The 10 albums that most shaped my musical taste

There are millions of these so-called challenges on FB at the moment to post 10 pictures, 1 a day, no comments, etc etc etc. I recently did this, but closet rebel that I am, I declined to not comment – what’s the point if you can’t explain why you picked the item under consideration? However, only those of you who are my FB friends will have seen these ten albums, so I thought I’d repost them here, and expand on why I chose them a little further; I chose not to include classical albums, and I’m going roughly chronologically – I mean, it’s not as if I don’t have a huge pile of books to review! Hope you enjoy it.

Disc 1: Rock Me Baby by David Cassidy

Oh David, how I did love thee! This was the first album I ever bought for myself.

Released in 1972 on Bell records, it was Cassidy’s second album, getting to #2 in the UK album charts, and generating a #1 single in his cover of ‘How Can I Be Sure’. The title track was also released as a single reaching the top 20, stalling a release of the same song by Brotherhood of Man! I remember loving his cover of ‘Go Now’ off this album in particular – sing along: ‘We’ve already said….’ .

Disc 2: America by America

I discovered America in the mid-1970s, alongside many other similar soft-rock and folk influenced US artists such as Bread, John Denver, the Carpenters and their ilk.

America’s first self-titled album didn’t originally feature the track that made their name – ‘Horse With No Name’ which preceded the album, but repressings added it.

By this time I was a member of Croydon’s record library, and this was one of the first albums I borrowed from there (to home-tape of course!). ‘Horse With No Name’, remains one of my all-time top singles.

Disc 3: Jesus Christ Superstar – original studio recording

I went to see JCS on a joint youthclub/guides trip in about 1973-4-ish. I was totally wowed by it.

Later, when I discovered that before the stage show came the original studio album – I got it from the record library. Featuring Murray Head as Judas and Ian Gillan – still the best Jesus – his vocals for ‘Gethsemane’ recall Deep Purple’s ‘Child in Time’. By this time I was teaching myself guitar, so had discovered ‘Smoke on the Water’. Nuff said.

However, I did also buy the score for JCS, and could often be found belting it out at the piano on days I was home first! It remains my favourite musical, and I recently enjoyed the streaming of the fab modern production that had Tim Minchin as a surprisingly good Judas, whereas the guy who played Jesus was unmemorable.

Disc 4: Foxtrot by Genesis

O-Levels and my musical tastes were evolving once again. I largely rejected punk (although I did like The Stranglers who were far more musical than most of the others) – instead I took the rock route into prog via Genesis.

Foxtrot from 1972 was the gateway album for me, probably borrowed from the record library again. Their fourth album, it opened with the pounding ‘Watcher of the Skies’, and finished with the 23 min epic ‘Supper’s Ready’. I was hooked, but didn’t take to the earlier stuff in the same way, (nor Lamb) and stayed with Genesis through to Invisible Touch – saw them twice: at Wembley Stadium on that tour which was fun, and for a short set at the Knebworth Silver Clef Winners concert in 1990 – although for me they’d long peaked by then.

I never took to Yes in the same way though, finding Genesis more melodic and not being a fan of Jon Anderson’s vocals.

Disc 5: The Royal Scam by Steely Dan

Around the same time, and keen to impress a boy who liked the Dan, I bought their latest, their fifth album, in 1976 – and was wowed by its jazziness. The hit single ‘Haitian Divorce’ is the most forgettable track on the whole album for me. The band were so tight and I loved Fagen’s nasal voice. I promptly immersed myself in their back catalogue. (A particular favourite jazzy track is Your ‘Gold Teeth II’ off Katy Lied.)

I still love Steely Dan – didn’t get the boy though!

Disc 6: The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed

It was early 1980s really before I realised that I loved the Stones more than the Beatles, they just had more fun!

For me Let It Bleed and Beggar’s Banquet from 1968-9 are the best, not the critic’s fave, Exile on Main Street. I would like ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ to be played at my funeral!

I saw the Stones just the once. It was 1982, and the then boyfriend and I hitchhiked from Harlow up to Leeds to see them at Roundhay Park on the European legs of their Tattoo You tour. It was a very good weekend indeed – about 20 people crashed at some chap’s flat in Leeds, and we went to Bradford for a curry the day after (my bf’s family lived there).

Disc 7: Broadsword and the Beast by Jethro Tull

By now I was going out with a chap (now my ex) who was more into prog (Camel and all that, plus Genesis and Yes). He also liked Jethro Tull, whom I’d dismissed as too quirky-folky before.

But I fell in love with the cover of this one, and Tull’s 14th album marked a move towards a more rock sound. They’d always had their moments before – ‘Locomotive Breath’ off Aqualung is superbly heavy, but that was surrounded by the folky stuff, which I wasn’t ready for then. So ‘Fallen on Hard Times’, ‘Pussy Willow’ etc were great tracks off this one for me.

Disc 8: The Dream of the Blue Turtles by Sting

Sting would certainly have been my number one pin-up if I’d been a teenager when The Police’s Synchroncity came out, and after that as he emerged to be a megastar solo artist. Like David (swoon), he was just so pretty.

I got to see him play first in Frankfurt on the Turtles tour in 1985-6 (my now-ex was working there for a while); the largely German audience all held their lighters up – first time I’d seen that – how continental!

His bands were always so tight – I saw him on the next three tours. Amazing musicianship always.

Disc 9: Tippler’s Tales by Fairport Convention

Growing to like earlier Tull did open my mind up towards English folk. Friends suggested we gave Cropredy a try one year, ‘It’s very civilised.’ they said. Fairport Convention’s annual bash near Banbury was also great fun and swimming in Wadsworths beer, and I found myself becoming addicted to Fairport, Richard Thompson and co. Fairport bassist Dave Pegg was actually in Jethro Tull too, as was multi-instrumentalist Martin ‘Maart’ Allcock at that time.

Their 1989 album Red & Gold with its Ralph McTell penned title track was the gateway for me, but I’ve pictured the earlier Tippler’s Tales from 1978 which is rather underrated and has one of my favourite tracks, ‘Reynard the Fox’ on.

Disc 10: I’ve Saved the Best Until Last – Tom Waits

OK – I’ve cheated by including three albums – but they all have their place: Small Change – the discovery; Swordfishtrombones – the wtf WOW! change of direction; and Rain Dogs, my personal favourite.

Chronologically I was introduced to Waits in about 1983 with his 1976 album Small Change. It opens with ‘Tom Traubert’s Blues’ (later to be covered by Rod Stewart) which is just gorgeous, but it was the market trader’s patter of ‘Step Right Up’ and the wailing saxophone backing the spoken ‘Small Change (Got Rained on with His Own .38)’ that grabbed my attention. More conventional albums followed, until 1983 when influenced by his wife and listening to Captain Beefheart, Waits recorded and produced Swordfishtrombones, the first of a long line of quirky and increasingly theatrical story-telling albums with some interesting instrumentation! Rain Dogs came next in 1985 featuring the sublime ‘Downtown Train’ (Rod covered that one too), and I got to see him live from the back row of the Dominion Theatre in London – it was fantastic! We managed to get fifth row seats for the Frank’s Wild Years tour a couple of years later which was an experience – right in front of him with his bullhorn. It proved impossible to get tickets after that – oh well.

What else have I been musically influenced by?

  • David Bowie – obvs, but I didn’t have room to appreciate him critically until the late ’80s.
  • EJ’s Captain Fantastic… and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road were close to the cut too.
  • The Blues Brothers – good time rock ‘n’ roll with soul – backed by superb musicians.
  • I also listened to an awful lot of jazz during the early-mid ’80s – Thelonius Monk and Miles Davis in particular.
  • My second favourite single ever is Ian Dury’s ‘Hit me with your rhythm stick’ (right).
  • My third favourite single is Santana’s version of ‘She’s not there’.
  • My happy tracks to dance to would be ‘La Bamba’ and the Mavericks’ ‘Dance the Night Away’.
  • I just adore The John Wilson Orchestra’s recreations of all the old Hollywood musical scores.
  • Plus Gershwin, Rachmaninov and plenty of Brahms, Beethoven etc. from the classical world, but not really baroque – I’m a classical romantic.

All along, I like to think that my musical taste has been led by musicianship and melody. I do like to wallow in a good tune or a well-crafted pop song – always a priority for me – alongside topnotch musos.

These days, I tend to live with talk radio (BBC R4 of course) on in the background, not music. I listen to music far less often which is a bit sad really and I don’t use Spotify. I haven’t bought a CD except as a present for someone else for years. I can’t just sit and listen to music like I used to – I need to be doing something visual too – but can’t concentrate on reading or blogging while I’m singing along (whether out loud or just in my head).

I have been enjoying looking at everyone else’s album choices too though – even my brother’s!

18 thoughts on “The 10 albums that most shaped my musical taste

  1. A Life in Books says:

    I now have a head full of earworms! I have an older brother to thank for some of my favourite music including soul and Mowtown (proprer R&B!) and I was also a big fan of new wave – punk not so much although I loved the energy of some of it. David Bowie goes without saying. These days I enjoy exploring world music.

  2. Calmgrove says:

    Interesting to see our overlaps, Annabel, yes to the Stones and the Sting album, yes too to your folk and classical tastes (Brahms only comes second to Bach for me, sorry!). I don’t however listen to much talk however unless in Radio 4 in the car, and I do go a bundle on CDs, for the sleeve notes as much as anything. Still, so much in common — I admire your taste!

  3. Anokatony says:

    Have you ever listened to “Liege and Lief” by Fairport Convention with the brilliant Sandy Denny singing lead? This is probably my favorite album of all time.
    The story of Sandy Denny is also one of the most tragic in Rock and Roll history. In March, 1978, she went out drinking with her buddies John Bonham and Keith Moon and returning she fell down a stairs. She died of a brain hemorrhage a month later at the age of 31.

  4. Café Society says:

    We took a group of year six children to see Jesus Christ Superstar and they sang it all round the school for weeks afterwards. They were very musical a lot, actually. We’d already done Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dream Coat with them as a Christmas production.

  5. BookerTalk says:

    Love this trip down memory lane. Thanks for the chance to indulge in some nostalgia Annabel. My list would include Rod Stewart and David Bowie …

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      My pleasure. It was fun to compile. Bowie’s Ziggy was nearly in there as was EJ’s Captain Fantastic…

  6. Dark Puss says:

    I found your posts of considerable interested when I saw them on FB, though probably only listening with you to Steely Dan. I loved punk, what a breath of fresh (well foul in some ways) air after the endless prog rock noodling from King Crimson, Tangerine Dream etc. John Peel was my guide of course! Glad to see some punk spirit still alive in some quarters these days, though the technical ability appears a whole lot higher, which is no bad thing 🙂 Sorry you don’t feel able to just sit and listen to music these days. I really can’t do with any distractions when I listen, certainly that is absolutely the case for classical – I’m the one at the concert often with his eyes shut so that the performers don’t distract me! Take care, best wishes …

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I was very much a prog lightweight really which is quite a relief, steering back into rock and folk! On the rare occasions I’ve seen a good orchestra play over past years, I enjoy watching the performers’ techniques (with the John Wilson orchestra, you can see how much they all enjoy playing the wonderful music), so sorry if I’m the one who accidentally elbows you in the ribs while physically enjoying the music. 😀

  7. Nicola says:

    Interesting and thought provoking choices. So sad we lost David Cassidy before his time. For me he epitomises growing up in the seventies.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I used to sit with my little cassette recorder taping the songs off The Partridge Family.

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