Influential Albums 1101-1107
Fri., May. 19. 2023 1:40pm 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.
Note: Just because an album appears on this list doesn't mean I give it a blanket endorsement. Many of the secular albums on this list are mainly there because they wound up being spoofed by ApologetiX.
1101. Negotiations and Love Songs (1971-86) - Paul Simon
I'm pretty sure I bought this album in 1992, but I forgot to include it earlier on my list. What finally reminded me was my previous entry, Collective Soul's Hints Allegations, and Things Left Unsaid, which has always sounded to me like it came from the same title pool as Negotiations and Love Songs. I recently found out why: Collective Soul derived their title from a lyric in Simon's hit "You Can Call Me Al." Meanwhile, the title of Negotiations and Love Songs came from a Simon non-hit called "Train in the Distance." Both of the aforementioned tunes appear on this double LP. Released in October 1988, it featured solo selections by Simon from 1971-86. Looking back, it's remarkable that he only released six non-compilation studio LPs during that span. They're all represented here, including three tracks from his relatively unsuccessful '83 project, Hearts and Bones. Curiously, the closest thing to hits on that album, "Allergies" (#44 pop, #26 adult contemporary) and "Think Too Much" (#26 AC), were not included. Although Negotiations and Love Songs didn't have every one of Simon's Top 40 hits, but it did have all six of his Top 10 hits: "50 Ways to Leave Your Love" (#1), Kodachrome (#2), "Loves Me Like a Rock (#2), "Mother and Child Reunion" (#4), "Slip Slidin' Away" (#5), and "Late in the Evening" (#6). Back in my high-school days, I'd gotten the first five on my cassette of Greatest Hits, Etc. and the last one on 45, but it was nice to have them all on CD. Paul Simon is one of my all-time favorite lyricists; his songs are so cerebral yet simultaneously singable. For a fun exercise, start noticing how many times he uses the words "said," "say," or "says" in his lyrics, like: "'The problem is all inside your head,' she said to me" ("50 Ways to Leave Your Lover), "He said 'Delores, I live in fear'" ("Slip Slidin' Away'), "I said, 'I'm gonna get that girl no matter what I do'" ("Late in the Evening"), "The papa said, 'Oy, if I get that boy I'm gonna stick him in the house of detention'" ("Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard"), "And she said, 'Losing love is like a window in your heart'" ("Graceland"), "A man walks down the street, He says, 'Why am I soft in the middle, now?'" ("You Can Call Me Al"), and "I'd say, now who do — who do you think you're foolin''" ("Loves Me Like a Rock"). It gives new meaning to the old game Simon Says.
1102. Superunknown - Soundgarden
Soundgarden was the oldest of "the big four" Seattle grunge-rock bands, forming in 1984, three years before Alice in Chains and Nirvana and six years before Pearl Jam. However, it took them longer to achieve success comparable to their contemporaries. I first heard of Chris Cornell, Kim Thayil, and company in the winter of 1991-92, shortly after their third LP, Badmotorfinger, came out. It went to #39 and eventually sold two million copies, but the band's next album was the one that took them to the top. Released in March 1994, Superunknown reached #1 on the Billboard 200 and sold over six million copies in the United States, thanks in large part to the song "Black Hole Sun" (#24 pop airplay, #2 alternative, #1 mainstream for seven weeks). I heard that disturbing ditty tons of times in the summer of '94, although the first cut released to radio was actually "Spoonman" (#9 alternative, #3 mainstream). The other big "hit" was "Fell on Black Days" (#54 pop airplay, #13 alternative, #4 mainstream). Two more cuts charted after that: "My Wave" (#18 alternative, #11 mainstream) and "The Day I Tried to Live" (#25 alternative, #13 mainstream). The 1994 year-end issue of Billboard listed "Black Hole Sun" as the top modern-rock song of the year and the runner-up mainstream-rock song of the year. That was good enough to put Superunknown on my January '95 shopping list. ApologetiX released a live parody of "Black Hole Sun" in '95 and a studio version in 2014.
1103. Purple - Stone Temple Pilots
Plenty of people dismissed Stone Temple Pilots as Pearl Jam wannabes after hearing the song "Plush" (#1 mainstream rock, #9 alternative, #39 pop airplay) from their debut LP, Core, released in September '92. I heard them called "Stone Temple Pearl Jam" and the ultra-clever "Stone Gossard Pirates" (referring to Pearl Jam guitarist/songwriter Stone Gossard). In spite of the criticism, four cuts from Core made the mainstream chart and three of those entered the alternative chart, propelling the album to #3 and amassing sales of eight million in the United States alone. Their next LP, Purple, came out in May '94 and topped the Billboard 200 for three straight weeks in June and July. It generated five rock hits, including their biggest of all, "Interstate Love Song" (#1 mainstream for 15 weeks, #2 alternative, #18 pop airplay). The other four were: "Vasoline" (#1 mainstream, #2 alternative, #38 pop airplay), "Big Empty" (#3 mainstream for 5 weeks, #7 alternative, #50 pop airplay), "Unglued" (#8 mainstream, #16 alternative), and "Pretty Penny" (#12 mainstream). Despite all that, Purple sold just six million copies (two million fewer than Core), but one of them was mine. ApologetiX released a live parody of "Interstate Love Song" in '95 and a studio version in '97. One of my friends, a former co-worker, later told me that little parody played a pivotal role in bringing him to Christ. Wow! And if I had any doubts about my memory of what he'd said, I ran into him at a Target store about 20 years after that, and he told me the same thing! Praise the Lord! We put out a studio parody of "Vasoline" in 2018.
1104. Mellow Gold - Beck
Alt-rock artist Beck David Hansen (a.k.a. "Beck") is no relation to legendary classic-rock guitarist Jeff Beck or teen-sensation pop-rock brother-band Hanson, but he certainly carved a critically acclaimed musical career for himself as a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer. Beck's big breakthrough came via his third studio LP, Mellow Gold, released in March 1994. I bought it on cassette in January '95 after hearing the hit single "Loser" (#10 pop, #39 mainstream, #1 alternative for five weeks), which was the overwhelming reason the album sold over a million copies and went to #13 on the Billboard 200. ApologetiX released a live parody of "Loser" in '95 and a studio version (with a different title) in '97. The only other cut from Mellow Gold that made a U.S. pop or rock chart was "Beercan" (#27 alternative). The music was innovative and interesting, but the lyrics were way too warped for me. Beck never had another Top 10 pop hit (or Top 40 pop hit, for that matter), but he did have six other singles that hit the Hot 100: "Where It's At" (#61 pop, #5 alternative), "Devils Haircut" (#94 pop, #23 alternative), "The New Pollution" (#78 pop #9 alternative), "Jack-Ass" (#73 pop, #15 alternative), "E-Pro" (#65 pop, #1 alternative), and "Girl" (#100 pop, #8 alternative). His 2017 song "Up All Night" topped the alternative chart for seven weeks, although it didn't cross over to the pop chart. As far as albums go, Beck's biggest seller was Odelay in 1996 (over 2 million copies in the United States), and his highest-charter was Guero in 2005 (#2).
1105. In Utero - Nirvana
Released in late September 1993, In Utero was Nirvana's third and final studio LP ... tragically, singer/guitarist/songwriter Kurt Cobain died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound a little over six months later. The album yielded just two hits, but they both topped the alternative chart: "All Apologies" (#45 pop airplay, #4 mainstream rock, #1 alternative) and "Heart-Shaped Box" (#4 mainstream, #1 alternative). ApologetiX released a live parody of "All Apologies" in '95 and a studio version in '97, but I actually think "Heart-Shaped Box" is the more interesting song of the two. In Utero hit #1 on the Billboard 200 and has sold over 15 million copies worldwide. Five live albums, four compilations, and three box sets would follow.
1106. Too High to Die - Meat Puppets
Formed in Phoenix AZ in 1980, alternative-rock band Meat Puppets would have to wait almost a decade and a half for their first (and only) gold album. Released in January '94, Too High to Die went to #62 and sold 500,000 copies, more than their previous seven studio LPs combined. I purchased my copy on cassette in January '95 for the same reason almost everybody else probably did — the single "Backwater" (#47 pop, #11 alternative, #2 mainstream rock for three weeks). Of course, unlike everybody else, I did so because I wanted to spoof it. One other track "We Don't Exist," also garnered some airplay (#28 mainstream). The album's liner notes had some unique credits: Derrick Bostrom (drums, paintings), Cris Kirkwood (bass, vocals, illustrations), and Curt Kirkwood (guitar, vocals, paintings). Two months before the release of Too High to Die, the Kirkwood brothers were asked by Kurt Cobain to join him onstage for the performance of three of their older tunes — "Plateau," "Oh Me," and "Lake of Fire" — during Nirvana's appearance on MTV Unplugged. Less than five months later, Cobain was dead. Those three songs would all later be featured on the Nirvana LP MTV Unplugged in New York in November '94. It topped the Billboard 200 and sold over 8 million copies in the United States, over 2 million in Europe, and almost a million in Canada. ApologetiX released a live parody of "Backwater" in 1995 and a studio version (with a different title) in 2014.
1107. Jar of Flies - Alice in Chains
Released in January 1994, Jar of Flies was actually an EP. By that time, Alice in Chains had already released two other EPs (in '90 and '92) and two LPs (also in '90 and '92). While the band is mostly remembered as hard-rock/grunge, this project was predominantly acoustic, but it still featured the distinct harmonizing of lead singer Layne Staley and lead guitarist/vocalist Jerry Cantrell. Jar of Flies went to #1 on the Billboard 200 and sold over 4 million copies. The big hit was "No Excuses" (#48 pop, #3 alternative, #1 mainstream rock). I'd heard it on the radio a number of times but had mistakenly thought it was a new R.E.M. song. Although there were only seven tracks total on Jar of Flies, two others also charted — "I Stay Away" (#10 mainstream) and "Don't Follow" (#25 mainstream). The first time I ever heard the name Alice in Chains was in '91; one of the secretaries I worked with at Equitable Gas said she liked them. A couple years later, I stumbled upon their song "Rooster" (#7 mainstream rock) on the radio while driving home one night. The ominous music, the eerie harmonies, and the strange storyline made for some pretty scary-sounding stuff. Speaking of which, my dad used to talk about a scary rooster his family owned named "Big Pete," who terrorized him by chasing him around the yard when he was a kid. I also knew a musician named Mike whose nickname was Rooster. He lived in the same dorm as I did freshman year in college, but he wasn't the slightest bit scary, as evidenced by the name of his band, Euphoria. ApologetiX released a live parody of "No Excuses" in 1995 and a studio parody with a different title in 2017. We also spoofed an earlier hit by Alice in Chains, "Man in the Box" (#18 mainstream), in 2013.