Influential Albums 1136-1142
Fri., Jun. 23. 2023 4:25pm 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.
1136. Bad Hair Day - "Weird Al" Yankovic
Released in March 1996, Bad Hair Day was "Weird Al" Yankovic's ninth studio LP. I first heard it courtesy of Bob Flaherty, who was the official ApologetiX drummer from 1995-98 … and a card-carrying member of Yankovic's fan club, Close Personal Friends of Al. Before Bob let me borrow his cassette, Karl had already told me about the first single, "Amish Paradise" (#53), a spoof of "Gangsta's Paradise" by Coolio (in fact, maybe Karl is the one who lent me Bob's cassette). Largely thanks to the popularity of that parody, Bad Hair Day went to #44 on the Billboard 200 and sold two million copies, making it the biggest seller of Al's career. A second single also charted, "Gump" (#102), spoofing "Lump" by The Presidents of the United States of America. ApologetiX would go on to release parodies of both "Gangsta's Paradise" and "Lump" the following year, although I think we had each of those in the works before I ever heard Bad Hair Day. Among the 12 tracks, there were three other parodies: "Cavity Search" ("Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me" by U2), "Phony Calls" ("Waterfalls" by TLC), and "Syndicated Inc." ("Misery" by Soul Asylum). I'd never heard "Misery" (#20 pop, #2 mainstream rock for four weeks, #1 alternative for three weeks) at the time, so Al inadvertently made me aware of a great tune I'd missed. There were plenty of originals on Bad Hair Day, and my favorite was "Everything You Know Is Wrong" (a style parody of They Might Be Giants). I also thought "The Night Santa Went Crazy" and "I Remember Larry," were very clever, albeit twisted. Of course, there was the prerequisite polka medley, too, and those were always highlights for me. Six of the 11 songs covered on "Alternative Polka" were tunes that ApologetiX had already spoofed/released or was working on and would eventually spoof/release. Strange minds think alike. All the guys in ApologetiX at the time went to see Al in concert when the Bad Hair Day tour stopped in Pittsburgh at I.C. Light Amphitheater on August 2, 1996. Although it would have been hard to imagine at the time, within the next five years, we'd have the opportunity to play at I.C. Light Amphitheater ourselves, meet Al, and even meet Coolio.
1137. Tiny Music ... Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop - Stone Temple Pilots
Released in March 1996, Tiny Music ... Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop (hey, I'm not the one who named it, and their lead singer was raised Catholic) didn't perform quite as well as the first two Stone Temple Pilots LPs but still reached #4 on the Billboard 200 and sold two million copies. I really liked the first three singles, all of which topped the mainstream rock charts: "Big Bang Baby" (#28 pop airplay, #1 mainstream, #2 alternative for four weeks), "Trippin' on a Hole in a Paper Heart" (#36 pop airplay, #1 mainstream for four weeks, #3 alternative), and "Lady Picture Show" (#53 pop airplay, #1 mainstream, #6 alternative). A fourth number, "Tumble in the Rough" was also somewhat successful (#9 mainstream, #36 alternative). The Beatle-esque "Lady Picture Show" was probably the prettiest Pilots hit up till that point and quite an earworm. Furthermore, "Trippin' on a Hole in a Paper Heart," which ApologetiX spoofed in 2020, may be my favorite STP song ... although it's neck and neck with "Sour Girl" (#78 pop, #4 mainstream, #3 alternative) from their next LP, No. 4, in '99. The group would have two more rock chart toppers — "Between the Lines" (#118 pop, #2 mainstream, #1 alternative) in 2010, and "Out of Time" (#1 mainstream, #22 alternative) in 2013 — and plenty of other tracks that charted. Despite all the flack Stone Temple Pilots took for supposedly riding the coat tails of the grunge movement, they had a seemingly endless supply of rockin' riffs, cranking out consistently catchy cuts as their career continued ... more so than the bands they were accused of ripping off. After the group disbanded in 2003, lead singer Scott Weiland sang with the supergroup Velvet Revolver until 2008, when he reunited with STP. He was fired in early 2013 and was replaced by Linkin Park's Chester Bennington, who sang on "Out of Time." Tragically, Weiland died from an overdose in 2015 at age 48, and Bennington died from suicide in 2017 at age 41. The remaining members of the band — guitarist Dean DeLeo, bassist Robert DeLeo, and drummer Eric Kretz — each of whom had played significant roles as songwriters on the band's hits — have carried on as STP since 2017 with new vocalist Jeff Gutt.
1138. Down on the Upside - Soundgarden
Soundgarden's fifth studio LP, Down on the Upside, was released in May 1996 and made it to #2 on the Billboard 200. That was only one notch below their previous album, Superknown, but there was a dramatic decrease in sales between the two — from six million to one million. Four of the tracks on Down on the Upside charted: "Pretty Noose" (#37 pop airplay, #4 mainstream rock, #2 alternative), "Burden in My Hand" (#40 pop airplay, #1 mainstream for five weeks, #2 alternative), "Blow Up the Outside World" (#53 pop airplay, #1 mainstream for four weeks, #8 alternative), and "Rhinosaur" (#19 mainstream). Although I found the lyrics disturbing (as often was the case for me with Soundgarden), I thought the music for "Burden in My Hand" was amazing. I wrote a parody of it in the '97, and ApologetiX recorded and released it in 2019. Sadly, Soundgarden lead singer Chris Cornell took his own life in 2017 at age 52, and some of his lyrics on Down on the Upside seem eerily prescient in retrospect.
1139. Diggin' Up Bones – Jacob's Trouble
In the spring of '96, we mapped out the first ApologetiX multi-state tour (eight concerts in nine days in Virginia, Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina) from May 25 through June 2. Since we were going to be playing in Atlanta, and I knew Jacob's Trouble was based out of nearby Acworth GA, I took a chance and wrote a fan letter to the band, telling them what a big fan I was of their music. I also included a couple cassettes of our stuff in the package, mailing it to an address I found in one of their old LPs, but who knew it that info was still current? Much to my surprise, I came home one day and there was a message on my answering machine from Jacob's Trouble lead singer and chief songwriter Jerry Davison, who also had played drums on their first two albums. He said some nice things and left his phone number so I could call back. When I did, Jerry couldn't have been kinder or more encouraging. He obviously had listened to the tapes I'd sent, because he referenced lyrics that he liked. I was on cloud nine. As if that weren't enough, since he knew we would be driving to Atlanta in the near future, he invited me and the other band members to come eat dinner and spend the evening at his house on one of our off nights, May 28, 1996. We took him up on the offer, and Jerry and his wife, Cheryl, were extremely gracious hosts. In April 2000, I ran into him at Gospel Music Association (GMA) week in Nashville and we chatted then, too. He and his family later moved to Las Vegas, and when he saw that we were scheduled to play at the Spirit of Vegas festival on Friday, May 30, 2003, he contacted me again in advance, and we arranged to meet up for lunch while the band was in town. The guys in ApologetiX had all brought our families for the whole week. Keith and I (and our wives and kids) met with Jerry and one of his kids at Star Trek: The Experience in the Las Vegas Hilton. I think we may have met on Wednesday. If so that would be pretty wild, because the date would be May 28, 2003, seven years to the day of our previous meal together. I don't think I ever made that connection till now. The fifth Jacob's Trouble LP, Diggin' Up Bones, was a retrospective collection of rarities, alternate takes, live songs, and previously unreleased tracks. It came out in 1994, although I didn't get my copy until '96. The crown jewel for me was "If Superman Got Saved," a very insightful commentary dealing with people who say, "If (insert famous person's name here) became a Christian, imagine all the incredible things they could do for the Kingdom of God." Those folks miss the point that God often goes to and works through "the least of these"; He doesn't need celebrities in order to help Him accomplish His goals. Two other tracks I really liked were the clever and funny "About Sex" (an answer record to George Michael's "I Want Your Sex") and "Eden Again," which included snippets from films that were near and dear to different members of ApologetiX, including Night of the Living Dead (Keith), Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Karl), Jesus of Nazareth (me), and The Monkees movie, Head (also me). There were also live cover versions of The Byrds' "Turn! Turn! Turn" and Eric Clapton's "Let It Rain."
1140. Tragic Kingdom - No Doubt
Released in October 1995, Tragic Kingdom was the third studio LP by Southern California alternative/rock/ska group No Doubt. I first heard about them in late May '96 through Ryan Tomazin, who was running sound for us on our mini-tour of the Southeast. The album spent nine weeks at the top of the Billboard 200, selling 10 million copies in the United States and 16 million worldwide, with four charting cuts. I'll list them in order of release, and we'll see if you can spot the one that took this album into the stratosphere: "Just a Girl" (#23 pop, #10 alternative), "Spiderwebs" (#18 pop airplay, #5 alternative), "Don't Speak" (#1 pop airplay for 16 weeks, #2 alternative for five weeks), and "Excuse Me Mr." (#17 alternative). ApologetiX recorded and released parodies of "Just a Girl" (in 2014) and "Don't Speak" (in 2020). I had a shocking revelation while revisiting this record: No Doubt lead singer Gwen Stefani sounds an awful lot like Geddy Lee of Rush on the first verse of "Excuse Me Mr.," the second half of the second verse of "Just a Girl," and the pre-choruses of "Spiderwebs" (she's even singing Rush-esque lyrics there like "communication — a telephonic invasion). Also at various other points in "Hey You," "Happy Now?," "Different People," "The Climb," "Sixteen," "Sunday Morning," etc. That's not a knock on Gwen or Geddy ... they're both great singers ... I just never noticed it before ... and now I can't un-notice it. Every time I think I'm going to make it through a song on Tragic Kingdom without her doing it, Gwen cuts loose with a Geddy moment. Well, maybe not in "Don't Speak" .... although Rush did have a song called "Show Don't Tell."
1141. 311 - 311
The eponymous second LP by Nebraska based alternative rap-metal-reggae band 311 was released in July 1995. Three of its tracks charted: "Don't Stay Home" (#29 alternative), "All Mixed Up" (#36 pop airplay, #4 alternative), "Down" (#37 pop airplay, #19 mainstream rock, #1 alternative for four weeks). I bought my copy in the late summer of '96, while "Down" was doing its damage. At the time, we were considering that song for a potential parody. Ironically, it's the only one of the 14 tracks on the project without a parental warning label on iTunes. "The Blue Album" (as it's often referred to) went to #12 on the Billboard 200 and sold three million copies. Although the group's next LP didn't yield the same return, 311 went on to consistently chart on the alternative charts over the next two decades, their biggest hits being "Love Song" (#59 pop, #1 alternative), "Don't Tread on Me" (#107 pop, #2 alternative for five weeks), "Hey You" (#38 mainstream, #3 alternative), and "Creatures (For a While)" (#118 pop, #1 alternative).
1142. The Transformed Man - William Shatner
This spoken-word album by the man most of us first knew as Captain Kirk was released in October 1968, while the original Star Trek television series was still on the air (it ran from September '66 through June '69). I never knew about The Transformed Man until 1996, though. By that time, Karl was also working at Equitable Resources with me, in the same department. He had been hired to help with our internet presence, among other things, in those days when companies were just starting to be concerned about such things. One day, he discovered a website called "The Captain James T. Kirk Sing-a-long Page," which had a tribute to William Shatner's long-lost debut LP, including some side-splitting sound samples of song snippets. Of course, I'm not sure the good captain himself was "in on the joke" at the time his dramatic readings (with accompanying music) were put on vinyl. The high points were "Mr. Tambourine Man" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmCi_-9Shhg and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_X0NkaXSu0. They never ceased to make me giggle.