Influential Albums 1045-1051
Fri., Mar. 24. 2023 3:39pm 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:
1045. Billboard Top Rock 'n' Roll Hits - 1969 - Various Artists
This was the second of the three volumes from the Billboard Top Rock 'n' Roll Hits series that I purchased secondhand in the early '90s. It contains some of my favorite pop hits from the '60s. Six of the tracks went to #1, one went to #2, two went to #3, and one went to #5. ApologetiX has never made parodies of any of the songs on this album, but I could see us attempting some of them eventually. We've already spoofed three other #1 songs from 1969 and five other #2 songs. And we've previously covered two of the artists on this collection — The Zombies and Tommy James & The Shondells. For the complete track listing, go to: https://www.discogs.com/master/419272-Various-Billboard-Top-RockNRoll-Hits-1969
1046. Billboard Top Rock 'n' Roll Hits - 1970 - Various Artists
This was the latest of the three volumes from the Billboard Top Rock 'n' Roll Hits series that I picked up secondhand in the early '90s. Six of the tracks were #1 hits, two of them went to #2, and the other two went to #3. I'd had two of the songs on 45 singles when I was growing up, "War" by Edwin Starr (inherited from my sisters) and "Tears of a Clown" by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles (purchased on my own as an oldie reissue when I was in high school). The opening track, "I Think I Love You" by The Partridge Family, was also inspirational to me, because one of my classmates in first grade, Michael Pushcar (or it may have been spelled "Puskar"), sang it in the school talent show. I was so impressed that he had the guts to get up in front of the whole assembly and sing. I wished I had the courage to do something like that, so I was probably a bit jealous, too. But he got a couple of the words wrong, which annoyed me. I never would have dreamed that someday I'd be singing in front of crowds and getting all of the words wrong! Speaking of which, ApologetiX has spoofed exactly half of the songs on this album: "Mama Told Me (Not to Come)" by Three Dog Night, "Venus" by The Shocking Blue, Spirit in the Sky" by Norman Greenbaum, "Vehicle" by The Ides of March, and "Green-Eyed Lady" by Sugarloaf. For the complete track listing, go to: https://www.discogs.com/release/11501549-Various-Billboard-Top-RocknRoll-Hits-1970
1047. Blue Sky Mining - Midnight Oil
In early 1992 (or it may have been '91), some of my old college fraternity buddies from Alpha Phi Omega had a mini-reunion weekend get-together at a house somewhere in Pennsylvania. I can't recall what town specifically, but I think it took us a couple hours to get there from Pittsburgh. The thing I remember most is the new (to me) music they played on the stereo. One of the albums was Blue Sky Mining by the politically charged, environmentally active, Australian rock band Midnight Oil. I'd first heard of them through Michael Ranieri about six years before. I knew that their lead singer, Peter Garrett, was freakishly tall ... two inches shorter than I, as it turns out. Yikes! The group only had one U.S. Top 40 hit, the irresistible "Beds Are Burning" (#17 pop, #6 mainstream rock), which came from their 1987 album Diesel and Dust. They followed that up in 1990 with Blue Sky Mining. It reached #20 on the Billboard 200, one notch higher than Diesel and Dust, but merely went gold stateside, whereas its predecessor went platinum. Only one single, "Blue Sky Mine," hit the Billboard Hot 100 (#47), but it topped the mainstream and alternative rock charts. Another track, "Forgotten Years," hit #1 on the alternative rock chart, too, and #11 on the mainstream chart. I love the sound of both of those songs and all nine of the other tracks — I realize that will make me seem superficial, because the lyrics carried much deeper messages — but the tune that totally rocked my socks off (and still does) was "King of the Mountain" (#3 alternative, #20 rock). It's an all-time favorite of mine. Others I especially like include "Stars of Warburton," "River Runs Red," "Shakers and Movers," and "One Country." Midnight Oil reminds me of The Clash (another band I liked) but with a lot more polish. Whether a listener agrees with their views (or even understands what they're talking about), it's hard to dispute that the group presents their position with musical excellence and lyrical eloquence. And that's inspirational to me, because it's something I'm striving for in ApologetiX.
1048. Sunshine on Leith - The Proclaimers
This is the other album I remember the guys playing at the fraternity mini-reunion weekend where I heard Midnight Oil's Blue Sky Mining. Released in 1988 in the U.K. and '89 in the States, Sunshine on Leith was the second LP by the Scottish duo The Proclaimers, twin brothers Craig and Charlie Reid. Not surprisingly, the song that left the biggest impression on me was the opener, "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)." It had already gone to #21 on the alternative chart in 1989 (although I'd never heard it) but would reach greater heights in 1993 (#3 pop, #8 alternative) after being included in Benny & Joon (a film I really enjoyed but didn't see until the early 2000s after my wife recommended it). A second selection from Sunshine on Leith that later got much more exposure at the movies was "I'm On My Way," in Shrekin 2001. If you like those tunes, as I do, you'll probably like the whole album, as I do. It features a variety of musical styles and topics, but they are all presented with that charming signature Proclaimers delivery. Of the rest of the tracks, my favorite is "Then I Met You," but there are so many great ones, like "Sean," "Cap in Hand," "Teardrops," Oh Jean," "What Do You Do," "Come on Nature," and "It's Saturday Night." The Proclaimers also have been cited as a major influence by Barenaked Ladies, who've also influenced me. ApologetiX spoofed "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" in 2003.
1049. Baby Boomer Classics: Mellow Seventies - Various Artists
In a 24-hour span at the end of 1991, between the evenings of December 28 and 29, I wrote six parodies that would comprise a significant portion of the early ApologetiX repertoire. At the time, I was sharing half of a duplex in Oakmont PA with Tim O'Donnell, a former missionary I'd met through our Friday-night prayer group. We lived there for almost three years, but Tim wasn't around that weekend for some reason. However, my guitar-playing buddy Andy Sparks was. He kept me company as I pulled an unplanned all-nighter. By the late morning of December 29, I was eager to obtain inexpensive copies of the songs that had inspired my spoofs, so we drove to Jerry's Records near the University of Pittsburgh to look through their huge selection of used cassettes. While we were there, I picked up some other cassettes that contained songs I felt had parody potential. Among those was Baby Boomer Classics: Mellow Seventies. I did eventually write spoofs of two of the songs on this compilation — "Rambling Man" by The Allman Brothers (released one of our live cassettes 1996) and "Spirit in the Sky" by Norman Greenbaum (released on CD in '98) — but a different track affected me first. On the afternoon of January 26, 1992 (another Super Bowl Sunday), my girlfriend and I broke up after 20 months (her idea, but it was a relief to me as well), and I had a four-hour drive home from her place in Northern Virginia. I popped in my cassette of Mellow Seventiesfor the first time, and the second selection was "Carefree Highway" by Gordon Lightfoot. I'd never paid much attention to that tune on the radio before, but it really moved me at that moment. It felt like the end of one thing and the start of something new and exciting. About a month later, on February 28, 1992, Andy and I drove out to a place called the Paradise Club in Irwin PA and dropped off a demo tape (which included recordings of our yet unnamed group playing those six parodies I mentioned at the beginning of this entry) with the manager there. A month after that, we played our first concert as ApologetiX at that very same venue, on March 27, 1992. I never noticed till now how those four major events all happened almost exactly a month apart in succession: December 28-29, January 26, February 28, and March 27. For the complete Mellow Seventies track listing, go to https://www.discogs.com/master/1103111-Various-Mellow-Seventies-Twelve-Easy-Rockin-Hits-Of-The-Seventies
1050. Best of B.T.O. (So Far) - Bachman-Turner Overdrive
This was another used cassette I purchased at Jerry's Records on December 29, 1991, and it proved a worthy investment, as I wound up writing spoofs of "Let It Ride" (#23 pop), "Takin' Care of Business" (#12), and "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" (#1), all of which we eventually recorded and released. Little did I know when I started working on those that in October '95 the world's biggest BTO fan would join ApologetiX ... yes, our beloved bassist, Keith Haynie. Ironically, I haven't written any BTO spoofs since then. Keith probably thinks I'm doing that to spite him. He did get to play on recordings and/or re-recordings of the aforementioned three. Best of B.T.O. (So Far) contained three other Top 40 hits: "Roll On Down the Highway" (#14), "Hey You" (#21), and "Take It Like a Man" (#33). The other three tracks all hit the Hot 100: "Lookin' Out for #1" (#65), "Blue Collar" (#68), and "Gimme Your Money Please" (#70). For some reason, "Down to the Line" (#43), was excluded on the original 1976 release of this album, although it was added on the '98 edition. The band only had one other chart single after '76 ... so far. That would be "Heartaches" (#60), in '79.
1051. The Complete Simon & Garfunkel Collection - Simon & Garfunkel
One of the other purchases I made at Jerry's on December 29, 1991, was this multi-cassette anthology put out by CSP (Columbia Special Products or CBS Special Products). Released in 1980, The Complete Simon & Garfunkel Collection featured all of the songs on the duo's five studio albums, plus a sextet of songs from after their break-up — three solo hits by Simon ("Mother and Child Reunion," "Kodachrome," and "Loves Me Like a Rock"), two by Garfunkel ("All I Know" and "99 Miles from L.A."), and their one-off comeback hit from 1975, "My Little Town." Five of those six hit the Top 10. I had owned all the S&G and Simon solo stuff in the past, but the Garfunkel solo stuff was new to me, even though "All I Know" had been a huge hit (#9 pop, #1 adult contemporary). How did I miss it before then? Beats me. But I absolutely loved it ... and that's all I know. It was another masterpiece written by the great Jimmy Webb, famous for composing such classics as "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," "Wichita Lineman," "Galveston," "MacArthur Park," "Up, Up and Way," and "Worst That Could Happen." In the early days before I hooked up with the other guys who would form ApologetiX, I used to perform spoofs of "Kodachrome" and "Loves Me Like a Rock." We went on to release parodies of "The Sound of Silence" (three times, two different ways), "Mrs. Robinson," and "Cecilia." But there's another song on this compilation we've never covered that's still a significant part of the ApologetiX story. Let me explain: We played our first official concert on March 27, 1992, and it went better than I ever dared imagine. The place was packed, and the audience gave us a tremendous response. After the show, I remember driving back to Pittsburgh's Mount Washington (where I lived at the time), going out on one of the public observation decks, and just looking out over the city and trying to take it all in. The following week, I was driving over one of Pittsburgh's many bridges, listening to one of these cassettes, when "Bridge Over Troubled Water" came on. I'd heard it countless times since childhood and tended to take it for granted, but three lines in the third verse suddenly hit me in a totally new way: "Your time has come to shine. All your dreams are on their way. See how they shine." I had this feeling in my heart like God was speaking to me, although I didn't hear an audible voice (aside from Simon & Garfunkel). That song has never seemed the same since, and neither has my life.