Meaningful albums or songs
If you’ve read this blog before you have probably come to realize by now that I steal stuff from myself all the time. I prefer to think of it as “re-purposing” or “being efficient,” but let’s be honest, it’s mostly just being lazy. I’m setting a new low today because not only am I once again stealing from myself, I’m also hijacking an idea from Michelle’s blog from today which struck a chord with me, since pretty much every period or meaningful event in my life has a direct memory association with what I was listening to at time. Her post was on “five meaningful songs” (btw, Michelle, kuddos on the Mazzy Star selection. It was almost enough to cancel out the Garth Brooks version of a Bob Dylan song blasphemy – almost. Ha! Just kidding.) but I’m at least being original enough to rework into “15 Meaningful Albums and songs.” Michelle’s post was also laudably succinct and came with lots of pretty pictures. Mine’s guaranteed to be wordy, rambling and picture-less. Theses differences probably speak volumes.
These aren’t necessarily my favorites or the best by an individual artist, but the ones that have the most significant meaning for me at certain periods of my life. Here they are in rough chronological order (this will commence the feeling of deja vu in some of you):
- Michael Jackson – Off the Wall: I’m pretty sure this is the first record I ever owned. It was either this or the Sugar Hill Gang, but come to think of it I think my sister was the one who brought Rapper’s Delight into our house. I know most people prefer Thriller, but this Quincy Jones record was the height of pre-insanity Michael and blows Thriller out of the water IMHO. Have this on vinyl still and it continues to hold up.
- Rolling Stones – Tattoo You: I still dig side 2 a lot and still have the original vinyl copy that I bought. This was the first real “rock and roll” record I owned, and alas probably the last great Rolling Stones album ever unless there is a serious surprise in the near future. Hang Fire is a lost Stones classic.
- REM – Fables of the Reconstruction: I bought Chronic Town, Murmur, Reckoning, and Fables in fairly quick succession, but Fables is the one that stands out from a memory association standpoint. I’m reading Patton Oswalt’s new book and he has a great section that describes listening to this record while reading and working in a ticket booth at a movie theater. Frankly I’d like to replace my own recollection of Fables with his since his sounds more interesting than lying on the floor in my basement in between the speakers trying to decipher Michael Stipe’s lyrics fully for hours on end. I may be the only person who thinks Wendell Gee is the best song on that record. I’m pretty sure I’ve said that before.
- The Smiths – Hatful of Hallow: Most vivid memory/nightmare of growing up in Greenville, SC? Riding around town aimlessly on what was known as “the track” listening to Reel Around the Fountain and This Charming Man all night. The track basically ran from the Burger King on East North Street up to Paris Mountain and back. Having this as your typical Friday night obviously impressed the ladies a lot. Hatful was import only for a while so you knew that anybody who had it was serious about the music though.
- REM – “You Are the Everything” : Just a gorgeous, gorgeous song, and one that evokes really powerful imagery in my mind of riding in the backseat of a car as a child at night on a long car trip, and watching the moon and stars pass in and out of your field of vision. A song that retains a lot of meaning for me to this day for multiple reasons.
- Guadalcanal Diary – Walking in the Shadow of the Big Man: Great, great live band. A group of us went to see their show at Georgia Tech one weekend and were walking across a large, open field with a stage and a bunch of roadies unpacking equipment that said “Guadalcanal Diary” on the side. At this point (I removed Garret Steck’s name from here to protect the innocent – oops) asks one of the great dumb questions of all time: “Is this where the band is playing tonight?” Picked this up and again on vinyl about a year ago and it still rocks.
- The Connells – Fun and Games: I still consider this my local house band. Saw them too many times in college to count, including my 21st birthday at the Georgia Theater in Athens (which sadly burned down a little while back. Athens people, is it back in play yet? I heard they were trying to rebuild it but lost track their progress). I’m pretty sure I fractured my roommate Roger’s hip bone with a pretty wicked cross check when Something to Say was played. Sorry, but that’s how I rolled (danced) in those days.
- Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes: Does anybody alive at that time not have some memory of singing Blister in the Sun or Add it Up at the top of your lungs at a party/bar/some type of group setting with complete strangers? I didn’t think so.
- The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses: I loved the record from the get go, and it only gets better with age. Don’t ask me how much I paid for the recent 20th anniversary special edition box set. So many good songs, but I Am the Resurrection was great to play as a DJ at school to try scandalize the uptight, zealot sections of Furman’s student body. It was also long enough that you could use it as your go to “DJ needs a bathroom break” selection. In the end though, neither was really successful since WPLS was blasting out something like .3 Watts of power and nobody outside of the booth could hear what you were playing on most nights anyway.
- Van Morrison – Astral Weeks: I avoided Van (with good reason) due to the Brown Eyed Girl associations back in college, but this may be the perfect album to sit back, drop the needle down and clear your mind with. Plus its one that you don’t really appreciate when you are younger.
- Radiohead – OK Computer: This album brought me back into “new” music after drifting away from it in the mid to late 90s. It’s perfectly sequenced, textured and thrilling every time you listen to it, even after more than a decade of hearing it.
- U2 – Bad: I’ve made no bones about my disaffection with U2 in recent years, but this song resonates for a few reasons. First was seeing it performed on TV at Live Aid and live on the Unforgettable Fire Tour. It was simply astounding, especially the Live Aid version. It’s now my kids favorite song, mainly because they like the “hoo hoo” part at the end. But I can’t help shake my head when I hear it now and compare it to “Get On Your Boots” and the giant bag of mediocrity they’ve come out with since Achtung Baby. Ah well.
- Radiohead – True Love Waits: This is kind of a companion piece to You Are the Everything in a lot of ways. Even though it has never had an official album release, I’ve listened to the live version that came out on their I Might Be Wrong live recording fairly compulsively over the last three or four years. It’s a song that will immediately distract my attention when it comes on. So if you see me at work or somewhere else wearing headphones and I have kind of a glazed, washed out look on my face you will know what I am listening to.
- Dolly Parton: Jolene: When I was growing up I knew about Dolly Parton of course, but kind of dismissed her a clown based her stage persona and 9 to 5-like movies. But then I started listening to her songs, especially from about 1965-75 and it dawned on my what a phenomenal songwriter and musician she was/is. I realize that for business reasons she plays up the blond ditz from the sticks persona (b/c its wildly successful and allows her to sleep on piles of money every night), but it distracts from what is arguably the strongest songwriting catalog of any American female singer/musician. I’m so in awe of this song that I named my ipod after it.
- The National – Alligator: My favorite new artist, though I guess after 5 albums they really aren’t so new anymore. This is my still current “headphones with the lights dimmed” selection. I completely associate with the narrator in All The Wine: “I’m put together beautifully / Big wet bottle in my fist, big wet rose in my teeth / I’m perfect piece of ass / Like every Californian / So tall I take over the street, with highbeams shining on my back / A wingspan unbelievable / I’m a festival, I’m a parade/” I mean come on, you read/hear that and I think of me right? Well, I guess I’m not from California, Matt got that detail wrong I guess.
There you go. Apologies again to Michelle and my old Facebook postings for my blatant theft. What makes your list? Or do normal, sane people not think of things like this obsessively?
Posted on February 4, 2011, in Music and tagged Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, Guadalcanal Diary, Mazzy Star, Michael Jackson, R.E.M., Radiohead, The Connells, The National, The Rolling Stones, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, U2, Van Morrison, Violent Femes. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.