Influential Albums: 1038-1044
Fri., Mar. 17. 2023 9:30am 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:
1038. Some Kind of Wonderful - Mark Farner
Although I had enjoyed Mark Farner's first Christian LP, Just Another Justice, for some reason I never sought out his second, Wake Up. My buddy Andy Sparks bought his third, though, when it came out in 1991. I wound up liking it even more than Just Another Injustice. Like that album, Some Kind of Wonderful had a pretty even balance of rockers and ballads, but I felt it was a stronger and more consistent effort overall. Side one kicked off with a rocked-up version of the old Grand Funk hit "Some Kind of Wonderful," featuring lyrics altered slightly to reflect Mark's relationship with Christ. There were four other quality rockers — "Love from Above," "Attitude of Gratitude," "All the Way," and "Conflict" — and a mid-tempo make-you-think number called "Not Yet." Of the ballads, my favorite was a poignant song called "The Vision," although the warm, sweet-spirited "With Me Anywhere" and "Well Done" are also fine tunes. In the early days of ApologetiX, we used to perform this album's version of "Some Kind of Wonderful" in concert, and a recording of us doing that appeared on our very first homemade live cassette, Get Your Wigs, in June 1992. We did our own parody of the original with a new title and totally different lyrics in 2019.
1039. Electric - The Cult
A couple years after the break-up of my last secular band, Nice Piranha, my old bandmate and roommate Tom Dellaquila sent me a homemade cassette tape with a bunch of songs he thought I might enjoy. Included among them were two by British band The Cult — "Revolution," from their second LP, Love; and "Wild Flower," from their third LP, Electric. I was particularly taken with "Wild Flower" (#39 rock), which featured drums, bass, and rhythm guitars that reminded me of AC/DC, although Cult lead vocalist Ian Astbury had a vocal style all his own (in the 2000s, he even fronted a Doors "reunion" with two members of that group, Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger). I later discovered the biggest hit on Electric, "Love Removal Machine" (#15 rock), which I liked even better. It still had those AC/DC elements (the album's producer, Rick Rubin, who had produced The Beastie Boys' Licensed to IllLP the previous year, seemed to have a thing for the AC/DC sound), but guitarist Billy Duffy incorporated some classic Led Zeppelin-style leads and Astbury could wail like Zep's Robert Plant when the situation called for it. One other cut, "Lil' Devil," also hit the rock chart (#34). Those are probably the radio-friendliest tunes on Electric, although "Bad Fun" and "Outlaw" might have worked, too. There was also a cover of Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild." Another track I liked on the Love LP was "She Sells Sanctuary," and I know I'm not alone in that. Released in 1987, Electric was The Cult's first album to hit the Top 40 (#38) on the Billboard 200. Nevertheless, the group brought in Bob Rock to produce their next LP, Sonic Temple. Released in '89, it became an even bigger commercial success, making it the whole way to the Top 10. ApologetiX hasn't spoofed The Cult yet, but I'd like to.
1040. Extreme II: Pornograffiti - Extreme
Extreme's second LP came out in August 1990, and I seem to recall my old college roommate Lance owning it and playing some of the more rocking selections for us at some point. But the music didn't really connect with me until the following year, when "More Than Words" was released as the album's third single and became a huge hit (#1 pop, #12 rock). Karl loved that song and so did his cousin, who was getting married that summer. Consequently, he got me to learn it so the two of us could perform it at her wedding. Sound familiar? Well, this time around, the person we sang for actually knew about it in advance. Since we'd taken the time to learn the harmonies, I later wrote a parody, which we began performing with ApologetiX in '92. It made it onto our first album in '93 and we revised and rerecorded it in 2005. The other big hit on Extreme IIwas "Hole Hearted" (#4 pop, #2 rock). We jammed on that one in practice during our early days, too. I've fooled with some parody ideas for it but nothing I've liked enough to pursue thus far, although we used to like to sing, "There's a hole in my head that can only be filled by glue." That might be a little extreme for a Christian band. This article from 2021 gives more info on the story behind "Hole Hearted" and its lyricist, Extreme lead singer Gary Cherone: https://norselandsrock.com/hole-hearted-extreme. Of particular note is this passage: "The song is however not about a girl, or indeed romance, but about God. Cherone is a devout Christian, but when writing rock lyrics he does not make that obvious and is wary of taking a preaching stance in his songs. He has spoken with Christian publications where he is happy to make his beliefs more clear, and even quipped that he plagiarized some lyrics for 'Hole Hearted' from the Bible (e.g. Ecclesiastes 1:7 - 'All the streams flow into the sea yet the sea is never full").'"
1041. On Every Street - Dire Straits
One of my co-workers at Equitable was a sharp-witted guy named Bob Augustino, who had recently begun listening to a local adult-alternative FM-radio station and buying bunches of albums. He would come to my cubicle and tell me about interesting songs he'd heard on the radio, and sometimes he brought in cassettes he wanted me to hear. One of those was On Every Street, the sixth and final studio LP for Dire Straits — the long-awaited follow-up to the group's 1985 mega-platinum blockbuster, Brothers in Arms. Bob bought it soon after its release in September 1991. None of the songs hit the U.S. Hot 100, but three of them made into the mainstream rock Top 10, although I wasn't really listening to much secular radio at the time. The track that left the biggest impression on me back then was the tongue-in-cheek "Heavy Fuel" (#1 mainstream) a funny song that sounded more than a little like "Money for Nothing," and seemed to have a similar temperament. I think Bob was more into "Calling Elvis" (#3 mainstream). The third track that received a lot of airplay on rock stations was "The Bug" (#8 mainstream), which later became a country hit for Mary Chapin Carpenter (#16 country). Years later, I developed a renewed appreciation for Dire Straits and revisited this album. All three of those tunes were great. Other songs I enjoy are: "On Every Street," "When It Comes to You," "My Parties," and "How Long." Like a number of other artists of that era (including CCM maverick Steve Taylor) Dire Straits lyricist/guitarist/lead singer Mark Knopfler included a song that alluded to the hypocrisy of certain televangelists (without directly saying so or naming names), "Ticket to Heaven." It's beautifully played, cleverly written and — unlike some other such songs — doesn't come off as heavy-handed.
1042. Hymns to the Silence - Van Morrison
Bob Augustino made me a tape of this as a "thank you" gift for some store-bought cassette I'd given him after he'd expressed interest in an artist I've long since forgotten. Released in the fall of 1991, Hymns to the Silence was Van Morrison's 21st studio LP and first studio double-album. I played it a lot while I was doing other things — allowing myself to marinate in the music, I suppose — and it's one of those recordings where I never memorized all the titles but I recognize the songs as soon as they start playing. My favorite tracks were "Why Must I Always Explain?" and "So Complicated." Other standouts were "Professional Jealousy," "I'm Not Feeling It Anymore," "Village Idiot," "All Saints Day," "Carrying a Torch," and "Quality Street." Some of the tracks on Hymns to the Silence literally were hymns, most notably "See Me Through Pt. 2/Just a Closer Walk with Thee" and "Be Thou My Vision." Another great song in that vein was "By His Grace." I'll mention some earlier Morrison later on this list.
1043. Into the Great Wide Open - Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
This was yet another tape Bob Augustino shared with me. Into the Great Wide Open came out in July 2, 1991 — the day I turned 27. It was Petty's first official release with The Heartbreakers since April 1987, although all of the members except for drummer Stan Lynch had played on some part of his 1989 solo LP, Full Moon Fever. Like that album, Petty shared the producer's chair with Heartbreaker Mike Campbell and ELO's Jeff Lynne. I didn't like Into the Great Wide Open quite as much as that one, but two of the songs rank among my all-time Petty favorites: "Learning to Fly" (#28 pop, #1 rock) and "Makin' Some Noise" (#30 rock). Other notable tracks included: "Into the Great Wide Open" (#92 pop, #4 rock), "Out in the Cold" (#1 rock), and "Kings Highway" (#4 rock). In a nod to the hidden track in the middle of the CD version of Full Moon Fever, at the end of side one of the cassette version of Into the Great Wide Open, Petty does a spoken bit instructing listeners how to properly flip over the tape and play side two. Cute.
1044. Billboard Top Rock 'n' Roll Hits - 1967 - Various Artists
Rhino Records started the Billboard Top Rock 'n' Roll Hits series in 1988 (with volumes for every year from 1955-64) and continued in 1989 (with volumes for every year from 1965-74). By the time they finished in the year 2000, they had released a volume for every year through 1995. I found and purchased three used cassettes from this series in great shape but dirt cheap all together in the early '90s. None of the volumes has the exact Top 10 from a particular year because of licensing issues. For example, songs by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones are conspicuous in their absence. But Rhino did a good job with what they could get. The earliest volume that I bought was Billboard Top Rock 'n' Roll Hits - 1967. Six of the tracks were #1 hits, one went to #2, two went to #4, and one went to #7. ApologetiX went on to spoof four of the songs on this album: "The Letter" by The Box Tops, "Daydream Believer" by The Monkees, "Gimme Some Lovin'" by The Spencer Davis Group, and "I Think We're Alone Now" by Tommy James & The Shondells (although we did the version by Tiffany). For the complete track listing, go to: https://www.discogs.com/master/409843-Various-Billboard-Top-RockNRoll-Hits-1967