Fifteen

There’s a meme going around on a certain social network that shall go unmentioned right now where people are tagged to name fifteen albums in fifteen minutes.

I’m going to twist that a bit. I’ve been meaning to start writing posts about music that was defining for me – the bands where I went out and bought every single album, and I’m going to use this as something of an introduction/thought exercise for that. I’m going to go in chronological order, list the Top 15 bands/singers/acts I ever got into, and the FIRST album of theirs I listened to, and maybe throw in some information about why/how/where/etc. At some point I’ll write an actual entry about each of them and expand on that.

So here we go, and again, chronological order.

#1: The Beatles – Let It Be

Ironically, their last-released album was the first album I heard. Mostly because we had it at home – it was one of my mom’s favourite albums. I was probably twelve when I started listening to it. Then started the long, arduous task of buying all their other albums, which is no mean feat when you’re 12 and there’s no such thing as an iTunes Gift Card.

#2: Pink Floyd – The Final Cut

Once again, their last released album! Even funnier, it’s now my least favourite Pink Floyd album (and The Wall is my second-least -favourite) – so much so that I currently own every Pink Floyd album except this one.

I was probably fourteen when I heard it. A friend of mine insisted that he had to lend it to me and wouldn’t take it back till I listened to it. Back then it seemed really, you know, deep. Nowadays it’s just Roger Waters being whiny.

Interestingly, I didn’t actually get into the good Pink Floyd stuff till much later.

#3: Dire Straits – Making Movies

Ah, Dire Straits – proof that there was some good rock music in the 80s. I remember listening to tapes of this album on a walkman while taking the bus to work.

Dire Straits, at some point The Biggest Band In The World, only released five albums. But I’m counting Mark Knopfler’s solo albums in this.

#4: Jethro Tull – Thick as a Brick

This was another album someone lent me and insisted I listen to it. One night I decided it’s time to clean my room, so I plugged in some headphones and put the CD on.

After the first fifteen seconds I was absolutely hooked and knew I need to get everything these people ever made. And I’m going to describe them now.

This album (which is basically one long track) starts with a mellow-ish acoustic guitar riff, followed by the line “Really don’t mind if you sit this one out.”

That was it. The delivery on that is just perfect. It didn’t hurt that this part is immediately followed by a flute (yeah, I didn’t know Jethro Tull were so heavily flute-based), and that Thick as a Brick is basically a phenomenal album.

Incidentally, Thick as a Brick is the first CD I bought on the internet. This was before there were websites. You had to telnet to the store. But that’s another story.

#5: Led Zeppelin – IV

This is almost too obvious that it’s embarrassing. Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of Zeppelin anymore for two reasons: first, I don’t think they really had any musical growth. A track from any of their albums would feel right at home on any other album. Second, well, I believe Homer Simpson put it best when he said “There’s Jimmy Page, the biggest thief of American black music who ever walked the Earth.” But everyone goes through a OMG STAIRWAY!!!! phase, and I bought a lot of their albums during that time, so…

#6: Neil Young: Rust Never Sleeps

See, I don’t listen exclusively to British bands!

Late one night I turned on the TV and there were these… weird robed figures with shiny eyes walking on the stage. They looked like giant Jawas. Then this guy came on and played some mellow stuff. Then they rearranged the stage and he rocked the living crap out of the place.

Years later I was listening to this CD on a bus (yeah, on the way to work, but in a discman this time) and when Neil Young said “Rock and Roll will never die” it just hit me that, you know… it kinda had.

#7: Frank Zappa – Sheik Yerbouti

Frank Zappa was just completely, totally different from anything else I’d ever listened to before. It kind of defies description, really.

I remember buying this CD and then listening to it on the bus on the way home (I swear, this is the last bus story) and just trying really, really hard not to laugh the entire way.

A lot of people find Frank Zappa offensive, but those people are jerks (see what I did there?) Zappa hardly ever pulls punches and considers pretty much anyone a valid target. Which is just fine by me. Zappa died way too young. He should still be here annoying the hell out of everyone.

Intermission

There’s a bit of a gap in years between the last entry and the next one. I had moved to a different country and could only take 50 CDs with me. This was well before it was practical to rip and encode your entire music collection – it took over a day to rip one album and there weren’t as many automated tools to name the tracks for you.So there were a few years not having any money, and of reacquiring old music before I could really get into new stuff.

#8 Tom Waits – Nighthawks at the Diner

I was actually on a road trip and decided to pick up some new CDs because I was getting bored with the ten I’d brought with me. This was one of them (there were actually three Tom Waits discs, but this is the one I listened to first). I listened to it while driving late into the night. It’s kind of a perfect night-driving album.

Interesting note: Tom Waits was the first artist who’s songs I first heard by downloading them off the internet. This prompted me to buy just about every single album he ever released.

#9 Joni Mitchell – Clouds

Joni Mitchell is on the list of People I Should’ve Been Listening To For Ages. Before getting her CDs, I’d actually heard more covers of her songs than her actual versions of them. I got this album because I remembered Judy Collins’ cover of Both Sides, Now.

I do have quite a few Joni Mitchell albums, but I have to admit that the very heavy jazzy ones don’t really do it for me.

#10: David Bowie- Space Oddity

Ok, before anyone freaks out, yes I did say this is in chronological order. However, Bowie is one of those artists where I’d get one of his albums every 3-4 years. I got the first one when I was 16 or 17, and I’ve been getting more every few years, and I’ve only recently decided that, yes, I do actually have a considerable amount of his music. Which is interesting since I have absolutely ZERO interest in anything he did after 1977.

#11: Loreena McKennitt: … I’m not really sure.

Back in 1994 there was a TV show named Due South. It was a Canadian TV show, and regularly featured music by Canadian artists.

One episode featured this one sing that was just beautiful. And I had to wait well over a decade for the DVDs to be released, so that I could buy them and pause the credits to read that that song was called Prospero’s Speech and it was by an artist named Loreena McKennitt. Luckily we had Google by then so I could find that it was part of an album called The Mask and Mirror… which wasn’t available anywhere.

I ended up getting a boxed-set that contained four other albums, and I really don’t remember which ones they were or which one I listened to first, or when at some point all her other albums became available again, but when they were, I bought them, too.

Interesting note: Loreena McKennitt is, to this date, the only artist I’ve found who sells their music online in FLAC format (this is cool, trust me).

#12: Cat Power: The Greatest

One of the very few “I Heard A Review On The Radio” artists. And frankly it makes me a bit sad to talk about Cat Power. I absolutely loved her first six albums, which evolved form very low-key, almost lonely girl-and-guitar sound, to a somewhat more coherent sound with an actual band, but never anything really crowded. And there was always a… vulnerability in there.

One day I was listening to the radio and the DJ said “Up next, new music from Cat Power!” and I was really happy. Then they started playing it and I was “Uh… is that… a cover of Sinatra’s New York, New York??? And a pretty horrible one, at that?” and it kind of all went downhill from there.

#13: Nellie McKay: Get Away From Me

Nellie McKay is the anti-Cat Power. Heard her on the same radio station (where they toned her down a lot). Her musical style and voice also evolved, but she seems to be going in a direction that only improves and works even better for her. Her latest album is basically all covers – it’s a tribute to Doris Day, and it’s just so obvious that she should be doing that.

I think Nellie McKay is the artist I’ve seen live the most times. Which isn’t saying a whole lot for me, but hey.

#14: Leonard Cohen: Songs of Leonard Cohen

Yeah, I know, I should’ve been listening to Leonard Cohen for ages. And I do have vague recollections of hearing him on the radio in the 80s. And I heard a lot of his songs performed by other artists. One day I decided it’s about time I hear his actual music so I bought a whole chunk of his stuff. I really prefer the style of his early stuff.

#15: Fairport Convention: What We Did On Our Holidays

Yeah, I know, I should’ve been liste… wait, I already said that. Ok, honestly, I have NO IDEA how Fairport Convention slipped under my radar. Just no idea. Especially considering that Jethro Tull have been there forever. But hey, they’re here now.


* * *

Epilogue

I want to be clear that these aren’t all the bands/artists I listen to, nor all the ones I really like, nor all the ones I have a lot of albums. They’re just the top 15. Or the first 15 I could think of. Or something. And yeah, I will try to write longer entries about, well, fourteen of them, at least.

2 comments to Fifteen

  • Karny

    *Like* :) but seriously, some interesting stuff. thanks for posting. when i got to the states i took 30 CDs with me, but i was back in israel every few months and brought another few, and bought some, so when i left after 4 years i had about 200 and i ended selling like 80 to a second hand store. i did encode them tho…

  • [...] knopfler This is another entry in my series where I expand on the artists I mentioned in my Fifteen Albums [...]

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