My 20 Albums

I know you’re supposed to do 15, and I know it’s supposed to be in your Facebook notes. And some of these aren’t even music albums. But they all meant a helluva lot to me. Anyway, I’ve never been very good at doing what I was supposed to 😉

Here’s Johnny: Magic Moments from the Tonight Show – Johnny Carson

My parents had this when I was a wee lad. I had no idea what the Tonight Show was or who Johnny was, but it all seemed very interesting and grown-up, and thrillingly illicit, like I shouldn’t be listening to it. After all it was on WAY after my bedtime. This album was my introduction to George Carlin, Lenny Bruce, Billie Holiday, Groucho Marx, and the Gershwin song that would become the wedding song for me and my wife.
Blackbeard’s Ghost, narrated by Peter Ustinov

Before the Dawn of Time, in the days before the Internet, cable, DVDs and VCRs, little kids sometimes listened to records of shows or movies. This was one of my Disney favorites, and I played it over and over. In hindsight, it was a pretty crappy, post-Walt cheapo flick. But Mr. Ustinov gives it his all, and makes a pretty fun pirate. Bonus points for some great artwork inside the LP, and Elsa Lanchester as one of the Daughters of the Bucanneers.

The Monkees Greatest Hits

I was about 7 when the Monkees TV show started showing in re-runs on TV after school. It was my favorite show for a while, and I alternated between wanting to be Mickey or Mike. I think I even tried wearing a snow hat around the house for a while. I’m pretty sure this was the first LP I ever bought. If I had any musical ability, I’d start a band called MonkeeNirvana and just play all Monkees songs in the style of Nirvana. Just ‘cuz.
The Joshua Tree – U2
Freshman year of college in Vermont. The RA on our hall drove 4 hours up to Montreal to buy this LP because it came out in Canada one day before it did in the US. An eight-hour round trip when he could’ve waited one day and bought it in town. And no one questioned whether it was worth it. I think some people even chipped in gas money. We gathered in his room for the first listen, and for the rest of my life, when I hear the first sounds of “Where the Streets Have No Name”, I can still see that LP turning on the turntable. No music was ever so important to me before or since.
Led Zeppelin II

6th grade art class. The teacher let kids bring in records to play while we did our projects. It’s a crime I can’t remember her name. Thank you Mrs. Whatsyourname! This was the first time I listened to Led Zep. “Back in Black,” was another class favorite. I’m going to write a book titled Everything I Needed to Know I learned in 6th Grade Art Class.
White Album – The Beatles

I’m imposing a one-album-per-artist rule, otherwise half the list would be Beatles and Zeppelin records. As the lovely Bobbi Fleckman once said, “There’s nothing on that goddam cover.” There doesn’t need to be, everything is inside. But you’ll have to have them all pulled out after the Savoy Truffle.
The Moon and Antarctica – Modest Mouse

The sound of breaking through the dirty ice of lost years, and coming back to life. Broken things made to work. Barely.
Babylon By Bus – Bob Marley and the Wailers

Sophomore year of college. Too many kids had been admitted and there weren’t enough dorm rooms. My roommate and I lived in a converted lounge off the stairway. Literally the 2 1/2th floor. Many people came at all times of the day or night to hang out. Many chemicals were consumed. Much great music was played. None brought such hazy joy as the sound of “Greetings!!! In the name of I…'”
Organ Concertos – Handel

The cure for attention deficit disorder is not Ritalin, it’s Handel. Sublime, soothing beauty that I self-medicated with whenever I had to focus on a difficult subject, long book, or project. It soaks up the noise of the modern world like a sponge, revealing there are truer things.
Nevermind – Nirvana

In 1991, the first time I heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit” I was at work. Halfway through the song, the only question was how long until I could get to the record store and buy it.
Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd

“Ten years have got behind you, no one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.” This freaked me out at age 18. Imagine what it does to me now at 40!
The Woods – Sleater Kinney

These three ladies from the Northwest put everything I love in this disc. Hendrix and Led Zep, the Cure and the Sex Pistols, Nirvana, and on and on. Mind-melting.
Automatic for the People – R.E.M.

When my wife was my girlfriend, this was the sound of us getting “Lost in our little lives.” This is sacred music to us.
Jimi Hendrix – Concerts

Listen to this and you realize that Hendrix was put on earth by aliens, simply to mess with our heads. Like you’d give your cats catnip. Thank you, aliens!
The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – Gil Scott Heron
The lyrics on this album were like a bucket of cold water in the face of my comfortable youth. Raw, honest, angry, but always grounded in love and humanity. “We deal in too many externals, brother.”

OK Computer – Radiohead
In 1997, I fell so deeply into this album that for a year, it seemed like there was no other music. “Phew, for a minute there, I lost myself.”

Regatta de Blanc – Police
E-Yo E-YAY E-Yay Yo. The other ones are complete bullshit. 😉 Seriously, this cassette never left my walkman for a month. I was the king of auto-reverse.
Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea – PJ Harvey

I love New York and I don’t get to go there as often as I’d like. Polly Jean takes me there.
Morrsion Hotel – The Doors

“How many of you people really know you’re alive?” Morrison was a drunk, and dead at age 27, but I think he knew he was alive. Occasionally he lets me know I’m alive. This one would make the list if it contained only “Peace Frog” and 30 minutes of silence.
The Story of the Clash

20 years ago I was 20…living away from home for the first time…on Cape Cod for the summer…driving around with an anarchic (and now long lost) buddy Matt…in his shitty Chevy Nova…and in love with a girl living in Japan…reading Tom Robbins. Anything was possible. This was the soundtrack.

Honorable mentions
(deep breath)

everything the Beatles did from Rubber Soul to Abbey Road, everything Zeppelin did, period (well, maybe not In Through the Out Door), everything U2 did from Boy to Zooropa, The Doors, Mellow Gold, Back in Black, Dirt, Blind Melon, Ten, Bleach, In Utero, Blonde on Blonde, Catch A Fire, Moon Pix, everything Sleater-Kinney did, Grace, August & Everything After, The Trinity Session, Pyromania, Apostrophe, Garbage, On & On, Late For The Sky, Ritual De Lo Habitual, everything Hendrix did, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Disintegration, Wish, everything Liz Phair did until that ridiculous album, everything Modest mouse has done, everything Morphine did, Graceland, Legalize It, Wish You Were Here, The Wall, Animals, Surfer Rosa & Come On Pilgrim, Doolittle, 1999, Purple Rain, Sign O’ The Times, everything REM did with Bill Berry, everything Radiohead has done, Rage Against The Machine, Let it Bleed, Tattoo You, Sticky Fingers, King of Rock, Moving Pictures, Never Mind The Bollocks, Superunknown, Life’s Too Good, Suicidal Tendencies, Solitude Standing, Electric Warrior, Temple Of The Dog, Tenacious D, Last Splash, Wild Planet, thickfreakness, everything the Police did, Oh Inverted World, Is This It, everything the White Stripes have done, everything Tool has done, everything Van Halen did WITH DAVE, Astral Weeks, Moondance, Violent Femmes, The Mollusk.


3 Responses to “My 20 Albums”

  1. […] everything from Gilbert and Sullivan to Peter and the Wolf on one of these beige music tanks. In my Facebook 20 Albums post, I referenced the educational joys of listening Led Zep and AC/DC in my sixth grade art class. […]

  2. good taste in music pal, if one overlooks the Zep infatuation (kidding).

    I like pretty much all of these records myself.

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