I saw something interesting the other day. I was sifting through the endless garbage that has become the Book of Face and I noticed a game people were playing. I’ll admit it, if I read that statement, I’d probably stop reading, BUT hear me out. Please? You still there? Okay, cool. This game was basically 10 essential albums that you can’t live without. Kinda cool, right? People often ask questions about influences and musicians get sooooo tired of answering those questions. So, I thought it may be neat to share what 10 albums helped shape me. The journalist. The talent buyer. The graphic artist. The photographer. The
musician guitar scratcher. So, here goes nothing!
I’m going to give a bit of my backstory here. As I’ve began writing this article, I’ve become really inspired and if for nothing more than self-indulgence (or shits and giggles, whichever you prefer), I’ll tell ya a bit about me.
Music runs deep in my family. My grandfather on my mother’s side was a well-respected Baptist preacher. He sang many songs at Church and at home. My first cousin Randy was a tremendous influence on me as well. I’m an only child, so having a cousin that was five years older than me with such a vast tape collection, really sped up my musical learning curve.
On my father’s side, I am heavily influenced by my grandmother, who still plays the acoustic and sings to this very day. She was influenced by her great uncle Roscoe Holcomb.
If that name sounds familiar, you are awesome. When someone speaks of bluegrass music and that “high lonesome sound”, they are speaking about Roscoe. That term was coined to describe the sound and style that made him so unique. Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton both cite Roscoe as an influence. So, I suppose music is in my blood and for that, I’m thankful.
I grew up in Southeastern Kentucky. A place where country music was and still is king. Where the coal mines have long provided the best means of financially surviving. I lived in and around the region until I was 21 years old. I knew that I would never go underground, especially after seeing my Dad hurt in the coal mines. So, I moved near Lexington, KY to work in a factory.
I became involved with the local music scene. I managed a local band to help them become a regional band. I designed a few CD covers and flyers. I became a talent buyer at a 500 capacity venue and I became friends with a TON of musicians.
I took all of that experience and eventually created the site that you are currently reading. So with all that said, here’s my list of the 10 Albums That Shaped Me in chronological order.
ZZ Top – Degüello (1979) : This album is one of my first musical memories. My dad owned a 1975 Oldsmobile 442 with an 8-track player. Degüello was seemingly always playing. I fell in love with many songs, but two really stuck with me. A Fool For Your Stockings is the first one. I just loved that opening guitar sound so much. The other was I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide. This song stuck with me so much, that it was the first song I played in my first car. The opening line says, “Well I was rolling down the road in some cold blue steel“, which made it the perfect track for my maiden voyage in my baby blue Buick Regal.
ZZ Top – I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide:
Weird Al Yankovic – In 3-D (1984) : As a young impressionable kid who sought attention by making people laugh, this album was a Godsend. Parodies from or about Michael Jackson, The Brady Bunch AND Rocky!! Are you kidding me? At 9 years old, this was the most culturally relevant musical piece of art on the planet…AND the vinyl came with 3-D glasses!! What this album ultimately taught me though, was that it’s okay to be you. I may not have learned that immediately, but as I came back to the album over time, that’s exactly what I took away from it.
Weird Al Yankovic – Eat It:
Metallica – Master Of Puppets (1986) : I picked up a metal magazine off of a shelf in a local store and I read about this Metallica band who had been in this terrible bus accident in which they lost bassist Cliff Burton. I turned 11 years old, two days after the date in that magazine. I felt compelled to hear the music that was lost. When I saw the cassette and that iconic artwork, I bought it without ever hearing a note. When that first blast from Battery went through my speakers, I jumped through the roof! Nearly breaking my bed in the process. My adrenaline was pumping and I felt like my heart was going to explode when that second note hit. I need not hear another note, I was held captive for the next month. I devoured every note. Every lyric and every syllable had my undivided attention. Then it happened. My mom saw the song title Leper Messiah. In a flash, it was gone. And that’s why Master of Puppets was my first CD purchase.
Metallica – Behind The Music:
Aerosmith – Permanent Vacation (1987) : After being introduced to Aerosmith through Run D.M.C. via MTV, I wanted to know a bit more about the band. I had no clue who they were and I sure didn’t know that Walk This Way was first released in 1975. So on a rare trip to K-Mart in 1987, I bought Permanent Vacation. I had seen a video, I believe for Rag Doll, and was interested enough that I thought I’d like the album. I didn’t like the album though. I freaking LOVED it! Sure the hits stood out to me, but songs like St. John and Hangman’s Jury planted this deep rooted seed that grew into my love for the blues. More on that in a bit.
Aerosmith – Rag Doll:
Garth Brooks – No Fences (1990) Amazon: This one will probably surprise you. I mentioned being from an area where country was king, this was the first album that I could relate to and somewhat fit in with. The storytelling is fantastic and the production is some of the best I’ve ever heard on a country record. Add in the fact that Garth opened for The Judds at the first paid concert I ever attended and you have a recipe that I can’t resist. The Judds may have been the headliners, but to this day, very few have stolen the show quite like Garth did. His energy was simply infectious and his performance was nearly flawless.
Garth Brooks – The Thunder Rolls:
Prong – Beg To Differ (1990) : This album was one that really had multiple impacts upon me. Visually, the album cover, by the great Pushead, spoke to as a young teenager. Hell, I even drew the album cover in art class in high school. It was pointillism and that was the coolest thing I think I ever created freehand. Musically, well, it blew me away. Not only was it the soundtrack to my favorite show, The Headbanger’s Ball, it was also the first time I think I ever heard music stop and start so flawlessly. The great Tommy Victor has since been an idol of mine. Life has a way of coming full circle as well, I had the thrilling opportunity to interview Tommy on this site. I think I can die happy now.
Prong – Beg To Differ:
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magic (1991) : Where to begin with this album? I first heard Give It Away and Under The Bridge, obviously. Those drew me in, but it was songs like Suck My Kiss, Sir Psycho Sexy, Apache Rose Peacock and My Lovely Man that blew my mind. I’d never heard anything like the funky guitar, the bass line that seemed to have a mind of it’s own, this slightly out of control voice delivering some of the wildest lyrics I’ve ever experienced. I was and still am mesmerized by the sheer diversity this album offers. The symmetrical cover is also something that has always stuck with me and it helped me understand how and why balance is so important in design.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Suck My Kiss:
Badlands – Voodoo Highway (1991): I was a Jake E. Lee fan when he was with Ozzy, but I was so young, I had no idea who he was. Some four years after Aerosmith’s Permanent Vacation, I had just been truly introduced to the blues by a childhood friend and when I heard the tone of Jake’s guitar on The Last Time, I did everything short of selling a kidney to get my hands on that cassette. I think this album was the first one that I really noticed a balance of power vocally and musically. I had never heard ANYONE as powerful as Ray Gillen and his voice cut through recording like a Les Paul through a Marshall. Visually, this album cover taught me how art can encompass an overall feel or theme and it’s still one of my favorites to this day because of that.
Badlands – The Last Time:
Extreme – III Sides To Every Story (1992) : This is a band and album that I feel a lot of people overlooked. Maybe was the over saturation from their previous album Pornograffiti. Whatever it was, a lot of people missed out on an eclectic collection of some of the most beautiful, well-written songs compiled on one album. III Sides To Every Story was like having three distinct EP’s released as a full length. The first side or section is titled yours. It’s a section filled with rock and showcases guitarist Nuno Bettencourt’s guitar prowess. The second side is titled mine and it has more of an acoustic vibe. This section takes you on a really adventurous jaunt. Tracks with keyboards and guitars. Jazz infused tracks and a lighthearted tale. The third side is titled the truth. There’s piano, acoustic guitars, a 70-piece symphony and melodies that harken back to the great Freddie Mercury. The Beatles would be jealous of these melodies. Call it a concept album. Call it a rock opera. Call it what you will, but it’s more adventurous than 95% of what’s released nowadays.
Extreme – Stop The World:
Alice In Chains – Dirt (1992) : Being a teenager during the grunge era had it’s advantage. Just like generations before me had connected to rock and roll, punk and hairbands; I too had my voice. As an only, most times lonely child from a broken home, I look back and realize that I certainly battled my share of depression. At times, I still do as an adult. Lyrically, there aren’t too many albums more depressing than Dirt and I think that’s exactly why this album continues to speak to me today. Now with a bit more wisdom and the finality of Layne Staley’s death, I realize just how revealing and personal this album was for him. Knowing his addictions and listening to songs like Junkhead and Down In A Hole are painful for me. This man knew he was beyond help and he poured his every emotion into the lyrical composition of that album. I’m not sure it can ever be replicated and if it is, I’m not sure I want to be a part of yet another tragedy.
Alice In Chains – Down In A Hole:
Being a pretty private person, this was a tough article to even have the courage to begin. Once started though, it poured out like water. I thoroughly enjoyed this article and I hope you do as well. I’d love to know what albums helped shape you. Be it public or private, let me know! Comment below or feel free to contact me at Jonathan.Newsome@UnsungMelody.Com