Teenage Top 10
As a rule, I tend not to participate in Facebook memes and chains unless it’s about music and then I am in with both feet. I enjoyed the lists — and variations on this list — that recently made the rounds. Some played by the rules, listing the Top 10 albums they loved as a teen AND ONLY 10 AND ONLY from one artist. Some went way beyond 10, and some listed what they listened to while attending university. It’s all fun, and I love having this insight into what my friends dug back in the day. It stirs memories and gives us a chance to engage in conversation about these beloved records.
Instead of posting my list on the social, I thought I’d do it here, since some of these need a bit of explaining. Maybe they don’t — but you know I like to talk.
I’ll set it up for those who didn’t grow up with me. I turned 13 in 1986, which will explain why my favourite 80s Springsteen LP is absent (U.S.A. was released when I was 11 and it was given to me as a gift in 1985. Amazingly I wouldn’t own another Springsteen album until my 20s.) My list focuses exclusively on stuff I listened to from age 13 until I graduated from high school. And it was HARD to keep this at 10. But if I had to narrow it down to 10, these would be the ones I played the everloving hell out of:
Bangles Different Light
Name an 80s band I would drive the better part of a day to go see today, and it would be the Bangles. I LOVED THE BANGLES. If Buzzfeed had a “Which Bangle Are You?” quiz, I would not accept any answer but “Susanna” (although Micki was pretty punk rock). The Bangles were also the first band I ever saw live, at age 16, with my family, at the Canada’s Wonderland amphitheatre concert series during the “Everywhere” tour. They were fantastic: jangly guitar, luscious harmonies, witty banter. AND THEN MY DAD MADE US LEAVE MIDWAY THROUGH THE CONCERT BECAUSE HE WANTED TO JUMP AHEAD OF THE POTENTIAL ONSLAUGHT OF CONCERT-LEAVING TRAFFIC. It’s been nearly 30 years and to this day I still remind him of how he ruined my childhood.
(Fun Fact: we missed Tiffany and NKOTB by three days. Had we been there two weeks later, we would have seen Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and the Replacements. Damn.)
Oddly, the Bangles became a gateway of sorts in learning to appreciate 60s folk pop. I loved that they were influenced by bands like the Byrds and the Cowsills as well as the Beatles. There’s a good interview here in which guitarist Vicki Peterson chats about her influences growing up.
I enjoyed the pre-breakup followup Everywhere and the garage-y All Over The Place, but Different Light is the record that had the most airtime in my room.
U2 The Joshua Tree
Cooler kids than me were pretty much over U2 by the time Joshua Tree was released. I get it. Their punk edge essentially vanished. They were selling out arenas. They were attracting big name producers like Eno and Lanois. The rest of the world was calling U2 their own.
“With Or Without You” wasn’t an instant favourite for me, but it grew on me until I could not deny it any longer. I still think it’s one of their most breathtaking songs.
I owned sooo many copies of this — two cassettes, CD, digital, Columbia House vinyl. The Joshua Tree turns 30 this year and it doesn’t quite feel that old.
Huey Lewis and the News Fore!
I was the only one of my friends who liked Huey Lewis and the News and I was RIDICULED for this. My best friend (aka Spiritual Twin) still refers to them as crusties, yet she thought it was okay to put “Baker Street” on a mixed CD she made me a few years ago (I KID, TWIN! I LOVE YOU!)
I can’t blame her. Huey Lewis and the News were the epitome of yuppie uncool. They wore slacks. They had mullets. They played GOLF. They let 49ers quarterback Joe Montana sing backup on “Hip To Be Square”. They had a hit with “Hip To Be Square”.
But these guys were fun, in an American-bar-band-made-it-big kind of way. They never took themselves seriously. And they were pretty good musicians! I’m still sorry I never saw them play at the Casino a few years ago.
I haven’t listened to this record in forever, and I feel like it might make me cringe now. But in the mid-80s, this album had me at “Jacob’s Ladder”.
Def Leppard Hysteria
I was late to this party. It wasn’t until I was subjected to a summer of “Pour Some Sugar On Me” that I finally admitted that I liked these long-haired soccer hooligans. I still find this album immensely fun to listen to. It’s a little cheesy and plenty over-produced, but it rocks.
My first taste of the band that would become one of my all-time favourites was through a scrambled feed of MuchMusic (remember when the cable company would just scramble the channels you didn’t subscribe to?) “The One I Love” was in heavy rotation. At first I was somewhat indifferent, and then it grew on me. When my dad let me pick a few selections for a Columbia House 12-Albums-for-a-Penny order (remember that too?) Document was the first cassette I chose. From the opening chords of “Finest Worksong” to the trail-off of “Oddfellows Local 151”, I considered this album perfection. It still stands as my favourite R.E.M. record. I remember getting my dad to play this cassette on our family road trip to Orlando, FL one summer — somewhere in South Carolina — and wishing we could detour to Athens, GA instead. It would have been so much more fun than Epcot.
The Smiths The Smiths
This is when things started to get weird. The first mixed tape Spiritual Twin ever made me featured a few tracks from “Louder Than Bombs”, and I was hooked. But it was the self-titled album, which I picked up in high school, that became my favourite during my teen years. Morrissey’s morose lyrics, Johnny Marr’s jangly guitar hooks, “This Charming Man”…it just didn’t get any better. Or sadder.
The Beatles White Album
I was a casual Beatles fan growing up, but shit got real around Grade 11. I was at a new school in another city, away from the friends I grew up with. The Beatles helped me find common ground with the group of girls I befriended. I dove into the entire catalogue. My mom didn’t get it, but then she admits she wasn’t much of a fan growing up. And I didn’t get her interest in Milli Vanilli, so I guess we’re even.
Anyway, the White Album. This was my antidote to some of the music I had a hard time relating to in the very early 90s. I loved Rubber Soul and Sgt. Pepper and still do, but my dubbed copy of this probably got the most play in high school and cemented my love for McCartney (I mean, he wrote a song about his English sheepdog, for heaven’s sake!) That first mixed tape Spiritual Twin made me also featured “Savoy Truffle”, which I still think is one of George Harrison’s finer musical moments.
Cowboy Junkies The Trinity Session
The year “Sweet Jane” was released, everyone stopped and took notice. It was captivating, haunting, unlike anything that was circling the charts at that time, and I loved the idea that the band recorded this in an old church in Toronto. This became a “quiet time” favourite. I enjoyed some of the Junkies’ followups, but nothing topped The Trinity Session.
Tom Petty Full Moon Fever
Standard-issue early-90s hit-heavy record, I know. But let’s not be so dismissive of the classics. “I Won’t Back Down” is my jam, and my personal anthem when I feel like the world is weighing heavily on my shoulders. And I don’t care that everything that Jeff Lynne produces ends up sounding like Jeff Lynne. It’s a great sound.
The Sundays Reading, Writing and Arithmetic
Credit due to Spiritual Twin for turning me on to this record. I fell in love with almost anything that featured a jangly guitar and a beautiful, heavily accented British voice at that time. “Here’s Where The Story Ends” is the song most people are familiar with, but the record is filled with dreamy, catchy, sadness-tinged pop. And a little wry humour— hideous towns still make me throw up.
Narrowing the list to 10 wasn’t easy, but it was fun. Here’s a few honourable mentions though: Northern Pikes Secrets of the Alibi; Grapes of Wrath Now and Again; Belinda Carlisle Belinda; The Doors Greatest Hits; Prince Batman; The Pursuit of Happiness Love Junk; Blue Rodeo Casino; INXS Kick.