My Rock & Roll Birthday Salute: 30 for 30

I knew in early October I wanted to write something special for my 30th birthday. But the specifics only became clear to me when something somewhat dangerous happened. Let’s just say I was lucky to survive…

While hiking through a misty mountain near the Appalachian Trail, I stumbled over what I thought was a big rock. When I looked down I noticed an old stereo with a white cassette tape in the deck. It must have been lodged for quite some time. With the hope of listening to some jams, I picked up the precious stereo and hit play. “For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)”, by AC/DC came blaring out of the old dusty speakers. That is when this great idea, along with some dust, hit me square in the face – 30 albums for 30 years. While I stood there, entranced by this brilliant idea (an idea Fishman also took advantage of… read his 30 for 30 here), Gollum and the evil one crept up and slipped away with that stereo. I just kept on ramblin’.

Brian Johnson and Angus Young of AC/DC.

Brian Johnson and Angus Young of AC/DC.

Actually, none of that is true. The idea popped into my noggin while I was at work one day, but I felt the hiking story was way cooler.

For as long as I can remember, music has been huge part of my life. Many of my memories growing up are intertwined with music, so to celebrate the big 3-0 with a major rock & roll salute seemed like a no-brainer. 30 albums that rocked, inspired, and shaped my musical taste. And my life…

Initially, my thought was to do a list of 30 albums without putting them in any order, but that wouldn’t make this post worth anyone’s time. It definitely wouldn’t have any intrigue or rock & roll flare that way. Some albums are more influential than others, so I decided my list had to reflect that. I only have one rule – No Compilations.

Very honorable mentions:

  • KISS – All albums from the 70’s not mentioned below
  • The Doors – The Doors
  • Bruce Springsteen – Darkness On The Edge Of Town
  • Def Leppard – Hysteria
  • Meatloaf – Bat Out Of Hell
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication
  • Weezer – Weezer (The Blue Album)
  • Frank Zappa – Joe’s Garage
  • The Rolling Stones – Some Girls
  • The Police – Synchronicity
  • Hootie & The Blowfish – Cracked Rear View
  • Rush – Signals
  • Dave Matthews Band – Crash
  • Billy Joel – Glass Houses
  • Kings Of Leon – Only By The Night
  • The Beatles – Rubber Soul

Drumroll please……………………….

The moment we’ve all been waiting for. Well, the moment I’ve been waiting for. This post has been in the works since 10/12. (And I only applied the finishing touches yesterday.)

Let it begin!!

Toys in the Attic30. Aerosmith – Toys In The Attic – 1975
The first riff I play whenever I come across a bass guitar is the opening groove of “Sweet Emotion”. I love it. When I got my bass, it was at the top of my to-do list of songs to learn. Same can be said for the intro to “Walk This Way” when I eventually got my Squier Tele. It was a must learn. Why? Because this album was, and still is, embedded in my head. That’s why. I’ve tried to perfect the Steven Tyler leg kick while rocking out to these songs countless times. Looking back, I’m just glad I never pulled a muscle. Toys is the first of a few albums on my list that fall under the infamous third album theory – A band’s third album is their breakout album. “Sweet Emotion”, and “Walk This Way” are so huge, the other tracks tend to be forgotten. But not here, I won’t allow it! Now is the time for these other jams to stand up and be recognized. “Toys In The Attic”, “Big 10 Inch Record”, and one of my personal favorites “Uncle Salty” are rocking too. How many fans can say they’ve seen Aerosmith play “Salty” live? I can!

29. The Beatles – Abbey Road – 1969
Two of my absolute favorite songs were released on this record. Neither of which were penned by Lennon/McCartney, rather by George Harrison. “Something” and “Here Comes The Sun” are more than just classics to me. I have a hard time finding a description for the way I feel when I hear either of George Harrisonthem other than to say it’s good energy. They instantly boost my morale. George is an inspiration to so many, including me. That’s why he, with these two songs, needed to be recognized on my list. By far my favorite Beatle. RIP George. ***Side Note – My high school chemistry teacher (the one and only Mr. Charlie Reinhart) loved The Beatles. One time, I didn’t know an answer for one of his tests so I decided to leave a note saying I liked the original Beatles version of “Come Together” more than the Aerosmith cover version. It paid off, he gave me 1/2 a point! It’s also rumored that Chuckles broke both of his knees in a sky diving accident. That story is for another day***

28. Hall and Oates – Hall and Oates – 1974
Most fans know Hall and Oates’ first album as the silver album. I was literally a baby when I was introduced to these songs. My Dad had a mixed tape of Hall and Oates’ debut that a friend of his made for him when he was in college. This record is the first of many on this list can be traced back to my dad. For as long as I can remember he had that tape in his car (when cars still had tape decks). “Sara Smile” might be the most famous track, but I can’t pick a personal favorite off this album. If I listen to the silver album, I listen to the entire thing 9 out of 10 times. Matt Riggleman, Nate Fischer and I listened to the silver album a million times driving back and forth to our summer job at Dart in my Oldsmobile Station Wagon. Pretty sure the three of us still know all the lyrics by heart. If I’m not mistaken, I believe we each have our own copies of the silver album now. Hall and Oates’ debut record should be heralded more than it is – very underrated. 

Throwing Copper27. Live – Throwing Copper – 1994
Throwing Copper was one of the very first CD’s I ever owned. That prestigious group of CD’s included Throwing Copper, Green Day’s Dookie, Aerosmith’s Big Ones, and… wait for it… Boyz To Men II. I remember watching the video for “Lightning Crashes” on MTV before going to the pool everyday during the summer of 1995. Only later did I find out that Live was formed in York, PA. Across the river, just minutes away from where I live in Columbia. I’m not a big fan of York. It makes me laugh every time I hear “Shit Towne”, knowing York was the inspiration for the song. My big question and I still can’t believe this – How did I not ever make it to a Live concert with them being a local band? Maybe if they do a reunion tour I’ll catch a show. I feel like this album is a staple for humans who like music that are my age.

26. Judas Priest – British Steel – 1980
This was a great album to jam when I was delivering pizza a couple of years back. With the pedal to the metal and my radio cranked, I always got where I was going a bit faster and the customers could hear when their pizza arrived. British Steel is one of the few metal albums I have. It solidified Judas Priest in rock lure forever. “Breaking The Law” is easily their most recognizable song, and one of the greatest songs of all time if you ask me. I would love to play it live if I ever get another band together. Songs like that make me regret parting ways with my Gibson Flying V. Rob Halford is a living legend due to his vocals on this album. “Livin’ After Midnight”, “United”, “Rapid Fire”, “Metal Gods”, and “Grinder” along with “Breaking The Law” are all dynamic. Legendary album.

Sheik Yerbouti25. Frank Zappa – Sheik Yerbouti – 1979
I don’t know much about writing, that’s why I got this blog… Don’t mind my improv, just thought “Dancin’ Fool” could apply to me in other ways. Another mix tape my Dad had – a Zappa tape that included a lot of Sheik Yerbouti. Even though people assume fans listen to Zappa because of crude and unusual lyrics, I think his songs are catchy. Plus, to say he knew his way around a guitar is almost an insult, dude was an amazing player. It’s just a bonus to crack up laughing when you hear the unusual stuff. I still laugh every time I hear Zappa ask, “Wanna buy some Mendys, Bob?” during “Flakes” (to a guy [Frank Zappa] posing as Bob Dylan). One thing is certain, there will never be another Frank Zappa. This record is 72 minutes long and it contains some of his most recognizable work, including “Dancin’ Fool”, “Jewish Princess”, “Bobby Brown”, “Baby Snakes”, “Flakes”, and “Yo Mama” to name a few.

24. Linkin Park – Minutes To Midnight – 2007
The first time I heard “What I’ve Done” was during the credits of the movie Transformers. I had no idea what it was called or who sang it, but it gave me a huge adrenaline rush. I really didn’t listen to Linkin Park beforehand so I wasn’t familiar with their sound. When I eventually discovered the who, what, when, and where I bought the album. This CD got a ton of play in my car driving back and forth from Columbia to Allentown to see Christina. “What I’ve Done” and “Bleed It Out” aren’t the only tracks worth noting. The roster of songs on Minutes To Midnight is deep. “Given Up”, “Shadow Of The Day”, “No More Sorrow” are just a few others. Not only does Minutes To Midnight fall under the third album rule, it was also produced by the legendary Rick Rubin! A recipe for success.

23. Alice Cooper – Hey Stoopid – 1991
Bob Helm (my second cousin) gave me a burned copy of this album right before I went to college in 2001. At school my buddy Doug Nilsen and I listened to it at least 100 times while playing Mario Kart 64 battle mode. Doug and I were familiar with “Feed My Frankenstein” from one of our mutually favorite movies, Wayne’s World. Once we started listening, we quickly discovered that Hey Stoopid was probably Alice’s best album since Billion Dollar Babies. It led us to Virginia Beach so we could see AC in concert Halloween of ’01 and ’02. Proud to say we were in the third row both times! And yes, I wore classic Alice Cooper face paint and both of us had blood splattered on us after Alice’s decapitation. Who wouldn’t love that?

22. The Cars – The Cars – 1978
There is an unwritten rule when chatting about a certain song on this album. I believe it goes something like – You cannot mention “Moving In Stereo” without acknowledging Phoebe Cates’ hotness in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Boom, consider it acknowledged! You know what? I’ll do one better than acknowledging it since they pretty much go hand in hand. Enjoy!

Written by Ric Ocasek, The Cars is an all-time classic. Must be awesome when a debut record can double as a greatest hits collection. If I had to describe rock & roll to somebody who never experienced it before, this would be one of the first albums I would refer them to. The Cars are a very underrated band, especially bassist Ben Orr, who is one of the most unheralded rock singers ever. That said, unheralded or underrated, their sound is undeniable! I own this album on CD and vinyl. “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight”, and “Bye, Bye Love” are tunes that need to be turned up whenever they come on the radio. Add in “Just What I Needed”, which I was lucky enough to play live when I was in Vinyl, with “Good Times Roll”, and “My Best Friend’s Girl” and you have a pile of songs I would expect to hear if I got the chance to see them live.

21. Foo Fighters – Wasting Light – 2011
Wasting Light would easily be higher on this list if it didn’t have to compete with the music I grew up on. With this album, which was recorded in Dave Grohl’s garage (on tape, not digitally), Foo Fighters proved that rock & roll is not dead. This stuff is literally the best music I’ve heard in years. “Rope” is just flat-out hard rock at it’s very best. Love the lyrics, love the energy, but not just “Rope”, the entire record! Listening to Wasting Light makes me want to put a band together, yell into a mic, and just play. Foo Fighters have rock & roll in their souls and it seems to me they are the only current band carrying that rock banner. I will take this moment to echo THE question: Is there anything Dave Grohl can’t do musically? This is a must have album for any rock fan, literally every song is great.

Grohl-hero

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It’s time for a bathroom break as we’ve reached our first stopping point. Albums 30-21 are officially in the books. Any surprises so far? I have to say I had a fun time putting this list together with all these songs as my writing soundtrack. Experiencing the music while spelling out all my memories, it’s an awesome feeling I didn’t expect. Marching on to the top 20!

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20. Warren Zevon – Excitable Boy – 1978
My Dad had this CD (told you it’d be a recurring theme) and he eventually bought me a copy of my own. I can remember listening to Excitable Boy while sitting in front of the wood stove fireplace at my dad’s house. “Werewolves Of London” is epic, and easy for a 13-year-old, like I was, to enjoy with the wolf howls throughout the chorus. Like the Hall and Oates album at #29 on my list, this is another album that I ALWAYS listen to in full. I eventually went out and bought a vinyl copy too. As a not-so-good song writer myself, I really enjoy it when I get a chance to listen to awesome song writing. Make no mistake, Warren Zevon is a great writer. When I was playing in a cover band years ago, I got the chance to sing “Lawyers, Guns, and Money”, which is one of my favs. Dec 30th, 2004 was the first time we played it. I stepped up to the mic but forgot the lyrics to the first verse. Proving that stage fright (in this case singing fright) can happen to the best of us. At the New Year’s Eve show following night we played it again and I nailed it.

Who's Next19. The Who – Who’s Next – 1971
Question: Does any other band sound like The Who?
This question has a very simple answer – Absolutely not.
Roger Daltrey, Pete Townsend, John Entwistle, and Keith Moon’s sound on
Who’s Next formed their quintessential album and forged their legacy. For me, this album is my view of their identity. The style, the loudness, it is The Who. “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is a song everyone should get to experience at a live show. “Baba O’ Riley”, and “Bargian” are among my favorites. “Behind Blue Eyes” and “My Wife” are mainstays also. Unfortunately, when I went to see The Who, it was the first show they performed after bassist John Entwistle died. Entwistle wrote and sang “My Wife”. A song I was very much hoping to see before word of Entwistle’s passing dropped. This album is the gateway that allows me to hear the original four members of The Who since I only had the chance to witness 2/4 of the band live.

18. Guns N’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction – 1987
I often think about playing bone crushing rock songs to huge crowds. What wannabe musician doesn’t? “Sweet Child O’Mine” is one of the songs that fits the bill. The thought of rocking that riff and especially the solo gives me chills. When I eventually play it live, wearing a sweet top hat of course, I guarantee it will blow the roof off the place! This album is loaded with great rock & roll, as a fan of rock, it’s impossible not to love. From the start of “Welcome To The Jungle” to the end with “Rocket Queen”, AxlAppetite is an attitude-fueled rage-monster. It won’t be contained, nor should it be. Matt Riggleman grabbed me a vinyl copy a couple Christmas’ ago. I must say, there’s nothing like listening to fresh vinyl. Maybe I’ll track down Slash and have him sign it for me? Now that I think of it, I think Rigg also gave the burned CD I listened to since high school. I almost feel bad, not mentioning each track by title, giving them the proper recognition they deserve, but what about Guns was ever proper??? I just read that Axl Rose hates poodles. Well, maybe there is something proper about him after all…

17. Tom Petty – Full Moon Fever – 1989
The first time I saw Petty, I predicted on the way to the show that he would open with “Runnin’ Down A Dream”. So it was even more awesome when he came on stage and that opening riff was the first thing I heard. This record has so many Petty signatures on it, “Free Fallin'”, “I Won’t Back Down”, “Yer So Bad”, it plays like a greatest hits track list. This CD was played a billion times at Mongi’s house shooting pool with my partners in crime – SB, Hagan, Fishman, and Riggleman. What’s that? Rigg and I just swept another best of 4 series? I’ll go get the broom! Every time I think of this album I remember that SB literally had it stuck in his car CD player. It was the only CD he could listen to for a couple of years. Good times! I can’t chat about Full Moon Fever without giving a shout out to “Zombie Zoo”… love that jam.

Dookie16. Green Day – Dookie – 1994
Out of the prestigious group of CD’s I mentioned when discussing Throwing Copper, I listened to Dookie the most. I must admit, I had no clue what these songs were about at 12/13 years old. “Basket Case”, “Longview”, “Welcome to Paradise”, and “Pulling Teeth” were among my favorites and I had no idea what Billie Joe was actually talking about. The quick hitting, drum infused style were enough for me. I always felt the bass line in “She” was awesome too, which is probably my #1 jam of this album. I know Green Day got crushed by the inner circle that is punk rock for releasing this record, but when you have songs like these and an album like this, you release it.

Billion Dollar Babies15. Alice Cooper – Billion Dollar Babies – 1973
Alice’s second entry on my countdown. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this is the best album I never hear anyone talk about or praise. Alice is a showman, we know this. What most people have a hard time grasping is that Alice Cooper is a talented songwriter too. This was the last album the Alice Cooper band recorded together. To say they left the best for last would be a huge understatement. Alice still performs the classics off this record – “I Love The Dead”, “Elected”, “No More, Mr. Nice Guy”, “Sick Things”, and “Billion Dollar Babies”, you know, no big deal. I only listed half the album. That’s not even including some of my personal favorites like “Generation Landslide”, and “Hello, Hooray”. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame should be ashamed of themselves for only inducting Alice Cooper in 2011. He easily should have been elected at least 15 to 20 years earlier.

Plant14. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin – 1969
I instantly envision and hear Robert Plant scream, “We’re gonna go walking through the park everyday!” whenever somebody mentions Led Zeppelin. “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” is so, so good. A top 5 Zeppelin track in my book. Luckily, my good friend Mark Hagan and I got to see Plant perform “Babe” live at the Tower Theater in Philly. **One of the best shows I’ve seen** Led Zeppelin packs a punch with power-infused blues. I first listened to this album in my early high school days after listening to Zep II and IV. When I heard “Good Times, Bad Times” my first reaction was – Wow! Then, “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” played, and I thought – What just happened? I was enthralled and mesmerized. It only took the first two songs for me to realize Zeppelin is indeed the benchmark when it comes to rock & roll. Every track is proof that Led Zeppelin is a heavy hitter. And to think, this album was only just the beginning for Zep.

Van Halen13. Van Halen – Van Halen – 1978
My Dad got me this CD for my birthday like 12 or so years ago. So if by some chance I didn’t say thanks then, I’ll say it now – Thanks, Dad. Eddie & Alex Van Halen, Michael Anthony, and Diamond David Lee Roth certainly delivered the goods with their debut record. “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” is awesome beyond description. Eddie’s raw rock riffs, power chords, and solos are stuff of legend. I’ve seen Van Halen at Hershey Park with Sammy Hagar on lead vocals. (Watching Eddie play from the 3rd row: mind-numbingly awesome.) I’ve also seen David Lee Roth open for Sammy Hagar at Hershey, and they both played a ton of material from their Van Halen days. The concerts were great, but I believe these songs, this album, with the original line-up is how Van Halen is truly meant to be heard. Diamond Dave played almost the entire first album during his show. Getting to see him perform “Ice Cream Man” live is one of my all-time prized concert moments.

Eddie-Van-Halen

EVH doin’ his thing.

Damn The Torpedoes12. Tom Petty – Damn The Torpedoes – 1979
“Refugee” has always been a top 3 Petty jam for me. Constantly rotating with “American Girl” and “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” as my favorite. Torpedoes is the Heartbearkers defining album. Another record backing the 3rd album theory and the highest ranking Petty album on my list. What’s not to love? “Even The Losers”, “Here Comes My Girl”, and “Don’t Do Me Like That” along with “Refugee” still get air time on any radio station worth listening to. Even the B-sides on the record are great. It’s not hard to fall in love with this album. Listen to it once and you’re a fan. I’ve listened to it hundreds of times and I still get a surge of energy when the initial drums kick in on “Refugee”. It’s just a bonus that Doug Nilsen, a close friend of mine from college, looks like Petty and plays like Heartbreakers drummer Stan Lynch in this video…

Asbury Park NJ11. Bruce Springsteen – Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. – 1973
When I’m 63, I hope I can write as well Bruce at 23. Which was how old he was when this record, his debut, was released. But deep down I know, regular people just don’t write songs like these. Bruce is one-of-a-kind talent. Greetings is filled with his youthful, poetic, and raw adventurous energy. I got this CD when I was in 9th or 10th grade and I ate it up. I fell in love with the energy first, and later came to appreciate the depth of these songs. This album is truly great because the songs are straight from his heart and each song delivers a different experience. “For You” was my favorite Springsteen song for a long, long time, but now I think maybe “Spirit In The Night” or “Growin” Up” has been tabbed as my favorite off this album. Cut me some slack, it’s hard to pick a favorite when all of the songs are great. I almost died when Bruce played “It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City” when he opened Lincoln Financial Field. Just thinking about the times I spent listening to Greetings brings a smile to my face. This album grabs you… I know it grabbed me and still hasn’t let go after all this time.

“The flag of piracy flew from my mast, my sails were set wing to wing. I had a jukebox graduate for first mate, she couldn’t sail but she sure could sing”

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Stand up, stretch out, and grab a snack because it only gets better from here on. I will admit one thing, the hardest part of making this list was identifying which albums would be in the top 10. The order actually switched up a few times once I started writing about them, but the top 3 specifically are permanently entrenched and it would take something Herculean in order to move them out of the top 3. If you take anything away from this post, I hope its that these albums and songs are the soundtrack to Matt Horn’s life, and its what my voice and guitar aspired to sound like whenever I listen, play, or sing.

I give you the final ten of my 30 for 30 countdown…

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Thriller10. Michael Jackson – Thiller – 1982
I feel like this entry on the list should be broken up into two tiers. 1) The videos that MJ produced for the songs on Thriller will always be the best video’s of all-time. The songs were great by themselves, but the grand scale of these mini-movies took the impact of “Thriller”, “Beat It” and “Billie Jean” to another stratosphere. Helping MJ claim the throne as the King of Pop.
2) Thriller is something that I will always identify with Mongi (my grandmother), and the closest group of friends I have (Rigg, Fish, SB, Hagan). Who will all be groomsmen in my wedding this coming September. We spent many hours playing pool at Mongi’s house after school, on the weekend, basically any free time we had. And this record was spinning on the record player most times. Mongi welcomed my group of friends up to the house even when I wasn’t there. She also let us have parties at her house each summer, which is something I don’t hear very many, if any, other grandparents doing… When Mongi passed away in October of 2010 she willed both her copies of Thriller to me, CD and record.

Alive!9. KISS – Alive! – 1975
No compilations. That is the one rule I set for this post. But rules were made to be broken, right? Any legitimate rock & roll inspired post has to ignore the standard, that’s what rock & roll does. It’s fitting that Alive! is the album on my list to break that rule. When the members of KISS decided to make this album, most in the industry didn’t think it was a good idea. Why put out a greatest hits album for a band that didn’t have any? Well, I’m glad they did. This record is the reason I love listening to live albums. It’s why I love going to shows. These 16 tracks are loud, and fierce. Alive! instilled the belief that rock & roll is more than just music, and bands are more than just people playing instruments. Every aspect and element was larger than life. The songs didn’t get much notoriety when originally released on their respective studio albums, but when charged up and electrified on Alive!, they turned heads. KISS has a grocery list of great songs to their name now, but I still regard these songs as their bread and butter. If only Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, Peter Criss, and Gene Simmons could celebrate 40 years of KISS by playing a show in 2013 with the set list from Alive! And then play that show somewhere near where I live… that would be the perfect 30th birthday gift.

Photo of Simmons Gene

8. Led Zeppelin – (Untitled) (Zoso) (4th album) – 1971
ledzeppelinZep 4 was my introduction to Led Zeppelin. I got it for Christmas many moons ago from my dad along with The Doors first album, and AC/DC Back In Black. I remember having a pretty big dilemma on my hands – not knowing which CD to listen to first? I realized years later it was the single coolest dilemma I ever faced. I listened to each of the Christmas gifts many times in those following weeks. Out of the 3, this album spawned my intrigue the most. Some songs were flat-out rocking, others had a mystical feel, and a couple had both. Most importantly, the part I couldn’t get over, was that there were only 8 tracks. It made me wonder what else they had done? The tune on Zep 4 that always gets overlooked in my opinion is “When The Levee Breaks”. I remember Robert Plant playing “Levee” at the Tower Theater and feeling like the air I was breathing suddenly got thick because the song is so heavy. Crazy bass and thunder drums will do that to ya. I can only dream what it would feel/sound like with John Paul Jones on bass and John Bonham behind the kit.

Eliminator7. ZZ Top – Eliminator – 1983
My love for this album runs deep. As legend goes, when I was an infant my parents would sit me in front of a television and I would watch MTV for hours. That means I was watching “Gimme All Your Lovin”, “Sharp Dressed Man”, and “Legs” during the first months of my life. Maybe after seeing the beards of Billy Gibbons, and Dusty Hill, I subconsciously decided that shaving wouldn’t be my thing? This also must be said: I’ve never been a huge car guy, but I hope I have the chance to drive the car featured on the album cover before my driving days are done. Anyway, as a teen, sifting through some old cassette tapes that Bob Kline (now step-dad) had in the mountains I found Eliminator. And I kinda took as my own. Maybe a year later, as fate would have it, a twin bill featuring ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd would be my very first concert courtesy my aunt Jody. Based on all this info, I’m pretty sure I was destined to have this album make the top 10 of my 30 for 30 blog. “Sharp Dressed Man” is a surefire top 30 song if I had chosen to do a 30 songs for 30 years. Steve Moore, the drummer in the video below, nails the awesome vibe this song has.

album-destroyer6. KISS – Destroyer – 1976
Bob also had an old, tattered cassette tape called Destroyer. It would be my first experience listening to the band that would become synonymous with me during high school. Little did I know I’d be wearing the t-shirts and sewing patches on my shorts, rocking face paint to the concerts, and making batches of fake blood to spit out. My room was filled with blankets, posters, CD’s and even a KISS phone (before cell phones). The only thing I have yet to attempt is to breathe fire… 🙂 Maybe I’ll save that for my wedding this September? Anyway, I didn’t know it when I first stuck that tape in my stereo, but Destroyer was KISS’ biggest album. It was the album that paved the avenue for all the merchandise that I would soon covet. So many songs that are considered classic KISS were released on this album – “Detroit Rock City”, “God Of Thunder”, “Shout It Out Loud”, and the surprise hit that was the B-side to “Detroit Rock City”, “Beth”. Destroyer is awesome, definitely one of my favorite albums, but I can’t sit here and tell you that I fell down the KISS rabbit-hole solely due to Destroyer. The KISS train took some time to get rolling. It wasn’t until I got a certain album yet to be mentioned that it became clear to me KISS was my favorite band.

GetAGrip5. Aerosmith – Get A Grip – 1993
Easter ’94 – My mom hands me an Easter basket just a few days before I turn 11. That basket contained I what believe to be the first tape I could officially call mine. This is way before I found Eliminator or listened to Destroyer, before I had any CD’s or musical preferences. I only had a few mixed tapes of songs that I heard on the radio, and the only station my stereo got was the “popular” stuff on FM97. It’s somewhat unbelievable looking back, there was actually a time when I had no music passions. Get A Grip was revolutionary for me because aerosmith-2it ended that nonsense. It was the first time I remember listening to something over and over again. That, combined with the trio of videos with featuring Alicia Silverstone – “Cryin”, “Crazy”, and “Amazing”, playing on MTV all the time made it all the more exciting. Loved Alicia Silverstone in those videos (Oh yeah.. Liv Tyler in “Crazy” isn’t all that bad either). I remember only listening to my Get A Grip tape with headphones on for a bit. I was fearful my mom might take it if she heard Steven Tyler say “ass” in a few of the songs. I still have no idea if she heard the cuss words before I realized them, thankfully she let me keep the tape.

Back In Black4. AC/DC – Back In Black – 1980
This is one of the greatest rock albums ever, period. I remember opening Back In Black and putting it in my stereo after receiving it as a gift Christmas night from my dad. It took less than 5 minutes for my dad and/or my step-mom Jayme to tell me to turn it down. In my defense, who listens to “Hells Bells” and doesn’t turn it up? Nobody! Back In Black was Brian Johnson’s debut as AC/DC’s frontman after the passing on Bon Scott. Along with Angus Young’s crunching guitar riffs, Johnson and the band delivered big time. Angus made me want to own a Gibson SG even before I knew what a SG was. This album is Angus Younglittered with rock classics – “You Shook Me All Night Long”, “Back In Black”, “Shoot To Thrill”, “Hells Bells”, “Givin’ The Dog A Bone”, and “What Do You Do For Money, Honey?”. During my Chowan College years, Doug Nilsen and I each made a top 250 favorite songs list. Each of us revised our list numerous times, but “Back In Black” never found itself outside the top 5 songs, always rotating with “Born To Run” by Springsteen and “Who Are You” by The Who to occupy the top spot. It always makes me feel powerful, like a driving force that can’t be stopped. It’s just raw rock & roll. AC/DC has evaded me to this point, but I will see them in concert before they stop touring. I can promise you that.

3. Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run – 1975
Born To Run
Born To Run flows together better than any album I’ve heard. It’s truly seamless. In my humble opinion, I believe this record might be the best album ever. I love it with all the madness in my soul. Bruce was finally able to combine his epic story telling style and a radio friendly medium with, now legendary, songs like “Thunder Road”, and “Born To Run”. For those who somehow aren’t familiar with the rest of the Born To Run album, let me fill you in. “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”, “Night”, “Backstreets”, “She’s The One”, “Meeting Across The River” and “Jungleland” are in fact JUST AS GOOD as “Thunder Road” and “Born To Run”. Hence my reasoning for Born To Run being the best album ever recorded. I have this album on vinyl and CD, and at this point, the CD has been played so much, it actually skips like my record does. Doug Nilsen and I put the 9 minute 34 second epic Bruce Springsteen“Jungleland” on repeat once and listened to it around 20 times in one sitting. Born To Run possesses a magic that I can’t begin to describe. I just know that it’s there, and that is why I can listen to it at any time and place. There is not a better song writer than Bruce Springsteen and this record is, and will be, the everlasting proof of that.

“Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night. You ain’t a beauty, but hey you’re alright. Oh and that’s alright with me.”

2. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin II – 1969
jimmy-pageI can honestly say with zero doubt in my mind that the guitar tracks on this album made me want to (need to) play guitar. Jimmy Page’s infamous “Whole Lotta Love” riff changed how I listened to songs and what I listened for. If I had to choose one sound that I felt embodied rock & roll with its mystery and power combined, it would be that violin bow draw across the electric guitar strings in “Whole Lotta Love”. I think Page is the greatest guitar player ever and he is THE reason I own a Gibson Les Paul. I know people will always say Page was sloppy and cite Clapton, Hendrix, etc… as the best players, but I will always stand by Page. I feel he is light years beyond all the other legendary guitarists because of all the riffs/songs he wrote, since he crafted the most original and potent rock songs ever. 

When I played in Vinyl, Mark Hagan and I pushed the band to learn “Heartbreaker/Livin Lovin Maid”. Which were two of the first three songs the band learned. I know we played them at our first show which was an 11 song set. I’m no Jimmy Page by any means and remember being terrified because I played the first solo in “Heartbreaker”, a part where I was literally the only member in the band playing. So if I flubbed anything up, everyone in the crowd would know who the culprit was. “Ramble On” is another one of my Zep favorites, well, all of the songs from Zep II among my favorites. Led Zeppelin II stands tall and casts a very big shadow. A shadow so big that only one album made its way past to sit atop Matterhorn’s 30 for 30.

YOU WANTED THE BEST.

YOU GOT THE BEST.

THE HOTTEST BAND IN THE WORLD:

KISS!!!!

KISS

Left to Right: Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, Gene Simmons, and Ace Frehley

Kiss_Album_Cover1. KISS – KISS – 1973
I didn’t realize it when I started listening to this CD in high school, but I can say now without question, KISS is the purest rock sound that the band ever produced. I love that rawness. KISS’ approach didn’t require fans to be well versed poets or orchestra conductors to understand what the hell was going on, they just rocked, period. As I look back, I believe that is the reason this album grabbed my attention. The entire record is just a touch longer than 30 minutes, with exception of a few, all the songs are quick hitting gems. KISS’ self titled debut features four guys: The Starchild, The Spaceman, The Demon, and The Catman, each with their musical weapon of choice and a vision of dominating the world. No fancy producers, no Auto Tuned lead vocals (and even if they wanted them, they couldn’t afford either at this point in their career). The members of KISS were solely armed with good old rock & roll. The foundation of their now 40 year career is featured on KISS Early KISSwith “Deuce”, “Strutter”, “Cold Gin”, “Nothin’ To Lose”, “Firehouse”, “100,000 Years”, and “Black Diamond”. I’m not wandering too far out on a limb by proclaiming “Deuce” and “Black Diamond” have been played at close to 99% of all KISS’ shows since 1973. My opinion, “100,000 Years” is a song that is too often overlooked, by far the heaviest track on KISS, and deserves way more recognition. “Firehouse” has been a staple for KISS’ live shows since the earliest days of the bands existence, it’s the perfect song for The Demon to spit fire at the crowd. To say that I listened to all the KISS albums released in the 70’s a bunch is a gross understatement and almost laughable. During high school, it was not uncommon for me to listen to 2 or 3 KISS CD’s (definitely this album) a day. In between football two-a-day practices, after long hacky sack sessions with Matt Riggleman, during bus rides to varsity baseball games, and eventually on trips to and from Chowan College (a 5 hour 30 trek for me) KISS was playing somewhere, somehow.

KISS, along with the rest of KISS’ music, has been with me during the highest and lowest points of my life. Each song contains a memory. Which is why this is the only album capable of holding down the number one spot on my 30 albums for 30 years celebratory salute.

A video of some early KISS just seemed like the perfect birthday send off.

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The list is complete! If you made it this far, thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed my 30 for 30 musical journey. I would very much appreciate hearing any thoughts (if this post jarred any loose), personal album discoveries, and/or music memories of your own in the comment section. Think of a comment as a birthday gift to me.

In closing I will say this: I’m 30, and I’m spectacular. **Gray hair and all**

Figured I’d take that little section of the post to let everyone know how I’m doing.

All joking aside, I want to leave everyone with one final thought. During the brainstorming and writing of this post I discovered some words of wisdom… words to live by:

30 is still young and a great album never gets old.

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9 thoughts on “My Rock & Roll Birthday Salute: 30 for 30

  1. Pingback: 30 FOR 30: Re-engaged | Fishman's Fishwall

  2. Yes! By the bloody sun (as they say in my book), it’s about time! It’s been such a long time coming, with so much hype, that I’m actually writing this comment in Word as if writing a blog…. I just know there’s going to be lots to say, and I wanted to make sure I got it started right…so here I am, after finally finishing up my own revised (and most excellent) 30 for 30 blog, showered up and fresh after meeting my daily minimum physical requirements, and first beer of the day in hand…I’m finally ready to tackle this beast of a blog like a bear on honey, by which I mean a horny hairy man taking out his frustrations on a honey bee’s honey…or something like that…. Alright, let’s get started…. To be continued!

    And I’m back…just finished rockin’ number 11. And I’m all out of beer…ahh, rectified. Here I come number ten: Thriller! (Once again, to be continued….)

    …….WHEW! All I have to say is, I walked into Horn’s own personal Mordor, where Gollum and the evil one crept up and slipped away with my life for an hour or so (and a shout out to your perfect introduction spices, by the way, even if they were more Zeppelin than LOTR). I was then dragged through the realms of all sorts of fiendish figures like the devil Alice Cooper and the monster Michael Jackson, until finally reaching the Mountain of Doom, with its fiery inferno bursting from its every seam…and you know what I found…yes, as Gandalf said, you know what lurks in the dark…. The Demon. And his soul-stealing companions. The Almighty KISS. I can still feel the energy of your love for them as I write this. And I can still feel my own powerlessness against the ring, the ring of their guitars, that is. Once I put that in my ears, the world became invisible, and all there was…was KISS….

    But I’m quite getting ahead of myself. There was much more to love than just KISS in the list. A lot of albums I’ve come to love were present, like Back in Black, sporting my favorite AC/DC jam, Shoot to Thrill. And, of course, the Petty albums. Damn the Torpedo? Ha! Damn anyone who tries to stop me from listening to it! But I can’t mention Petty without stepping up to the pool table in my mind. Where the wizardry of records plays to the tune of ultimate rock, like a werewolf howling at the moon, it’s the peak tune, the time and place where rock lights you up like the stars in outer space…surreal…epic…giving your life something to live for….

    Man, you can probably tell by now I’m pumped. But I’m not done with the pool table. The Cars. MJ. Petty. All incredible, and all brought to me over the table at Mongi’s, that incredible woman whose influence just won’t quit, and we’d never want it to. Makes me miss those Christmas parties these last few years….

    But now’s no time for feeling blue. Now’s the time to love life at 30, and laugh about all those stories…like the one about writing how the Beatles’ “Come Together” was better than Aerosmiths’ cover. Funny stuff. And about driving to Dart with Hall and Oates…not funny, per say, but still fondly remembered. And most of all, I liked the story about you as an infant…“As the legend goes,” your parents plopping you down in front of MTV. I have a similar legend, as told to me by my dad many times, where I’d be up late sitting on the floor watching Seinfeld, laughing even know I had no idea what was going on, every once in a while turning back to look at him…though it occurs to me at this moment that the timing makes no sense, if I was truly a baby…. Hmm….

    Man, this is getting to be one long comment, but I still have a few things to say. I feel like I really should make this into a blog of its own (a review of sorts), and I did consider doing that earlier…. Anyway…let’s see…. I must say, I feel like I can see my own influence on your writing, in the way you make certain jokes, like “The moment we’ve all been waiting for. Well, the moment I’ve been waiting for.” Just something I noted early on…feels strange to see such things…. And your “Third Album Theory” is definitely one I agree with. Although I can’t say the same for your love of Throwing Copper. I know you and Big Rig will think I’m crazy, but I love Secret Samadhi way more than Throwing Copper. Just saying. Hah, you knew this comment couldn’t be ALL agreeable. I mean, this is Johnny Fishman. Also, I’m surprised at the Zappa album. Not because it isn’t good, but because it seems like a risky move knowing how Christina feels about such things…ha! I support it.

    But the biggest surprise was Dookie. I also loved that album back in the day before I got really tired of Green Day, but I had no idea you liked that “modern” kind of music as much as you seem to (modern being the 90s…modern back then…).

    I do know one thing though: I know which albums I now need to get and listen to, because even though I’ve heard many of the songs, I’ve never experienced most of those albums…despite always wanting to hear more of that music. In fact, I should do that now. I do have those KISS albums you gave me. So, long story just a bit longer, it’s time for me to ramble on. Just like we did in the deepest depths of Mordor: it’s time for me to ramble on (though I suppose I’ve been doing just that with my wordplay…).

    Oh yeah…and one more thing: you should totally breathe fire at the wedding. That would the coolest wedding ever. Maybe we should all dress up as KISS for the bachelor party too. I think you’d appreciate that.

    • First off, I just have to say: “That’s a huge comment”.

      Thanks for the 30 for 30 love. I hope it wasn’t to bore-some to read knowing I tried to give it some flavor. I will let you know that I will be exploring the fire-breathing for the wedding. I to, feel like it would make our wedding the best wedding.

  3. I could probably write a Fishman-sized comment, but I’m going to edit it down to 4 key points:
    1) With the album in a top 5 spot, I think “Given the dog a bone” needs to be included in the wedding set list. You know it would make a superb first dance song. Just saying.
    2) Missy banned me from playing Jungleland any more on trips, ending a 5-year long streak of playing it on any trip longer than an hour. (RIP 2003-2008). It was great: the Magic Rat would cross the stateline, then I’d be wrapped up in the goings on beneath an Exxon sign for 10 minutes and suddenly I was 10 miles closer to my destination.
    3) Warren Zevon on this list at 20 is like Michael Westbrook making a “20 Greatest NFL Receivers” List. Travesty.
    4) Glad you put Appettite for Destruction on the list (even though we all know Use Your Illusions II is the superior album) if only because Mr. Brownstone is such a good song it almost made me decide to start doing heroin.

    • No Jungleland??!?!?!?!?!?!? This is very upsetting to hear.

      You said about “Given The Dog A Bone” for the wedding.. I tried to get “Hair of the Dog” past Christina. When She asked what it was, I played it for her.. I don’t remember ever seeing a more pale, expressionless face EVER. LOL.

      As for Zevon, I stand by my list on how I feel about that album.

      Maybe when I turn 40 and do 40 for 40 I’ll be able to include gems like Brutal Planet or Dragontown…. Killer also. So much good stuff from Alice!

  4. wow woke up today going to look for my soulmate–as if she exists only to be taken down the yellowbrick road to the wonderful music of Oz….what a treat–you know I love music–slap in my earplugs–turn the throttle up full on my Harley and Matt I need to tell ya–Most of the stuff Except kiss –are on my compilation–I need the cars though–got me through 1 1/2 yrs of junior college—along with a bong…anyway one of the best Monday Mornings I had In a long time—except when a bathrobe beauty . I better stop there

    • I was pretty sure you would like this. It was a shame that the list couldn’t be expanded… but 65 for 30 doesn’t have the same ring as 30 for 30.

      Thanks for leaving a comment and I’m glad it started your Monday off on the right foot.

  5. Just thought I’d let you know…that there won’t be a 40 for 40 for you. Due the emerging blog-rivalry and blog-bloodshed, you won’t make it a day over 39 and 364 days. Just saying…

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