So here here goes, with a few minor edits:
Steve Wilken, a friend of mine from back in the day, issued me this challenge, on my birthday, to boot. He wanted me to list …
“Your personal favorite albums released during your lifetime. Not necessarily what you think are the best, but the ones you have no choice but listen to beginning to end.”
He did apologize for the sleepless nights, (which I don’t think is the full reason I have had trouble sleeping lately) but it is a task that was difficult.
Before the list, here are some notable absences:
No greatest hits or best ofs were allowed, so no Bob Marley “Legend” or Billy Joel or Elton John’s Greatest Hits. No Live releases, so goodbye Cheap Trick “At Budokan.”
My Lifetime began on Feb. 8, 1969 so that boots out a lot of the Beatles, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones.
Some notable artist absences (some of which are my favorite artists - Springsteen, Bowie, Rush and John Hiatt. I can’t pick a favorite of those artists because the sum of their work supersedes any one part. I like them all.
Here is a full case for you Steve Wilken, rather just a Six Pack The list is very fluid, pun intended). And yes, I wish you a thousand nights of Justin Bieber “Baby” popping into your head as you are trying to fall asleep for posing this challenge.
24. Def Leppard “Pyromania” (1983) - Unfairly categorized as hair metal, this was my favorite cassette in early high school. It holds up today.
23. Fleetwood Mac “Rumours” (1977) - My brother Mike didn’t like Fleetwood Mac so I was late arriving on this bus. I owned it on cassette but strangely enough, I don’t have it on CD. I plan to correct that soon.
22. Green Day “American Idiot” (2004) - This is the latest release on the list, proving I am an old codger. Concept albums are hit or miss for me but Green Day slugged it out of the park on this one.
21. Clash “London Calling” (1979) - My brother wouldn’t have touched the Clash and I didn’t either until about 1999 or so, when I picked up a used copy at Crow’s Nest in Joliet. The older clerk asked if my copy wore out and I lied and said sure.
20. U2 “Achtung Baby” (1991) - Released two weeks prior to my dad’s death, this got me through some dark times.
19. Prince “Purple Rain” (1984) - I still can’t meet a girl named Nikki and not giggle like a 12-year-old.
18. REM “Automatic for the People” (1992) - Released just a few months after I started at NRM Music, this album catapulted REM to the front of my all-time lists for a few years.
17. Boston “Boston” (1976) - Another Mike Ahrens influence, it is fitting we heard “Peace of Mind” on the way to his wake last summer.
16. Van Halen “Van Halen II” (1979) - Often overlooked, but with tracks like “Dance the Night Away” and “Light Up the Sky,” I go back and forth that it is just as good as VH1.
15. Metallica “... And Justice for All” (1988) - Having just picked the Garage Days EP about a week before its release, I quickly decided to join BMG Music Service and get them all for a penny. That was a lesson in economic efficiency. I was once listening to “Blackened” while driving on an open interstate and found myself going 92 MPH.
14. Police “Synchronicity” (1984) - I saw my freshman health teacher buying this album at Kmart and thought if a teacher liked it, it couldn’t be really cool, could it? Mrs. Maurer also feared showing my class the childbirth video because she “was afraid what jokes you [me] and Seggebruch would make during it.” She was right, about the album, too.
13. Beatles “Abbey Road” (1969) - Only this and “Let it Be” qualified for the Beatles (Sgt. Pepper is my favorite), but it is a great one. I thought it would rank higher, too.
12. REM “Document”(1987) - Everybody knows about “End of the World …” and “The One I love,” but start to finish, this is an incredible album.
11. Aerosmith “Toys in the Attic” (1975) - Still my favorite Aerosmith album. “Adam’s Apple,” “Uncle Salty, “Sweet Emotion,” and “Walk This Way” were all great songs and after Mike explained “Big Ten Inch Record” (I was 6 years old, remember), the album was complete.
10. Metallica “Master of Puppets” (1986) - The last with bassist Cliff Burton is the best (Don’t give me any of that Black Album is better baloney, either.) This was Metallica at its finest with its best song “Welcome Home (Sanitarium).”
9. Van Halen “Van Halen I” (1978) - The album just turned 40 and the debate was all over the internet if it is a classic or not. If it isn’t, I guess I don’t know what a classic is.
8. Pearl Jam “Ten” (1991) - The first of two by PJ in the Top 10. I don’t have a reason why this is lower than Vs. other than I had no expectations for this one and I had big expectations for Vs. ...
7. Pearl Jam “Vs.” (1993) - … and it delivered big time. “Rearview Mirror” is my all-time favorite PJ song, but the entire album is so great that you don’t want to skip songs to hear your favorite song. It also doesn’t feel right without “Blood” before it and “Rats” after it.
6. U2 “The Joshua Tree” (1987) - Separately, the hit singles from this are spectacular but as the lead three songs, its sets up just a beautiful creation. It is one of my favorites to put on at bedtime.
5. AC/DC “Back in Black” (1980) - What a great tribute to fallen lead singer Bon Scott! Is there a more ominous sound than the bells chiming at the start of “Hells Bells?” This, like most of the list, is another whole is better than the sum of its parts.
4. Nirvana “Nevermind” (1991) - I have said Nirvana is overrated, but only in the context that they were not the only grunge group to kick in the door and put the hair farmers to pasture. Nirvana was very, very good and the greatness was stopped only by Kurt Cobain's death.
3. Guns N Roses “Appetite for Destruction” (1987) - They opened eyes with “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” but the beauty of this album are the lesser knowns like “My Michelle” and “Think About You.”
2. Led Zeppelin IV (1971) - Call it IV, Zoso, Symbols or whatever; it is still the best of one of the best rock bands of all-time. “Black Dog” and “Misty Mountain Hop” lead off each side which culminates in “Stairway to Heaven” and “When the Levee Breaks.”
1. Pink Floyd “Dark Side of the Moon” (1973) - Mike forced me to listen to this many times in the dark, sometimes with headphones on, in an attempt to scare me. I think he realized it wasn’t working when he heard me singing “And when the band you're in starts playing different tunes …” The quintessential start-to-finish album in my book. The songs feel wrong played out or order.
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