Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My 12 Most Influencial Songs

A few months ago, I went down to Atlanta for my brother's birthday. We caught a Mike Doughty show and afterwards were talking about each of us posting the 12 Most Influential Songs. I posted mine at Eating Chicken Vindaloo, but alas, TA has not held up his end of the bargain. Perhaps he completely agrees that I have the definitive list here. Either way, enjoy.

The most logical way for me to do this is chronological.

My pre-high school music listening is probably similar to most. All of us listened to the radio. We played stuff that we liked to each other. We kept our ears open to hear what the cooler, older kids were listening to. During this time, I listened to a lot of pop music of the mid-70’s as well as some of the hard rock being passed around: Kiss, Rush, ZZ Top, and Starz. The first step in the right direction came listening to Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s album Not Fragile. The song Not Fragile is the first on this list.

The summer before my freshman year in high school, we moved to NY. My mother took us shopping and sensing our boredom, offered to buy each of us an album of our choosing. In looking through the selection at the PX, I came across the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks. I had seen some of what they were up to on the news, and I showed the album to my mom. She freaked and told me that album was banned in our house. Now I really wanted to hear what this album was all about! A few months later I was at the Cadet Library, and guess which album I found there? I mean, if you were a West Point cadet in 1977, who would think you'd have an interest in the Sex Pistols? Apparently the library's music department head did. I have to say I never became a full fledged punker, more of an affectionado, but within the West Point Skateboard Gang, I listened to more than anyone else, at least among the hand-core skaters. The song that really hooked me on the Sex Pistols was Submission, my second song on this list.

I’m not really a Zappa fan. Many of my high school friends were way more into Zappa than I was. It’s hard now, 30 years later, to describe the disdain rock music fans had for disco. It went beyond the “Disco Sucks” t-shirts that I/we wore. Disco was putrid and anyone who listened to it was the enemy. To this day, I can’t/won’t/don’t dance. Frank Zappa’s Disco Boy from Zoot Allures captures what many of us felt about disco. It is #3 on this list.

We visited friends in South Carolina at some point around my sophomore year. I perused the available music and only recognized 2 artists: Ronnie Montrose and Jimi Hendrix. That’s what I listened to for a week. The Hendrix album was Crash Landing, one of those that was put together after his death that mixed some of his unreleased studio stuff with some later added musicians. It's considered by many to not really be a “true” Hendrix album, although I think it's perfectly good stuff. Further, Hendrix’s dad has banned its distribution in America, but I'm beyond his jurisdiction. Peace in Mississippi, is #4 on my list. It is what inspired me to become a Hendrixologist in the years since, including the Hendrix-Tanktop-Photo-For-My-Senior-Formal stunt.

I’ll never forget this next one either - Rogers brothers bedroom, sophomore year, Running with the Devil, #5 on my list. There had never been anything like that first Van Halen album before. I got laughed at for guessing it was Boston. Still, I was hooked. The music world was never the same.

Believe or not, I did not like the Ramones initially. I had heard their first album and Rocket to Russia and I was unimpressed. When I heard I Wanna Be Sedated, #6 on this list, on the radio, I began to change my mind about them. Sedated – that was a funny thing to want to be. When I heard The KKK Took My Baby Away, I got it. They were funny, silly. They didn’t take themselves seriously. They celebrated being less than stellar. I've been a huge fan since. I saw them 4 times back in the day. Now they're all dead (except the drummers).

In 1983, 2 years after high school, I went on a road trip to see Kingston Steve and Johnny B at Plattsburgh State. After much partying back at Johnny B’s room, I put on a pair of headphones to hear Oingo Boingo’s Who Do You Want To Be Today?, #7 on this list. It was strange. I immediately took the headphones off. Johnny told me to give it a chance. It had horns. It was fast, but it wasn’t rock, but I liked it! I don’t have a lot of ska in my music collection, and I don’t know where my taste for it comes from. I now have most of Oingo Boingo’s work, and I think Danny Elfman is a genius.

I had been a working stiff for a few years when I heard GNR’s Sweet Child of Mine, #8 on the list. Of course it’s phenomenal and I instantly loved it along with the rest of GNR’s classics, but it was bittersweet discovering GNR. I no longer had a network of friends who exchanged music. I no longer was in on the latest bands and the latest releases. I was on this bandwagon kind of late, and it was a benchmark of unhipness to be catching up on the latest so slowly. Also around this time, Pearl Jam was the industry big sellers. I didn’t get their appeal, and I still don’t. I’m not saying they aren’t good. I just never got into them.

When I heard #9, the Cult’s Bad Fun, it gave me hope that the type of music I liked was still being made. The 90’s were a tough time if you liked hard rock/heavy metal. Most new bands were killing themselves trying to copy Nirvana – relax, I like Nirvana – and rap and dance music were king, neither of which interested me much. The Cult is still a favorite today, even if they are a shell of what they once were.

Everclear’s Santa Monica, #10, instantly hooked me. If I had to pick a band's music to be the most representative of what I listen to and appreciate, it would be Everclear, at least their first 4 albums.

#11 on my list is 7 Nation Army by the White Stripes. It was instantly likable, and Jack White is every bit as good as the past greats (Hendrix, Page, Van Halen...) were. I have eagerly soaked up everything he’s done.

By the time I heard Bleed Black, my last song, the third track on AFI’s masterpiece, Sing the Sorrow, I had to know what the hell my stepson was listening to. Usually he had some crap like Slipknot or Korn on, but this was actually good. I'm adding it to the list as evidence that we have entered another golden age of rock.

So there you have it, Mathdude’s musical history in 12 songs. The following are the comments from when I posted this at Eating Chicken Vindaloo.

Jackson said...

McClaren: You should write a song about submission

Johnny and Glenn: I'm on a submarine mission for you baby....


Tony Alva said...

"I'm on a submarine mission for you baby...."

God that's fucking funny!


dhc said...

Runnin with the Devil is one of my ALL time favorites. I remember my dad had this pretty good stereo system (for 1980) and some great headphones. I used to love to listen to the beginning of the song in the headphones-the sound would start low in the left ear, and then crescendo and move into the right ear. Very cool. Even my DAD liked the song, and I thought he was so very embarrassing and uncool at the time (I was 15!).

I have this and other VH on my Ipod. I spend much of my work day driving around LA and surrounding counties. I always love it when ANY VH comes on; it gets CRANKED. Must appear REALLY weird to other drivers who observe a 44 year old woman playing "air drum" in the car on the LA freeway system...

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