5 most influential albums in my life (so far)
(arranged in chronological order of impact)
This record inspired me to really learn how to play guitar, and I have to thank my dad for it, although I'm sure he has no idea; he is a music teacher, and one day some kids were goofing off in his class, and he confiscated whatever they were fooling around with, and one of the items happened to be this particular album, on cassette. I'd heard "Pride" but didn't really think anything of it at the time; I just remember one winter afternoon, I'd come home from school and put the tape on and kinda just flopped down on my bed, and before I knew it I'd listened to the whole album about 4 or 5 times and felt like my life had changed forever. "Bad", in particular, is what sealed the deal; Edge's guitar line is the essence of simplicity and it gets me every goddamned time, even now, a zillion years later. "Bad" also is Exhibit A in that you don't need fancy chord changes to make a memorable song - Bad is just I / IV / I / IV, over and over and over again.
So, yeah. Every summer until I was 10th grade I went to a summer camp, and that's where I got exposed to lots of music I'd heard about but never actually heard, i.e., Led Zeppelin, Rush, Yes/ABWH, early Genesis, and, ultimately, Phish. I think it was the summer of 90 where my counselors had brought some bootlegs to camp, and I was instantly hooked. The tragedy was that they didn't yet have any albums available in stores - and believe me, I looked - until this was released in 1992. I of course did not have the internet at the time, and none of my friends at school had ever heard of Phish, so I was doomed to a life without bootlegs, but I didn't know I was doomed; I had this album and that was enough. This album - this band, really - appealed to so many aspects of my brain that it's hard for me to overstate just how ridiculously important they are, even if I feel incredibly removed from them these days. They appealed to my classical music upbringing, in terms of composition; they appealed to my anti-punk, pro-chops work ethic; and, as I was to learn later, they sounded really fucking awesome when you were high. Speaking of which:
The very first time I ever got stoned, my friend and I listened to this album, and suddenly I got it. I'd listened to it a few times before, and it was just too weird, but then: WHAMMO. We listened to Dark Side of the Moon afterwards, since that's what you're supposed to listen to when you get high for the first time, but HOLY SHIT I couldn't get this album out my head for years. My slavish devotion to all things Trey Anastasio melted away (literally?) when I heard the 15:00 "Voodoo Chile". Steve Winwood, who at the time was that old dude singing about being back in the high life, suddenly became the coolest guy in the world for playing organ on this album, especially since he was, what, 19 at the time? Jesus Christ. This album is great on a multitude of levels, obviously, but for my purposes here, this is on the list if only because I had no idea what music was capable of doing until I'd gotten it.
Flashing forward to, let's say, 1996 or so. I have a very vivid memory of the first time I'd heard this album, even if I can't remember the exact date. I'd heard "Jacking the Ball" already, and that was a great song, but I hadn't really bothered to follow up on it. Anyway, a friend of mine who worked for a record label was helping me record a songwriting demo in an effort to get a publishing deal, and so we were spending a lot of time together working out what I was going to be recording; and, to be honest, we were also spending a great deal of time getting really stoned and listening to music. At some point he said, "Dude, you have to hear this", and he put this on, and I absolutely freaked out. Because not only was the composition completely and utterly alien to my way of thinking (please keep in mind that I was still obsessed with Phish at the time, and no amount of Pavement or Sonic Youth given to me from my bandmates could change that), the production was mindblowing. John McEntire has made no shortage of great-sounding albums, but what he did here is quite different from his normal way of working; instead of being clean and shiny, it's all muddled and reverbed and warped. Anyway, the upshot is that after that afternoon (and the following day's consumption of their first 3 albums), I got shocked into a writer's paralysis for about a year and a half. I no longer wanted to jam like Phish (which is all I'd been doing up to that point), but I didn't know how to write like TSAC (and I still don't).
Obviously. But, I mean, goddamn - if you were in a band in 1997, how could you hear this record and then NOT have your world turned completely and utterly upside down? I feel like this is what the world must have been like when "Sgt. Pepper" came out and blew everybody's minds; nobody had ever heard anything like this before.
I'm tagging everyone who feels like doing this; I'm immensely curious to see what your top 5 most influential albums are.