Thursday, January 19, 2017

The 10 Albums I Wish I'd Heard in High School

By Steve Weddle

Like you, I’ve seen the “10 Albums I Loved in High School” lists going around. I like knowing what other people liked, and I like remembering some old songs I maybe haven’t thought of in years. In high school, I had Dylan’s Biograph on repeat. I had some AC/DC and Iron Maiden and Willie Nelson and Go-Go’s and the Doors and Steely Dan and stacks of others. But, I missed out on so much. Here are some of the albums I wish I had been listening to in high school. I'm shy of 10, so feel free to help me fill out the list.

Kind of Blue (1959) 

I came across the work of Miles Davis and John Coltrane in college thanks to a tape Chris Case handed me. While a grad student at LSU, I was fortunate to hear the local college station play every Coltrane recording one year. They had this compilation of all his recordings, back from working with Red Garland and before to Coltrane’s death. Each Thursday night (or Wednesday or Friday, I forget) the radio station would play the next Coltrane recording in chronological order. They’d have studio stuff and live shows. I’d slide in a 90-munite cassette and record what I could. I had boxes of Coltrane on cassette after a while, a luxury I tried my best to appreciate. 

Kind of Blue would have been a great introduction for me as a high schooler. Davis on trumpet and Coltrane on tenor, you also get Bill Evans on piano for all but one of the tracks. I’d come to love Evans’s albums later, especially the work he did with guitarist Jim Hall. But Coltrane. That was my guy. And Kind of Blue would have been a welcoming introduction. 

The Queen is Dead (1986) 
By the time I got to The Smiths, they were done. Just barely. As an undergrad, I permanently borrowed a cassette tape from a roommate. One side had The Queen is Dead, which stood out to me as something new and amazing and maudlin and hilarious and vibrant. “Frankly, Mister Shankly” and “Cemetery Gates” got a great deal of play in my dorm. Louder Than Bombs would have been a nice one, too, but Queen is solid as a album as opposed to a collection of singles.

Pet Sounds (1966) 
Robert Schneider walked me through this Beach Boys piece of brilliance one night. I’d dismissed the Beach Boys as silly surf music. With this one, I learned what an idiot I’d been. Not what an idiot I’d been about everything, of course. Just this album. But, you know. Still. Dang. “Sloop John B” still slays me. 

Bryter Layter (1971) 
Nick Drake’s second of three albums is the one I find myself listening to most often these days. “Northern Sky” and “One of These Things First” are in 19% of all indie films and 11% of all commercials for a reason. 

Come on Pilgrim (1987) 
Of course, I lived on The Pixies in college. Surfer Rosa, Come on Pilgrim, and Doolittle were reasons to live. Come On Pilgrim is the only one released when I was in high school, and hearing “I’ve Been Tired” or “Vamos” or any other track on the eight-song EP would have been great preparation for all the pain and screaming and humor and horror to come in my life and, of course, to come on all the upcoming Pixies albums. 

The Heart of Saturday Night (1974) 
What in the world was this album that Brian Arundel handed me twenty years after it came out? I was in grad school and on this mix CD were “Jockey Full of Bourbon” and “Tango ‘Til They’re Sore.” I tracked down all the Tom Waits I could find right away. I have different favorites each month now, but I think The Heart of Saturday Night would have been a good match for high-school me. Weird, lyrical, and just enough darkness. 

Blue (1971) 
I was in Brian Levy’s car in college and he had this tape in the deck. He let me borrow it. I never gave it back. From “A Case of You” to “River,” I was completely amazed. 
“The Last Time I Saw Richard” sounded to me like a French novel. Or German. It sounded like something brand new and completely familiar. A piece I’d lost that I didn’t know was missing. 

The last time I saw Richard was Detroit in '68And he told me all romantics meet the same fate someday Cynical and drunk and boring someone in some dark café 
Yeah, I thought. That’s right. Stupid romantics. All that emotion and junk. If I could have slipped this to me in high school, you know?  And then the ending, the smiling humor coming from the rhyme and the dark humor from the scene: 

Richard got married to a figure skaterAnd he bought her a dishwasher and a coffee percolator And he drinks at home now most nights with the TV on And all the house lights left up bright. 

Like all these albums, I got there later than I should have. But I got there. 


Art Taylor said...

Great list here--and coincidentally, several that I myself discovered far later than I should've (and much love now).

Steve Weddle said...