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Ten Albums That Changed My Life, part one, 1964-1973 - by Ricki C.

(The response to the Ten Albums That Changed my Life series launched by our VA. correspondent JCE three weeks ago has been brisk to say the least. So much so that the Pencilstorm Editorial Board has decided to make it our regular “Sunday New York Times” prestige feature. This is the third installment, following Anne Marie’s entry last Sunday and JCE’s kick-off to the series before that. Ricki C. is up for the third round. Future entries will feature Wal Ozello, Jim Hutter & Pete Vogel. Stay tuned.)

THE DAVE CLARK 5 / Glad All Over

From the ages of zero to 12 years old, all I cared about in life was comic books and World War II. (Comic books ABOUT World War II like Our Army at War, featuring Sgt. Rock of Easy Company, were – needless to say – particular favorites, but Superman, The Flash, Green Lantern, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men and Daredevil all played a HUGE role in my character development.) Then, when I was 12 in 1964 The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and Everything Changed. Rock & roll largely became my Reason For Existence, and quite literally saved my life on at least one occasion. (see The Bathtub, Growing Old With Rock & Roll.) Oddly, I was never all that crazy about The Beatles, but I dearly LOVED The Dave Clark 5, who appeared on Ed Sullivan the week AFTER The Beatles’ inaugural three-week run.

I got this album as a present for Christmas in December 1964. It was all I asked for, and all I wanted. (I probably got some shirts & socks & underwear too, but I really don’t remember.) I had bought 45 rpm singles up ‘til then, but this was my first album, and I love it to this day. Did this launch my love of bands wearing “uniforms” that has lasted up until this very moment, and was last manifested by The White Stripes in the early 2000’s? Probably.

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THE MC5 Kick Out The Jams / JONI MITCHELL Clouds

Both of these records were released in early 1969, when I was 17, and neatly delineate the next segment of my Rock & Roll Upbringing. These were the records that turned me and my working-class-West-Side-of-Columbus-Ohio friends into Teen Hippies. They couldn’t have been more different: The MC5 is probably the greatest, most outrageous, LOUDEST live rock & roll record of all time, beaten out as the BEST live record of all time only by The Who’s masterful Live At Leeds (but only in the DELUXE CD edition, issued belatedly in the 21st century.) Live At Leeds edges Kick Out The Jams only because The Who had better songs, but when I listen to the MC5 record it makes me wanna BREAK STUFF – even at my advanced age of 66 – and The Who just makes me wanna mimic Pete Townshend air-guitar windmills & appreciate the craft.

The Joni Mitchell record boasts SUPERIOR lyric-writing & is simply just lovely and the dichotomy of me enjoying it AND The MC5 exactly the same amount has exemplified what my tastes in rock & roll have been ever since the 1960’s. Richard & Linda Thompson AND The Clash in the 1970’s; Suzanne Vega AND The Replacements in the 1980’s; Shawn Colvin AND The Mekons in the 1990’s; Mary Lou Lord AND The Strokes in the 2000’s are prime examples of the continuation of that split personality in my tastes. Is Ian Hunter – first with Mott The Hoople, later solo AND active to this day – the best merging of those two poles: great poetic lyrics crossed with bone-crushing rock & roll? Probably.

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THE NEW YORK DOLLS / self-titled first album

By early 1973 rock & roll music had been largely Allman Brothers-ized and James Taylor-ized into an unappetizing form of pabulum hard to stomach for anybody raised on quality rock & roll like The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Turtles and The Left Banke. My two favorite “rock bands” in 1972 were probably The Eagles and Loggins & Messina, and THAT might be the saddest rock & roll sentence I have ever typed. Then I discovered Creem magazine at the corner drugstore by the parking lot at Doctor’s North Hospital where I worked all through the time I attended Ohio State University. Creem became my Rock & Roll Bible, Holy Grail & Koran/Talmud, all rolled into one. Lester Bangs, Ben Edmonds & Lisa Robinson said, “JUMP!” and I asked, “How high?” Creem said, “Buy The New York Dolls,” and I complied.

From the very first Johnny Thunders buzzsaw chords and yowls from David Johansen in “Personality Crisis” that SEARED out of my cheap-ass record player, I was IN LOVE, Jack! Here was everything I had missed/forgotten/been cheated of in rock & roll since Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Yes, America and Seals & Croft had drained/sapped/sucked/vampired the lifeblood out of my Second Love.

It’s one of my most-repeated Smartass One-Liners about rock & roll, and people who know me well are sick of it by now, but it’s germane here: If it wasn’t for The New York Dolls I would be a Deadhead today, with grey hair in a ponytail halfway down my back. I can’t think of any better way to exemplify HOW MUCH this record changed my life than the two photographs below………

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ELLIOTT MURPHY / Aquashow

Quite simply: my favorite record of all time, my favorite singer/songwriter of all time, and – true to the IDEA of this piece – a record that literally Changed The Way I View The World. From the very first verse of the first song on the record – “Last Of The Rock Stars” – when Murphy sang, “I’ve got a feeling on my back like an old, brown jacket / I’d like to stay in school but I just can’t hack it.” THE SAME WEEK I dropped out of college and got on with Making My Way in the World to the second song – “How’s The Family” – when he sang, “And the cold, cold ballerina whose thoughts of love & life / Have split her down the middle ‘til she’s cracked like walked-on ice,” Elliott became my new Dylan, Byron, Shelley, Keats and F. Scott Fitzgerald all rolled into one, and packed a rosewood Stratocaster and a white suit to boot.

In case you’re interested, much more on Murphy linked here - On Elliott Murphy’s Birthday - from my former blog, Growing Old With Rock & Roll.

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Ricki C. will return with five more life-changing albums at a later date…….