Albums That Changed My Life
Not in order of preference nor in order of the year they changed my life, but in order of release.
Blue Hawaii – Elvis Presley – 1961 – I was five years old when I saw the movie and along with some of the loveliest pop fluff you’ve ever heard, Presley was young, and in a heavenly world that couldn’t be further from the always gray and cloudy Manchester I lived in. It was the stuff of dreams.
Summer Holiday – Cliff Richards – 1963 – Cliff was our Elvis, and he was in the sun as well, with a bevy of lovely girls, a double decker bus and a harmless story of stolen diamonds. Dad used to sing “Bachelor Boy” to me.
The Patsy Cline Story – Patsy Cline – 1963 – In the late 80s I was sick to death of modern pop and I went backwards and started excavating artists I didn’t know as well as I should. It took me a year to track down every recording Patsyever made and I was so completely obsessed that I wrote a novel about a rock critic who was obsessed with Patsy Cline. This is the one that kicked it off for me.
Revolver – The Beatles – 1966 – Nine years old and on vacation in Majorca (a long one, my dad was 66 and tired) and this album played on the sound system all day long, as though I had gone to Hawaii and this is what I got instead of Presley. I knew the entire album by heart.
Blonde On Blonde – Bob Dylan – 1966 – I was a fan of Dylan but I wasn’t A FAN OF DYLAN, till the mid-1970s, when the pop moments of this album turned me all the way round.
Simon And Garfunkel’s Greatest Hit – 1972 – I was in Scotland visiting my sister in the summer of 72, my late brother-in-law had it on eight track and it was in the car whenever we went anywhere. It is still my go to album when I want to calm myself down.
Hot August Night – Neil Diamond – 1972 – My father died in February 1973, and this was the soundtrack for my summer of 73. I was in a single minded pursuit of sun, drugs, and (god knows ) girls in Lebanon, with “Play Me” playing in the background.
My Aim Is True – Elvis Costello – 1977 – Beirut was in the midst of a civil war, my dad was long dead, my mom remarried, I wasn’t studying for a second in college, and this album is the one that most clearly changed me. Costello’s songs to the disruptive force of romance was the signal album of my life.
Fear Of A Black Planet – Public Enemy – 1990 – This is the one for me and rap, after years of circling the genre this deeply political slap and snap changed everything. Perhaps the previous two were its equal but between the Spike Lee movie “Do The Right Thing” and the flawless full attack on institutionalized racism, it changed part of the way I saw black politics.
In Utero – Nirvana – 1993 – People ask how it is possible I never saw Nirvana live. I gave up all on modern music for five years or so, and then I heard that Kurt Cobain had died and I thought I’d see what the fuss was about.
Ready To Die – 1994 -The Notorious BIG – And I was back.
Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man – Louis Armstrong – 1994 – His early 20s recordings with the Hot Five and Hot Seven, at the birth of everything. This compilation changed how I listened to music.
The Monitor – Titus Andronicus – 2010 – The last rock album that mattered, a car ride from Massachusetts to Manhattan that goes right through the American Civil War. This justified rock nyc.
Big Apple Blues – Tomas Doncker Band – 2014 – A trip from the cotton fields of the deep south to the storefront Churches of Brooklyn. This is the one time I’ve been close friends to someone when they were working on a masterpiece and listening to early demos, and I was tempted to underestimated it but I couldn’t. Yes, the man who co-wrote it is one of my closest friends and yes, it is a work of genius.