I thought I’d finish this series with a list of important albums from my very early years, albums released before or in the few years after my birth, that have stuck with me throughout. My parents’ music for the most part. Again, the criteria for this list is that these albums meant something at the time, and I still listen to and enjoy them to this day.
AC/DC: Highway to Hell – Some are quick to dismiss AC/DC, stating that “every album sounds the same”. Whilst this isn’t entirely accurate, they certainly play to their strengths, with a rock solid rhythm section fixed to a simple, but powerful, 4:4 groove. Even if you feel that way, there ought to be one album in your collection, and I was torn between this and it’s follow up, Back In Black. This album wins because… well I prefer it. This is the first of four that come from my stepdad’s record collection that I was allowed supervised access too from around age 14.
The Beatles: Abbey Road – There are many Beatles albums that could have appeared here, but I went with my long-standing favourite. From the opening Come Together through Octopus’s Garden and on to George Harrison’s beautiful Here Comes The Sun, this is a divisive album, for reasons I don’t quite understand. It’s a far cry from their earlier rock n roll works, but shows their writing at some of its best, with something for everyone yet not sounding like it’s spread thin.
Led Zeppelin: Remasters – Essentially a Greatest Hits package, there are so many classic songs spread across these two discs that it’s hard not to recommend. I inherited this one when my stepdad moved in and handed me all the duplicates between his and my mum’s collections, and I listened to it on repeat for weeks. The songs are laid out essentially in order of release, and so act as a journey through the band’s output. There are other compilations out there (Mothership is another strong one), and whilst this doesn’t replace the fact that you should listen to all of their albums, this as a stand-alone collection has it all.
Black Sabbath: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath – Again, I could have chosen any of this band’s first five albums but I settled on the fifth out of simple preference. Plenty of fine songs on here, it’s the title track that stands out for me above all others and part of my early influence to learn to play guitar.
Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon – Once again there are a multitude of options for this band, so I went with the one that had the biggest impact in my younger years. This one is the start of my mum’s influence – she is a big fan of Pink Floyd, her favourite album being Meddle. If I had to pick a very favourite it would be Wish You Were Here, or for their older stuff the compilation Relics. Whatever you listen to, you can’t go much wrong. They produced many fine albums in their two decades.
Marillion: Misplaced Childhood – Another of my mum’s, this one is special on a few levels. For a start, that kid on the cover looks remarkably like I did as a child with his ginger bowl cut, but it’s also one of several Marillion albums my parents listened to when I was young. The first side of the record flows beautifully from song to song, including the massive hit Kayleigh, after which my sister (and quite a few other girls of 1986) was named. My best friend at school, Ben, is the nephew of their bassist, as fact that I found out later in life (after I met Ben funnily enough), which added to the mystique of the album for me. We used one of his amps at a gig.
Genesis: Invisible Touch – Many fans may consider this a weak entry in Genesis’ library, but for me it’s the one I most remembered from childhood. It has several great songs, a great sound, and I still enjoy it from time to time today.
Supertramp: Breakfast In America – this one is a classic, one that many of today’s kids want to get hold of as soon as they get their first Crosley record ruiner. It’s for good reason – Supertramp had a unique sound, great songs, and don’t sound nearly as dated as a lot of bands from the time. Superb.
Electric Light Orchestra: Out of the Blue – Or the one with Mr Blue Sky on. Plenty to love here, a band not dissimilar to Supertramp, of their time but timeless. Mr Blue Sky was the subject of an exam I took during my Music GCSE, in which I had to break it down and describe its various sections. I passed with flying colours.
Motörhead: Ace of Spades – Released the year I was born, Motörhead we’re still quite relevant as I grew up. This album, despite the title track being probably their most recognised, is special because it was recorded in my home town of Rickmansworth, at Jackson Studios. I learned this on reading Mick Wall’s excellent biography of Metallica, Enter Night, in which he recounts Lars’ Ulrich’s story of travelling Europe following bands, and popping in to see Motörhead rehearsing there! Pretty cool for a small town outside London previously famous as a hub of the Grand Union Canal.
There you have a selection of music from around my birth year that remains relevant to me today. I hope you enjoyed it.