(This is the second installment of what we here at Pencilstorm hope becomes a regular feature of the site: X-amount of records – it doesn’t HAVE to be 10 – that changed our writers’ lives. Our Virginia correspondent JCE launched the series a week ago, his inaugural offering is linked here…Ten Albums That Changed My Life - JCE. Anne Marie is featured here for the second round.)
I first wondered who this JCE was when he wrote a TV Party Tonight! about Mark Linkous and Sparklehorse. I’d never met another person who listened to Sparklehorse or who had even had heard of Linkous. Since then, I have gleaned from JCE’s writing that we’re around the same age and have daughters around the same age, so I guess it’s not surprising that in taking up his challenge tonight, two of my albums overlap his list.
Saturday Night Fever (Soundtrack) - When this movie was released in December 1977, I had just turned 11, and was the oldest of my siblings, ranging in age down to 5. I remember that somehow, however improbably, we convinced my father to take us to see this movie and he had to argue with the ticket guy to get us in, but in we went and see it we did and it was the most exciting two hours of my young life and then we got the soundtrack for Christmas and I became obsessed with the Bee Gees and their younger brother Andy Gibb for at least the next year, spending any gift/babysitting money I’d receive on fan magazines with glossy (fully-clothed) centerfolds.
The Cars / The Cars, Candy-O and Shake it Up - When their self-titled debut came out in 1978, it was not on my radar (that being full of Brothers Gibb that year), but by 1982, Shake it Up’s title track was getting major radio play and I bought that album and the debut and Candy-O. I had just gotten my license and when my cousin Karen would visit from Texas for extended vacations twice per year, I would drive my old Chevy Nova to mall parking lots where no one could hear us sing the songs from all three at the top of our lungs. Karen was my closest cousin in both age and personality and sadly she died in an auto accident when she was 18. But I’ll have these memories forever.
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers / Damn the Torpedoes - How Tom Petty managed to sneak onto the radar to shake me out of my disco fixation in 1979 is still a mystery, but I think that it was when I had my Columbia House membership where I would get all these 8-track tapes sent to me each month. Anyway, Petty entered the picture and my sister and I, who just years earlier were jumping on our beds and arguing over whether David or Shaun Cassidy was cuter, both totally agreed that we loved this guy and every song on this album - and so it went with pretty much everything he ever did. Over the years, if a Petty song came on the radio and I was with my sister, we’d both reach out instinctively to crank the volume. This album was pretty much the first thing I can remember us agreeing on and is one of those points of connection that years later allowed us to transition from feuding siblings to lifelong friends.
Steely Dan / Aja and Donald Fagan / The Nightfly - By the time I started at Boston University in late 1984, MTV had been around for years and I thought that even though I hailed from rock-heavy Rochester, NY, I had been exposed to the world of music. And yet, I was wrong. There was so much music that I had missed. Among my classmates at BU were two quirky best friends from Philadelphia, Bob and Brian, who were obsessed with a band called Steely Dan. And this was music unlike any I had heard before – rock combined with jazz - and it blew me away.
Ben Folds Five / Ben Folds Five - I love it when I hear fresh music, music that seems new to me. That gets me excited to find out, who is this? And once I know the answer, when can I see them live? That’s how I felt in 1995 when I first heard Ben Folds. The debut is an amazing album and I’ve followed Ben Folds - with his distinctive voice and storytelling and piano- pounding delivery - ever since. What’s really cool is that about five years ago now, my daughter Caitlin decided that she too loves Ben Folds and so we have been seeing his shows together ever since. That makes three acts that she and I will see together if at all possible: Ben Folds, Guster and The Flaming Lips. Enjoying music with both of my kids (and having taken each of them to their first concert - both saw different Flaming Lips tours) is definitely life-changing. I almost cheated and selected my favorite Ben Folds Five album - The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner – which is the first that came to mind. While it doesn’t fit the rules of the challenge, my favorite song on that album, the heartbreakingly beautiful Magic, has provided comfort following the untimely death of my sister’s son Matthew this year.
Alvvays - Antisocialites - In December last year, I went to the CD 102.5 Holiday Show, mainly to see Spoon, but was blown away by opening act Alvvays, a Canadian indie-pop band fronted by Molly Rankin, who looked like she had stepped straight from a J Crew ad but proceeded to give a high-energy performance full of songs from their then recently released Antisocialites album, decidedly more punk/harder edge than their 2014 self-titled debut, especially as performed live. Just a few months later, I would move to Boston to start a new job and life and that album would become my personal soundtrack, in steady rotation for a six-month period of 2018 and still played regularly.