16 ALBUMS THAT WERE SIGNIFICANT TO ME

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220px-Warmjetsvinyl.jpg9.) My freshman year of college, 1974, my roommate was this cool guy who was a total rock’n’roll freak. He had this huge record collection and we had hundreds and hundreds of rock records lining the walls of our dorm. He had all the ’60s classics, and lots of ’70s prog rock, and all the latest English glitter bands — like Roxy Music and T. Rex — that i had never listened to (he also played guitar in a local Kiss cover band, wearing all the make-up and platform shoes and played gigs at high school dances — Cleveland rocks!!).

Anyways, this Brian Eno album — Here Comes the Warm Jets — was my favorite of his whole collection. Great, well-crafted pop songs, with a zany, almost lunatic, sense of humor, and really innovative and experimental sounds.

So things were going great until mid-way through the school year my roomie had a spiritual epiphany and became a Born Again Christian. He cut off his long hippie hair, started carrying a Bible with him everywhere he went, and hanging out with these straight-laced Christian guys. One afternoon him and two of his Born Again buddies came up to our dorm room and they systematically destroyed everyone of his records, one by one. Because rocknroll was a tool of Satan — the evil one — to lead the youth astray.

So, sadly, I didn’t get to listen to my favorite Eno album anymore after that.

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10.) In 1976, after having flamed out after one year of college, for lack of anything better to do I moved back to my parent’s house in the suburbs of New Jersey, to lick my wounds.

Up to this point the Beatles — and John Lennon in particular — had been my guiding light as sort of the role model of my youth. And they had been with me every step of the way. With each year bringing a new Beatles product — Beatles ’65 and Beatles ’66 and so on, almost like a model of a car that they up-dated every year. And then followed by new Beatles solo albums every year.

But then, by 1976, John Lennon had seemingly flamed out just like me. And disappeared from sight to lick his wounds, too.

So I bought this Lennon greatest hits compilation, Shaved Fish, which, at the time, seemed like the last of the line of John Lennon statements. A wrap-up. So as I listened to it I was also trying to make sense of what the Beatles experience had meant to me. And what it had amounted to. If anything.

And there was this druggy and soporific quality to a lot of the Lennon solo stuff. Compared to the brightness and sharpness of the Beatles stuff. So it really felt, at the point, like the whole Beatles thing had led to a big dead end.

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11.) In 1977 there was all this media hype about the Sex Pistols and “punk rock.” So I figured their record would be a big let-down, like MOST of those media fads turned out to be. This year’s Bay City Rollers, ya know?

But Never Mind the Bullocks turned out to be a great record and lived up to its billing as a bona fide classic. The songs are all surprisingly well-crafted, there’s a great guitar sound, and excellent sonics. And it was completely fresh and exciting. Suddenly it made most of the other rock bands sound flaccid and “corporate” and overly-contrived.

But more important to me, personally, was that Johnny Rotten was my age, 20. And after spending my entire life up to that point living in the shadow of the Sixties Generation and listening to nothing but Sixties re-treads like the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Starship. Finally MY generation had a voice.

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12.) In 1980, age 23, I had the first real love affair of my life. I was just a boy trying to be a man, really, as the song goes. Anyways the woman I was madly in love with was a rock’n’roll freak like me. She would regularly scour CREEM and all the other rock magazine to be up to date on all the latest releases. That’s how hip she was. Plus she was sexy as hell. And she happened to buy the first U2 album, Boy, back in 1980. Before most people even knew who U2 were.

I immediately loved the album. Especially the haunting song I Will Follow (“These eyes make a circle when I call your name THESE EYES”). I still think its the best thing U2 ever did. And when I listen to it, I’m often transports me back in time to 1980, and I’m in her haunted house, sitting in her bedroom, listening to I Will Follow.

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13.) It’s funny how certain songs are like time capsules that take you back in time.

This one takes me back to the summer of 1982. I had moved back to Berkeley, age 26, with this burning desire to publish an underground punk rock newspaper. And i lived with my pal Duncan in his dusty little hotel room in the Berkeley Inn for three months while I worked on putting together the first issue.

And as I’d sit at Duncan’s desk working on the layout pages, I would often play this song, When Kings Come Home, as soothing background music. Its from the album Leo Kottke, Peter Lang, & John Fahey. I had never heard of any of them at the time. . . Duncan had this cheap little record player — one of those things that packs into a box with a little speaker built into it. And Duncan had a bunch of old records, mostly stuff he had bought in the ’60s. Simon & Garfunkle, Joan Baez, that kind of stuff.

It’s weird when I think about it, that I was working on making a punk rock newspaper while listening to this particular genre of music. Anyways, I haven’t listened to the song since the summer of 1982. But I finally managed to track it down on Youtube. So I’m mind-tripping my way back into Duncan’s little hotel room while I listen to this one, one more time. . . .

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14.) In 1984 I wrote a novel, JOURNEY THROUGH THE TENDERLOIN: A Pornographic Love Story (later published by Loompanics in 1996 as a novella in one of their Greatest Hits compilations). It’s the story of this young guy who falls in love with a beautiful young stripper, and the misadventures he has while living in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. It was sort of a device for exploring the dynamics between romantic love and sexual attraction — love and lust — and how they often work at cross-purposes and how we often mistake one for the other.

The book was flawed (because, frankly, I didn’t know how to write a novel). But there are a couple of really good scenes. And a good screenwriter could probably turn it into a really good movie. And I always envisioned this song from the packed! album by Chrissie Hynde — When Will I See You — as the perfect theme song for the movie. It’s this wistful song about lost love, with nice, chiming guitar by Johnny Marrs of the Smiths. I always envisioned the song playing at the beginning of the movie, and at the end of the movie, and bits of it interspersed as background music during the course of the movie.

And maybe one day it will be. You never know in this life.

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15.) This CD, Telegraph Street Music, is significant to me because I recorded it myself. For many years I co-published a photo calendar of the Telegraph Avenue street people. So I thought, why don’t I record a CD of the street people, too. So people could hear them as well as see them. So that’s how this one came about.

It featured some of the prominent Telegraph street characters of the time, like Hate Man, Rick Starr, the Rare Man, etc. And some of the more talented street musicians like Michael Masley, Larry the Drummer, Anthony Bledsoe. Plus Ace Backwords. I’d describe the CD as, half interesting music and half interesting characters. It was the soundtrack of my life for the year of 1994. Literally.

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16.) This CD was significant to me because it was the last album ever bought. Back in 2009 I was working as a Telegraph street vendor, and I always had a big boombox at my vending table, and I’d regularly spin the radio dial in search of cool tunes. There was one hit song back then, Epiphany by Chrisette Michelle, that I really got me. This sort of good-love-gone-bad torch song. I used to listen to the local rap station (not my favorite genre of music) simply because they were the only station that played that song.

Finally, I broke down and bought the CD. And I used to smoke pot at my vending stand and play that song over and over and over (which I was wont to do when I was stoned). Until people would finally come up to me and say: “Ace, that’s a very nice song, but would you PLEASE play something else.” Ha ha. Everybody’s a critic.

I stopped buying records and CDs after that. Because, like most people, I mostly listened to music for free on the internet (It must be tough to try and run a record store these days). It’s amazing how you can find just about any song ever recorded on the internet. But nothing beats actually physically holding an album in your hands while you’re listening to it. That’s the best!

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16 ALBUMS THAT WERE SIGNIFICANT TO ME

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1.) Its impossible for me to even think about my “favorite” albums. So off the top of my head I came up with 16 albums that were significant to me at different points in my life.

This one by the Union Gap was significant because it was the FIRST album I ever bought. 1968, age 12. I was always a sucker for a cornball unrequited love song. Even at age 12. And the Woman Woman single delivered. The rest of the album was just filler, cheesy cover songs. Though one song had a bit of an edge to it — You Better Sit Down Kids, originally by Sonny & Cher — which is about a parent trying to explain to the kids that Mom and Dad were about to get divorced.

The second album I bought was I’m Getting Closer to My Home by Grand Funk Railroad (everybody sing). Followed by the White Album by them Beatles. And then Led Zeppelin 3.

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.Eat_a_Peach_(James_Flournoy_Holmes_album_-_cover_art).jpg2.) This one — Eat a Peach by the Allman Brothers — was significant to me because it was playing over and over at the first “pot party” I ever went to, age 16. Smoking pot from this big water pipe. And it was exciting and dangerous because I was taking that first outlaw step into the “world of drugs.” And i specifically remember grooving on the great guitar lick on One Way Out.

Later that summer (1973) me and my stoner buddies would go to see the Allman Brothers (and the Band and the Grateful Dead) at the Watkins Glenn rock festival. It was even bigger than Woodstock (at least in attendance). And we would go down in history as the Watkins Glenn Generation, man!!

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.220px-Trilogy_(Emerson,_Lake_&_Palmer_album_-_cover_art).jpg3.) This is another one I really got into when I was a 16 year old pothead. Trilogy by Emerson, Lake and Palmer. I used to get way stoned, man, and have all sorts of profound revelations listening to this one.

This album was the first time I made the connection: “Oh I get it. These guys are artists and they’re expressing their souls with concepts and shit.” Before that i just considered it rock’n’roll. It was like Art For Tots. Prog Rock as it was called back in the day. But we all just called it Stoner Rock.

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4.) This one, Red Rose Speedway, is probably not one of McCartney’s better albums (Paul himself said “I can’t stand it!”). And there’s an unfinished, half-ass quality to a lot of the songs. But there’s one song — Little Lamb Dragonfly — that got me where I lived. I was 17 and really falling in love for the first time. And wouldn’t you know it?? It done didn’t work out. So I played that heartbreak song about a thousand times in a row to try and assuage my sad-sack teenage heart.

I wanted this album so bad I actually tried to shoplift it from the local mall. And got busted. Talk about embarrassing. What a way to start a life of crime. Trying to shoplift a sappy Paul McCartney album. Sheesh.

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.5.) This was another favorite my senior year of high school (Class of 74 for those of you keeping score at home). Goat’s Head Soup. Probably not the Rolling Stones’ best album. But we used to like to get really stoned and drunk and drive around the streets of suburban New Jersey in my friend’s Ford Maverick and listen to the 8-track cassette of this album and scream out the lyrics “STAR FUCKER STAR FUCKER STAR FUCKER STAR FUCKER STAAAAAAR!!!” at the top of our teenage lungs. Rock’n’roll ya pukes. Plus. The tender ballad Angie.

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.Rundgren_wizard.png6.) This one — A Wizard A True Star — was one of my favorites when I turned into a budding 17 year old acidhead. It was like a psychedelic concept album. And when you listened to it on acid it had all sorts of cosmic ramifications. It was 1974 and it was like my own personal Sgt Pepper album 7 years too late. International Feel. Cosmic, man. I’m seeing tracers!

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.220px-MahavishnuOrchestraBirdsOfFirealbumcover.jpg7.) This was the last album I really got into my senior year in high school. Birds of Fire by John McGlaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. I was starting to get arty and develop my spiritual seeker / spiritual cripple side. And this album filled the bill.

Its the only “jazz” album I ever really got into. But to me it was more like a heavy metal album if the heavy metal musicians happened to be really really brilliant musicians. Intense, man!

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.The-Moody-Blues-This-Is-The-Moody-Blues-MB-12-LP-Vinyl-Record-281317360598.jpg8.) In 1974 I spent my freshmen year going to this little college outside Cleveland. One weekend I hitch-hiked to Ohio State to visit a high school buddy of mine who was going to school there. On the ride home I got picked up by this old (he was in his late 20s) hippie acidhead from the ’60s generation.

By this point I had become fascinated with all things LSD. And was convinced it was the key to spiritual enlightenment, if I could only figure out how to use it. And this guy seemed to know the secret. As we passed a pipe full of pot back and forth, and I got more and more buzzed, he told me about his experiences as a ’60s acid dealer. He, too, thought that LSD was a powerful spiritual tool. “But the problem was I would get high but I would always come down. I wanted to BE high, not get high.”

And then he got busted for dealing acid and did serious time in the joint. “But then I discovered this guy Ram Dass. He had been Leary’s partner in the LSD research at Harvard. And then later found an Indian Guru who showed him the way. So I started meditating like 10 hours a day in my cell. By the time they released me from prison I almost didn’t want to leave. I was high as a kite.” And I was getting a major contact high just from listening to him.

As he dropped me off near my dorm he recommended I check out Ram Dass’s book Be Here Now. “And check out the music of the Moody Blues. They sing about real love.”

Well sir, the next day I did buy Be Here Now. And this double-album of the Moody Blue’s greatest hits, This is the Moody Blues. And spent many many nights listening to it in search of the lost chord.

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