I got one of those Facebook nomination things the other day. I usually ignore them, but this particular one I thought was worth responding to: name ten albums that mean something to me.
From my early teens til my late twenties – when I became more interested in making music than consuming it – I used to spend all my pocket money/dole money/student grant/ dole money (again) on buying records. “Records” as in long playing albums on vinyl. This was back in the days before CDs really took off (I was a CD-denier: I was one of those people who bought Dire Straits Money For Nothing on vinyl rather than Compact Disc).
Music, like so many other people of my generation, has sound-tracked my life, so picking the ten most significant albums was pretty straight-forward. It’s not “top ten favourite albums” – I don’t think I could possibly whittle my album collection down to just ten favourites – nor is it “top ten most influential albums” from a songwriter or musician point of view, though there’s obviously the odd point of intersection. I may well compile a list of my ten most influential at a later date, but first it’s “ten albums that have in any way changed or been important in my life” – kind of a clunky way of putting it, but I think I get what they mean.
1. When I was growing up, my parents had few albums that I would listen to: dad was into Modern Jazz, mum was into Dean Martin and Friends. They had a solitary Elvis Presley album: as I recollect, it was called Golden Greats, but a quick scan through Wikipedia’s Elvis discography reveals it must have been one of Golden Records volumes 1 to 4. I think it was Volume 3, looking at the track listings. Loved Elvis as a kid: me and my little sisters used to sing along to him all the time. In my teenage years, he was seen as a bit naff, someone for mums only. Now I recognize the man’s greatness as a singer and performer: he kicks Sinatra’s ass! A big influence on my singing… I do a mean Elvis at karaoke.
2. When we we young, my mum and dad would drive us out to Uncle Mick and Auntie Sheila’s in deepest darkest North Wales for the day. I wasn’t very outgoing as a child – not shy, just not very interested in interacting with adults – so I used to sit in the corner of their front room and put Uncle Mick’s headphones on and listen to some of his records, which were cooler than my folks’ (Uncle Mick was a cool pretend uncle). One of those records was Simon and Garfunkel‘s Greatest Hits – everybody must have had this except for my parents. Loved every track – half this album is in my repertoire as a performer, and the other half ought to be. Some people say I remind them of Simon and Garfunkel: I sing like Simon and play guitar like Garfunkel (self-deprecating musician joke). I don’t know why, but they never wrote another album as consistently good as this one (another musician joke).
3. Another classic album to be found in our house in my youth was The Beatles Rubber Soul. I always thought it was a cool record that my mum had accidentally bought, but my big sister Jackie claims it was a cool record that she deliberately bought. Again, not a duff track on it as far as I’m concerned – I think it’s my favourite Beatles album. Again, quite a few of the tracks from this find their way into my set lists, and the songwriting and harmonies have definitely had a big influence on my songwriting and my tastes in music in general: I’m just a pop kid at heart. So when you hear one of my silly love songs, blame Paul McCartney and co!
Some of you have got a short attention span – and I know I certainly have – so I’ll leave it there for now, at the end of my formative childhood years. Join me next time when I hit my teens, go to big boys school, become a rebel without applause, grow my hair then cut it again once it goes all girly, and enter my Pink Floyd-loving punk phase… don’t worry, it doesn’t last.