Before I gave the matter a bit more thought, I felt as though albums being referred to as ‘life-changing’ was a bit overdramatic. If one had awoken from a coma to the sound of a religious gospel, then perhaps. However, nosing through my music collection I realised that it might not be the overstatement that I had first thought?
NME compiled a list of albums that were submitted by readers as their ‘life-changing albums’. I can’t whittle it down to just one, so here are five, hopefully giving you all a quick skip through my musical childhood.
MEAT LOAF – HITS OUT OF HELL
Having heard my father play this quite often in the car, I borrowed this CD. I was six years old. I am now twenty-nine years old. I still haven’t given it back. I was young enough that I was completely clueless that ‘Paradise By the Dashboard Light’ was a nine-minute plea for sex in Meat Loaf’s car, yet was still a little disgusted by ‘You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth’. Kissing? Ew. Similarly, I can’t help but grimace when I think back to how my parents must have felt when I sang along to Lindsey Buckingham’s sex noises in Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Big Love’.
I think that this compilation was an early breakthrough moment for me, because I already well aware that the Wagnerian scale of Jim Steinman’s tracks was something very special – unique amongst the bitesize pop songs in the charts. Considering that this might be an honorary contender for my first album, I played it a heck of a lot too. Enough so that I didn’t really care that ‘Bat Out of Hell’ was almost ten-minutes long. I would gladly listen to it twice in a row.
LINKIN PARK – HYBRID THEORY
My true first album, and I made a very good choice. I was ten years old. My school friend Jonathan mentioned to me that he had seen an awesome band hoody at a local boutique store, which had the artwork of this amazing band called Linkin Park’s new album. On the back and the front! He was green with envy when my mother bought it for me for the monstrous price of £28 (I can’t believe I still remember that). The strange thing? Even though I’ve never been in pursuit of being fashionable, this all happened before I had even heard a single track by Linkin Park. You can hear Steve Lamacq have a bit of a cackle at this when I told him the story on BBC Radio 6.
It’s just as well that I liked the album. I asked for Hybrid Theory for Christmas, and absolutely adored it. Those screams of “shut up when I’m talking to you!” in ‘One Step Closer’ were, as far as I was aware, the most awesome thing ever. Tied with those screams of “GO AWAY!” during ‘A Place For My Head’ anyway. This was the daybreak of someone who wished he had the guts to be rebellious. However, I felt slightly short-changed when the longest track was only 3’36”. I guess that Meat Loaf had his negative effects on me too.
My circle of friends at the time also led to System of a Down’s Toxicity and Marilyn Manson’s Holy Wood. However, what came next was perhaps the most important of all.
MUSE – ORIGIN OF SYMMETRY
My friend Daniel was very overcome with rock and metal influences, presumably as his parents had given up hiding what his older sister was listening to. At only eleven, he had a poster on his bedroom featuring the lyrics of ‘Surfacing’ by Slipknot (“fuck it all, fuck this world, fuck everything that you stand for…”). On the way to his twelfth birthday party, he put Origin of Symmetry and I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing. The sheer speed of Matt Bellamy’s fingers, and the intense coda of ‘Space Dementia’. And what the hell was there a church organ doing in ‘Megalomania’? Linkin Park had been a rocking twist on the rap that was dominating the charts at the time (with Eminem at centre stage), but this was plain bizarre. I had to hear the rest. Needless to say, this was on my Christmas list.
At this age, I wasn’t following music news at all. However, with the release of Absolution, I had to get it as soon as possible. After Kerrang‘s 5/5 review of their Earls Court shows in 2004, I was enticed by fan-site Muselive.com, signing up only to download the bootleg recording after a friend. Although the site eventually withered, I became a regular poster over the following eight years, making lots of friends along the way.
OUTKAST – STANKONIA
In 2002, I avidly listened to local station’s Power FM’s evening show Online Hitline show. Outkast’s ‘Ms. Jackson’ was a mainstay for weeks, but I still headed to Woolworths to buy the single. I was chuffed to bits when my cousin visited one day with a copy of Stankonia. We then naughtily recorded it to cassette for me to treasure. I still have a photographic memory of forgetting that it was recording, and rewinding during ‘Humble Mumble’ to hear our favourite lyric, meaning that we had to start the song over again. But so what? It was awesome. After all, aged twelve, quality is gauged by the quantity of profanity.
However, while I remember it fondly, this album also cause me an upsetting nightmare at the time. This was the first time that I had really deviated from a genre that I followed for the whole time that I had become interested in music. One day, I lost a lot of ‘cred’ at school for no better reason than quoting a lyric from this album in my MSN Messenger name, and making poor attempts to say that I hadn’t. My reluctance to stay put in a single genre or scene meant that I was bullied a lot. In the long run, it was a small price to pay, more unusual albums would provide stepping stones to be more adventurous, most notably Radiohead’s Kid A and Sigur Ros’ ( ), but this was where that transition really began.
HIM – LOVE METAL
Despite reaching out, rock was still well and truly cemented in my taste, and if I could call myself a member of any scene, or at least the scene that I so desired that I could be part of, this album was its centrepiece. This was, for lack of a better term, my ‘Jackass’ phase – Bam Margera was God incarnate and the whole CKY universe was amazing. I was basically a skater boy who never skated. My friends and I even made our own CKY-style film around this time (entitled Random TV), consisting heavily of us jumping into bushes and sitting on all-terrain board, luging down a hill, because we didn’t have the guts to stand up.
I fell in love with CKY’s Infiltrate Destroy Rebuild, but it was HIM’s Love Metal that gripped me the most. I can also being especially irritated that a friend’s copy of the album had a bonus track (‘Love’s Requiem’) which mine didn’t. I also have vivid memories of listening to that miserable and not especially festive track while putting up Christmas decorations. So what? It’s a great song.
What were your ‘life-changing’ albums? Comment below.