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A List of Records That Have Meaning to Me

03-23-2018 | By Carol Clark | Issue 96

The other day I had the idea to write a post on Facebook about records, but the more I thought about it the more I realized it would make a better article than Facebook post. I see a lot of people posting lists of records that have had an impact on them. I like those kinds of lists. The records on this list had an impact, but in some cases, it wasn't a lasting impact. I do still own them all! So, without further ado, the list.

The First Record I Ever Owned: The Beach Boys, All Summer Long


I received this record as a gift from my parents, probably in 1968. We all loved music, and I guess they wanted me to have my own record. A few years earlier, my sister and I shared a Monkees' record, but this one was all mine. I noticed two things about this record when I dug it out that I'd not noticed before. One, it appears to be a cut-out, there is a hole punched in one corner, and two, it's a mono recording. I'm pretty sure my first record player was a mono player.

What did I think of this record? In all honesty, after playing it a few times I was never that impressed with it. I'm pretty sure the reason they got this record is because we were transplants to Southern California, and the Beach Boys were all the rage at the time. My favorite song on the album was the first track, "I Get Around."

The First Record That had a Profound Effect: Neil Young, Harvest


My dad had this habit of writing dates on everything. Nearly all of his records have the date of purchase written on the back. Strangely, neither the Beach Boys album, or this one, have the date written on them. Additionally, I'm not really sure what prompted me to ask my parents to buy this record for me. Although we all loved music, and at the time I listened to the radio a lot, I wasn't a "fan" of any particular band, or artist. In any case, I'm pretty sure I got this soon after it was released because I remember listening to it toward the end of eighth grade before we moved to Northern California.

I wanted my parents to paint my room black, and I wanted multi-colored lights on the ceiling. I'm pretty sure I got this idea while lying on the floor listening to this album. I had no idea what any of the songs meant, but I loved the way I could get lost in them. The songs that I loved the most were, "A Man Needs a Maid," probably because of the orchestra. Also, "Heart of Gold," "Are You Ready for the Country," and "Old Man." This was a record I would listen to over and over, and even today I love hearing these songs.

The First Record I Purchased for Myself: Chicago, VI


The next musical obsession I had after Harvest was John Denver, but I don't have any of his records anymore. It was short-lived, because once I heard "Just You ‘n Me" on the radio I became hopelessly obsessed with Chicago. This record does have a date of purchase, September 1973, which means I probably bought it with birthday money. The record so inspired me, that over the next year or so I went back and bought their first five records, and continued to buy them up until about Chicago X.

Along with the date, I wrote some other now cryptic notes on the jacket of this record. My favorite was Robert Lamm, and I tended to like the songs he sang better than the others. In fact, at some point in his career he released a solo album, Skinny Boy, and I own that too. I saw Chicago live for the first time March 21, 1976, I was blown away, as evidenced by the fact that I still remember the date of the show!

I've moved on from Chicago these days, but this record is still one of my all-time favorites. I love the horn section, and Lamm's piano. The song "Feelin' Stronger Every Day" is still an anthem.

The three records listed above reside in the graveyard section of our record shelves, records from our past. We hold on to them out of nostalgia mostly and would probably never listen to them again. Now I will move on to records that are still alive and thriving in our collection.

The Record I Recently had an Epiphany About: David Bowie, Stage


There's not a date on this record, but I'm pretty sure I bought it soon after it was released in 1978. Surprisingly, this was my first, and only, David Bowie record. At this point, I was still obsessed with Chicago. I listened to Bowie on the radio, and I liked him, but I wasn't an uber-fan. I'm not sure what prompted me to buy this album, but I guess it was because everyone loved Bowie, so for some reason I chose this one. I liked the song "Heroes" a lot, and after listening to this record I decided "Ziggy Stardust" and "Hang on to Yourself" were also great songs.

Here's the interesting thing though, my absolute favorite part of this double LP is Record Two, side one. By this point in my life I had been upgraded to an actual "stereo." It was an all-in-one General Electric unit that included a turntable, receiver, and attached speakers. I wasn't an audiophile then, so I'm sure I broke all the rules when I played this record. The stereo was the kind that would allow you to stack six records up to play one right after the other. I discovered that I could put this record on the platter, leave the stacking arm in the open position, and then the record would play over and over. So, yes, the record is probably destroyed, but I couldn't get enough of these songs: "Warszawa," "Speed of Life," "Art Decade," and "Breaking Glass." They were just so different from other Bowie songs, and I loved them!

Let me digress for a moment. Everyone has their own experience as a Bowie fan, which is why he is such a great artist. Everyone who was a Bowie fan was devastated by his death. I've had a difficult time listening to Blackstar, I can acknowledge it's a great album, but it makes me sad. Recently, Dave and I watched David Bowie: The Last Five Years, the HBO documentary. It's very moving, and we've watched it three times now. At some point in the documentary, they mention Low, and how Bowie worked with Brian Eno on it. A light bulb came on as I realized that probably contributed to why I like those songs on Stage so much, they come from Low. It can't be power of suggestion, because at the time I didn't know who Eno was, but now that I'm married to the world's biggest Brian Eno fan, it makes sense. There is something about the darkness of "Warszawa" that really appealed to me. Also, I've finally admitted that "Speed of Life" is my favorite David Bowie song, even though it has no lyrics.

The Record That is my All Time Favorite, Ever: The Cure, Seventeen Seconds

Before I talk about Seventeen Seconds, I have to mention Three Imaginary Boys. I say The Cure saved my life, but that's a bit melodramatic, what they really did was change my outlook on music. By the time I heard "10:15 Saturday Night" on the radio, I had a serious record buying habit. I went to The Wherehouse, or Licorice Pizza, every Tuesday and bought at least two records. Sometimes I bought them because I liked the cover, other times it was because I loved the band. I was into mainstream music then, Foreigner, Kansas, Boston, and Cheap Trick were my favorites. One night, when I couldn't sleep, I sat up in bed, put on headphones, and listened to KROQ. When I head "10:15 Saturday Night" I was amazed! What was this music? Was there more like it? This wasn't a mainstream band! At the time there was a cool record store in Long Beach called Zed Records. I figured they would have this song on a single. They didn't. They had the American version of the album, Boys Don't Cry. In a totally uncharacteristic move for me, I opted not to buy it, something that still stymies me. But, I waited for The Cure's second release, Seventeen Seconds, and if someone twisted my arm behind my back and made me pick my favorite record of all time, this would be it.   


I love every song on this album. It's impossible to pick one favorite. In those days, I'd listen to one side every night before going to sleep. I didn't set the stereo to repeat the side, once each night was enough. Lying in bed, in the dark with my headphones, I'd imagine music videos to accompany the songs. "M" and "At Night" featured dark alleyways, and clandestine meetings in these imagined videos. "Play for Today" is a "Perfect Song," as I have mentioned before (HERE and HERE). This was the introduction to the song, and it is part of the ensemble of songs on this entire album. This album is ageless, it still moves me as much today as it did back then.

Bonus: The Notwist, 12

Just like other bands I like, I was introduced to The Notwist on the radio. In 1995 I had a 40-mile roundtrip commute every day, and I listened to KROQ every afternoon for the drive home. The afternoon DJ, Jed the Fish, played his "Catch of the Day" at about 4:40. I discovered so many interesting bands this way, and The Notwist was one of them. I have to admit, this was in the days of CDs, so I originally had this recording on a CD, not vinyl. I have since been able to get it on vinyl, and it is every bit as good.

The song that Jed the Fish played was "Torture Day." I loved it! There is a song entitled "M" on this album too, also very good. My favorite ever Notwist song is also on this album, "Noah."

The Notwist is an interesting band because they constantly reinvent themselves. They started out almost heavy metal/hardcore, morphed into more of an indie rock sound, then to jazz, and are now more of an electronica sound. I'm building a collection of their albums on vinyl these days and have amassed almost all of them.

And this concludes this list of important albums. I had fun reminiscing about them, and I guess I was right, this would have made a very long Facebook post, too long for most people to read. I hope I've inspired you to think about the records you love!