Albums that have Meaning to My Life
Someone asked me to list twenty-five albums that either had a profound impact on my life or changed the way I looked at it.
Those who know me are aware that music – of all kinds – is a big part of my identity. I have a perpetual drum track running in the back of my skull, continual chord sequences firing behind my eyes. Even if there is nothing coming out of the stereo, you can be assured that there is a soundtrack running through my life.
So which twenty-five albums altered me the most? What an interesting question – one that requires me to examine the nooks and crannies of my history.
I wanted to avoid including the same band multiple times. However, there are places where that would be impossible (as the reader will see) and in such cases I have simply noted them in a single entry.
This is in no particular order.
1) Metallica, And Justice for All. Metallica was the sound track for my junior year of high school. This should really be all Metallica albums up to Justice; we sort of listened to all of them in a shuffle and on repeat.
2) The Afghan Whigs, Gentlemen. This album has influenced my own music probably more than any other. I’d actually put all of Greg Dulli’s work on here if I could but Gentlemen is the best distillation – especially the guitar solo in Brother Woodrow/Closing Prayer.
3) Jane’s Addiction, Nothing’s Shocking. While my junior year of high school was set to metal, my senior year’s soundtrack was built from what is called “alternative rock” and Jane’s Addiction was a heavy part of that. Nothing’s Shocking was my introduction to them, but Ritual de lo Habitual came out not long after that. When I was feeling full of grief for my friend Martina, I would listen to Three Days and Then She Did on repeat.
4) Queensrÿche, Operation: Mindcrime. This was my sophomore year’s soundtrack. I heard the final track first – Eyes of a Stranger played on FM 105 – and I bought the album the next day. I think I burnt a hole in the disc. I then found their previous album, Rage for Order, which also holds fond memories for me: walking in the West Virginian winter, snow crunching under my boots, crushing heavily on a girl named Barbara.
5) Skinny Puppy, Vivisect IV. In later high school, this was my introduction to “industrial” music. My friend Cliff turned me on to them one Saturday afternoon while playing Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.
6) Kyuss, Welcome to Sky Valley. I listened to this on repeat during my drive across the country to move to San Francisco. There is no feeling like blasting desert rock while you cross the Salt Flats in Utah in the middle of August.
7) Massive Attack, Mezzanine. This album I associate with late 1999 and my time at Organic. I specifically remember walking to work one December morning listening to it and feeling very much at peace.
8) The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. My father forced me to listen to this one day when I was seventeen. It was the first I’d ever really listened to the Beatles and I had no idea that they could sound like this. My mind, focused entirely on heavy metal, was warped forever.
9) Billy Joel, The Nylon Curtain. This was the first album I ever owned that I actually intentionally purchased. I was very young and filled with an unnatural level of stress for a fourth grader and the only thing that seemed to speak to that was the album’s single, Pressure. I remember once that the principal, Mr. Walton, once tried talking to me, trying to understand what I was going through. He was a good man, struck down too early by cancer. I still listen to this album. It holds up.
10) Slayer, Reign in Blood. This was the beginning of my descent into evil. It is a perfect album. I’ve written extensively about this album before and have listened to it at least once a week every week since I first bought it, zero-day, back in 1986.
11) Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine. This is another zero-day album. I was friends with the record store owner and he suggested that I’d like it so I bought it, ear unlistended. I associate this with hanging out in Huntington’s graveyard with Shannon and Chris and Buddha. I used to see kids at the high school across the street wearing Pretty Hate Machine t-shirts think, “that album came out before you were born.”
12) Various Artists, Spawn: The Album. This is associated with my time at Sun Microsystems and a lot of my classes in Hebrew and other religious studies that I was taking at the time.
13) Ozzy Osbourne, The Ultimate Sin. This was the first heavy metal album that I actually owned (instead of having tape-duplicated from a friend’s collection). Ozzy has disavowed it and it has been deleted from his catalog, but it’s got some strong stuff. This is the soundtrack to playing Dragonlance games with Jason and Aaron and Jake – the mice in the walls.
15) Dio, Sacred Heart. I decided to study Latin based on the writing on the album cover (spoiler: it doesn’t make sense). It is difficult to overstate the admiration and love I hold for Ronnie James Dio, a man I mourn to this day.
16) Guns N’ Roses, Appetite for Destruction. This was junior high school and my introduction to marijuana and alcohol. This album is the root of all the bad decisions I have ever made. The band’s follow up, GNR Lies, is also special to me because it was Martina’s favorite album and I listened to it on repeat for days after her death.
18) Dethklok, Dethalbum II. While the whole album is fun, I associate this mostly with when I was first dating my wife, Stacey, who was living in Seattle at the time. I would fly up every other weekend or so and listening to Bloodlines on repeat was how I was able to psyche myself up and over my fear of flying.
20) The Crystal Method, Vegas.
I associate this album with the late 1990s and the crazy drug-fueled time that it was. We would go clubbing almost every night (goth clubs mostly, not dens of electronica). Money and drugs flowed out of tech companies like water. IRC channel traffic was high: #meditation, #/dev/gaf, #sfgoth.
21) Pink Floyd, The Wall. This album is important for two reasons. First, the movie screwed up my little mind when I was a teenager. Second, because I coded nearly all of Elemental’s app while listening to it on repeat (which is why it’s towards the top of my last.fm profile).
22) Nirvana, Nevermind. The entire period of my college life could be summed up with this album. It came and changed the world and my direction in it; I even got my ass beat down over it. I still listen to it constantly, even today.
24) White Zombie, Astro Creep: 2000. I listened to this on a pilgrimage I once made to Devil’s Tower. I was totally burnt out and needed some alone time in the desert. I learned a lot about myself on that trip.
25) Hal WIllner, Weird Nightmare: Meditations on Mingus. This is an obscure disc. It is a tribute to the master Charles Mingus. It came into my life at the right point in time and gave me a love for . . .well. You just need to listen to it.