There was a Facebook status idea circulating about the albums that made the biggest impact on you to date. You had 15 minutes to ruminate on the list. No need to position the list into ‘whys’; it’s just a list and like most of Facebook, it’s ephemeral and meaningless.
I quite liked this idea. As I wrote my list I had many flashbacks to the time I played the albums, what format they were in and where I was living and who I was friends with.
I ended up missing off a ton of albums that I love – because they did not make the impact I thought they had. Sorry, Radiohead.
Music is such a potentially personal and pretentious topic of conversation. People apologise in advance for liking perfectly musical music in case there is a Sting type figure in the room, ready to frown and suck a particularly sour musical lemon and tell of the time they played that song live in a band using only voice vibrations and the hair of a rare African fucking bison as the stringed instrument.
At other times our lists can be quite bipolar, and relay to the reader a raft of genres that will never appear on a compilation album, unless it was called Untreatable Bipolar Disorder.
Some of the choices just might reflect having seen the act live or even better, having met the artist although Garbage, Pantera and Ash didn’t make my list. Gloat, brag, grotesque self-satisfied facial expression.
Some of my choices come from a time of fantasy – imagining that I was that artist, in the case of Kate Bush, Hounds of Love, circa 1989 ( the time I was listening to her ). Kate wore wide culottes and danced really amazingly well, was beautiful,and could sing her arse off.
Liz Fraser of the Cocteau Twins was another favourite – an alternative darling, in a cool band with her husband, cranking out wine or drug soaked melodies with confusing lyrics and in those days we didn’t have Google to look up what they were singing about and anyway it turns out that by the time Liz hit motherhood it was about that, so the mystery dissipated pretty fast.
I still bought that album (Four Calendar Cafe) and thankfully still can’t hear the dreadful fluffy, mothery lyrics.
I later left home and a friend one night played her 808 State ‘cassette’. Apart from dancing to Visage’s Fade to Grey at school, I never really got into electronic music as such, maybe because in the 80s that’s all there was apart from Bruce Springsteen, but I also had a swag of his albums.
808 State left such a mark on me that to this day I have owned the same album four times and still don’t have it, even though I keep ordering it from England and losing it seven seconds later in some kind of freakish compact disc swallowing scenario.
I remember obtaining my sister’s Sony Discman when I was in the later stages of university study. Those were the ‘Stone Roses’ years and I would have to catch the bus from Howick to Symonds Street – a one hour trip.
My Stone Roses CD was exactly that long and made the trip through Pakuranga, Panmure and Great South Road almost something I wanted to do, just for that reason. There were hardly any music videos on offer back then but I cherish seeing a functionally drugged Ian Brown shaking his floppy, sweaty Mancunian hair in a live film of She Bangs the Drums and felt that he was the man of men – his vitality was never up for debate.
I remember 1991 was the year of Nirvana and attending the gig at the Logan Campbell Centre, but they pissed me off. It should have been the seminal album of that year, and I did love On a Plane but Kurt’s white man’s angst gave me the intellectual shits and I will always remember Nirvana by the disinterest they showed the crowd that year, the year they started to make a lot of Muldoons and I made nothing, in fact I borrowed the Muldoons just to see these guys spit on the mosh pit and ruin their own songs.
Morrissey on the other hand has always, always held sway for me. I always have and always will love this annoying, difficult, droning, handsome man. He can sing, he can dress and he can write really resonant lyrics. The albums are limitless but one of my favourite songs has always been There Is A Light That Never Goes Out because once upon a time, many of us were lonely, walking through the Symonds Street underpass, while the Howick buses rumbled over the top of us, hoping a handsome, difficult boy would walk beside us and give us that chance and it never came, but Morrissey gave hope that it could.