Jim Shelley & Book Of Kills

My Most Influential Albums Ever

I recently found a copy of Patti Smith's debut album HORSES at Goodwill. It was one of the numerous re-issues of the album but this one was a remastered version and had a bonus track featuring The Patti Group raging through "My Generation". The whole CD sounded just brilliant...better than I ever remembered. It had been years since I'd listened to HORSES. Somehow it seemed just as fresh and immediate as it ever had. But there was no way it could sound as earth-shatteringly life-changing as it did to me in November of 1975. Up until I discovered Patti, I was pretty much an unrepentant Deadhead, even traveling out to Denver and Oklahoma City to catch an extended run of Grateful Dead shows over the course of 2-3 years. I continued to love Jerry and the boys up through 1983, but Patti Smith blew my mind forever in 1975 and I would never be the same after hearing her first record. As cliched as it might sound, Patti Smith really did change my life.

Listening to the record got me to thinking about what album of each decade (during which I was truly aware of what was going on in pop music) had the biggest influence on me. I guess MEET THE BEATLES would have to take that honor in the '60s. All The Beatles albums, because almost every one of them was such a leap in musical accomplishment over the previous one, had a profound effect on me, but MEET THE BEATLES was the first album I ever owned and, in the end, the album that changed me in just about every way imaginable more than any other. Ever. Bob Dylan's HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED, BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME, and JOHN WESLEY HARDING form a close second. VU's debut would be third.

In the '70s, there's no doubt. HORSES. Sometimes it seems as though all modern post-Beatles rock music owes its existence to Patti Smith in some way or another, though Patti Smith owes her own existence to The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and Velvet Underground. 

The '80s are slightly more problematic when it comes to picking a supremely influential record. There was so much great rock music in the '80s. But I guess I'd have to choose the Pixies's DOOLITTLE. Sublime. I think that brilliant collection of songs was the one that inspired me to start writing and recording my own music. For that I cannot thank Kimmy, Black Francis, Joey and David enough.

The '90s. Well, it's not who you think. Yeah...Nirvana certainly had a positive effect on me and my music, but NEVERMIND couldn't come close to the influence of Guided By Voice's BEE THOUSAND.  That record was recorded on a Tascam 4 track cassette deck. Suddenly it was okay...not just okay but COOL...to record music at home. It didn't have to sound perfect forever. It simply had to be good and heartfelt. Thanks Robert Pollard. Though I'm not sure why, I haven't listened much to GBV now since the early 2000s, but I will never forget the lessons that band taught me. Nor the joy all those beautifully off-kilter little sub-two minute gems of melody and cryptic lyrics provided me.

In the 2000s? No one comes to mind.