1 Nov 99
Another note from Mr. Klug
Hi everyone! Having just guested on Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio show where the modus
operandi was to play some favorite pop songs from my formative years, I am still
swimming in Wistful Nostalgia, having been transported back to that living room somewhere
in Livonia, Michigan in front of a huge piece of furniture that was our Philco
stereo cabinet (complete with turntable, receiver, and 8-track). Stretched
out on the blue-and-green shag carpet (well, maybe I'm romanticizing, Mom and
Dad had better taste than that), this was where I began my musical education.
People always ask me who I like, what I listen to, and the answer is always boring: either a) everybody and everything
(which is true) or b) nobody in particular (also true). But I do know who I used
to listen to, way back when, before Rock History was re-written by VH1, before
you knew you
were supposed to like this record and not like that record...
So here is a list of music that, for better or for worse, left some sort of impression on me. The difference between Alan's show and this page is a) I'm choosing albums instead of individual songs because 1) I always bought LPs, hardly ever singles and 2) there are too many of those great one- or two-hit wonder groups from those days to even think about, maybe some other day and b) I'm not limiting myself to so-called "pop" records, although they certainly comprise a healthy portion of the list. Alright, enough of my yacking, let's boogie....
Earliest turntable memory - Three years old alone in the basement with the Nutcracker Suite spinning on our plastic, portable hi-fi (probably the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy) when suddenly the power died and the record began its slow descent to zero speed, grinding down into brontosaurus-like tones before dying altogether. Later in life, I would enjoy manipulative experiences on the turntable, such as playing Alvin and the Chipmunks at 16 RPM (or "Yawa Em Ekat Ot Gnimoc Er'yeht," the flipside of "They're Coming To Take Me Away"), but at this young age the surreality of it scared the piss out of me. I would later have a similar reaction to the end of Abbey Road Side 1 ("I Want You") with its shockingly abrupt cut-off, demonstrating the mighty power of silence, and usually exited the room during the 17th repetition of the riff (I know this 'cos I counted) and came back when it was safe. Musician's Secret Confessions.
In rough chronological order:
Herb Alpert (& The Tijuana Brass) - The Lonely Bull, Whipped Cream, South of the Border, etc.
My first pop idol(s). Listened incessantly to all his albums. Bought the ones my parents didn't already have. Later had a miserable experience trying to learn how to play the trumpet.
Dave Brubeck - Time Further Out
We had "Time Out (featuring Take Five)" as well but this was the one I loved. Great Miro cover. Started odd-time signature fetish which later culminated in my love for Rush :-)
Ramsey Lewis - Maiden Voyage
Dare I say it, MOR jazz with a spooky psychedelic edge ('verbed-out female vocals, etc.). Does a couple Beatles tunes to boot.
The Beatles - Abbey Road
The Guess Who - American Woman
First two "rock" records I ever bought. Paid $4.67 for Abbey Road, $3.29 for American Woman, don't ask me how I remember this, but it's true. Money well spent, I'd say. As for Abbey Road: the motherlode, the mothership, the jumping-off point, it's not my favorite Beatles album now but at the time it was the Holy Bible to me, or the Koran if that offends you, sorry. American Woman: loved Randy Bachman's economical, great-sounding playing with sort of a jazzy undercurrent (remember 'Undun'); his instrumental on this record was one of my favorites.
The Monkees - Headquarters
The album where they played their own instruments! Wrote some of their own songs! My first public performance was miming to this record on the back patio. "Zilch" is a pretty rad track.
The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper (8-track tape on Raven Records)
Has anybody ever seen this? A third-grade birthday present, and the only 8-track I ever owned. Never dug the concept of "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (cont'd)," "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (cont'd again)." On "A Day In the Life," the piano chord stops thirty seconds before it's supposed to, it just cuts off and switches to the next program! Must've been a pirated tape.
Alice Cooper - Love It To Death, Killer
These could almost be the same album. Turned onto by teenage family babysitter. Was she ever forgiven? Great early '70s twin-guitar rock; microtonal whammy bar solo in "Ballad of Dwight Fry" worth the price of admission.
Led Zeppelin - I, II, IV, Houses of the Holy
Actually, 'Houses' is the only one I bought 'cos everybody in the world had the others and radio always played every song on them. It seems banal to say so now but I do remember the power of that fourth Zeppelin album ("Man With Sticks On His Back") way before it sort of wore out its welcome.
Chicago - II, III, V
Was it the Roman numerals? Or longing for horns again? Branching out into other things; years later played some of these in Junior High and High School Stage Band.
Yes - The Yes Album
Always thought this was the best-sounding of the three Yes albums that really matter (the other two being 'Fragile' and 'Close To The Edge'), plus Steve Howe's playing is really good. Much, much later discovered his first group Tomorrow. Art rock was everywhere in those days and I had mixed success with it - loved Focus, missed Genesis completely, tried to like Emerson, Lake and Palmer, I really did...
Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Listened to it for a whole year on the radio; Elton & Bernie were once great tunesmiths.
Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon
First guitar solo I ever learned note-for-note was "Money." If Alan Parsons didn't win a Grammy then for Best Engineering, they should give him one now.
The Beatles - Rubber Soul, Yesterday & Today, "White Album"
Rediscovering the Beatles! Often-neglected 'Rubber Soul' has a unique, intimate quality to many of the tracks, like they were recorded in the morning or very late at night. Lennon steals the limelight on this one, for perhaps the last time, as his younger cohort begins exercising more political and creative muscle. 'Yesterday & Today' is a Capitol mish-mosh of leftovers from its trimmings off of the British albums, but what a collection! It's got four of John's best and one of George's! "And Your Bird Can Sing" was/is one of my favorite guitar pieces; used to think it was one guitar but it's actually two. George and Paul duetting? Or George double-tracked? If you know, please do tell. The 'White Album' is an odd, fascinating album. I used to love getting lost in this thing. Once my grandfather (who was a retired railroad engineer and eighty years old at the time) wandered in during "Revolution 9" and sat down on the couch, sort of smiling and listening with me. He seemed to enjoy it!
The Who - A Quick One, Sell Out
Missed 'Tommy,' 'Quadrophenia' was grand yet sagged some, but these two, especially 'A Quick One,' I ate up for breakfast.
10cc-Original Soundtrack, Sheet Music, Deceptive Bends
Discovered these guys through a review in the Detroit Free Press. Wow! Not for everybody, though, I was definitely the only kid on the block grooving to 10cc. Got initiated through 'Soundtrack', went back and got 'Sheet Music' (their best). As far as Godley/Creme's departure resulting in "5cc," let me say that half of 'Deceptive Bends' is wonderful, as good as anything in their catalog.
Sweet - Desolation Boulevard
There is no better pop/metal prototype than this album in my mind. I guess Sweet were the Motley Crue or Poison of the '70s. But Chapman/Chinn were brilliant, and the guitar solo in "Sweet F.A." is a monster, real Air Guitar Contest material. Continued to faithfully buy their albums even as each one got exponentially worse.
Queen - Sheer Heart Attack, A Night At The Opera
First heard "Killer Queen" on the radio and stopped dead in my tracks. These guys can be the epitome of recording overindulgence, but that's why we love them, right? Brian May's sound was one of most distinctive and original ever.
Boston - Boston
"Better Music Through Science!" Like the rest of America, seduced by the sheer Epic-ness (pun intended) of the mighty guitar sounds.
Jeff Beck - Blow By Blow
At the end of the day, my favorite lead guitarist. Though some of these tunes sound somewhat dated (the Sanford and Son clavinet), "She's A Woman," "'Cos We've Ended As Lovers," and lead break in "Scatterbrain" are six-string nirvana.
ELO - Out of the Blue
Yes, I know, guilty pleasures, but a great headphone experience and for us younger folks who discovered the Beatles after they broke up... Jeff Lynne gets kudos for his production skills... Picked up first ELO album 'No Answer,' a completely different animal altogether, and consequently discovered the Move; found 'Shazam' in a cut-out bin, one the best bargains I've encountered.
The Zombies - Greatest Hits/Odessy and Oracle
Actually, this was a two-fer double LP that I later learned was hits on one disc and the Odessy album on the other. This could be one of the most quintessentially English albums ever made; the melancholy of Colin Blunstone's voice and the Renaissance-like (as in pre-Baroque) chord progressions are haunting. And who doesn't like "She's Not There" and "Tell Her No?"
The Police - Regatta de Blanc
Initiated this Midwestern American to a slew of new sounds: new wave, reggae, and pseudo-punk (let's face it, the Sex Pistols didn't really mean anything in America). But forget about comparisons: that clean, compressed, chorused guitar was a fresh, new thing in 1979, and Stu Copeland's drumming is nothing short of thrilling. Used to live for "Can't Stand Losing You" (on previous album); wished I had written it in the worst way.
David Bowie - Scary Monsters
Bowie was always there for me, but in sort of a Foghat/Steppenwolf kind of way. Side One of this album, however, enjoyed Heavy Rotation (Robert Fripp is out of control on "Fashion" and "Ashes to Ashes" is spine-tingling).
XTC - Drums and Wires, English Settlement
These two (plus 'Black Sea' for its great, cranked-up sound) make up the Classic XTC oeuvre for me; I inhaled and ingested this stuff till I overdosed and had to quit. "Complicated Game" can still give me goosebumps (elevating it to Strawberry Fields Forever Status, no small achievement).
Elvis Costello - Armed Forces, This Year's Model
Twenty years later, 'Armed Forces' is no less than a magnificent album. In my youth, I wished it was a little more guitar-heavy, but now I see it's perfect. We need more major-key songs with dark sludge floating beneath the surface these days.
King Crimson - Discipline
Yin/yang, left brain/right brain, Robert Fripp/Adrian Belew... Another great two-guitar album, and my favorite of this Crimson line-up. Belew's solo in "Elephant Talk" is space-age George Harrison.
Miles Davis - Workin' & Steamin', etc.
Before the Willies, drummer Jeff Karch turned me on to this set. Coupled with Cookin' and Relaxin', it comprises one marathon recording session by Miles Davis' Quintet in 1956 which, quite simply, defined the genre of jazz for twenty or more years. Many late nights soaking this stuff in. "Milestones" on another album was a fave; I've since read Rod Argent claiming he can still sing all the solos from it, so can I, you should too.
O.K., when you're eighteen or nineteen, are your formative years over? Coincidentally or not, this was the age I started writing songs of any significance (i.e., songs I would dare showing anyone else). But here are some later discoveries that made a huge impression on me, and would change any music fan's life.
Bob Dylan - Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, Blood On The Tracks
Awesome. The former transports you right back to the Kennedy Years, and the latter is just plain stunning. Come to think of it, Dylan's had about as many "phases" as Bowie.
Tom Waits - Small Change, Frank's Wild Years
Former alternately hilarious and poignant; latter I can't say enough good things about: occupies its own planet.
Captain Beefheart - Trout Mask Replica, Doc At The Radar Station
Speaking of other planets... As with Stravinsky, keep wading through the mucky-muck and you will be rewarded with great and glorious things.
The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds
Pop Album of the Century? Hmmm. All I know is it's got four or five of my favorite songs on it.
The Kinks - Are The Village Green Preservation Society
Hoagy Carmichael - Stardust Memories
This guy is one of my favorite songwriters! I'm So Square, Baby I Don't Care...
Time/Life Rhythm and Blues Series 1970 & 1971
My penance for ignoring all the great Motown stuff while I lived there. The bass lines on all these tracks are phenomenal, and some of the productions are symphonic.
Epic Sound Battles
Upstairs neighbor had this and I made a cassette of it. Hard-core dub that crushes, wish I had written down who it was, record label, etc. Wonderful at 4 am on the freeway.
My apologies if the above list was too indulgent,
or didn't include enough hip or obscure titles, but that's the way it happened. Cheers,
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