Influential Albums: 821-827
Sat., Aug. 13. 2022 3:05pm 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.
821. 20 Years of Dirt: The Best of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Among the many 45's I inherited from my sisters, one of my favorites was "Mr. Bojangles" by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, which hit #9 in 1971. The Southern California-based country-folk-rock band wouldn't have another Top 40 hit until early 1980, when "An American Dream" (with backing vocals by Linda Ronstadt) went to #13. By that time, they had shortened their name to The Dirt Band. Later that year, they hit the Top 40 again (#25) with "Make a Little Magic." That tune featured backing vocals by Linda Ronstadt's pal Nicolette Larson, best remembered for her rendition of Neil Young's "Lotta Love," which was a huge hit in '79 (#8 pop, #1 adult contemporary). The group never hit the pop Top 40 again, but they put the "Nitty Gritty" back in their name and migrated to the country chart and had significant success there — 16 Top 10 hits, including three chart-toppers: "Long Hard Road (The Sharecropper's Dream), "Modern Day Romance," and my personal favorite, "Fishin' in the Dark." Released in 1986, 20 Years of Dirt didn't make the Billboard 200 but reached #10 on the country albums chart. It featured all three of their Top 40 pop hits, plus seven of their Top 10 county hits. Sadly, 20 Years of Dirt came out before "Fishin' in the Dark," so that one's not on there, but the instantly likable "High Horse" (#2) is. Thankfully, the album did include the long intro with "Uncle Charlie and his dog, Teddy" on "Mr. Bojangles." I love that part as much as the song itself.
822. Like a Rock - Bob Seger
Has anybody ever had more hits about growing old and looking back than Bob Seger? As if "Night Moves," "Rock and Roll Never Forgets," and "Against the Wind" weren't enough, he added "Like a Rock" (#12 pop, #1 rock) to the mix in '86. I really liked that song and bought the single before they turned it into a truck commercial. Maybe I'm a sucker for the phrase "like a rock," because I'm also a big fan of "Loves Me Like a Rock" by Paul Simon and "Love Is Like a Rock" by Donnie Iris. "Like a Rock" was actually the second single from Like a Rock; the first was "American Storm," which hit one notch lower on both of the charts (#13 pop, #2 rock). As a matter of fact, the album was originally supposed to be titled American Storm. Released in April '86, Like a Rock was Seger's 13th studio LP and his only one to feature a photo of the fabled Silver Bullet Band on the front cover. It went to #3 on the Billboard 200 and sold a million copies. The next two singles from Like a Rock missed the pop Top 40 but fared better on the rock chart: "It's You" (#52 pop, #8 rock) and "Miami" (#70 pop, #47 rock). A couple other cuts made the rock Top 40, too: "Tightrope" (#5 rock), "The Aftermath" (#9 rock), and a live cover version of the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic "Fortunate Son" (#9 rock). Not too shabby for a guy who was always singing about getting old. Incidentally, he was just about to turn 41 when this record came out.
823. Call of the West - Wall of Voodoo
During Christmas break of my freshman year in college (1982-83), I heard a song that would change my life ... for a few weeks, at least ... "Mexican Radio" by the Los Angeles new-wave group Wall of Voodoo. I'd first seen the name of that group the previous fall on a poster for a Halloween concert by Devo. Wall of Voodoo was the opening act, and the concert was to be broadcast in 3-D (billed as 3-DEVO) to college campuses across America. "Mexican Radio" had actually first entered the rock chart in late September '82, eventually reaching #41, but it didn't hit the Hot 100 until mid-March '83. Sometime between those two occurrences, I rushed out bought the 45 (with a picture sleeve featuring barbecued iguana, as mentioned in the lyrics), and if only Billboard magazine had counted the number of times I played it on my turntable and on cassette recordings I'd made, surely it would have done better. As it was, "Mexican Radio" finally peaked at #58 on the U.S. pop chart at the end of April, although it did hit the Top 20 in Canada (#18). I also enjoyed the equally bizarre flip side, "Call of the West." In fact, that was the title track of the album those songs came from. Released in September '82, Call of the West was Wall of Voodoo's second LP and made it to #45 on the Billboard 200. Believe it or not, their first, Dark Continent, also charted (#177), without the benefit of an almost-hit. Sadly, the band never had another single or album hit the Billboard chart. They did a bit better in Australia, though, where "Mexican Radio" (#33) was the first of three Top 40 hits, along with "Far Side of Crazy" (#23 in '85) and "Do It Again" (#40 in '87).
824. Greatest Hits - Gilbert O'Sullivan
Irish singer-songwriter Gilbert O'Sullivan had quite a run on the U.K. charts between 1970-80, with 13 Top 20 hits, seven of which reached the Top 10. Here in the United States, he had just four Top 20 hits, but the two he released in '72 were massive: "Alone Again (Naturally)," which was #1 for six weeks, and "Claire," which was #2 for two weeks (and #1 in the UK), so you know I had to track those down eventually. Both songs also topped the adult contemporary chart, and they bring back memories of my childhood. I wouldn't discover his other two until after I was in college, but I particularly enjoyed "Get Down" (#7 pop, #3 AC, #1 UK) and was delighted to be able to find and purchase it on 45 at a flea market in the summer of '86. Both "Claire" and "Get Down" have surprising plot twists in the lyrics. My old roommate Tom Dellaquila made me a mix tape with O'Sullivan's remaining U.S. Top 20 hit, "Out of the Question" (#17 pop, #2 AC), which didn't chart across the pond. He had one last U.S. Top 40 hit, the disco-inferno-esque "Ooh Baby" (#25 pop, #29 AC, #18 UK), and three additional Top 25 AC singles: "Happiness Is Me and You" (#62 pop, #23 AC, #19 UK), "You Are You" (#17 AC, did not chart in the UK), and "What's in a Kiss" (#13 AC, #19 UK). Greatest Hits was released in 1976 and features all five of his U.S. Top 40 hits and all seven of his U.K. Top 10 hits, including his debut single, "Nothing Rhymed" (#8 U.K.), which bubbled under on the U.S. charts at #114.
825. K-Tel's Sound Waves - Various Artists
Released in 1980, K-Tel's Sound Waves had 15 tracks, but I remember it primarily for "Tired of Toein' the Line" by Rocky Burnette (#8), "Steal Away" by Robbie Dupree (#6), and "Cupid/I've Loved You for a Long Time" by The Spinners (#4). I think my neighbors the Davis girls had this record. It featured three #1 pop hits, "Upside Down" by Diana Ross, "Funkytown" by Lipps Inc., and "Do That to Me One More Time" by Captain & Tennille, plus two #1 adult contemporary hits, "Lost in Love" by Air Supply (#3 pop) and "Let Me Love You Tonight" by Pure Prairie League (#10 pop). It also included Prince's first Top 40 hit, "I Wanna Be Your Lover" (#11 pop). That song was a #1 R&B hit, as was another track, "Let's Get Serious" by Jermaine Jackson (#9 pop). Sound Waves closed with a couple tunes by one-hit wonders: "Take a Little Rhythm" by Ali Thomson (#15), younger brother of Supertramp bassist Dougie Thomson; and "Into the Night" by Benny Mardones (#11). I guess Mardones is technically a two-hit wonder; "Into the Night" was reissued in '89 and went to #20. For a complete track listing, go to:
826. K-Tel's Certified Gold - Various Artists
I borrowed this 1981 K-Tel collection from my neighborhood friend Jeff Henry. It was a double album, but the main attraction for me was "Ain't Even Done with the Night" by John Cougar (#17). I'd heard of the guy by then but had missed his three early hits before "Hurts So Good" and "Jack & Diane," and this was the last (and highest-charting) of them. Certified Gold contained a number of songs I've talked about in other entries, but it also featured one of my favorite pop hits from 1980, "Hod Rod Hearts" by Robbie Dupree (#15), his follow-up to "Steal Away." And who could forget "Shaddap You Face" by Joe Dolce? The Ohio native's sole chart entry only went to #53 in the States, but it topped the U.K. chart for three weeks! ApologetiX has spoofed five of the 24 tracks on Certified Gold: "Whip It" by Devo (#14) "Hold On Loosely" by .38 Special (#27), "Hit Me with Your Best Shot" by Pat Benatar (#9), "Brass in Pocket (I'm Special)" by The Pretenders (#14), and "I Was Made for Lovin' You" by Kiss (#11). For a complete track listing, go to
827. K-Tel's Neon Nights - Various Artists
I know a few people reading this list who would prefer I was reviewing "Neon Knights," a 1980 song by Black Sabbath. Sorry to disappoint you. K-Tel's Neon Nights came out two years later, and I didn't pick up a copy until four or five years after that. It doesn't feature any songs that sound anything close to "War Pigs," but it does have a song by War — "You Got the Power" (#66 pop, #18 R&B). I was mostly interested in "Super Freak" by Rick James (#16) and "Controversy" by Prince (#70). Both of those songs also hit #3 on the R&B chart. In fact, 10 of the 12 tracks on Neon Nights hit the R&B Top 10. There were a couple of earworms on this collection that I still sing snippets of: "Get Down On It" by Kool & The Gang (#10) and "Let It Whip" by The Dazz Band (#5). Neon Nights had a couple of #1 hits, too: "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)" by Daryl Hall and John Oates and "Don't You Want Me" by The Human League. ApologetiX has spoofed both of those. For a complete track listing, go to: https://hercsktelalbums.blogspot.com/2015/11/neon-nights-1982.html
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.