Recently on MySpace—and that new Internet thing the kids are into, Facebook (check it out, it’s gonna be huge)—people started sharing their “10 Albums That Shaped My Teenage Years” lists.
Of course, I’m friends with a lot of music journalists and musicians, so this sort of thing appeals to me. Like most social media posts, this requires little or no thought, and that appeals to me, too.
And I love lists. Soon, I hope to expand on this concept with “10 Showtime After Hours Softcore Porn Movies That Shaped My Teenage Years.”
These aren’t necessarily my favorite albums, just the ones that served as the soundtrack for my high school years, 1981 through 1992. Just kidding. I graduated from Henry A. Bradshaw High School in Florence, Alabama in 1985. Barely.
Peter Gabriel, Peter Gabriel (1980). The one with Pete’s melted face on the cover. I’ve owned this in just about every format in which it’s been issued, though only the recent 45 RPM double‑LP vinyl version measured up to the sound of my old worn‑out cassette. About a year ago, I listened to it every day for a week and never got tired of it. My pick for the greatest record of…ever.
Michael Jackson, Thriller (1983). Soundtrack to every high school dance of the period. The DJ would often play through the whole album. Nobody complained.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Soundtrack) (1982). The ultimate slap in the face to my generation, four LP sides devoted mostly to artists that peaked in the ‘70s. Nevertheless, it remained in heavy rotation, thanks mostly to Jackson Browne’s timeless “Somebody’s Baby.”
Prince and the Revolution, Purple Rain (1984). This one still conjures up happy memories of teenagers singing along to “Darling Nikki” in the back of a church van. Screw you, Tipper Gore.
Bruce Springsteen, Born in the U.S.A. (1984). Other than Nebraska, the only thing the Boss released during my formative years. I didn’t get to see the E Street Band live until 2009, but it was worth the wait. They didn’t perform any songs from this album.
The Police, Ghost in the Machine (1981). Because my older brother blasted this from his bedroom, like, every morning for a year.
Men at Work, Business as Usual (1982). Forgive me, I grew up during the golden age of MTV. I’ve still never tried a Vegemite sandwich. (Runners‑up: Scorpions, Love at First Sting; Van Halen, 1984.)
Asia, Asia (1982). The dumbed‑down prog rock supergroup kicked ass on their debut album. A couple years later, guitarist Steve Howe’s old band Yes came back hard with 90125 and “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” with axeman Trevor Rabin filling Howe’s spot.
I saw three quarters of the original Asia lineup (minus Howe) in Biloxi a few years ago, and it was a great concert. Apologies to the guy sitting in front of me, whose smartphone footage was ruined by me screaming along to every song at the top of my lungs.
R.E.M., Reckoning (1983). My “I was into them before they were popular” pick.
Sesame Street (Soundtrack) (1970‑something). Because I was a late bloomer, and because those wonderful people taught me how to count to 10.
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