In my last post I presented you with the first half of a journey of musical self-discovery I’d recently begun. Now, I give you ….. the rest of it.
DAY 6: Dookie by Green Day – I once heard this album referred to as a “misfit’s manifesto” which couldn’t be more accurate. I was not a popular kid. I did not fit in. These songs spoke directly to me. Not in a literal way. I was not a stoner, wasn’t close to mental breakdown, nor was I as angry and destructive as some of the people in these songs. But subconsciously, the lyrics probably helped me work through some things I dealt with. I’ll never forget how my mom humored me when I remarked that these guys could be the “new Beatles.” I guess it was just a premonition of how important Green Day would become for me, but If you know me well you’ll find that comment pretty hilarious. This isn’t complex music, but it changed me. Green Day was the first band I ever got into who’s music I would go on to buy all of. My wife asked me recently what it was about them that captivated me. I said it was Billie Joe Armstrong’s presence as a front man. It was a confidence – an arrogance even – that I could hear in these songs, later confirmed when I saw him on stage. It was a poise that I could never have, but I felt like in some way I started to develop because of Dookie.
DAY 7: Chronicle by Creedence Clearwater Revival – I strongly feel every American household should contain a copy of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Chronicle Vol. 1. I don’t know that there is any other American band that can boast a better Best Of… album than this. When my parents got me my own computer, it had a CD player, and I inherited four hand-me-down CDs. Greatest Hits compilations from the Eagles and the Steve Miller Band, CCR Chronicle Volume 1, and the Beatles “Blue Album”. Wait, what? Yeah…though I devoured all four, at the time I was more into this than the Beatles. That came later. But CCR first opened me up to music that wasn’t new, a whole new world which led me to explore all varieties of classic rock. I think I have some kind of mystical connection with John Fogerty for two reasons. First, though he was a California boy, his music is sprinkled with references to the Louisiana bayou, and New Orleans. My affinity for that place is equally inexplicable. And second, long ago I noticed that when I hear certain CCR songs, the Dailey side of my family would pop into my head. So either this music was playing prominently during a family gathering long ago and it latched onto my subconscious mind, or this music is just a part of my DNA. Could be either one.
DAY 8 – Anthology 2 by The Beatles – I am not going to try to name one Beatles studio album that influenced me more than the others. Anyway they never would have influenced me were it not for Anthology, particularly the second installment. The three Anthology albums are basically an outtakes dump on a grand scale. While they presented the Beatles in their unpolished form, they were still pretty good. Anthology 2 covers 1965-67 into 1968 a bit. Those 3+ years encompass five Beatles albums if you count the Magical Mystery Tour double EP. Anthology 2 was so stunning to me because it showed how productive and progressive the band was over a relatively short time. Though it excited me like no other music had before, I remember it being a bit unsettling to find that “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “A Day in the Life” came just one and two years after “Ticket To Ride.”
I’ve always been a historian, and I like things to be linear. Anthology 2 is the sound of a band that is going someplace. They know where they are going and what they are doing. Now you see bands “trying something new” for their latest album. They may even do that on every release. But the Beatles from this period were different. Every album significantly built upon what they’d done on the last one. They changed how rock and roll sounds and is made, forever. Anthology 2 changed ME forever. I went on to buy every studio album the Beatles ever made, and very close to every studio album Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison ever made, along with a few from Ringo. How’s that for influence?
DAY 9 – Paul McCartney’s “Flaming Pie” was the first of dozens of former-Beatle solo albums I’d eventually own. This was a huge transition for me in that up until then every pop star I’d followed had either been a teenager or in their 20’s. While classic rock opened me up to the experiences of artists of (roughly) my age group but in a different time period, this album opened me up to the thoughts and style of a much older musician, Paul being in his mid-50s on this record. I was just becoming an adult when this came out so it helped me mature in my musical taste. I found his lyrics insightful and very moving really. “Calico Skies” and “Little Willow” are two beautiful, gentle acoustic ballads that everyone should hear. And he could rock! I mean, nothing on this album is going to melt your face off, but he could still jam. Still can now. And to this day, I almost always refer to a deep conversation as a discussion of “the vast intricacies of life” because of a line from “The Songs We Were Singing.”
DAY 10: “Who’s on First?: Radio Reruns” by Abbott & Costello – Until now my list has been albums that affected me chronologically as I grew. This one screws with my timeline in that (1) it was recorded in the 1940’s (2) I first heard it when I was about ten years old, and (3) its effect on me did not fully germinate until about four years ago. Let me explain. Yes, I was a huge baseball fan, and that is why I got this tape as a Christmas gift. I listened to the “Who’s On First?” bit over and over again, but I liked the rest of the skits, as old-timey as they were. I would let the entire cassette play because I couldn’t skip tracks. This included the two musical numbers on the album. One of them was a ballad called “Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?” sung by actress Marilyn Maxwell. Fast forward to about 2016-17, and the melody and the evocative lyrics of “moonlight on the bayou”, “Creole tunes” and “magnolias in June” still came back to me sometimes. I was sitting at work one day, tired of the Pandora station I had going, and that tune popped into my head. I decided to start a new station based on Louis Armstrong’s original version of the song. Because of how Pandora works, I was soon flooded with a variety of New Orleans jazz musicians, contemporary and classic, eventually extending to some great funk, rhythm & blues, Mardi Gras Indian songs, and even zydeco. To me, all of these are branches of one genre called “New Orleans music.” Nothing has had even close to this effect on me since I discovered the Beatles over 20 years ago. I rarely listen to anything else now. Because I first discovered it through streaming individual tracks, I can’t pick one album. No matter. My “Who’s On First?” tape is the true source of the discovery. With that, I’m going to go make some red beans n rice now.