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Thursday, May 02, 2013


Originally posted on 2/22/09

When I signed up on Facebook I did not expect to be constantly bombarded with people sending me cute little doodads, requests for me to join every organization under the sun or pass on a "stoner" to twenty-five people, and much of the Facebook junk mail I get I simply delete and move on. But in the past couple of weeks I've found myself addicted to a number of questionnaires that have been circulating about movies, books and music, but the one I filled out today really made me wrack my brain and I figured I'd share my results with you in hope that you'll share your own results with me. I was sent the questionnaire by fellow music-freak Glenn "The Jew" Greenberg and his introduction to "The Top 15 Albums That Changed My Musical Perceptions" read roughly as follows:

Think of 15 albums that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life or the way you looked at it. They sucked you in and took you over for days, weeks, months, years. These are the albums that you can use to identify time, places, people, emotions. They might not be what you listen to now, but these are the albums that no matter what they were thought of musically shaped your world.When you finish, tag 15 others, including me. Make sure you copy and paste this part so they know the drill. Get the idea now? Good. Tag, you're it!

So here are my answers to the questionnaire, in no particular order, and please write in with your own list if you feel like sharing.


1. Q: ARE WE NOT MEN? A: WE ARE DEVO! (1978)-Devo

When I first witnessed Devo performing "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and "Jocko Homo" on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE back in 1978, I had no idea what the fuck I was hearing and seeing. The bizarro sounds put out by a quintet of dorky-looking white boys from Ohio caused something to click within my thirteen-year-old brain and from that moment I became an active participant in the music I listened to, allowing myself to really pay attention to and comprehend a song's lyrics and musicianship while finally getting that a band was actually trying to create a sound that made them unique, separating them from the musical masses. When I first heard this debut album by Devo, it simultaneously opened my doorways of musical perception and permanently killed any desire to listen to mainstream radio. Plus the album displayed a sense of intelligence and wit that I'd never before encountered in anything I'd heard previous.

2. A DATE WITH ELVIS (1986)-The Cramps

Not the first Cramps album I ever heard — more on that later — but definitely the one that cemented their sound for me and also the album where the band's sexual obsessions reached unabashed, ludicrous and often hilarious heights. By far the band's finest hour.

3. IT'S ALIVE (1979)-The Ramones

I'm kind of cheating with this one because it's impossible for me to pick which of the Ramones' first three albums affected me the most, so I go with this excellent recording of a live New Year's Eve show they did in England back in 1977. It's damned near every song from their first three records and this double-LP captured the band's undeniable live energy like no other live album, showcasing exactly what made the Ramones' brand of stripped-down, primal rock 'n' roll great. As a kid who grew up on a steady diet of oldies, this was like a new band working in an almost-dead language that I was familiar with, and as this came out during the tail end of the disco plague, it was like a miracle cure.

4. OCEAN RAIN (1984)-Echo & The Bunnymen

Orchestral as a sumbitch, lyrical and more than a little bit "fruity," there's just something about this strange assemblage of nautically-themed tunes that struck a chord with me. Conjuring up all kinds of dark seafaring imagery in my head, I listen to this album more often than I care to admit.

5. PENTHOUSE & PAVEMENT (1981)-Heaven 17

Perhaps the quintessential British "fag rock" album, this is a tour de force of catchy new wave dance tunes and has been a favorite of mine since I wandered into Bleeker Bob's record store back in 1981 and heard "The Height of the Fighting" blasting from the store's sound system. That song hit me like a one-million-volt anal probe and it was all I could do not to start wildly dancing about the place after tearing off my clothes and donning war paint. I bought the album on the spot, the first time I ever bought an album motivated solely by happening to be in the right place at the right time; I've bought other albums on the spot since this one, but none have given me even one tenth the pleasure I get from "Penthouse & Pavement." In fact, this album has the unique distinction of being the only vinyl LP I played so much that I actually wore out three copies before I got it on CD. (I have worn out other albums, but not the same one multiple times.) Not for all tastes, but I fucking love it.

6. ORIGINAL MOODY'S MOOD (1968)-King Pleasure

One of the very few jazz records I own, this was an album that my mother turned me on to when I was around ten. A collection of King Pleasure's classics — the exquisite "I'm In the Mood For Love," "Jumping With Symphony Sid," "Red Top," "Don't Get Scared" and others — this one goes down easy and is a joy to experience. I have a limited capacity for enjoying jazz, but this album is responsible for that door being opened to me.

7. GRAVEST HITS (1979)-The Cramps

The first Cramps album and my first exposure to them at the age of fifteen. Simple, minimalist, grimy "psychobilly," this hooked me with the dribbly opening riff on "Human Fly" and I haven't looked back since.

8. HAIR (1968)-Original cast recording

This somewhat-risque album was considered wholly appropriate for my family's turntable — surprisingly, it was my mother's album and her favorite at the time — and has been burned into my musical lexicon since I was four. I had no idea what the songs about masturbation, drugs, comparative analysis of interracial sex and commentary on the Vietnam War were about, but I did know that the album was "groovy" and I liked it very much indeed. Especially the fifteen-note opening riff to "Donna."

9. ARMED FORCES (1979)-Elvis Costello and The Attractions

The other album that had a huge hand in making me give up pop music radio for good. Intelligent, beautifully played and shocking the hell out me with the fact that a guy with such a ridiculous stage name could have such a smooth voice, this one resonates for effortlessly shifting between being outright rockin' and having a seriously dark, sad and bleak undercurrent. "Party Girl," "Big Boys," "Goon Squad," "Oliver's Army" and many truly excellent songs flesh this one out and make it what many consider the best of this artist's catalog. In terms of enjoyment I prefer the musical grab bag of "Get Happy!!" but this is the one made me pay attention.

10. SPECIALS (1979)-The Specials

Hands-down the best of the British ska revival albums of the late-1970's/early-1980's, this was my first exposure to the genre and it greatly appealed to me as some sinister mutant hybrid of reggae and I-don't-know-what. It was like nothing I'd heard before and it's light years better than much of the by-the-numbers ska acts that followed in its wake.

11. DIRTY LOVE SONGS (1986)-GG Allin

I love rock 'n' roll and I love juvenile and filthy stuff, so how could I not enjoy the extremely questionable work of GG Allin? Possessing not one iota of redeeming social importance, this 2-record set was an eye-opening primer on exactly how vile and stupid one performer's work could be and, god help me, it's one of my favorites. This is where I first encountered such moving ditties as "I Wanna Fuck Myself," "I Wanna Piss On You," "Kill the Children, Save the Food" (a song about Ethiopia released around the time of the sickening "We Are the World"), "Abuse Myself I Wanna Die" and the Hank Williams, Jr. parody/tribute "Scumfuc Tradition," and when I'm feeling depressed I put this on, sing along and skip about my apartment like a loon (although not with a microphone lodged up my ass like GG would have done). In fact, despite its undeniably across-the-board-offensive material, I recommend this album for kids ten and under precisely because it displays a childlike — to say nothing of childish — sensibility and even feels like it was written by a very naughty eight-year-old.

12. WILD PLANET (1980)-The B-52's

I'd heard and loved "Rock Lobster" for its retro-1960's "Batman"-esque feel, but this was the album where the B-52's sounded less like a quirky gimmick band and more like a group with a feel and style all their own. While their first album had a lot of fun and playful poppy stuff on it, "Wild Planet" bears a strange atmosphere of things in the retro world being not quite right that carries through the entire record, culminating with the moody instrumental "53 Miles West of Venus," a piece that interestingly brings things full circle back to the first album's sci-fi opus "Planet Claire." It should also be noted that this was another album that I bought on the spot when I heard it being played in a record store at the time of its release, and what sold me was the excellent "Give Me back My Man," which instantly became — and remains — one of my all-time favorite songs.


Without question, this is THE seminal album of punk rock as we know it. The Ramones may have gotten there first, but the Pistols refined the DIY concept with a well-earned sense of anger over the shitty state of the UK during their time and proved that a singer didn't need to have actual musical ability to be affecting and lend songs of dissatisfaction great emotional power.

13. BATMAN THEME (1966)-The Ventures

I love twangy surf instrumentals, so how could I not love an album of such by one of the genre's cornerstone bands that provides kickass covers of mid-1960's adventure/spy TV shows? This was my first Ventures album and it made me a fan for life — in spite of its unimaginative title — featuring "Hot Line," their fun version of the "Batman Theme," and a haunting and percussion-driven "Get Smart," but the tune on this that just kicks my ass every time I hear it is their version of "The Man From U.N.C.L.E."

14. THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT (1979)-The Who

This soundtrack to the documentary of the same name is basically a "greatest hits" collection with one major distinction: it captures The Who in all of their manic glory in a succession of terrific live performances, each with the one-of-a-kind drumming of the exceptional Keith Moon. I bought this album during the Summer of 1980 in order to give myself a broad overview of the band rather than the limited exposure to them I'd thus far had, which was mostly "Tommy" and whatever handful of hits were played repeatedly on the radio, and as a result I'm a Moon-era Who fan for life.

15. SIN ALLEY (1986)-Various obscure artists

As previously stated, I grew up listening to old school rock 'n' roll, so I love trying out anything that's old and obscure from the form's pre-Beatles days. When I chanced upon this questionably-legal compilation in the Summer of 1986 I had no clue who any of the performers on it were, but I was willing to give it a chance since it and its two subsequent volumes were on sale for five bucks each at New Haven, Connecticut's now defunct Rhymes Records, one of the best record stores I've ever had the pleasure to enter. Loaded with totally obscure bands and solo acts, this is a treasure trove of the kind of music you'd expect to hear at Jesus O'clock in the morning while trying to hold down your eighth shot of Jose Quervo in some dank, smoky, windowless basement decorated with mangy leopard print tapestries while a way-past-her-prime stripper stuffs her stretch-marked, pastie-adorned jugs in your face. This is now available on CD and I urge you to take a chance on it.

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