lines like these: "Dad is great ... give us chocolate cake!" "My kids think my mother is the most wonderful person in the whole word, and I keep telling them, 'That is not the same woman I grew up with.'" "Come here, uh ... uh, Roy, uh, Roquefort, uh, Rutabaga ... what is your name, boy?" and "I am just sick ... and tired." Himself was Cosby's 18th comedy album and went to #64 on the Billboard 200. He had nine gold and/or platinum comedy albums over the course of his career, including three that hit the Top 10. The highest-charting one was Revenge, which hit #2 in 1967 and was kept out of the top spot by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass and their album Sounds Like .... Believe it or not, that same year, Cosby also had a musical hit single, "Little Ole Man (Uptight-Everything's Alright)," which went all the way to #4. However, none of his other singles reached the Top 40.
731. Mike + The Mechanics - Mike + The Mechanics
When I heard Genesis bassist/guitarist Mike Rutherford had a new spinoff group called Mike and The Mechanics, my initial reaction was "OK, whatever." However, their eponymous debut LP, released in October 1985, was full of surprises. The first single, "Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)," was a smash, hitting #6 on the pop chart and topping the rock chart for five weeks. The second single, "All I Need Is a Miracle" did even better on the pop chart (#5 pop, #6 rock). The third single, "Taken In," also hit the pop Top 40 (#32) but was not a rock hit. Interestingly, all three singles peaked at #7 on the adult contemporary chart. For all that, the album only went to #26 and sold half a million copies. Afterward, Mike + The Mechanics had just one more Top 40 pop hit, but it was their biggest: "The Living Years," the title track from the group's second LP, topped both the pop and the AC charts in '89 while still hitting #5 on the rock chart. Ironically, that wasn't the first single. "Nobody's Perfect" was, and it missed the pop Top 40 (#63), although it hit #3 on the rock chart. A third single, "Seeing Is Believing did OK (#62 pop, #18 rock), but the band's popularity was waning. The album charted higher than its predecessor (#13) but spent less time on the Billboard 200 and also sold only half a million copies. Their next one, Word of Mouth, stalled at #107 and none of their 11 subsequent albums (six original releases and five compilations) hit the chart. Mike + The Mechanics had two excellent singers, both named Paul — Paul Carrack, whom pop listeners had already heard on Ace's '75 hit "Hot Long" (#3 pop) and Squeeze's '81 hit "Tempted" (#47 pop, #8 rock), and Paul Young (no, not the "Everytime You Go Away" guy). Carrack sang "Silent Running" and "The Living Years," while Young sang "All I Need Is a Miracle," "Taken In," and "Nobody's Perfect." I used to enjoy singing "Silent Running" at ApX sound checks ("Can you hear me ... can you hear me singing?"), and ApologetiX eventually spoofed "All I Need Is a Miracle," in 2021.
732. St. Elmo's Fire - Music from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
St. Elmo's Fire was probably my second-favorite movie in college, after The Breakfast Club. It came out in the theaters in late June 1985, but I didn't see it until several months later, while in the midst of my senior year at IUP. Knowing that I'd be graduating soon myself, I really identified with the characters, who were struggling to adjust to grown-up life after exiting academia. I remember telling my roommate at the time, Lance Craig, "That movie changed my life." Pretty soon I was saying that about almost every movie I saw that year. It became a running joke (that I probably thought was funnier than Lance did). But I did specifically refer to St. Elmo's Fire frequently when I'd tell him, "It's our time on the edge." I had to stay for the summer after senior year to complete an internship, so Lance and I moved from the house where we'd resided for two years into a new apartment with another friend, Scott Cronin. The people who'd lived there before us had left behind a large poster from the movie that said "Rob Lowe as Billy Hicks," featuring Mr. Lowe leaning on his saxophone and smoking a cigarette. We soon set about desecrating it, cutting out the spaces where his eyes had been and sticking aluminum foil behind them so he looked like Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell, the guy with the god complex in from the third Star Trek episode, "Where No Man Has Gone Before." We may have blackened his teeth, too. I can neither confirm nor deny that. Of course, long before I saw the St. Elmo's Fire movie, I heard the single released to promote it, "St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion)" by John Parr (#1 pop, #2 rock, #16 adult contemporary). I collected #1 records, so I bought the 45, but I liked it so much that I would have gotten it anyway. I'd also enjoyed (and taped) Parr's previous hit, "Naughty Naughty" (#23 pop, #6 rock). The second single from the soundtrack, the instrumental "Love Theme from St. Elmo's Fire," by David Foster, was a fair-sized hit, too (#15 pop, #3 AC). I think it's a wonderful piece of music, but it brings back so many great memories from the movie that I'll never know for sure how much I would have appreciated it on its own. A few other notable artists contributed songs to the soundtrack, including Billy Squier ("Shakedown"), Jon Anderson of Yes ("This Time It Was Really Right"), and Fee Waybill of The Tubes ("Saved My Life"). None of those songs charted; I don't think they were ever released as singles. ApologetiX spoofed "St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion)" in 2021. Don't hold your breath waiting for us to do a parody of "Love Theme from St. Elmo's Fire" ... songs without lyrics are a lot harder to spoof.
733. Beach Boys Concert - The Beach Boys
Released in October 1964, Beach Boys Concert was the first live LP for the group. It was also their first album to top the Billboard 200, doing so for four weeks in December '64. Their only other #1 album would be the Endless Summer compilation 10 years later. I bought Beach Boys Concert at a discount price in 1978 as a birthday gift for one of my neighborhood friends. Recorded on August 1, 1964, the concert took place in California, as you might expect, but in Sacramento, a city located about 100 miles away from the Pacific Ocean. Despite the lack of local beaches, that area was a hotspot for The Beach Boys — a place where they were enormously popular and played three times a year. And you can hear the hysteria in the screaming crowds, although there were only five actual Beach Boys songs represented: "I Get Around" (#1), "Fun, Fun, Fun" (#5), "Little Deuce Coupe" (#15), "In My Room" (#23), and "Hawaii" (which wasn't released as a single but was one of my favorite Beach Boys tunes). Most of the songs on The Beach Boys Concert were cover versions of other artists. There were big hits like "Monster Mash" by Bobby "Boris" Pickett (#1), "The Wanderer" by Dion (#2), "The Little Old Lady from Pasadena" by Jan & Dan (#3), and "Johnny B. Goode" by Chuck Berry (#8), plus lesser hits like "Graduation Day" by The Four Freshman (#17), "Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow" by The Rivingtons (#48), "Long Tall Texan" by Murry Kellum (#51), and "Let's Go Trippin" by Dick Dale (#60). The quality of the performances and overall sound was surprisingly good. The group did some overdubs in the studio, but that's not unusual for a live album. ApologetiX spoofed "Fun, Fun, Fun" in 1998 and "Little Deuce Coupe" in 2019.
734. Please - Pet Shop Boys
When "West End Girls" topped the U.S. pop chart in May 1986 (having already done the same on the U.K. pop chart in late '85), I bought it sound unheard (I presume that's the audio equivalent of "sight unseen"), because I collected #1 records. I didn't have high hopes for a group with a name like "Pet Shop Boys," but I was in for a very pleasant surprise. What a great tune! I wasn't as impressed with the follow-up single, "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)," but it went to #10 and sure had a way of sticking in your head, so I eventually bought that one, too. Both of those songs came from the duo's debut album, Please, as did their next two singles, "Love Comes Quickly" (#62) and "Suburbia" (#70). I didn't pay as much attention to them, but I did buy the first single from Pet Shop Boys' next album, Actually, as soon as I saw it on the record racks. "It's a Sin" went to #9 on the U.S. pop chart (and #1 on the U.K. chart), but it was the second single, "What Have I Done to Deserve This?" (a #2 hit duet with Dusty Springfield), that totally captivated me. Even 35 years later, I'm still not tired of it. Pet Shop Boys would only have two more U.S. Top 40 singles, although both hit the Top 20 — "Always On My Mind" (#4 U.S., #1 U.K.) and "Domino Dancing" (#18). Across the pond in their native England, however, they became the most successful duo in U.K. music history, with 42 Top 30 singles, including 22 Top 10 hits. I guess they weren't kidding with that "Let's Make Lots of Money" thing. ApologetiX spoofed "West End Girls" in 2021.
735. Desolation Boulevard (U.S. Version) - Sweet
Although the original U.K. version of Desolation Boulevard was released in November 1974, the U.S. version came out in July '75. It went to #25 here and sold half a million copies, thanks to two rockin' tracks that were huge hits on both sides of the pond — "Ballroom Blitz" (also called "The Ballroom Blitz" ... just as Sweet are also called The Sweet) and "Fox On the Run." Both songs hit #5 in the U.S. and #2 in the U.K., although "Ballroom Blitz" wasn't included on the U.K. edition of Desolation Boulevard. I first heard "Ballroom Blitz" on the radio during a sleepover at my classmate Brian Laurich's house in sixth grade, but I didn't hear "Fox On the Run" until freshman year in college. Even so, each of those songs had me at "hello." I felt the same way back in '73 when I heard Sweet's highest-charting U.S. hit, "Little Willy" (#3 U.S., #4 U.K.). Both "Fox on the Run" and "Little Willy" were million-selling singles, and I eventually owned a copy of each on 45. I also liked Sweet's other U.S. Top 10 hit, "Love Is Like Oxygen" (#8 U.S., #9 U.K.), which came out in '78. While I was in college, Tom Dellaquila introduced me to the band's forgotten hit "Action" (#20 U.S., #15 U.K.) from '76. That's another cool tune. Years later, I bought the 1992 compilation The Best of Sweet, which had all five of those songs, plus other big U.K.-only hits like "Blockbuster" (#1 U.K., #73 U.S.), "Teenage Rampage" (#2 U.K.), "Wig-Wam Bam" (#4 U.K.), and "The Six Teens" (#9 U.K.). The U.K. edition of Desolation Boulevard featured "The Six Teens" as the first track on side one. The U.S. edition kicked off with "Ballroom Blitz," bumping "The Six Teens" to track two. I'm particularly fond of "Blockbuster" (although it's extremely corny) and "Teenage Rampage." For some reason, The Very Best of Sweet didn't include the group's other two British Top 10 hits, "Co-Co" (#2 U.K., #99 U.S.) and "Hellraiser" (#2 U.K.). The background photo on the front cover of Desolation Boulevard was shot on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood CA. ApologetiX released a parody of "Ballroom Blitz" in 2013. I'd love to spoof any or all of their other three U.S. Top hits, too, someday. That would be Sweet.
736. Wide Awake in America - U2
Wide Awake in America was four-song EP especially made for North America and Japan and released in May 1985. It featured live performances of two songs from the group's previous LP, The Unforgettable Fire ("Bad" and "A Sort of Homecoming") plus two songs previously only available as B-sides of U.K. singles ("The Three Sunrises" and "Love Comes Tumbling"). Even though it presented relatively slim pickings and only went to #37, Wide Awake in America still sold a million copies, one of which was my store-bought cassette. Our local rock station played "Three Sunrises" quite a bit, and it went to #16 on the Billboard rock chart early that summer. The live version of "Bad" also went to #19 on the rock chart late that summer, bolstered by the band's iconic performance of it at Live Aid in July. It would be the last we'd hear from U2 until The Joshua Tree came out a year and a half later.
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.