Friday, January 20, 2017

My records have always been cooler than me



I've been trying to fill up one of the itunes gift cards I received for Christmas. I tend to search for obscure pop music from my younger days when I get one of those things, and it's a process. I usually head right to the '70s or '80s and start scanning old charts.

Then, the other day, I thought "why don't I try something in the '90s? How about 1993? I still liked pop music in '93, maybe there's something obscure there." So I pulled up a chart from that time and started scrolling. And then I stopped scrolling, because it was one song after another that I never liked. I think my separation with pop music began when artists started purposely misspelling song titles and their own band name. I couldn't relate anymore.

Today, I don't even bother keeping up with popular songs, not even more adult-friendly issues. And it's been a recent development. Instead, I've hauled a bunch of old records out of the attic and started playing on the new record player I received as a gift last year. I may be accused of being stuck in the past, but you'll get there, too. After awhile, it's just too much work to keep up, what with everything else going on, and it's nice to revisit the music that made sense.

Earlier this week, I saw on Twitter that people were sharing the 10 albums from their teenage years that made a lasting impact on them. Then I saw the same thing on Facebook. Then I saw Gavin from Baseball Card Breakdown do the same.

Only Gavin incorporated baseball cards with his 10 albums, because just 10 albums wouldn't be a baseball card post now would it?

His post is something like what I do with "Match the Song Title," in which I pick out a certain album and then try to pair up a card with each song on the album. So I know I could do this 10-albums-from-high-school-that-made-a-lasting-impact-with-baseball-card-to-match thing. It was just a matter of compiling everything.

I decided to limit the 10 to my high school years. If you're talking the span from 13 to 19 years of age, that covers a wide territory in which tastes very greatly. Too much to choose and reconcile. So we're going with 10 from high school. That's tough enough.

The music world was very different at that time than it is now, or even during the '90s. When I was in high school, there was no youtube to share the most esoteric band in the world, most people didn't even have cable. MTV was born halfway into my high school career. You listened to the latest music on the radio -- the pop station or the rock station. That was about it.

That means just about everyone you knew shared the same music. There was no splintering of musical tastes into 78 subcategories. The album you played in your bedroom was likely the same one being played in five bedrooms on your block. Sure there was still variety, but it was Topps-Donruss-Fleer variety, not Pacific issuing 14 sets in one year variety.

So that's enough set-up. The cards I found to go with the albums are my own and ones that I've had for awhile. I'm too poor to show "latest pick-ups" like Gavin did.

10 HIGH SCHOOL ALBUMS THAT MADE A LASTING IMPRESSION:


1. TUSK, Fleetwood Mac (released Oct. 12, 1979)


"Tusk" was released amid much anticipation. There was no bigger pop band at the time and it had been three years since Fleetwood Mac released its biggest LP, "Rumors". Tusk was a double-album and a departure for the group, not as melodic as previous efforts. I didn't have a lot of experience with pop music at the time, but the first single, "Tusk" with its nearly mumbled opening, its marching band finale and musicians belting out "TUSK" seemingly at random was about as weird as anything I had heard at the time. Still, there are songs on that record that have stayed with me for decades. "Sara" in particular is that weird song that I will never get sick of, and I will never hit "skip" when I hear it on my ipod.

Why this card goes with this album: The marching band in the "Tusk" song is the USC marching band. Bobby Mitchell, a big prospect for the Dodgers in the early '80s, played at USC when this album was being made.



2. THE WALL, Pink Floyd (released Nov. 30, 1979)


As a teenager, you couldn't find a song that spoke to you more directly than "Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)". To hear "we don't need no education, we don't need no thought control" coming out of the radio when I was a freshman in high school was the greatest high. Yes! Rise up! Damn teachers! The rest of the album was a bit beyond me at the time, but songs like "Comfortably Numb" and "Hey You" resonated through all of those teen-angst years to come. The tale of "Pink" is a dark one full of weird and familiar sounds and voices. In a strange way, it felt like home.

Why these cards go with this album: Did you know six people with the last name "Wall" have appeared in the majors and two of them were Dodgers? And both Dodgers were pitchers? And each of their careers lasted three years?



3. CRIMES OF PASSION, Pat Benatar (released Aug. 5, 1980)


I was a fan of Pat Benatar from the first time I heard "Heartbreaker" on the radio in the first days of 1980. That song arrived on Benatar's debut LP, "In the Heat of the Night," with "Crimes Of Passion" arriving later in the year. "Crimes" was Benatar's biggest album and is known for her biggest song "Hit Me With Your Best Shot." I prefer her other two singles "You Better Run" (the second video ever played on MTV) and "Treat Me Right." Then the radio station would play "Hell Is For Children" and I still don't know what my parents thought of hearing some woman scream "HELL is for HELL!" from my stereo.

Why these cards go with this album: I've seen many a baseball brawl in my day, but I don't think I've ever seen a punch connect so clearly with the face of another player than when Jose Bautista was hit with Rougned Odor's best shot.



4. MOVING PICTURES, Rush (released Feb. 12, 1981)


When I was a sophomore in high school, I took the bus to and from school. It was about a 7-mile drive each way. There were two or three kids in the back of the bus who played tapes on the boom box they brought on the bus. It was always the same groups: Styx, Genesis, Loverboy and Rush. I must have heard "Tom Sawyer" every day for 88 days that year. I really had no idea who Rush was before those bus rides. But I owe those kids my fandom today. Rush's most popular LP is my favorite Rush album to this day.

Why this card goes with this album: Bob Rush never knew during his playing career that he would have such an awesome last name. P.S.: If I had a card of Rob Zastryzny, I'd add him here as he might be the only major league player with "YYZ" in his last name.



5. PARADISE THEATER, Styx (released Jan. 19, 1981)


Another album played by the boys in the back of the bus, "Paradise Theater" was a visually cool album with its "time passage" front cover/back cover and the band's name "Styx" etched on the actual vinyl. I never liked the single "Best Of Times" (it annoyed me when I heard it on the radio). But I loved "Too Much Time On My Hands," a song that I may get nostalgic over more than any other given my current state. This album began a love affair with Styx for a couple of years. The band gets ripped as one of those over-the-top arena rockers, and their concept albums were maybe too earnest. But teenagers at the time ate it up.

Why this card is with this album: Willie Wilson was one of the cocaine addicts outed by the Pittsburgh Drug Trials in the mid-1980s. One of Paradise Theater's most famous songs is "Snowblind," a song about cocaine addiction. If you played the song backwards, the rumors said, you'd hear satanic messages. I played it backwards. I didn't hear anything evil. But I was freaked out that I might have messed up the record.



6. TIME, Elo (Released July 1981)


By 1981, I had purchased six previous ELO records -- seven if you included that embarrassing Xanadu soundtrack. "Time" was the first ELO album whose arrival I anticipated. I was pretty damn excited. "Time" is a concept album about a man trapped in the year 2095, and all the songs have futuristic aspects, which I thought was totally cool. I probably play ELO now as much as I did as when I was a teenager in my room. "Rain Is Falling" is still one of my favorite ELO singles. There is a lyric in "The Way Life's Meant To Be" that says "I wish I was back in 1981." It's not 2095 yet, but I know exactly how the singer feels.

Why this card with this album: "Ticket To The Moon" is a track on this album. Thanks to baseball cards, I have a ticket to Wally Moon. Several of them.



7. TOTO IV, Toto (released April 8, 1982)


This album is here for really one reason and one reason only. The first time I heard the song "Africa" on the radio I could barely take it. The next day, I walked the two miles to Kmart and bought Toto IV. I don't know how many times I played "Africa" after that, but I don't think I was more pleased with owning one single song than I was with that song. The rest of the album didn't do much for me, although I probably liked it better back then. "Africa" though has stood the test of time. People 20 to 30 years younger than me love the song, my daughter included.

Why this card is with this album: To date, no native African has played in the majors. But thanks to the World Baseball Classic, I have a card of a baseball-playing African.



8. RIO, Duran Duran (released May 10, 1982)


The pop musical landscape was changing in the early '80s -- from disco and arena rock to new wave and sappy duets. I naturally leaned toward new wave. "The Second British Invasion" was right in my record groove. I used to listen to a countdown show from England to stay up on bands like The Jam, Slade and Ultravox. Although Duran Duran was criticized as super polished and shallow, the slick, worldly songs appealed to me. I played "Rio" a lot. It appeals to the romantic in me. And the videos were cool.

Why this card goes with this album: I admit I don't pay much attention to Duran Duran lyrics, and for the title song "Rio," the only thing I know off the top of my head besides "cherry ice cream smile" is "across the Rio Grande." The Rio Grande travels through El Paso, Texas. There have been several players from El Paso, Texas. I picked Frank Castillo because his 1993 Upper Deck card is kind of different.



9. WAR, U2 (released Feb. 28, 1983)


By 1983, I had migrated completely to album-oriented radio, soaking in new bands like The Fixx, Zebra and Planet P. One of those new bands was U2, who actually had released a couple of albums already. But my introduction to U2 was "War," an album that embodies its title vigorously. It is not a happy album. Hopeful in parts, but pretty dismal. Its strident message of peace amid war appealed to me and I set out to find previous U2 albums. It wasn't long before U2 was my favorite band, and if you were to ask me now who my favorite band of all-time is, after going on about how I couldn't possible name one, I'd probably settle on U2. Even if you find the band's earnestness off-putting, there is so much awesome in their career. And it all started for me in the winter of 1983.

Why this card is with this album: The second song on the album is called "Seconds" and it's about nuclear proliferation and destruction. ("It takes a second to say goodbye. Say goodbye."). The sad tale of Tommy Hanson comes to mind here, only because I was astonished by how little was said about Hanson when he died at age 29 in 2015. There were a few stories about him, sure, but this was a guy in 2009 that I read about like he was the next Nolan Ryan. Odes to him on the blogs and everywhere. And now, next to nothing? It takes a second to say goodbye.


10. SYNCHRONCITY, The Police (released June 17, 1983)


"Synchronicity" was released the week I graduated from high school, so it barely qualifies here. But I can't leave a Police record out of the top 10. Zenyatta Mondatta and Ghost in the Machine both came out when I was in high school, but I didn't get into those albums until later. Synchronicity I listened to from first song to last over and over. Every song on this album is like a book unto itself. There are lots of differences between songs. The album was insanely popular but I bet a lot of people who bought it for "Every Breath You Take" were quite surprised.

Why this card goes with this record: I've mentioned before that one of the Police band members, Andy Summers, shares my birthday. Well, on the day I was researching this post, I received a package from Royals and Randoms that contained the above Barry Sanders card. Barry Sanders also shares my birthday. Is that synchronicity or what? (Actually, I don't think that fits the definition of synchronicity at all, but it's still cool!).

So those are 10 albums that left a lasting impact. Back when albums were a big deal and more than 17 people bought them.

Like Baseball Card Breakdown, I invite you to do the same. Although it's a lot of work.

12 comments:

  1. I remember all of those records and most of the songs vividly, "get my drift" another tag from "our" high school days. It is awesome to have been born in the back half of the sixties!

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  2. My first prolonged exposed to U2 was in the early 1990s, though I remembering taping [on this thing called a cassette...] War through a radio broadcast that played full albums on Sundays nights.

    I then ended up with a CD of War through one of those collector's clubs, where you paid something like a penny for a number of CDS - I ended up listening to songs from War a lot and for better or for worse, U2 is the band I consider my favorite as well.

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  3. I applaud the inclusion of Time, War, Synchronicity and Moving Pictures. I'm 21 now, but all four of those albums do mean a lot to me, even if they came out long after I grew up.

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  4. Nice!

    Yeah, "Africa" is one of the greatest songs ever.

    I nearly had U2's Actung Baby and/or Zooropa on my list, as they were the albums of theirs that came out while I was in high school. Couldn't escape them. Good stuff.

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  5. It's funny.. I couldn't even name 10 albums I listened to in High School. Maybe two... And I still listen to one of them from time to time.. lol

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  6. Unlike Gavin's list I actually listen to some of these songs. I'm not sure the blogosphere wants to see mine, considering I began high school in 1999. However, when I was in high school I was mostly listening to 60s music. I believe I was the only person in my school who was set to the Oldies station...which has since been retooled to be 90s to today only, unfortunately.

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  7. I have Eye in the Sky, a favorite album. Takes me right back to the senior year of high school. I put in the turntable for a spin every so often. But then, I still listen to the Bay City Rollers....

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  8. It's interesting to see your list, since we're of a similar age and I'm familiar with all of the albums. There were albums in your lead image (Mirage, Ghost In The Machine, Shuttered Room) that I would've picked over several albums on your list... but that's just me. Making my own list sounded like a fun idea, but the thought of defending albums like "Weird Al Yankovic In 3-D" or explaining choices like Kraftwerk's "Computer World" made me virtually crumple it up and toss it towards (but not in) the trash can.

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    1. Yeah I mentioned on Gavin's blog in the comments about some of the albums from my teenage years... I was able to name 5 I listened to.. Now that I think about it, a couple of the other ones would be Weird Al albums.. lol

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  9. The Police have been one of my favorite groups ever since I purchased Synchronicity back in the day. Like you, I listened to that album over and over, which eventually led me to their earlier work. If and when I finally write up my post... there will definitely be a spot reserved for The Police.

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  10. I'm sittin' on a bar stool talkin' like a damn fool......

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  11. Ah, good - I'm trying to stock up on post ideas to keep up the pace. You'll probably have to turn down the volume on mine, though. There will be a lot more wailing guitars and heavy drums in my selections. Pat Benetar would fit in quite well and Rush will know a lot of my picks.... I didn't even know half of what Gavin picked out. But to each their own...

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