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October 22, 2004 - 10:03 am


These are a few albums that have had a profound effect on me over the course of my life. Iíd even go so far as to say that each one changed my perception of the world in a significant way and got me through some difficult times. On listening to them the first time, I remember thinking I had never heard anything like it before.

Iíve grouped them more or less in the order I discovered them with a little commentary following each group.

1. Jimi Hendrix: Axis: Bold As Love
2. Big Brother and the Holding Company: Cheap Thrills
3. The Doors: Strange Days
4. The Beatles: Abbey Road

These first four were pilfered from my parents LPís when I was about thirteen. I found the cover art fascinating, so I threw 'em on the turntable, scratchy and slightly warped as they were. Jimi Hendrix terrified me, (his drummer wasnít nicknamed ďThe OctopusĒ for nothing) but I couldnít pull myself away, and I think it was this experience that laid the foundation for my later appreciation for jazz with its complex rhythms and loose form. Janiceís voice scared me, but my mom loved it, so I gave her a chance and came to love that gravelly Southern Comfort voice as much as my mom did. Come to think of it, The Doors kind of scared me then too. They were all mystic and minor-keyed, but I always loved that kind of stuff. Then there was Abbey Road, which was the yang to the yin of the other three, the light to their dark, in a way; and also the first compact disc I ever bought. I still have it and listen to it often.

5. The Sex Pistols: Never Mind the Bollocks, Hereís the Sex Pistols

My first serious boyfriend, Brady, got me into the Sex Pistols as a sophomore in high school. He was kind of a rebel with very little parental supervision, and I was drawn to him Ė and his dadís wine cellar and vintage baby blue Mercedes convertible Ė like Nancy was to Sidís heroine and bass-playing, if you will. Well, okay, maybe not exactly, but he was the first man to ruin my life, so weíve got that much in common with them. The Sex Pistols solidified my infatuation with the whole punk scene, complete with safety pins in the ears, mismatched shoes, torn clothes, cigarettes and hard liquor. I was the most feared member of the National Honor Society, and I have a vague recollection of there being a fan club in my honor among fellow members of the Math Club. God, I was so cool, wasnít I? Anyway, Iíve still got a rare British import CD of this one, but I donít get it out much anymore.

6. Leonard Cohen: Songs
7. John Coltrane: A Love Supreme
8. Velvet Underground and Nico: Velvet Underground and Nico

A whole different ballgame here. I found these three during my sophomore year of college just when I was getting into Jack Kerouac, poetry, and coffee shops, and planning my first trip to Europe. A very bohemian/pseudo-intellectual/dilatant-ish time. Cohen made me cry, Coltrane made me smile, VU made me itch.

9. The Stooges: Funhouse
10. Robert Johnson: The Complete Recordings
11. Frank Sinatra: Songs for Swinging Lovers
12. Tom Waits: swordfishtrombones
13. Van Morrison: Astral Weeks

An ex-boyfriend, a graduate student of sociology, introduced me to these magnificent five around my 22nd birthday (along with some Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello, which were also great but not in the same way). I credit Chris with a huge personality leap I made around this time, largely due to this music. When I broke up with him because I had ďtoo much living to do,Ē (God, I would hate to have known me then) he was hurt but not angry and told me calmly that one day Iíd regret it. And, you know, I sort of do. I think about him a lot and hope heís happy and well. Anyway, these five are still among my all time favorites. Words donít do them justice, so I wonít even try. Go give Ďem another listen if you havenít in a while.

13. Sonic Youth: Sister
14. Janeís Addiction: triple X
15. Ice T: O.G. Original Gangster

These last three surfaced during my thesis year in architecture school Ė a particularly experimental, self-destructive, drug-addled (more than usual) era. I was finishing college, planning another trip abroad (alone this time), and trying to kill myself with sex, drugs, and rock and roll all at the same time. Boy was that fun. I think. I ended up becoming a huge Sonic Youth fan for years, and Iíve held on to all kinds of rare and bootleg stuff. Mostly now it just gives me a headache, though.

16. Miles Davis: Bitches Brew
17. Nick Drake: Pink Moon
18. Bach: Cello Suites (Pablo Casals, cellist)

That three month solo trip to Europe sobered me up quick. When you have only yourself to look after you, not a lot of money, and lots of people trying to get something from you, and you donít speak the language Ė in more ways than one Ė you tend to wise up fast. But thatís a story (or two) for another day. I settled down tremendously on returning home and focused on making an adult life for myself with a new appreciation of the sublime. And familiar social constructs. Miles was all aflame and moody, Nick was cool and moody, and those cello suites were like a good conversation with no words.

19. Morphine: Cure for Pain

Fewer and fewer things surprise me anymore, but this one seemed to come out of nowhere just a few years ago. Morphine belongs in that rare, short-lived genius realm (along with Nick Drake), and I only hope itís not the last of its kind.

I donít seek out music as actively as I used to, so if anyone has suggestions of something to shake me up a bit, please feel free to drop me a line.

Iím off now for the weekend to our yearly girlsí retreat in Blue Ridge, Georgia, where there will be lots of wine (not so much for me this time), New York strip on the grill, good music, and a tentative 10-mile hike to check out the leaves.


reading -On the Road by Jack Kerouac
viewing - Blue
listening -"Down by the River" by Neil Young

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