Influential Albums: 793-799
Sat., Jul. 16. 2022 12:33am 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.
793. Heaven on Earth - Belinda Carlisle
Many fans of 80's music may not realize that Belinda Carlisle had more Top 40 hits (six vs. five) and Top 10 hits (four vs, two) in her solo career than she did as lead singer with The Go-Go's. Her second album, Heaven on Earth, had three of them: "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" (#1 U.S., #1 U.K.), "I Get Weak" (#3 U.S., #10 U.K.), and "Circle in the Sand" (#7 U.S., #4 U.K.). A fourth single, "I Feel Free," only went to #88 (U.S. only), but that's higher than the original version by Cream, which went to #116 in 1967. I'm glad she chose to cover it, although I still prefer theirs. Released in October 1987, Heaven on Earth went to #13 on the Billboard 200 and sold a million copies in the United States and 900,000 in the United Kingdom, where it reached #4. Two other songs from Heaven and Earth were released as singles in the U.K.: "World Without You" (#34) and "Love Never Dies" (#54). I bought the 45 of "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" even before it hit #1. On the credits for the album, it says "Belinda Carlisle - lead vocals, backing vocals, air guitar." I love that. Belinda's other big U.S. hits were "Mad About You" (#3 U.S., #67 U.K.) and "Leave a Light On" (#11 U.S., #4 U.K.). She had three more U.K. Top 10 hits in the 90's: "(We Want) The Same Thing" (#6), "In Too Deep" (#6), and "Always Breaking My Heart" (#8). Even though her famous band took an extended vacation, she stayed on the go-go, releasing six solo LPs between 1986-96, plus two more in 2007 and 2017.
794. Permanent Vacation- Aerosmith
For the first half of the '80s, it looked like Aereosmith's career was headed for (if not already on) a permanent vacation. Then Run-DMC's remake of "Walk This Way" — with guest appearances by Steven Tyler and Joe Perry — became a million-selling #4 hit in the fall of '86. But even after that, who could have imagined that the Boston-based band's next album would not only restore their '70s superstar status but take them to a whole new level? Yet here we are. Released in late August 1987, Permanent Vacation rose to #11 on the Billboard 200 on the strength of three smash singles: "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)" (#14 pop, #4 rock), "Rag Doll" (#17 pop, #12 rock), and "Angel" (#3 pop, #2 rock). I liked them all. Two other tracks hit the rock charts: "Hangman Jury" (#14 rock) and "Magic Touch" (#42 rock). Permanent Vacation went on to sell 5 million copies, making it Aerosmith's second biggest-selling album to date at the time, after Toys in the Attic. ApologetiX spoofed "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)" in 2011.
795. Still Crazy After All These Years - Paul Simon
Released in October 1975, Still Crazy After All These Years produced four Top 40 singles, although only two of them made it onto Paul Simon's Greatest Hits, Etc. album four years later — "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" (#1) and "Still Crazy After All These Years" (#40 pop, #5 adult contemporary). Ironically, those were the final two singles of the batch. The first two were duets — "Gone at Last" with Phoebe Snow and The Jessy Dixon Singers (#23 pop, #9 AC) and "My Little Town" with a fellow named Art Garfunkel (#9 pop, #1 AC). Seeing as it was the first new Simon & Garfunkel studio single in five years, "My Little Town" appeared on both this album and Garfunkel's new LP at the time, Breakaway, which was released the same month. Two other songs from Still Crazy After All These Years made it onto Greatest Hits, Etc.: "Have a Good Time" and "I Do It for Your Love." Those are fine songs, but "My Little Town" and "Gone at Last" are a lot catchier, and I wish they would have at least put "Gone at Last" on Greatest Hits, Etc. Maybe since it was Simon's first solo greatest hits album, they wanted to emphasize the "solo" part. Still Crazy After All These Years topped the Billboard album chart and won the Grammy for Album of the Year but only sold half a million copies. I picked up a copy sometime in college, most likely in the "used" bin at Backstreet Records in Indiana PA.
796. Can't Buy a Thrill - Steely Dan
Steely Dan's debut LP came out in November 1972, and the band hit the ground running with two of their biggest hits, "Do It Again" (#6) and "Reelin' in the Years" (#11). Can't Buy a Thrill went to #17 on the Billboard album chart and sold a million copies. Its third best-known track is the FM radio classic "Dirty Work," although a lot of people don't realize that's a Steely Dan song, because the main vocals are sung by the band's original lead singer, David Palmer. He also sings lead on "Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me)" and doubles Donald Fagen's high parts on "Reelin' in the Years," "Only a Fool Would Say That," and "Change of the Guard." Initially, Palmer sang lead on most of the band's songs when they played live (Fagen wasn't a big fan of his own voice), but he didn't stay long with Steely, although he provided backing vocals on their second album, Countdown to Ecstasy. I owned Aja and Greatest Hits in high school but didn't buy Can't Buy a Thrill until many years later. I like all of the aforementioned tracks, hits and non-hits alike. Two other favorites for me are "Kings" and "Midnite Cruiser." The title of the album was borrowed from the opening line of Bob Dylan's 1965 song " It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry," which says, "Well, I ride on a mail-train, baby — can't buy a thrill." ApologetiX spoofed "Reelin' in the Years" in 2014.
797. Nebraska - Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen's critically acclaimed sixth LP, Nebraska, came out in September 1982. Although it went to #3 on the Billboard 200, some of that success surely stemmed from residual goodwill generated by his previous album, The River, which had gone to #1 two years earlier. Nebraska wasn't exactly the feel-good party platter of the year ... there were no hits like "Hungry Heart" ... no hits at all, in fact. It was a bleak, stripped-down, solo effort, recorded on a four-track cassette recorder, released seven years before the debut of MTV Unplugged. It opens with the title track, sung from the perspective of infamous spree killer Charles Starkweather, who shocked the nation by murdering 11 people in the winter of 1957-58. Nobody was going to be dancing in the dark to that song or any other on Nebraska, although the eighth track, "Open All Night," has a little pep to it. I remember my college buddy Tom Dellaquila buying this album soon after it came out, but there was never a line of people outside his dorm room waiting to borrow it. In fact, when I finally got around to listening to the record and taping some selections in 1984, I think I borrowed my co-worker Drew Vosefski's copy. He was the only other person I knew who owned it at the time. My favorite tracks were "Atlantic City and "Johnny 99." ApologetiX has spoofed Springsteen four times, but nothing from Nebraska. We did however, put out our own acoustic album, Apol-acoustiX, in 2005.
798. Conspicuous Only in Its Absence - The Great Society
The Great Society is best known for being the band Grace Slick sang (and played piano, organ, guitar, bass and recorder) for before joining The Jefferson Airplane. Other members included her first husband, Jerry Slick, on drums, and her brother-in-law, Darby Slick, on lead guitar, plus David Milner on bass. Released in March 1968, Conspicuous Only in Its Absence, was a live LP recorded in San Francisco in '66. I presume it was released in hopes of capitalizing on Grace's success with her new band — to make some Benjamins off the Jefferson — but it only went to #166. I was given a copy of this record by my brother-in-law Dan in his massive album dump in January '83, but I was already familiar with some of the tracks, thanks to my hippy friend down the hall at college, Rich Cade. Conspicuous Only Its Absence includes meandering early versions of the '67 Jefferson Airplane Top 10 hits "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit." Grace wrote "White Rabbit," but Darby wrote "Somebody to Love." If you liked the Airplane versions, you'd probably continue to prefer them, as do I. Pardon the pun, but they're a lot more slick ... despite featuring two fewer Slicks. I always thought Conspicuous Only Its Absence was a great title, though. The main track I liked was "Sally Go 'Round the Roses," which was the only single released from the album. It failed to chart, but I found out shortly thereafter that it was actually a remake of a #2 hit from '63 by The Jaynetts. Once I heard the original later in college, it became one of my favorite pre-Beatles singles of the '60s. I never get tired of that tune. In fact, I need to hurry up and finish this entry, so I can go listen to it again.
799. Mr. Jaws and Other Fables - Dickie Goodman
Dickie Goodman built a comedic career bolstered by novelty "break-in" records, in which a fictitious reporter would ask questions and the people (or sharks, aliens, monsters, etc.) he interviewed would "answer" with sampled lines from pop hits of the time. I owned three Dickie Goodman 45's growing up: "Mr. Jaws" (#1 Cash Box, #1 Record World, #4 Billboard), "Energy Crisis '74" (#29 Record World, #33 Billboard, #37 Cash Box), and "Energy Crisis '79" (#75 Cash Box, #92 Record World, did not chart on Billboard). I have them as MP3s now, and my kids love them, even though they barely know any of the original songs the sound snippets came from. Goodman's sole charting album was Mr. Jaws and Other Fables, which never made it past the deep waters of the Billboard 200 (#144). It included "Mr. Jaws" and "Energy Crisis '74," along with a number of novelty hits Goodman had released in years past (starting in 1956): "The Flying Saucer" (#3), "Flying Saucer the Second" (#18), "Santa and the Satellite" (#32), "The Touchables" (#60), and "The Touchables in Brooklyn" (#42). It also featured "Superfly Meets Shaft" (#31), which Goodman produced for John & Ernest. All told, Goodman had a dozen solo Hot 100 hits and three that bubbled under, plus four other Hot 100 hits with Bill Buchanan as "Buchanan & Goodman."
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.