Influential Albums: 779-785
Sat., Jul. 2. 2022 12:28am 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.
779. Super Bubble - Various Artists
Hubba Bubba! I can't remember where this collection of bubblegum pop came from or where it ended up, but it passed through my hands at some point in college, and the songs still stick in my mind. Released in 1977, Super Bubble was a three-record (or two-eight track), 30-song set made by Warner Special Products on the Lake Shore Music label. I had most of the music already, but these were the tunes I still needed at the time: "Hitchin' a Ride" by Vanity Faire (#3 Record World, #4 Cash Box, #5 Billboard), "Tracy" by The Cuff Links (#4 Record World, #5 Cash Box, #9 Billboard), "Indian Giver" by 1910 Fruitgum Company (#3 Record World, #4 Cash Box, #5 Billboard), "Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'" by Crazy Elephant (#4 Record World, #6 Cash Box, #12 Billboard), "Smile a Little Smile for Me" by Flying Machine (#4 Record World, #5 Cash Box, #5 Billboard), "Baby Now That I've Found You" by The Foundations (#8 Cash Box, #9 Record World, #11 Billboard), "My Baby Loves Lovin" by White Plains (#10 Cash Box, #13 Billboard, #18 Record World), and two by Bobby Sherman — "Little Woman" (#1 Cash Box, #2 Record World, #3 Billboard) and "Julie, Do Ya Love Me" (#1 Record World, #3 Cash Box, #5 Billboard). I enjoyed every single one of them and found them to be bubblicious. Bubble yum! For a complete track listing, go to: https://www.discogs.com/release/6820150-Various-SuperBubble
780. There Goes Rhymin' Simon - Paul Simon
I first learned of this record's existence in the January 1977 issue of the Scholastic magazine Bananas. It was listed among their Top 10 rock-and-roll albums of all time. I was only in seventh grade and didn't know much about such, but I knew who Paul Simon was and liked the title. Two years later, I bought his Greatest Hits, Etc. album, but I eventually obtained a used copy of There Goes Rhymin' Simon, when I was in college. Released in May 1973, it contained a couple of #2 hits, "Kodachrome" and "Loves Me Like a Rock," both of which I remember from my childhood, although I didn't know their names back then. The album itself also went to #2, selling a million copies, and its third single, "American Tune," hit the Top 40 (#35), too. All three of those songs made it onto Greatest Hits, Etc. (although the version of "American Tune" was from the subsequent concert LP, Live Rhymin') as did two others, "Take Me to the Mardi Gras" (#7 U.K.) and "Something So Right" (#10 Australia). Among the other five tracks, I favor "St. Judy's Comet" (a #9 hit in France) and "Learn How to Fall." One of the very first biblical parodies I ever wrote was a spoof of "Kodachrome" that listed the 27 books of the New Testament in order. ApologetiX has never done a proper version but we included a primitive recording of it from the early 90's on a digital-only collection of rarities called Rare Not Well Done in 2007. I also used to sing a slightly modified rendition of "Loves Me Like a Rock" at Bible studies in the days before ApologetiX.
781. Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out) - The Hombres
I think I owned a used copy of this album in college ... unless I borrowed it from my old roommate Tom Dellaquila. I can't remember where I got it, but I remember why: the terrific title track, which went to #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1967 but reached the Top 10 on the other two charts (#7 Cash Box, #6 Record World). I'd first come across it on a 60's compilation owned by my next-door neighbors, the Davises, while I was babysitting their kids. The song sounds a little like what would have happened if Bob Dylan had written lyrics and sung for a garage band, as does the follow-up single, "It's a Gas" (#98 Cash Box, #105 Record World, #113 Billboard). Those two singles opened and closed the album (and The Hombres' chart career), respectively. Not surprisingly, the former was much better than the latter. John Mellencamp did a remake of "Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out)" on his Big Daddy album in 1989, and it reached #42 hit on the rock chart. David Lee Roth also covered the tune in 2003. Both Mellencamp and Roth were born and raised in the state of Indiana (Roth moved to California while in his teens), but The Hombres hailed from Memphis TN. The Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out) LP went to #180 and was only on the chart for four weeks. Ah ... but what a song that single was!
782. Songs of Leonard Cohen - Leonard Cohen
Critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen is probably best known for his 1984 song "Hallelujah," famously redone by John Cale in the movie Shrek in 2001 (but performed by Rufus Wainwright on the soundtrack album) and countless others, both famous and obscure. There are at least 300 known versions, including charting covers by Wainwright (#61 pop), Jeff Buckley (#1 U.S. digital songs, #2 U.K. pop), k.d. lang (#2 Canada, #61 U.S. pop), Alexandra Burke (#1 U.K.), Pentatonix (#23 U.S. pop), Justin Timberlake and Matt Morris featuring Charlie Sexton (#13 U.S. pop), and Matthew Schuler (#40 U.S. pop). Cohen's original version did not chart until late 2016, shortly after his death. It would be his only charting single in the United States (#56 pop, #20 rock). Even in his native Canada, "Halleljuah" was Cohen's only Top 40 hit (#17). However, like Jerry Lewis, his genius was more readily recognized in France, where "Hallelujah" went to #1. HIs first single, "Suzanne," originally released in 1968 (although Judy Collins and Noel Harrison had already covered it in 1966 and '67, respectively), went to #3 there, too, but not until 2016. The original flip side of Cohen's "Suzanne" single, "So Long, Marianne," became another of Cohen's best known songs and has been covered by artists as diverse as Beck and Suzanne Vega. The album from whence those two songs came, Songs of Leonard Cohen — his debut LP — went to #83 in 1969 and sold half a million copies. My sister Gayle obtained a copy and played it for me when I was a teenager. I particularly remember the song "Suzanne," because I thought it sounded like a dirge and that Cohen's voice bordered on a monotone. Nevertheless, it was fun to imitate. I teased her mercilessly, and it became a running joke with us for years afterward. Actually, I sorely misjudged the man. In retrospect, that song and the entire album are quite melodic and Cohen is a brilliant poet. But he didn't need any accolades from me anyway; he's since been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. A third song from the album, "Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye," has been covered by many artists, such as Judy Collins, Roberta Flack, and The Vogues. Two other notable tracks from Songs of Leonard Cohen are "Sisters of Mercy" and "The Stranger Song." I bought a digital copy of the album decades later. In my opinion, the most ear-pleasing numbers are probably "Suzanne," "Sisters of Mercy," and "So Long, Marianne." In an effort to make up for my early mockery, I gave Gayle two Leonard Cohen items as Christmas gifts: In 2011, I bought her a DVD of the documentary Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man, and in 2016, I bought her the 2-CD set, The Essential Leonard Cohen. Who says baby brothers will always be brats?
783. Bombs Away Dream Babies - John Stewart
John Stewart's Bombs Away Dream Babies LP came out in May 1979, and I'm pretty sure my brother-in-law Bob had a copy of it and at least one of Stewart's other albums. The first single, "Gold," peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100, but it went to #1 for two weeks on the Radio & Records chart, which strictly monitored national airplay without factoring in sales. That explains why the song seemed impossible to avoid in the summer of '79. Ironically, the single didn't go gold, and neither did its parent album, despite the fact that it yielded two other Top 40 singles, "Midnight Wind" (#28) and "Lost Her in the Sun" (#34 pop, #18 adult contemporary). I remember all three fondly. "Gold" and "Midnight Wind" had a semi-ominous sound, but the rest of the album was pretty pleasant and upbeat or at least bittersweet like "Lost Her in the Sun." Unfortunately, John Stewart would never again hit the Hot 100 as a solo artist. He first found fame as a replacement member of The Kingston Trio (1961-67) after co-founder Dave Guard left. During Stewart's tenue, the group had the big hits "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" (#21 pop, #4 AC), "Greenback Dollar" (#21 pop, #6 AC), and "Reverend Mr. Black" (#8 pop). The year he left The Kingston Trio, his composition "Daydream Believer" became a #1 hit for The Monkees. ApologetiX spoofed that song in 2021. Bombs Away Dream Babies was Stewart's 10th solo LP and the sixth of seven to hit the Billboard 200 ... but the only one to reach the Top 10 (#10). In fact, just one of his other albums even made the Top 100, the 1980 sequel, Dream Babies Go Hollywood (#85). Although he was long past the Kingston Trio in 1979, Stewart did benefit from the participation of two notable members of another famous group, Fleetwood Mac — Stevie Nicks (vocals) and Lindsey Buckingham (vocals, guitar, and co-production) — on Bombs Away Dream Babies. Stewart's brother Michael (a.k.a. Mike) was the co-founder of and guitarist for the popular folk group We Five, famous for the hit "You Were On My Mind" (#3 pop, #1 AC). He also produced Billy Joel's Piano Man album.
784. Eddie and the Cruisers Soundtrack - John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band
Here's something you don't see very often: The record company releases two singles from an album, and neither makes much of an impact on the charts. Then, about a year later, they rerelease those singles, and both become hits. That's exactly what happened with the Eddie and the Cruisers soundtrack. "On the Dark Side" went to #64 in November 19, 1983 when credited to Eddie and the Cruisers. Reissued under the real band's name, John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, it went to #7 on October 27, 1984. The follow-up, "Tender Years," stalled at #78 on February 18, 1984, but after "On the Dark Side" became a hit, a reissued "Tender Years" went to #31 on January 12, 1985. Both songs did even better on the rock chart, after failing the first time around: "On the Dark Side" went to #1 for five weeks, and "Tender Years" went to #10. What changed? Well, for one thing, the Eddie and the Cruisers movie, which had flopped at the box office (although some of my college buddies went to see it), became a hit on HBO. But I think the secondary success of the songs had even more to do with the incredible popularity of Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA album, which came out in June 1984 and catapulted the Boss to new levels of superstardom. When I first heard "On the Dark Side," I thought it was a Springsteen tune, although it sounded more like it came from Born to Run (it especially reminded me of the song "She's the One") than Born in the USA I'm sure the sonic similarity was not lost on record executives or radio programmers. The Eddie and the Cruisers soundtrack eventually went to #9 and sold four million copies. John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band were able to parlay their newfound popularity into a second Top 40 LP, Tough All Over, in the summer of '85. That album contained four reasonably successful singles, "Tough All Over" (#22 pop, #1 rock), "C-I-T-Y" (#18 pop, #9 rock), "Small Town Girl" (#64 pop), and "Voice of America's Sons") (#62 pop), which all seemed to echo the sentiments of Springsteen's songs. The group only had two more Hot 100 hits after that, both from soundtracks: "Heart's on Fire" (#76 pop) from Rocky IV and "Pride and Passion" (#66 pop) from Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives! My two favorite Cafferty cuts were "On the Dark Side" and "C-I-T-Y." I even bought the latter one on a 45.
785. Arena - Duran Duran
Arena is an 80's album you'd probably forgot about ... yet it sold two million copies in the United States and about three million copies worldwide. Released in November 1984, it featured 10 tracks — nine live versions of established Duran Duran songs plus one brand-new studio single, "The Wild Boys." The first few times I heard that tune, I thought it was simply awful, but one day something clicked, and I decided it was exquisitely awful. Seriously, "The Wild Boys" became one of my favorite songs and eventually went to #2 for four weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the Cash Box chart for two weeks. A second single, "Save a Prayer," was released in conjunction with Arena, although the live version was relegated to the B-side, with the studio version on the A-side. The song had already gone to #2 in the U.K. in '82 and went to #16 in the U.S. in January '85. I enjoyed that tune a lot, too. The Arena LP reached #4 on the Billboard 200. The band's next release was a standalone single, "A View to a Kill," from the James Bond movie of the same name, and it became their second U.S. #1 hit. I liked that one instantly and had the 45s for both "The Wild Boys" and "A View to a Kill." I even went to see A View to a Kill in the movie theater. Although the title song was not on Arena, the band did perform it live at Live Aid in the summer of '85. Lead singer Simon Le Bon's voice hit a terrible note near the very end: "That fatal kiss is all we neeEEEED." Oh, man, I felt terrible for the guy! Years later, ApX alum keyboardist Bill Hubauer and I bonded over that moment, which we both remembered vividly from the original TV broadcast. We were disappointed to find that it was not included on the four-disc Live Aid DVD set I bought him for Christmas in 2004 ... but it's still out there on YouTube. I watched it again as I was writing this entry. As a singer, I can identify with poor Simon. He'd probably been touring a lot, and he might not have been able to hear himself in the monitors. You can hear things feeding back as he sings. Been there, done that.
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.