15 Albums [Part 2]

[For Part 1, click the link at the right of the page]

We resume the list of fifteen with the number eight selection of albums that changed my life at some point.

In spring of 1991 a friend at school told me about this touring festival – the “Lollypop” fest or something.  He mentioned the bands, and when he said Jane’s Addiction was headlining, I was sold.  I’d heard “Stop” and “Been Caught Stealing” and seen the videos on City Limits (Much Music’s late Friday night block of Alternative videos).  This album was in the news also because the cover had been censored, and the band replaced it with  this:

As a point of civic duty, I picked up the album, white cover and all, cut out a picture of the original art from a Rolling Stone magazine, and scotch taped it to the cassette case; a real act of defiance, huh?  At any rate Ritual remained jammed in my tape deck that summer, and for me represents the “calm before the storm” before the number 3 item on this list dropped and dropped big.

This was the first album I remember actually salivating in anticipation of.  Rolling Stone gave it a 5 star rating (“Classic”) – and this was back before they handed out five star ratings like candy at Halloween.  This was cutting it close to the wire – I was off on a vacation to Mexico with my family on a Friday and I needed to get this album before I left.  Fortunately it made it to my small town in time and it went on vacation with me – proving to be a nice salve after getting a bad sunburn my first day there and spending the next two hiding in my room.  I still listen to it, when I freely admit people, if they remember Midnight Oil at all, it’s for “Beds Are Burning”, their one North American Hit.  But they were huge in Australia, and had a career that spanned nearly 20 years.  Lead singer Peter garret is now a MP (that’s Member of Parliament) in Australia, which proves that we all grow up someday.

Apparently this is my favorite Stripes album.  I was assembling a mix on Itunes and realized at the end of it that a good third of the songs were off Elephant.  The White Stripes are good writing music; I’m actually listening to them right now as I write this.  I like the simplicity of them –  guitar and drums – simple yet very musical.  I also hold it up as proof that I have bought music released in this century.  In fact, since 2008 I think I’ve bought more music and seen more bands live than I have since 91-93.  It’s part of an effort to listen to music I *wasn’t* into 20 years ago.  The fact that there’s GREAT contemporary music to be found if you’re willing to dig hard enough should make it easier.

When the whole Grunge thing hit, I was into the scene (and used to have the long Grungy hair to prove it), but Mudhoney were my favorite band from that place and time.  They were joksters and pranksters – a fun band playing lean and mean rock and roll.  I was such a fan that, on the weekend everyone was returning to my hometown for Commencement and Graduation ceremonies, I chose to stay to see Mudhoney instead.  My diploma was mailed to me and I didn’t care.  The show was awesome.  Most would go with Superfuzz Bigmuff as their favorite Mudhoney, but Every Good Boy is mine.

I realized at the last spoken word show he gave that I attended last year, that I’ve seen Henry Rollins, with his band or by himself, in performance more than any other artist.  I actually got to tell Henry that in person, a fact that he seemed genuinely touched by, This is my favorite album of his too – great music to listen to when you’re pissed off about something ( as you’ve already guessed, I get pissed off a lot).  I never would have imagined, seeing the Rollins Band play the opener of Lollapalooza 1991 at 2 in the afternoon, that he would be the artist I would continue to follow over the next two decades.  I look forward to decade number three.

How can this album NOT be on this list?  It’s a classic, yeah yeah yeah, but for me a perfect case of the right band, with the right album, at the right time of my life.  Senior year of high school and it finally felt like the inmates had taken over the asylum.  Now nearly 20 (!) years on, it still sounds as fresh as it did the first time you heard it.  I saw Nirvana in November of 1993  — five months later Kurt Cobain was dead, the band finished, and “Alternative Nation” followed shortly thereafter.  It was  a brief moment in time (and moments such as these are always all too brief, always fleeting), which is kind of the point isn’t it?  How else would they be remembered?

U2’s best album hands down.  I was and remain a fan, but not on the level I was in November of 1991 when I was counting the days until its release.  I actually popped into the local record store to browse on the weekend prior to its November 21 release and to my shock heard it playing on the store PA.  I ssked the owner if it was in stock early.  He said “It’s in stock” but not being sold until Tuesday.  I begged and pleaded for him to make an exception.  He would not.  He was an asshole for that.  I think the store’s gone now.  Good.   But the amazing thing about Achtung Baby is the fact that it almost never happened.  The band nearly split up during its recording  — had that happened, Rattle and Hum would have been their swansong — but somehow they managed to come together and finish it (and their now classic song “One” was the catalyst of that survival).  It’s an intensely autobiographical album for me — two of the songs on it — “So Cruel” and “Until The End of the World” — perfectly encapsulate a messed up relationship I got into, out of, back into, and back out of.  Achtung Baby is a bitter album, and for one that received decidedly mixed reviews at the time, and an album that dropped just as music was lurching out of mainstream, the fact it has endured is a testament to its status.

And, lastly but certainly not least, we have the most important album of my life.

Yes I’m a big tease.  You’re just gonna have to wait for it, because it’s part of a much bigger story.

But here’s a hint: