This entry is inspired by something I read on Pitchfork yesterday. There, the staffers had listed the ten albums from their formative teenage years that have made the most lasting impression on them. As a list geek I immediately figured I wanted to do the same. In chronological order, here are the ten most important albums from my formative years, age 14-18. I interpret “lasting impression” as either meaning albums that opened important doors to musical worlds in which one still dwells, or simply albums one thought was great back then and still does.
Billy Idol – Billy Idol
– Time of discovery: late 2000, aged 14.
To be quite honest, Billy Idol is the original reason for me listening to alternative (pop/rock) music. Before seeing the White Wedding video on MTV’s “So 80’s” Weekend in the fall of 2000, the only music I listened to was hiphop and Michael Jackson (which is great, of course). Seeing this video, this sinister, weird, gothic video, changed everything. The song was equally sinister and weird, yet catchy, and with strange lyrics. It didn’t sound like anything I had ever heard before, or like anything my friends or classmates listened to. And the guy singing it was pale, skinny, wearing a red leather vest (with nothing underneath) and black pants, looking all cool and threatening. This was the first time I could even remotely see myself in a musician (even though we only had the pale and skinny thing in common – I was the least cool person you would ever meet). Earth-shattering. I went out and bought his self-titled debut album. I remember being disappointed that the other songs were kind of poppy, but it didn’t matter. I became a Billy Idol fanatic, and through him I discovered punk rock, and through punk I discovered…everything else. I became a…person. I developed some sort of style. I got ideas. Opinions. Values. Stuff that’s still at the core of my being. Thank you, Billy. You’re one of the most criminally underrated singers/songwriters of all time (not to mention vocalists!).
Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks, here’s the Sex Pistols
Time of discovery: late 2000, aged 15.
– I had learned that Billy Idol was originally a punk and lead singer with original punks Generation X. This made me terribly interested in the genre, and for my 15th birthday I got a gift certificate at the record store CD Land and I bought this album. Another earth shattering moment. Again, it sounded like nothing I had ever heard. It was totally aggressive, but the lyrics were hilarious (without failing to convey important messages such as anti-royalism, solidarity and alienation) and their attitude was so off, so un-cool (the traditional sense of cool) and antisocial it instantly felt super cool. I was on my path to becoming an individual.
Ebba Grön – Kärlek och uppror
Time of discovery: 2000, aged 15.
-The dearest thing I ever discovered through punk rock. Cemented my love for all things Thåström – a love that gets stronger with each passing day. There’s no-one like him.
The Cure – Three Imaginary Boys
Time of discovery: early 2001, aged 15.
– I discovered The Cure on the same So 80’s Weekend on MTV as I did with Billy Idol (and a-ha! and The Clash!), although I had heard of them before. I knew they were moody and weird, and the video for Close to Me didn’t change that idea. It took me a few months, however, before buying my first Cure CD (and this was the only one that the record store had), but I liked it. It was guitar-driven, like the punk rock I usually listened to, but it was more understated, moodier, weirder. Mood-wise, this suited me better than punk and I got deeper and deeper into The Cure in the following years. They are still very dear to me.
Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
– Time of discovery: mid-late 2001, aged 15 or 16.
I missed the Britpop wave of the mid 90’s (I was too busy trying to learn how to Moonwalk and rap along to Biggie songs). But after listening to punk and Billy Idol and The Cure for a year or so, I knew I wanted to take it further. I knew of Oasis and I knew their most famous songs, so I decided to borrow their albums from the public library. And I don’t know what it was exactly, but they spoke to me. Their music had the attitude I loved from punk, combined with the wistfulness I more and more felt I needed from music. And so, another life long love began.
Bruce Springsteen – The Rising
Time of discovery: mid-late 2002, aged 16.
– I was exploring my increasingly deeper interest in music and decided to check out this legend and his newly released and much talked-about comeback album. It was instant love and Bruce is now one of my all-time favorite artists, and someone I keep returning to. This is far from his greatest album, but it was the first one I heard and that’s important.
Kent – Isola
– Time of discovery: late 2002, aged 17.
My teen angst had really started to gain serious momentum at this point, and this album spoke to me. It was like discovering an album you always knew was out there, but one you never really seemed to find – until one day.
Joy Division – Substance: 1977-1980
Time of discovery: early 2003, aged 17.
– I bought it because I had been knocked out by Love Will Tear Us Apart, and even though the other stuff on the album was far less catchy, I loved it. It had a seriousness to it that I had never heard before. The lyrics were very abstract to my 17-year-old ears. Very pensive. Very contemplative. They matched my more and more frequent…moods. My love for the band would however grow even stronger in the years to come and I now consider them one of my top 5 all time favorite bands.
The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead
Time of discovery: early-mid 2003, aged 17.
Solidified my lifelong love for Morrissey (and Marr). Helped me survive my teens, my twenties and with a little luck, my thirties and beyond.
Bright Eyes – Fevers and Mirrors
Time of discovery: late 2003, aged 18.
I would become a full-fledged hardcore Conor Oberst fan in 2007, but this album blew me away four years prior. Conor is a more interesting songwriter now, but this album is definitely intense. I bought it on a whim, without having heard a single note from it, having read a blurb at the back of a three-year old music rag. I remember it said something overblown about angst. That sealed the deal for me. Glad it did!
Photo by me.