The 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.
Albums that changed my life? Man, that's a tough one.
I always struggle when it comes to making "best of" lists. I've been a music fan since my pre-teen days and there has been so much music in my life, it's not easy to whittle that down to just a few choices.
Along the way there have been records that have had a bigger impact than others, so here are some that could be considered "life changing"....
KISS - ROCK AND ROLL OVER (1976)
Kiss in the ‘70's without hesitation had the biggest influence on my musical journey.
You could insert any Kiss album from the decade here (yes, even Dynasty) and I would not argue.
Rock And Roll Over for me is Kiss sounding like Kiss. Bare bones, no frills Rock N Roll. I love the songs on this record and Eddie Kramer’s production captures Kiss at their best. Another highlight for me on this record is Ace Frehley’s lead guitar work, amazing! Ace was in top form on this release. I only wish he had been confident enough to supply a lead vocal on the record but in all honesty, I would not change a thing about it. Plus that cover artwork is probably my favorite Kiss album cover of all time.
Rock and Roll Over on most days is my favorite Kiss record. I don't know if I can pick one Kiss album as life-changing but I would just say experiencing Kiss in the ‘70's changed my life forever. According to my mom I first saw Kiss on television on the Midnight Special. She pulled me and my brothers out of our slumber to witness the spectacle, I have no solid memory of that event but I'm told I was present. I do remember seeing Kiss for the first time on the Destroyer tour and from there on the rest is Kisstory.
IRON MAIDEN - IRON MAIDEN (1980)
After Kiss, my next big evolution in music was "metal." Kiss really weren't metal, so I wasn't really sure what "metal" was. I had heard some Sabbath records but Sabbath didn't really feel like my band. I love Sabbath but they felt like they were a generation older than myself. When I was a kid I was told by older kids that Black Sabbath created Heavy Metal and I was like, "Cool."
Seeing Judas Priest open for Kiss on the Dynasty tour really opened my eyes to a new breed of metal that would soon be invading American shores.
In 1980 the New Wave of British Heavy Metal was taking shape and Iron Maiden led the way. I bought their first album just based on the cover artwork alone. The music on the vinyl sounded exactly the way the cover looked. It was heavy and raw. I loved everything about it. This started a new chapter in my musical journey. At that point I started buying all kinds of European metal by bands like Diamond Head, Motorhead, Saxon, Def Leppard and the list went on and on. From 1980 to 1985 or so, I was a total metalhead kid.
RAMONES - RAMONES (1976)
I discovered the first Ramones record from going through my uncle’s record collection. He had moved away and left all his records at my Grandma's house. He said I could go through them and take whatever I wanted. His collection was mostly hippie stoner rock records, which I didn't appreciate at the time. I left lots of cool stuff behind, but I did take all of his Budgie records.
One of the cool records I found in my uncle's collection was the first Ramones record. I had no idea what it was but seeing those four guys leaned up against a brick wall wearing leather jackets and ripped jeans and the bold RAMONES logo above them really caught my attention.
When I put it on the turntable for the first time, I felt like I was listening to something from another planet. I had never heard anything like it before. All the songs were fast and under three minutes long, I think the longest song on the record is maybe two and a half minutes long. Again, another album that sounded exactly how the cover looks. They looked like punks and sounded like punks.
I never became a full fledged punk rocker but this record certainly struck a chord with me and I've been listening to Ramones records for decades now.
CHEAP TRICK - CHEAP TRICK (1977)
Still my favorite Cheap Trick album to this day.
I saw Cheap Trick in 1978 opening for AC/DC and soon started buying their records. At the time I was only aware of In Color and Heaven Tonight.
My first exposure to the band’s debut album was on the soundtrack to the movie Over The Edge. Back in those days there was no quick resource like Wikipedia to look up a band’s discography, so you just kinda discovered things by mistake. In July of 1979 I took my birthday money to the record store to buy some new records and while looking in the Cheap Trick section, I found a copy of their debut album. I clutched onto it like I had found the Holy Grail. I rushed to checkout counter and gave the clerk my birthday money and ran home to put the record on my turntable.
The whole album is perfection. I think it's really the only Cheap Trick studio album that accurately captures their raw power-pop energy. They have other great albums, but this one is their best in my book. Again, like Kiss, you could put any ‘70's Cheap Trick album in this spot and I would not be upset.
THE KNACK - GET THE KNACK (1979)
Just like Cheap Trick's 1977 debut album, Get The Knack is pure power-pop perfection from beginning to end.
The Knack really had their own thing going, they weren't really new wave and they weren't punk but they fell somewhere in the middle of both genres.
This is definitely one of my all-time favorite albums.
I wrote about it in a past Pencil Storm piece and you can check it out here
JELLYFISH - SPILT MILK (1993)
An unlikely masterpiece of an album that came out during the fall of glam metal and the rise of grunge.
Jellyfish were equal parts Queen, Beach Boys, The Beatles and a pinch of The Partridge Family.
During the early ‘90's I was a bit lost musically because everything was changing and I had been knee-deep in the MTV Glam Rock scene. By that time glam metal was becoming pretty disposable and even bands like Guns N Roses seemed like their time had come and gone. I wasn't in tune with the Seattle stuff. I liked the sentiment of it all, but it just really didn't strike a chord within me.
Jellyfish was like breathing new life into my floundering musical journey. Their first album Bellybutton came out in 1990 and spawned a minor hit with the single "Baby's Coming Back." Almost two and half years later the band returned with an album that leaned more towards their Queen influences and is way more adventurous than their debut.
Sadly Jellyfish did not last long after this record. They were gone in a flash but with just two albums they gained a fan base that hopes one day maybe we will see album number three.
So, I think I will leave you with those six uniquely different records. If I look at my choices too long, I will probably rewrite this entire thing. I think that covers the bases pretty well for me, though: Rock, Metal, Punk and Power Pop.
Honorable mention: I don't know if these albums qualify as "life changing" but they are albums that I consider near-perfect ear candy and are go-to albums I listen to when I feel like there is nothing to listen to.….
BLUE OYSTER CULT - FIRE OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN
BILLY SQUIER - DON'T SAY NO
REO SPEEDWAGON - HI INFIDELITY
APRIL WINE - NATURE OF THE BEAST
DEF LEPPARD - HIGH N DRY
ALICE COOPER - FROM THE INSIDE
ENUFF Z NUFF - STRENGTH
THE POSIES - FROSTING ON THE BEATER
QUEEN - A NIGHT AT THE OPERA
THIN LIZZY - BLACK ROSE
Scott Carr is a guitarist who plays in the Columbus, OH bands Radio Tramps and Returning April. Scott is also an avid collector of vinyl records and works at Lost Weekend Records. So...if you are looking for Scott....you'll either find him in a dimly lit bar playing his guitar or in a record store digging for the holy grail.