Sunday, October 12, 2014

5 Albums That Changed My Life

Music is an audible timeline.  I can relate just about most life events with it.  Music is my drug. But every now and then I take music for granted.  At those moments it tends to turn my world upside down.  It will hit me with something that I just didn't see coming and make me see things in a whole new way. It will get me to wonder if I ever really understood music in the first place.  Music has the power to do that.  It can change your life.  These 5 albums did that to me. 

Run D.M.C. / Run D.M.C. - 1984 was a fun time for me.  I was in 9th grade.  I was discovering girls.  I loved Heavy Metal, Classic Rock, and I was discovering a whole new genre, Hip-Hop.  Early Hip-Hop was fun.  Rock beats with fun lyrics.  It was music from the street.  It had an underground feel to it.  There were not many outlets to hear it.  For me it was my Sunday afternoons.  You can imagine me with my feathered hair and in my knee high socks with a comb sticking out, short shorts, and my sleeveless, half shirt that read "Grab a Heiney" sitting next to a boom box recording every song from Lady B's Beat Street on Power 99 FM.  That is where I first heard The Beastie Boys, Grandmaster Flash, and Whodini.  They were all great but the one that I was sitting next to the radio to hear was Run-D.M.C..  The song was 'Rock Box'.  It seemed unreal to hear them rapping over a hard rock beat.  They were marrying my two favorite things together.  It was the Reese's Cup of the musical world.  Why had no one thought of this???

At that time I thought that many Hip-Hop albums weren't very strong all of the way through.  When I bought Run D.M.C.'s self titled that completely changed my notion that Hip-Hop artists were destined to be singles bands.  They brought it hard every track.  It was unlike anything else at the time.  There is reason they went on to stardom. They helped bring legitimacy to Hip-Hop and this album was the start of it all. 

Metallica / Master of Puppets - Heavy Metal at the time was very theatrical.  It was leather.  It was hair.  It was synchronized.  Don't get me wrong, I loved it.  It was what it was at the time.  I didn't know anything different.  That was of course until Metallica came along.  Ride The Lightning had already been released before I had heard them.  There was a midnight show on the local Philly rock station, 94.1WYSP, called Metal Shop.  On the fateful night I hear 'Four Horseman' is it blew my mind.  It was fast as hell and mean.  Who the fuck were these guys?  They started showing up in magazines and it was a weird sight at that time.  They wore jeans and t-shirts, and just flat out outplayed every other band.  The lyrics were dark, which was a nice change from elves and mysticism.  I bought their next release without hearing it at all.  What I was about to hear changed my idea of Heavy Metal forever.

It was classical.  It was Metal.  It was hard.  It was dark.  It was angry.  I couldn't even fathom how the drummer could even keep up.  I would listen to this over and over and over.  Banging my head and yelling along.  Songs like 'Master of Puppets' and 'Leper Messiah' would invade my brain.  There was no going back to traditional Heavy Metal after this.  Band just Judas Priest just didn't cut it anymore.  Hearing them play these songs in concert was like an awakening.  I had to find more like this.  It was Megadeth and Slayer and Anthrax.  It changed what I wanted.  What I craved.  This was the last great Metallica album in my opinion.  It was never the same after Cliff died. The classical touch was his influence. As was turning the band onto other bands like the Misfits.  That was Cliff.  I am not saying I didn't like other Metallica.  It just wasn't the same. 

Depeche Mode / Catching up with Depeche Mode - At a time when Heavy Metal and Hip-Hop ruled my world I am not sure how this even caught my attention.  It just happened to be playing in a Wall to Wall Sound in Philadelphia.  It wasn't the usual stuff that was playing when you went in to this record store.  Yes, is was synth oriented and poppy on the outside, but there was something dark and different on the inside.  It intrigued me enough to ask what it was.  It was 'See You' by Depeche Mode. I then spent what little money I had on the cassette. 

When I got home and popped it in I listened to it.  And then I listened to it.  And then I listened to it some more.  I didn't realize at the time it was a greatest hits.  That was because it didn't include 'People are People' which was the only Depeche Mode song that I knew.  I was filled with Synth Pop but not the kind that was played on American Radio.  It dealt with death and bondage.  It wasn't as dark as With Sympathy by Ministry but you get the picture.  This album opened up a whole new world for me.  I craved it.  I bought all of their albums, their 12" remixes, their singles, their videotapes, their concert tickets, until there was nothing left.  Then I went backwards and discovered other alternative music.  The Cure, Echo & The Bunnymen, Jesus & Mary Chain, The Smiths.  From there I discovered punk.  Depeche Mode was my gateway drug.  It changed my haircut and the way I dressed.  It changed the way I listened to music.  Of all of my musical discoveries this was the greatest.  It has the most influence.  It made the biggest change in my life.

Nine Inch Nails / Pretty Hate Machine - When I was 19 I discovered alternative clubs.  This is when you got to go out and realize that there were other people just like you.  It was a great time in music discovery.  Clubs like this helped me discover bands like Love & Rockets, Violent Femmes, and The Cult.  At this same time I found the local college radio station.  It wasn't a strong enough signal to get at my house but I was able to get it on my drive to and from work.  They had a great radio format and because of that station I discovered bands like The Pixies and Nine Inch Nails.  Pretty Hate Machine had not been released yet but they had started to play the songs leading up to the release.  They would play 'Head Like A Hole' and 'Sin'.

Sometimes I would pull over to the side of the road where the signal was strong and just listen hoping to hear these songs.  When we would go back to the clubs I remember begging the DJ to play Nine Inch Nails but he hadn't heard of then yet.  The next week he said had a surprise for us and he played 'Down In It'.  We freaked out.  So did everyone else on the dance floor.  It spoke to us.  It moved us.  It was like a crazed and sweaty orgy.  Shortly after that Pretty Hate Machine was released and it was all that I listened to.  Songs like 'Terrible Lie' haunted me.  I saw them in concert at that time.  They opened up for the Jesus & Mary Chain who had such an elaborate stage set up that they made Nine Inch Nails play on the floor in front of the stage.  There were about 30 of us at The Trocadero to see them and I do not think any of us will forget that night.  Trent threw beer at us.  He destroyed their instruments and dragged the keyboardist across the floor by his hair.  NIN was my gateway drug into Industrial.  It took me to Ministry, Nitzer Ebb, and Front 242.  It consumed my for years.  It changed my life.

Mayer Hawthorne / A Strange Arrangement - A friend turned me onto this album after a late night of drinking.  Soul wasn't something that I was listening to at the time but he told me that this song was so infectious that I wouldn't be able to stop listening to it.  He was right.

The next morning  I listened to this song over and over before finally listening to the rest of the album.  I couldn't really believe what I was hearing.  It was as if a lost, unheard collection of Motown Soul had been found.  Every listen brought a new favorite song.  He was playing Philadelphia right at this time so I saw him at Union Transfer and was completely blown away.  Especially with songs like 'Green Eyed Love' that had evolved during the live shows.  I was so consumed with this album that I had to find more like it.  It started a whole movement for me.  It introduced me to artists like Allen Stone, The Bamboos, Gary Clark Jr and Raphael Saadiq.  I was scouring Youtube videos to find more and found his performance with Daryl Hall on Live at Daryl's. It was incredible.  Stumbling onto that took me backwards to rediscover Hall and Oates.  I went back and reintroduced myself to classic soul.  It was a whole movement for me.  It gave me an appreciation for a genre that I liked but never truly examined.  His later releases were good but never grabbed me as much as this one.  This one controlled me for a while.  Not many albums have had that power over me.

I am sure if I were to think long and hard there are other albums that have had these effects on me.  Music is funny that way.  How it can grab you and become part of you without even being invited.  They become old friends and help you connect with new ones.  It is and will always be a major force in my life.  It is what helped create My Music, My Concerts, My Life.

See you when the needle drops!


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