So, over the weekend, another one of those pass-around lists happened on Facebook. I wrote a response, but posted it only there, which seems foolish in light of the follow-up I’ve also been asked to write, so here’s my 25-album list in response to these instructions:
List 15 albums that had such a profound effect on you that 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. These are the albums that, no matter what they were thought of musically, shaped your world.
I snagged the idea from someone who’d expanded to 20, so I felt no compunctions about expanding to 25. This updated, edited version also includes mental snapshots for context.
- Lifes Rich Pageant, REM, 1985. A Columbia House cassette and the crappy deck in a ’78 Regal. Twenty-four years later, I meet Mike Mills in an airport, and what I think of is the first time “Begin the Begin” hit my ears in that car.
- The Joshua Tree, U2, 1987. See prior art; the beginning of the rest of my life, whether I knew it or not, since this thread leads eventually to Erin.
- Trace, Son Volt, 1995. A loaner pickup, theater in Texas, and weird scenes inside a corrugated metal barn.
- Sticky Fingers, The Rolling Stones, 1971. Chris Jolly’s room at Mallet, ca. 1990
- Mars Needs Guitars, Hoodoo Gurus, 1985. The back seat of the family car, an actual Walkman, and a drive home from the Coast
- Especially for You, The Smithereeens, 1986. One side of a well-worn cassette dubbed from Eric’s copy, played on constant repeat from 1986 to 1988.
- Uh-Huh, John Cougar Mellencamp, 1983. The other side of that same cassette.
- The Velvet Underground & Nico, The Velvet Underground, 1967. John Smith, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 1988.
- The Heart of Saturday Night, Tom Waits, 1974. A sort of romance, and an unrelated long nighttime drive through the North Carolina hills in the cold, cold winter.
- 1984, Van Halen, 1984. Church trips. Really.
- In Through the Out Door, Led Zeppelin, 1979. We dance madly in the hallway outside my room while Frank “shoots up,” Tuscaloosa, 1990 or thereabouts.
- Shelter, Lone Justice, 1986. Capstone Summer Honors Program, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 1987.
- Journeyman, Eric Clapton, 1989. A pitch black auditorium, a single floating cigarette, and the best opening chords ever.
- Couldn’t Stand the Weather, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, 1984. Mike Adams’ Sentra, 1987.
- Little Earthquakes, Tori Amos, 1992. Cassie hated it. I loved it. 1992.
- Purple Rain, Prince and the Revolution, 1984. C’mon.
- Jane’s Addiction, Jane’s Addiction, 1987. In some weird grad students’ house south of Hardy near Elam, I get stoned for the first time, 1987.
- Cure for Pain, Morphine, 1993. Birmingham visit, 1995, and I discover Morphine via Mohney.
- Amnesiac, Radiohead, 2001. Eric and Chet summer as bachelors, 2001. Also REDACTED.
- The Soul Cages, Sting, 1991. Sting sings about my dad, 1991.
- One Fair Summer Evening, Nanci Griffith, 1988. The Tom Waits girl hipped me to this live Griffith set in 1993 or 1994. It was years before I realized I’d moved within blocks of the venue in question.
- Concrete Blonde, Concrete Blonde, 1986. On near infinite repeat from Patrick’s room, ca. 1990.
- Pretty Hate Machine, Nine Inch Nails, 1989. ANGRY. Also, HORNY.
- The Trinity Session, The Cowboy Junkies, 1987. I drive Frank and Eric P to the farm in 1988. We stop at a now-gone record store to pick this up on the way out of town.
- Doo Dad, Webb Wilder, 1991. Hattiesburg done good. “There’s a glimmer of morning / Just over the tree-line…”