Walski’s introductory fore note: This post first appeared as a note on Walski’s Facebook page. His film director friend, Tony Pietra Pohlsen (whose work can be viewed in the award-winning series Ghosts, and who tagged Walski to begin with), suggested that the note should also be posted on myAsylum. Walski’s done just that, and what you read here is a slightly expanded version. For a change, you’ll read something written in the first person. In case you haven’t been following this blog for long myAsylum doesn’t only focus on socio-politics (that would be über depressing), but also touches on other things that interest Walski – music, incidentally, is one of them.
My music connoisseur friend Tony Pietra Pohlsen tagged me on this note meme. I don't usually propagate memes, but I'll make an exception this time around since music is kinda my thang. Among other thangs.
Here are the original meme instructions:
"Think of 20 albums that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life or the way you looked at it. They sucked you in and took you over for days, weeks, months, years. These are the albums that you can use to identify time, places, people, emotions. These are the albums that no matter what they were thought of musically shaped your world. When you finish, tag 15 others, including me. Make sure you copy and paste this part so they know the drill. Get the idea now? Good. Tag, you're it!"
So here goes (had to do a deep neural search thru my memory archives for this task), in no particular order of influence or chronology. Those who know (or think they know) my taste in music may be a bit surprised. The first 10 are from my earliest memories of music until I turned 18. The second half are mind-blowing albums from 18 on...
(Walski’s 20, and then some, in the full post)
This was my introduction to "World Music", and is an album that my dad bought sometime in 1976. What initially caught my eye was the art-work, which was really funky cool. Only later did I discover that the groups original logo (and the album covers for their first two albums) was designed by the legendary Roger Dean. Music-wise, it was a departure from regular pop music at the time.
Having grown up on The Beatles, this was the first album post-Fab Four that I personally owned. At the time (aged 12), I was studying classical guitar, the beautiful guitar work (mainly by Denny Laine and McCartney) became an inspiration for me to continue studying guitar, which I formally did until I was about 18 and this dreaded thing called "SPM" loomed its ugly head.
Introduced to me by my cousin when I was 17, this triggered the start of how my taste in music began to change. I've always loved music, but my exposure up to then had been to "safe" acts like Air Supply, Lionel Richie, Barry Manilow, etc. But this album kinda changed all that. The Police remains on my all-time list of musical favorites to this day.
Another "cool" album introduced to me by my cousin. This furthered my liking for "unusual" music. Alor Setar in the late 70s and early 80s wasn't exactly the gravitational center of cool, and this album (with Regatta de Blanc) became the gravitational epicenter of my being attracted to the unconventional and non-pop. When I discovered The Boomtown Rats, “I Don’t Like Mondays” their most recognizable song, from their previous album, The Fine Art of Surfacing, wasn’t one that I had even heard of (Alor Setar and all) – that came much, much later. My favorite tracks from this album, as I recall, are “Banana Republic” and “Mood Mambo”. Again, not something a typical 17 year old from Alor Setar was listening to at the time.
Believe it or not, this is the album that introduced me to electronica. Being 12 at the time, it was a mind-blowing departure from what you'd hear on the radio, or the likes of Bad Company and Grand Funk Railroad (two personal favorites at the time). I'm very fortunate that my parents never really objected to what I listened to (nor understood, in all likelihood), or if they did, never stopped me from listening to what I wanted. That said, I'm quite sure one of dad's disappointments was that he never managed to instill the love for Andy Williams, Perry Como or Teresa Carpio... heh heh heh...
Another classic album, I suppose - the combining of operatic sensibilities and rock. In retrospect, this album, in particular the very epic, recognizable, and popular Bohemian Rhapsody, was probably the first realization of the universality of Islam, strange as that may sound. I remember, as a 12 year old, my dad frowning upon the song, for its use of "Bismillah". He never could articulate why he objected to it, and therefore couldn't dissuade from my position that the song's intent was to articulate "In the name of God" in an exotic way. Put it simply, it was a win-win argument - dad never lost the argument, and I have gone and discovered just how universal Islamic teachings are. Which is why I always object to the notion that rock is immoral... Yes, I'm strange that way :p
I was probably around 11 when I first heard this album, whose only attraction at the time was the album cover. My encounter with Wish You Were Here came not long after watching the Irwin Allen film "The Towering Inferno", so you can guess why the fascination with fire. This was also my introduction to the idea of a concept album, the entire body of work revolving around a central theme. In that sense, it was nothing like I'd ever heard till then. Pink Floyd remains one of my all-time favorite music acts.
Another album to which I was attracted to by its cover art - again, it's by Roger Dean (who wasn’t at all significant to me at the time). I believe I was 12 when I first heard this, and once again what got me was the acoustic guitar intro to The Wizard, the album’s title track. In my time, rock wasn't really objected to by my parents - they just avoided it. Perhaps another thing that made this album attractive at the time was the whole concept of magic and wizardry, at a time long, long before Harry Potter became the de facto kiddie mystic influence – back then it was Merlin (of the King Arthur fable).
This is one of the two rather embarrassing inclusions (#10 being the other one). All my friends in school were into Air Supply at the time (this would have been when I was around 16), and to "fit in" I listened to this album. In fact, Air Supply was the first concert I went to - in KL somewhere around 1980 or 81. But the reason why this album in particular is Rex Goh, Singaporean-born guitarist who plays on this album, and who performed in the KL concert (held in Stadium Negara). The thought that someone from the geographical neighborhood could be part of an international music outfit was rather inspiring (Rex plays guitar, my instrument of choice). I suppose everyone has liked a particular band in the past that they would rather not admit to... well, this is one of mine.
Like #9, this is another one that I'd rather not admit to, but I guess it's time I came clean, so to speak... ha ha.... This was their first post disco-heydey production, and I must admit that what I did like about Spirits Having Flown is the musical arrangement. I did like the Bee Gees when I was a lot younger (from their S.W.A.L.K. days, the era their most popular oldies came from). On a more personal note, being 17 and in love does have its down side - mine was the Bee Gees. I also happen to remember the shock that long-time Bee Gees fans felt when they heard the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever. I suppose Spirits Having Flown was a way for them to return to normalcy after being lost in disco wonderland...
** College opened my eyes - and ears - to a plethora of music that has since shaped my taste in music. While in college, incidentally, I was a radio deejay at my college radio station KLSU. It was at the radio station that my musical horizons were broadened... Again, in no particular order of chronology or importance, the remainder of the list. **
Formed by Peter Murphy (ex-Bauhaus), Mick Karn (ex-Japan) and Paul Vincent Lawford, Dalis Car's The Waking Hour was an introduction to mystic cool, combining the feel of eastern mysterio rhythms and sounds, combined with goth romanticism and a touch of avant-garde art rock. Dalis Car was my early introduction to the world of alternative music, through which I discovered Bauhaus and Japan, two seminal bands that became, in their own way, great influences on rock and pop. Word has it that Murphy and Karn are currently working on reunion Dalis Car album later this year. Something to definitely look forward to.
In my book, Adrian Belew is a living legend when it comes to guitar effects. The man can conjure just about any imaginable sound through the guitar, which can be heard in the latter day King Crimson configurations (Discipline and beyond). I had the opportunity to watch Belew perform live with his then band The Bears, where he played a few numbers from Lone Rhino. The live rendition of The Lone Rhinoceros was quite spectacular and emotional. For those of you who may not be familiar with Adrian Belew, he’s worked with Frank Zappa, David Bowie, The Talking Heads, and of course, a solo career in addition to his work with King Crimson.
This is one of the earliest album to use sampling of other recordings to form an integral part of the music, a concept that has been used extensively in the hip-hop genre. Mind-blowing is perhaps a good description (although I've heard some describe it as either creepy or weird), and it is truly a groundbreaking opus. It also features contributions from other notable musicians such as Chris Franz, Bill Laswell, and David Van Tieghem. I still have the original release (1981) on vinyl, and have yet to listen to the expanded 2006 re-release. Be that as it may, this remains an important collection of creativity that helped shaped popular music as we know it today.
Their 1985 release was my introduction to The Cure, from which point I began to listen to their back catalog (all the way to their debut Three Imaginary Boys), and pretty much everything they've put out since. The syrup-pretentious voice of Robert Smith is one unmistakable signature in popular music, and is something that remains unique, regardless of the many whom have tried to imitate it. This album is important because it's the one that started my musical love affair with the group, that remains alive until today. From a group history viewpoint, it marked the return of Simon Gallup who joined the group in 1979 (after their debut Three Imaginary Boys, and before their sophomore release Seventeen Seconds), and left after the release of Pornography. I’ve been fortunate enough to see The Cure live twice, including a superb show in New Orleans for the Disintegration tour, during which they played for close to 3 solid hours!
Around 1986 industrial-electronica dance – also called Electronic Body Music (EBM) – started to emerge and become popular in the US. This album is one of the pioneers in that genre, albeit much rougher sounding than earlier European influences. This album expanded my liking for electronica in a totally new, grungier direction. This was Revolting Cocks’ first major release, well before they became known as RevCo in the later stages of their career.
This is mind-fuck psychedelia at its very best, ESPECIALLY if listened to under the influence of certain illegal substances. The real identity of this short-lived project is the popular 80s Brit-pop group XTC. Combining Beatles-era psychedelia with pomp, mystery and the occasional odd sounds/voices, this album became an adventure on its own, and became my introduction to a part of my brain that up till then remained hidden. More importantly, however, the listening "sessions" I had with a group of very close friends created a special bond with these individuals that remains until this day. 'Nuff said, lest I incriminate myself any further :p
No album list from someone who loves electronica would be complete without the mention of Kraftwerk, the grand-daddies of electronic music. This was my introduction to the German group that would become the influence of numerous artistes for decades (including the EBM genre mentioned above). Like with many other artistes and genres, I went backwards and forwards through their catalog, starting with this album.
My introduction to another group that had a lasting influence on popular music. This was their return from a 6-year hiatus, and became the catalyst for me to dig up their earlier works (Pink Flag, Chairs Missing, and 154), as well as follow their career henceforth. Wire has been credited as an influence by a number of later groups who have expressed their fondness for these musical pioneers, like R.E.M. and Franz Ferdinand, to name a couple.
While this by no means how I discovered Peter Gabriel, or classic Genesis for that matter, this album holds a special meaning to me. In particular, the duet with Kate Bush, so aptly entitled Don't Give Up. I won't go into the details of why, but suffice it to say that it prevented a tragedy 20-some years ago which would probably have prevented this from ever being written.
Last but not least... Edward Ka-Spel and the Dots at their finest and darkest moments. This is psychedelia of a different kind, taking one on a trip into the inner space of one's own mind. Again, there is a special personal friendship bond associated with this album, and will always remain in memory.
** Well, that's my 20 - there are at least 20 others that I would've loved to add, but all good lists have to come to an end. When it comes to music, in a nutshell, I like everything from Mozart to Marilyn Manson, and almost everything in between. Yes, even house, trip-hop, etc. is okay in small doses. Hope that you've learned something new about me via these, and that you share your 20, too. **
Because he was limited to 20, there are a lot of other music works that Walski has had to omit from the original note. Those who know Walski, or have been following this blog for a significant amount of time, would have noticed the very conspicuous omission of Nine Inch Nails.
A very special visual mention, since Walski didn't include any NIИ in the 20
So, too, are a number of other albums and artistes that more than deserve mention. But sometimes we have to live within certain limits, which makes it very difficult for someone with an eclectic taste in music. Like Walski. So you pretty much have to live with these 20 for now.
This post has been a needed respite from Malaysian socio-politics, which quite frankly has gotten to such a state of ridiculousness that sometimes Walski honestly can’t bring himself to comment on. We seem to get from one silly peak to the next idiotic low, with apparently no avail.
All in all, this means that you’ll probably get to see posts touching on other things that Walski holds dear. Like this music-related post, for starters.