What albums would you take to a desert island? The logical answer would be the ones that would get me off the island, but that's really not the point of the question. The point of the question is to think about what albums could you not live without if you were to be stranded with no access to the rest of your stuff or new items. I've thought about this a lot, and sometimes I think I might not want to take my favorites since I know them backwards and forwards and can conjure them at any second. I also wouldn't want to have those albums associated with the memory of being marooned on a desert island.
But this question always makes me think of albums that I'm crazy about. There are some that I just love beginning to end, and they remind me of a certain period and when I hear them I'm right back there. I hope you're dying to hear what they are because I'm dying to talk about them! I'm sick in bed and typing is about all I can do right now, so here goes. These are 18 of them in no particular order, just in the order they came to me.
Tears For Fears, Songs From The Big Chair
This was the first compact disc I ever owned. It came out in 1985, but I didn't own it until 1991. It was my last day of school present from my parents. I'd known and loved the singles, but when I purchased it I fell in love with the whole thing. It's one of those that only sounds right if I listen to it all. I still love it and I just bought the deluxe reissue with extra tracks and it's just that much better.
The Stone Roses self titled album
If anything can be the soundtrack to my high school experience, this is it. I first heard this album during a Saturday stagecraft session. We would all bring out own music to listen to while we built and painted sets, and I cannot remember the name of the girl who brought this one, but I immediately loved it. I had a dub (remember that back in the day of cassettes?) from the library for about a year until I found it used at Used Kids, and I still have that copy. Chris had a copy of it too, and when we got married we had many duplicates in our collection when we consolidated them. We sold all of the duplicates besides this one, I just couldn't get rid of one. I thought we needed a backup copy.
Prince, Sign O' The Times
Too bad I can't make a peace symbol. That is what the "O" is on the album cover. This is my favorite Prince album to this day. Granted, Prince has made some amazing music since then, but this album means the most to me. I got this album sometime in the 6th grade. I can't remember if it was a birthday or Christmas, but I am pretty sure it was a gift because it was a double album and I can't imagine affording that myself. I was never good at savin' up. This album is amazing. From the adorably quirky "Starfish and Coffee" to the romantic "Adore", I love every song on here. Even "The Cross", which I like the least (it slows the album down big time) but I still love it because it's so different. I never skip a single song on this one, and I love to say "Shut up, already. Damn!" whenever I get the chance. One time I went up to my friend Georges because I needed to ask him something, and I said "Question-". Before I could respond he replied with "Does anybody know about the 'Quake?" This album brings out the awesome in everyone.
Beastie Boys, License To Ill
This was my first album with the "Parental Advisory" label. I got this one when I was in the 5th grade from the Buzzard's Nest in the Graceland Shopping Center on High Street. Buzzard's Nest was a great record shop, and I still miss it. I had friends who owned this record, and I loved the song "Paul Revere" so much that I had to own it myself. I had only the tape so I missed out on the awesome photo that was on the gatefold vinyl edition, but I was a big fan of the portability of cassettes. Again, the Beastie Boys have put out lots more fantastic music, but this one is a big deal to me. My first rap record and the first time Tipper Gore warned my parents about the evils of having more juice than Picasso has paint.
Billy Bragg, Worker's Playtime
One late night in 1991, David Letterman featured a musician named Billy Bragg. He came out in black jeans and a flannel shirt and sang a song called "Sexuality". The next day I was at the library finding whatever I could by this young man. Back then, dubbing from the library or friends was the most economical way to get new music for jobless high schoolers. I found an album called Talking to the Taxman About Poetry, and one day after school I made Juice drive me to Camelot Music so I could purchase the Don't Try This At Home album. When I started going down to Ohio State's campus area record stores, I found a used Billy Bragg album called Worker's Playtime and it soon became my favorite thing ever. This is another where every song is a song I love, and I once listened to only it on loop for a 4 hour road trip and never once got sick of it. This album is also very special to me and Chris, but that's a longer story.
Kate Bush, The Kick Inside
My old roommate Steve used to say that the jerks who robbed us got punishment enough if they watched the Kate Bush videos they stole from me, but don't listen to him. She's amazing. My first year of college I became completely Kate obsessed. This was also around the time the whole internet thing was becoming a very common thing, so I was constantly online on Kate message boards, back when I still did the message board thing. I purchased her best of, The Whole Story during one of my major used record buying binges, and I loved it so much I decided to start from the beginning and work my way up. I purchased The Kick Inside and as with the rest of these albums, practically wore a hole in it. And this is not possible with a CD. This is one of those albums where the songs all flow into each other so I really find it's best to listen to it from start to finish and not put it on random. There was something about this album that made me feel feminine to listen to it. Coincidentally, it was around this time that I began wearing skirts again on a regular basis. I still can't decide which is my favorite song on this album, but depending on the day you ask me I'll either say "Strange Phenomenon" or "Feel It".
Elvis Costello, Imperial Bedroom
Everyone knows I am a huge Elvis fan. When asked who is my favorite musician, I always say Elvis. And while I can't choose a favorite album of his since they are all fantastic in their own way, this one was one of those that was played non stop for a few months. This one also has a really cool cover that is good for staring while in your room listening to this album about 3 times before doing anything else. "Almost Blue" was perfect fodder for my teenage angst, so was "Town Cryer". When I got into Elvis, like REALLY got into him, I was a sophomore in high school. And when you don't have a job and you want nothing more to own every album by man who has released one every year since 1977 and by this time it was 1991, this was a daunting task. I got what I could when I could, checking out Half Price Books and Used Kids whenever possible. As such, I wasn't really paying attention to the order in which I bought them, but rather making sure that however I did it, I bought them all. I only knew like 3 other fans while I was in high school, so dubbing wasn't much of an option. So when I got around to Imperial Bedroom, I was so sucked into it that I really would just sit on my bed and listen while I read the included lyrics. I so wish I had that kind of time again when I buy records. Just to lie on my bed and listen to an album while reading the lyrics and liner notes.
Bryan Ferry, Taxi
Let's get this out of the way-I LOVE Bryan Ferry. I'm not sure there is a sexier male voice in the history of recorded music. And although Taxi quickly found it's place in the cutout bins and can almost always be found used in the cheap bins, I really really love this one. Sure it's overproduced in a way that makes it seem like it belongs under the label of "Adult Contemporary", but there are some gems on this one. His version of "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" is this wonderful, ethereal song and the first time I heard it, I cried. Seriously. Not only do I love this song (it doesn't preach the prudishness, and it addresses the concern of "am I just a conquest to be tossed out after this" in a very poetic way. Carole King's words and Bryan Ferry's voice is a soul touching combo. I'm sounding cheesy I know, but my first listen to this album was a blissful experience.
The Clientele, Strange Geometry
I forget what led me to The Clientele. They were suggested for me by either amazon.com or iTunes, I forget which. The first album of theirs I purchased was God Save The Clientele, and I loved it, so when at Christmas I got an iTunes gift card, I decided to check out more Clientele. I used my gift money to purchase Strange Geometry and I went crazy. I would pull up this album on my iPod and it would be all I would listen to for hours. The Clientele has this very mellow, almost ambient, 60s pop feel, and the music grew on my like kudzu. The second song on the album is the beautifully melancholy "I Can't Seem To Make You Mine", and the second to the last song is the captivating spoken piece, "Losing Haringey". Listening to the description of being transported back to 1982 after looking at a photo will sell anyone one The Clientele. I'm listening to this song as I type this, because just talking about it made me have to listen to it. My iPod Shuffle has nothing but The Clientele on it right now, and I call it the Clientelepod.
Leonard Cohen, I'm Your Man
This album is so fantastic I don't think any explanation is needed to describe the awesomeness of it and why it grabbed me in such a way to make it one of my favorite albums of all time. I was first exposed this album when my friend Troy put "Ain't No Cure For Love" on a mix tape for me. This is the kind of love song I can get into. It has that classic pop song lyric theme of being in love and not being about to do anything about it, but with his low voice and that great sax and bass, it seems much deeper. And the album starts out with "First We Take Manhattan", and this is a great way to immediately grab the attention of the listener. There is no way you won't want to listen to this whole thing after that.
Edwyn Collins, Gorgeous George
Back in the 1990s there was a little movie called Empire Records. It was an indie flick that didn't have much steam at the box office, but the soundtrack was an alterna-rock best seller. This soundtrack was the mainstream introduction of Edwyn Collins to the American alterna-listener. Edwyn is a Scottish musician who in recent years has had some health issues keep him from recording very much, but whenever he does I pounce on it. Anyway, as well as being on the soundtrack, his song "Girl Like You" was on his Gorgeous George album. Not being all that into the other songs on the soundtrack, I bought his album and it was one of my better choices I've made in my life. The album starts out with "Campaign For Real Rock", which is basically Edwyn bitching about Lollapalooza. It's droning drums and opening minor chords let you know that this and all that comes after is going to be your new favorite thing. It sure was mine. I've still never seen the movie, but I think I got the best thing out of it.
U2, The Joshua Tree
Good gravy is this an amazing album. I wore the cassette that I got in the 6th grade out to the point where it did that thing where it would flip in the middle and start playing the other side. I listened to it so much that for a while I wasn't able to listen to it as it would remind me of doing last minute book reports. I seriously listened to this album every night during home work for about half of my 6th grade year. Not having done a book report in decades, that association is gone and I can listen to this one all day long on repeat.
Simple Minds, New Gold Dream
Jim Kerr is just about the only person who could get me to ignore my husband at a party. The crush I had on him beginning in 1985 is still going strong, as is my love for this album. This is 80s new romantic pop perfection. While Simple Minds are considered a one hit wonder in the US thanks to The Breakfast Club, they have a lot of good music that came before and after. They have a new record coming out soon actually. When I got this album which was handed down to me from a friend of the family, I had only been exposed to "Don't You (Forget About Me), but I loved it so much I was eager to try more from the band. My only copy of this for a long time was vinyl, and I do swear you can see through it since I played it so many times. To listen to it now reminds me of being young and figuring out who I was and what my tastes were.
Colin Hay, Topanga
In 1995, VH1 ran a special about 80s musical artists called "Where Are They Now?" Colin Hay was in the 80s band Men At Work who in my opinion put out 2 of the top 20 best albums of the 80s, Business As Usual and Cargo. That 20 best list is a list for another time. Anyway, since Men At Work won the Best New Artist Grammy in 1982, the next logical step was to fall completely off the map as most Best New Artists do. Such a weird category, either you win it when you are new and you break up 2 years later, or you're U2 and you win on your 5th album. Or is it 6th? I think it depends on if you count Under A Blood Red Sky or Wide Awake In America. Anyway, Colin Hay was on this show and I learned that he was working on a solo career. And since I love Men At Work and Colin Hay's voice, I picked up his solo album Topanga when I was in Tower Records in New York City on my 21st birthday. I think it stayed in the CD player until my 23rd birthday and returned to it's constant spot of play after my 24th birthday after Colin Hay sang to me. I went to see him with my friend Shelley and we were almost hugging him we were so close to the stage. I said something to him and somehow the conversation got around to the fact that it was my birthday the next day, so he not only sang "Happy Birthday" to me, but also played my request, "Waiting For My Real Life To Begin". This is my favorite song off this album, and I consider it my theme song. And of course, one of the best damn birthday presents ever.
World Party, Goodbye Jumbo
This album, along to a lesser extent the 10,000 Maniacs album Blind Man's Zoo, is the soundtrack to my freshman year of high school. If I had my Walkman with me, I had this tape in it. This is one of those special albums where every track is my favorite. When I purchased this one I was about a month into my high school experience. I went to alternative high school, so the music my classmates listened to was very different to that of what my junior high classmates insisted on at dances. This being so different made me feel like I was really growing up and learning who I was, not just who I tried to be at school. I to this day go through periods where this is all I listen to for about 2 weeks straight. "Sweet Soul Dream" is a love song that can sell anyone on the band.
Joe Jackson, Look Sharp
Joe Jackson was one of those names I'd heard, but never knew much about, and a customer at Media Play actually got me to check out his music. When I did, I realized that he was one of those musicians I knew lots of songs by, I'd just never given too much thought to the fact that they were all done by the same guy. I found a copy of the cassette of this album for $1 at Used Kids Records, and this seriously never left the car. I actually bought a vinyl copy of this so I could have a home copy and a car copy, I loved it so much. So even if there was a rare occasion that it left the cassette deck, I still had it in the car so it could go back in at any second. This was my first car, and I remember listening to this album while driving around looking for my first apartment. I got to see Joe Jackson on my 32nd birthday, and it was amazing beyond description.
Nick Lowe, The Convincer
Back when Columbus had a Virgin Megastore (we have a lame Crate and Barrel now), Chris and I used to go there and spend hours thumbing through the racks and listening to the new releases. I've always liked Nick Lowe, but had never owned much by him other than the "Cruel To Be Kind" 45". When I saw that he had a new album I decided to check it out and i put on the headphones. After about track 3 I had the album in my hand and was ready to buy. This album is amazing. The songs are so well written and well produced, and it is another that didn't leave the car for months after I bought it. The love songs are deep and sweet, and the songs that are bitter are only so underneath so the songs themselves are quite enjoyable. His cover of Johnny Rivers' "Poor Side Of Town" is worth the cost of the album alone.
Yaz, Upstairs at Eric's
My friend Nicole introduced me to Yaz in 1992, and I've been obsessed with them (and Alison Moyet) ever since. Yazoo is known to Americans as Yaz because of a name conflict with another band. This album is the soundtrack to my sophomore year of high school for sure. I think this is the only thing that got the World Party tape out of the Walkman. I listened to this constantly, and I love Alison's voice so much. When they reunited in 2008, they played New York and I was lucky enough to go see them with friends. My memory of their performance of "Only You" is a blurry one since I cried through the whole thing as I was so excited to be hearing it and seeing them live. I've become a teen in my 30s as I kinda dress like Alison now, and that's kinda on purpose.