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10 Albums That Changed My Life - by Jon Peterson

The 10 Albums That Changed My Life series on Pencilstorm was conceived and launched by our Virginia correspondent JCE (John Egertson to his friends & family) last November, and will continue as our regular Sunday feature until we run out of submissions. To view the complete series, click on the Music heading on the Pencilstorm home page.

10 RECORDS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE - by Jon Peterson

1.    AMERICAN GRAFFITI / (various, 2 LP Soundtrack).

I started collecting records in 7th grade after my brother Jim took me to see the movie.  A total mind-blower in seeing the power, beauty and splendor of ‘first generation rock n roll.’  My life would be forever changed.  Collecting Art Laboe’s OLDIES BUT GOODIES LP collections and seeing the Broadway play GREASE would soon follow.  I was a 98-pound ‘greaser’ in a hair-down-to-the-shoulders world!

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2.    JIM CROCE / “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim” 

My brother Jim also gave me his Yahama acoustic guitar around this time, so ‘folk rock’ would be my next step.  And Croce was my man.  Song for song, I’ll take his first three ABC records over many of his peers.  His writing was perfection.  And what colorful characters: folks like Speedball Tucker, Rapid Roy, and a woman who was "built like a 'frigerator with a head"!  With all the lyrics printed on the LP’s inner sleeve, I learned every word, too!

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3.    NILSSON / “Son Of Schmilsson”  

Again, my brother Jim’s influence.  He started managing a State College, PA musician named Terry Beard, who was a Harry Nilsson freak, so I started collecting all the Harry LP's I could find.  They all were powerful…but for a 9th grader…singing “I sang my balls off for you, baby” and “You’re breaking my heart, you’re tearing it apart / So ‘fuck you!’ made me feel pretty damn cool.  Beatles in disguise Richie Snare and George Harrysong played on it too!

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4.    BEACH BOYS / “Pet Sounds”  

This was it.  The Holy Grail.  I was collecting the early BB’s LPs before this… and PS was not a ‘one listen’ record.  But the more and more I listened, the more I became aware of importance of everything on a record: the writing, arranging, production, playing, singing…and sequencing.  I had an unrequited high school love, too…so PS certainly became my ‘go-to’ pillow to cry on. 

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5.   THE WHO / “Who’s Next”  

This was the record that got me out of my oldies and folk rock period…and taught me the difference between rock ‘n’ roll and rock.  Learning about PT’s use of a Lowrey Berkshire Deluxe TBO-1 organ, looped on the intro to ‘Baba O'Reilly’ and juxtaposing that against crashing power chords with Moonie’s pounding rolls taught me there was much more to life than a rushed 'flat four' rhythm. So did driving around with Joe DiLazzaro with quarts of Yuengling singing “Teenage Wasteland!” and “I'm going mobile... beep beep!”

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6.    BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN / “Darkness On The Edge Of Town”  

Although I had Bruce’s three LPs before this one ...'Darkness' was my first ‘real time’ Bruce record.  It was also his best, IMHO…because it combined the ‘literate Bruce’ with his ‘inner rocker.’ No more “Mary Queen of Arkansas” and swallowing the dictionary…the string zoom on “Badlands” took things into the stratosphere! In fact, my crew loved this record so much that my buddy Vern Brennan felt compelled to go down to a billboard on the Minersville-Pottsville highway…and spray-paint “Prove It All Night” on it!  I also learned that it was okay to fall in love with a prostitute named Candy. (editor’s note: I discern ZERO evidence in the lyrics of this Springsteen tune that Candy is anything more or less than a lovely young girl, let alone a prostitute. I’m just sayin’.)

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7.    ROLLING STONES / “Some Girls” 

Prior to this, I was just a ‘Hot Rocks’ man…much preferring the Beatles, Who and Kinks to Mick & Keith.  But this record was so perfect…how could I not love it?  From a country parody to a Motown cover, to Mick doing his thing as perfectly as it gets…to Keith singing “Gonna find my way to Heaven, 'cuz I did my time in Hell.”  The Stones have been trying to ‘top this one’ for the last 40 years! And I’m still lovin’ it! 

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 8.    ELVIS COSTELLO / “This Year’s Model”   

This was another game-changer for me.  After hearing this, I was no longer interested in sensitive singer-songwriters.  I wanted writers who also rocked hard…and sneered!    The sound of those keyboards.  This was ’96 Tears’ on steroids.  I would look away from my more mainstream and folksy-wolksy influences…and never look back.

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9.    THE RAMONES / “End of the Century”  

Although I would like to tell you that I was cool enough to have owned the four prior Ramones LPs, this was the first one that I actually bought.  Elvis Costello was my ‘gateway drug’ into Punk…because much of the early punk stuff turned me off: not because it rocked hard…but because it was poorly recorded and/or produced.  With Phil Spector production, this was sonically brilliant.  And with ‘Do You Remember Rock N Roll Radio?’ on it, I finally felt vindicated for loving doo-wop in high school, while everyone else was digging Uriah Heep.

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10. THE SPECIALS / “The Specials”  

I guess I bought this record because I saw that it was produced by Elvis Costello, but quickly learned to love it for many other reasons.  It was funny, it was silly, it talked about ‘relationship trouble’…and a world where Black & White musical influences and friendships were forged over pints and fights.  It would also teach me how to love the basics of world-beat music.  From reggae-styling drumming to Rico Rodrigues’ trombone…this LP became my ‘gateway drug’ into ska, reggae, and Afro-pop.  In the years that followed “Club Ska ’67” and Paul Simon’s “Graceland” would move me further along.  When things started getting shittier by the mid-1980s, this was the record that took me underground to expand my musical vocabulary.  

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When I re-emerged on January 1, 1991… I now had the ears and a wide enough sphere of influences to start Radio Free Columbus on WCBE and SHAKIN IT RADIO from 2006 to the present. (more at www.shakinitradio.com). 

11. BONUS TRACKS / (boiling under but certainly there!): THE VELVET UNDERGROUND & NICO - “self- titled” /  AL STEWART - “Year Of The Cat” / KINKS - “Something Else” / BILLY JOEL - “Cold Spring Harbor” / JONATHAN RICHMAN &THE MODERN LOVERS - “Jonathan Sings!” / THE JAM - “Setting Sons” / JOE KING CARRASCO & THE CROWNS “Party Weekend.”