JAIMIE VERNON: The Top 125 Most Influential Top 100 albums – Part 1

vernon_1997This week a meme went viral on Facebook of a poll asking readers to identify the number of albums they owned from a random list of 100 ‘Most Influential Albums of All Time’. In the end it was discovered that this was nothing but a front for an app that hijacked Facebook user personal info. However, the debate about the validity of the list itself remained. Music, like all artistic disciplines, is in the ears of the beholder. I expect that had I actually taken the quiz there would have been little commonality between the contents of my personal collection and the ones deemed ‘most influential’.

As noted here over the last two years, I was an AM radio junkie. With the advent of FM radio – and the expansion of playlists that included full album sides – I was too young to have been there for the new format explosion. My world consisted of 7″ singles of songs gleaned from the CHUM Top30 hit Elton Johnparade until I finally bought my first full-length album in 1974: Elton John‘s ‘Greatest Hits’. I also lived on the money saving bargain factor presented by K-Tel compilation albums like ‘22 Super Happy Fun Ultra Power Hits’. Over time my measly weekly allowance gave me enough cash to troll the bargain bins where I’d grab Elvis Presley’s early ’70s deletes and the odd surprise purchase for $1.99 or less.

Eventually, I made the transition to full-blown album junkie and backfilled my collection with greatest hits packages and solid stand-alone releases. This ultimately expanded into a massive collection of CanCon comprising some 3500 pieces (LPs, CDs, cassettes). But I was a musician too and the records I Clashowned also became the sounds I absorbed and, subconsciously, incorporated into my own songwriting. Just the other night I discovered that my old punk band, Swindled, had lifted “Death or Glory” by The Clash wholesale for one of our own songs. Oops.

I thought it might be an interesting exercise to objectively recall the albums that weren’t just bought because I liked them, but actually became part of my DNA. Check it out and see if any of these might be on your list too. I would love to read the list of other folks whose life soundtracks differ or intersect my own.

Many of my favourite albums come from a narrow group of acts – many of whom became long time friends of mine so excuse the bias – so rather than try and pick an order of the best 100 albums, the list is random and grouped alphabetically by 125 acts (!!!) so that you can get a sense of my schizophrenic influences. Enjoy…or rant. 🙂

ABCAABC – “The Lexicon of Love”
ABC – “Beauty Stab”
ABC – “How to Be a Zillionaire”
The New Romantics weren’t always about stupid costumes and warpaint. I thought ABC was trying to carry on with a Roxy Music vibe – had Roxy Music not decided to become redundant and boring as fuck. Then the band hired a circus midget and 50 ft. woman to be in the group for ‘How to Be a Zillionaire’ and they lost me. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dgXkFy5wRWM

AC/DC – “Highway To Hell”
AC/DC – “Back In Black”
The One/Two back-to-back punch of Bon Scott’s final exclamation mark and the only Brian Johnson album that matters.

Alan ParsonsALAN PARSONS PROJECT – “Tales of Mystery & Imagination”
ALAN PARSONS PROJECT – “Turn of a Friendly Card”
Parsons wasn’t just an engineer on The Beatles’ ‘Abbey Road’ and producer on Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, he was also a hell of a songwriter with the grossly under appreciated Eric Woolfson. Progressive pop music at its finest. I cite “I Robot” as one of the very few ‘perfect’ albums from beginning to end.

ANT, Adam – “Friend or Foe”
Don’t judge me. I was an Adam & The Ants fan right from the first album train-wreck that was “Dirk Wears White Sox”. When he dropped the band and kept guitar genius Marco Perroni (England’s answer to Dick Dale) I followed along. Despite the repetitive brain worm that was the lead-off single “Goody Two Shoes” the remainder of the album is as strong as any New Romantic release from the early 1980s – and the only one that substituted a real horn section for synths at the time. “Desperate But Not Serious” stands as one of the more haunting pre-Goth Goth songs ever. And his take on The Doors’ “Hello, I Love You” is a hilariously campy send up of the original. Alas, Mr. Ant wore out his cowboys & pirates welcome by the time he’d released ‘Strip’.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVWWtqa9-7M

ARC ANGELS – “Arc Angels”
I have gone on record as extolling the sheer uselessness of Southern Rock. Then the Arc Angels came along and destroyed that notion for me. One of the greatest, short-lived Southern rock blues acts of the modern era. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtLw_53C95M

AlarmALARM – “Declaration”
ALARM – “Eye of the Hurricane”
ALARM – “Change”
Always considered by critics as the Junior G-Man version of U2, The Alarm were a pretty consistent pop act that never quite broke through in North America though “68 Guns” got them MTV airplay. “Eye of the Hurricane” sounds like the 1980s dated album it is, but in 1987/1988 it never left my Walkman (remember those?). The follow-up album, ‘Change’, provided two of the band’s greatest tracks – the bottom heavy groove monster “Sold Me Down the River” and the similarly bluesy “Devolution Working Man Blues”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8j3_DUqKyTk

Got this record at the Kennedy Records clear out centre in Willowdale, Ontario really cheap. I ended up loving the damn thing. It’s the one with “Hey You” and the grossly under-rated “Quick Change Artist”. And you haven’t heard Celtic music until you’ve heard Bachman sing “Lowland Fling”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gmCE9oJ6D4

THE BEATLES – “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”
THE BEATLES – “The Beatles (aka The White Album)”
THE BEATLES – “Abbey Road”
THE BEATLES – “1962-1966” (aka The Red Album)
THE BEATLES – “1967-1970” (aka The Blue Album)
THE BEATLES – “Rock ‘n’ Roll Music”
THE BEATLES – “Live At the Hollywood Bowl”
THE BEATLES – “Love Songs”

Well, duh.

BEE GEES – “Gold: Volume 1”
BEE GEES – “Main Course”
The Bee Gees were always a radio single act as far as I was concerned so I stuck with the hits collection – and then they released “Main Course” just before their disco conversion and it became one of my favourite albums of theirs.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQVmN-NTZ_M

Black SabbathBLACK SABBATH – “Black Sabbath”
BLACK SABBATH – “Paranoid”
BLACK SABBATH – “Masters of Reality”
BLACK SABBATH – “We Sold Our Souls For Rock’n’Roll”
BLACK SABBATH – “Heaven and Hell”
I know. Black Sabbath somehow seems incongruous for someone that doesn’t really like metal…but like ZZTop (see below) I have my exceptions to many genres. The primal sludge of that distorted bass was always the hook for me and Ozzy’s incomprehensible singing was as quaint as it’s always been and things really got rolling with Ronnie James Dio’s later version of the band.

BOSTON – “Boston”
Denying that I liked this record when it came out would be a lie. It’s a solidly produced, performed and written masterpiece that leader Tom Scholz would then copy and paste the rest of the band’s career. This is the progenitor…and the only Boston record that matters.

David Bowie - Hunky DoryBOWIE, David – “Hunky Dory”
BOWIE, David – “The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars”
BOWIE, David – “Aladdin Sane”
BOWIE, David – “Pin Ups”
BOWIE, David – “Diamond Dogs”
BOWIE, David – “Young Americans”
BOWIE, David – “Station to Station”
BOWIE, David – “Changes One”
BOWIE, David – “Heroes”
BOWIE, David – “Scary Monsters”
BOWIE, David – “Let’s Dance”
BOWIE, David – “Tonight”
The level by which Bowie shaped my view of musical art cannot be expressed. I owe John Shuler and Simon Bedford-James for keeping Bowie alive in my own musical pursuits.

BuzzcocksBUZZCOCKS – “Singles Going Steady”
If there was ever a punk act destined to be a radio hit, it should have been the Buzzcocks. Alas, nobody “got It”…except the band themselves as you can see by their cleverly titled collection of UK greats. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPG6Ak5FASk

CARPENTERS – “1969-1973”
Karen Carpenter was a goddess. All others pale in comparison.

THE CARS – “The Cars”
THE CARS – “Candy-O”
The salve to quell the sting of punk’s acerbic bite was New Wave. The Cars led the pack; A solid debut and an even bolder, expansive, follow-up. Then they turned into MTV panderers and the material became predictable and dull.

Chalk CircleCHALK CIRCLE – “The Great Lake”
CHALK CIRCLE – “Mending Wall”
Considered another in a long line of U2-ish alt rock acts, Chalk Circle came from east of Toronto and had a great College Rock vibe. The introductory EP and full length ‘Mending Wall’ pretty much summed up their sound. Besides, keyboardist Tad Winklarz bought me breakfast in New York one time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XJGNNgRiuM

CHEAP TRICK – “Cheap Trick”
CHEAP TRICK – “Heaven Tonight”
CHEAP TRICK – “In Colour”
CHEAP TRICK – “Dream Police”
Yeh, I initially heard Cheap Trick for the first time with the Budokhan version of “I Want You To Want Me”, but when “Voices” got picked as the single to promote the “Dream Police’ album I was sucked right in. I back tracked the early albums – completely avoiding the rehash on ‘Budokhan’ in favour of the studio tracks (including the slower, piano driven “I Want You To Want Me”). Alas, the follow-up to ‘Dream Police’ was the bombastic and flaky “All Shook Up” which was only redeemed by the George Martin production.

CLASH – “The Clash”
CLASH – “London Calling”
CLASH – “Sandinista!”
CLASH – “Combat Rock”
Yep…despite my love for The Clash, I never owned nor listened to “Give ‘Em Enough Rope”. It never really caught my ear, though I always liked “Tommy Gun” and “Safe European Homes”. The rest, however, are collisions of Joe Strummer’s political reggae rock and Mick Jones’ dance pop. They didn’t always work in tandem (or on the same slab of vinyl), but you could never accuse the Clash of repeating themselves. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YcOpZhQ7MEM

Collective SoulCOLLECTIVE SOUL – “Hints, Allegations & The Things Left Unsaid”
COLLECTIVE SOUL – “Collective Soul”
Chad Kroeger may think he commercialized the heavy drop ‘D’ guitar tuning style but he obviously forgot about Collective Soul who beat him the the punch by nearly 8 years. CS are one of the heaviest pop acts ever to grace Top40 radio and they’ve become a staple in my own repertoire.

COOPER, Alice – “Love It To Death”
COOPER, Alice – “Killer”
COOPER, Alice – “School’s Out”
COOPER, Alice – “Billion Dollar Babies”
COOPER, Alice – “Welcome To My Nightmare”
COOPER, Alice – “Special Forces”
After my teen years with KISS, I went back to the source and discovered the madness that is Alice Cooper. A choppy and inconsistent career but the Alice Cooper band hit a sweet spot post-1970’s ‘Easy Action’ when they teamed with newbie producer Bob Ezrin. Ezrin would also make Cooper’s solo output uneven as well, but “Welcome To My Nightmare” remains both men’s piece du resistance.

CrassCRASS – “Feeding of the 5,000”
CRASS – “Penis Envy”
CRASS – “Jesus: The Album”
During my rebellious anarchist phase, there was a lot of Crass being played around my punk band’s club house. Some of their politics (but none of their near-hopeless musicianship) seeped into our psyches. Now the stuff just sounds quaint and laughable. Still…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhjpFBGbtvY

CROCE, Jim – “Photographs & Memories”
The late Jim Croce never wrote a bad song. His legacy is near flawless and probably the reason no one bothers playing him on the radio anymore. No quirks. No bizarre facial ticks. No controversy. The consummate singer-songwriter who has gotten little attention or respect since his death. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPu_G-T28iU

DalbelloDALBELLO – “She”
Not satisfied being cast as a milk toast disco vocalist, Dalbello spent the better part of the 1980s traveling – mostly to Europe and specifically to Germany – to redefine herself as a singer, songwriter and human being. Stints translating lyrics for the likes of Nena (“99 Luftballons”) and indulging in the newest technologies saw her return to Canada as a force to be reckoned with. 1987’s “She” changed the audio landscape for female artists in Canada and even influenced future work by Heart.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAsUct9xWuE

DC DRIVE – “DC Drive”
My wife, Sharon, discovered this throwback to bands like Rare Earth and Grand Funk – in fact, singer Joey Bowen is the son of Grand Funk’s Mark Farner. They spent years toiling in obscurity in Detroit before being discovered by Canadian music legend Rosalie Tremblay. Her son Tim would sign them to Capitol Records Canada and they spent a bit of time in the early ’90s plying their 6 man white funk & soul in and around Toronto. Alas, they grew homesick and retired back to Detroit where a version of the band still exists. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLBHR24zU4s

Dead KennedysDEAD KENNEDYS – “Fresh Fruit & For Rotting Vegetables”
The offensive Hardcore record that defined a movement; Jello Biafra and Company at their visceral and raging best. “Holiday In Cambodia” and “California Uber Alles” still resonate 30 years later. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KTsXHXMkJA

DESERTERS, The – “The Deserters”
Long before Kenny MacLean  joined Platinum Blonde, The Deserters were plying their own brand of post-punk Police new wave interpretations. Co-vocalist Chris Gibb (an ex-pat Brit and brother of Battered Wives’ John Gibb) added the perfect balance to MacLean Scottish brogue – which seemed to confuse just about everyone. The debut single “Alien” did manage some radio action but it was their second record, with a new keyboardist in tow that got them touring attention. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGvr0-ASlzw

DOADOA – “Hardcore ’81”
DOA – “War On 45”
Joey Shithead wore his causes on his sleeve. Brutal, honest and a force you just didn’t want to mess with. But Hardcore punk started here…and they claimed it as their own. Thankfully, Joey’s vision also included other musical forms and he, like The clash, gave a nod to Reggae on occasion. The ‘War On 45’ EP is solid little salute to DOA’s ability to marry political messages with musical diversity. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKnGb8BKHVA

DURAN DURAN – “Duran Duran”
Yes. Duran Duran. Bite me. The version of ‘Duran Duran’ I owned was the 1983 re-issue with “Is There Something I Should Know?” added to the track list. Apparently people still like them. Haven’t given them more than passing thought until now.

EAGLES, The – “Greatest Hits: 1971-1975”
EAGLES, The – “Hotel California”
EAGLES, The – “The Long Run”
The Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner era Eagles is beyond reproach. They were unstoppable alongside Frey and Henley. Add Timothy Schmidt and Joe Walsh in the later iteration and they could do no wrong…until it went tits up on ‘The Long Run’. But, you know what? Pound for pound, song for song, The Eagles are still untouchable – and they can still do it live.

ELO – “A New World Record”
ELO – “Out of the Blue”
ELO – “Discovery”
ELO was another act I discovered on AM Radio. But as I started digging into the back catalog (beginning with the early ‘best of’ package ‘Ole ELO’) I realized that the thing I loved about The Beatles’ ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ era was alive and well and living in Jeff Lynne’s brain. But following ‘Discovery’ (which I still think is a very underrated album) they lost me – I’d gone punk and Jeff had gone soft.

EnemyENEMY, The – “We’ll Live And Die In These Towns”
Take The Jam, The Buzzcocks and Sham 69 and put that sound into the hands of three post-teens from Coventry, England. It’s three minute punk pop without a Green Day influence in sight.


EURYTHMICS – “Revenge”
EURYTHMICS – “We Too Are One”
The world opened and closed the door on the Eurythmics with “Sweet Dreams” and “Here Comes the Rain Again” – and according to Gold Radio these were the only songs ever recorded by the duo of Dave Stewart and Annie Lennex. But the collective was not satisfied wallowing in synth-pop land and so began to challenge themselves with more band-oriented arrangements featuring guitars, drums and horn sections. Their late 1980s output stands as a testament to their greatest period challenging not only themselves but the world’s perception of them. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2wEvRIHu0k

EXTREME – “Three Sides to Every Story”
The first time I heard “Get the Funk Out” from the band’s ‘Pornograffiti’ album I thought KISS had finally re-invented themselves. Singer Gary Cherone sounded like a newer, younger Paul Stanley. But then I caught more material with the expressive noodling of guitarist Nuno Bettencourt and it became clear that this WASN’T Kiss. It was a funk rock act out of Boston. These guys had their chops down and with “Three Sides” they had created their ‘White Album’ representing every musical style under the sun. Most impressive was that they could recreate it all LIVE – including the incredible harmonies on ‘More than Words’ and ‘Hole Hearted’.

Faith No MoreFAITH NO MORE – “We Care Alot”
FAITH NO MORE – “The Real Thing”
Faith No More where a balls-to-the-wall funk metal flash in the pan. Having gained the attention of the industry with former vocalist Chuck Moseley and the attention grabbing “We care Alot”, he bolted on the eve of the recording of the band’s Slash Records debut ‘The Real Thing’. With the bed-tracks in the can, the band auditioned singers and finally hired infante terrible Mike Patton who was saddled with laying down all the lead vocals in two weeks. The album became a breakaway monster on the back of the song “Epic” (“You want it all but you can’t have it!!”). Saw the band perform live twice. Patton was part circus performer, part sociopathic maniac – and the album became a fixture on my CD player. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1rcYBP0FdL8

FALCO – “Falco 3”
Written off as a one-hit wonder, Falco had quite a lengthy career in Austria and Germany before his untimely death about a decade ago. I found this album filled with hooks and humor featuring the hits “Rock Me Amadeus”, “Vienna Calling”, and “Jeanny”. He was doing Gangnam Style 20 years before Psy.

FastballFASTBALL – “All the Pain That Money Can Buy”
FASTBALL – “The Harsh Light of Day”
FASTBALL – “Keep Your Wig On”
Formerly a punk trio out of Texas for their debut album ‘Make Your Mama Proud’, Fastball retooled for their sophomore effort and destroyed Top40 radio with “The Way”, “Fire Escape”, and “Sooner or Later”. It was exactly the power pop we needed on the heels of Fountains of Wayne’s failed world domination. Been a fan ever since. Always great hooks, harmonies and twists on musical styles (they use Mexican horn sections on some songs). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wd2aeZhu9xY

54.40 – “Sweeter Things: A Compilation”
54.40 – “Dear Dear”
54.40 – “Since When”
54.40 – “Casual Viewin'”
You either love 54.40 or you hate them. Their early material is take it or leave it (though Hootie & The Blowfish decided to take “I Go Blind” and make it into a massive hit). Their current period finds them in adult mode and more attuned to the fans that might like, say, Blue Rodeo. Both “Since When” and “Casual Viewin'” do not have a bum track on either album – which is a rare find these days. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=258Eutat9hM

FixxFIXX, The – “Shuttered Room”
FIXX, The – “Reach the Beach”
Fixx, The – “Phantoms”
Fixx, The – “Walkabout”
Rarely mentioned amongst any 1980s music discussions, The Fixx were smart and melodic. Cy Cronin’s vocals weren’t for everyone but he could evoke a mood. Nothin was better than the post-apocalyptic reading of “Red Skies”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXfc7VMyj94

FLEETWOOD MAC – “Fleetwood Mac”
Like The Eagles, you could not escape the Buckingham-Nicks version of Fleetwood Mac in the ’70s. It is woven into my DNA. But, good God…do NOT reunite if there is no Christine McVie. Nicks cannot sing worth shit…and even less so now.

FMFM – “Black Noise”
Canadian Prog trio FM put out quite a few albums – some of which went on to get massive radio play in their guise as the new Cars. However, it was this – their second official album (after ‘Headroom’) – that brought them the respect and accreditation they’ve been able to flaunt for decades; Makes a nice double feature with Klaatu’s ‘3:47 EST’). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7HbHMOMD6o

FOREIGNER – “Double Vision”
FOREIGNER – “Head Games”
One of the few artists I’m actually embarrassed, now, to admit I liked. Lots of catchy tunes, great singing by Lou Gramm but, my God, the most atrocious lyrics since…well, Styx.

Forgotten RebelsFORGOTTEN REBELS – “In Love With the System”
Hamilton’s snot-nosed agitators followed-up a rare 3 song EP with this full-length album full of cynicism, sarcasm and wit courtesy of lead singer Mickey deSadist. They lampoon everyone from Elvis to the Beatles to the Doors. What else is punk for? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uU4JYwmjfx0

FRAMPTON, Peter – “Frampton Comes Alive”
Well, double duh!

FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD – “Welcome To the Pleasuredome”
Trevor Horn. Gay political activists. Liverpool. What more could you ask for in a short-lived band?

Generation XGENERATION X – “Generation X”
Under-appreciated in the British punk pantheon, this 8-track live-off-the-floor slash’n’burn debut showed that young Billy Idol might have a future in the biz. Subsequent albums didn’t hold the charm for me (though #3, ‘Gen X’, with members of the Pistols on board, came close). Idol, would of course, go on to a short-lived but vivid solo career. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fe5PaIa0SX4

GABRIEL, Peter – “So”
GABRIEL, Peter – “Shakin’ the Tree”
Genesis bored the fuck out of me. And Peter Gabriel always looked like a ridiculously clownish Arthur Brown in the old photos I’ve seen. But with producer Daniel Lanois re-directing his obtuse world-music solo career, suddenly he was not only accessible but melodic and catchy. Alas, everything since has been more snoozing.

GibbonsGIBBONS, Geoff – “Sentimental Maniac”
One of the few artists signed to my record label whose album I still regularly play and admire. Geoff was in the soft-rock duo Silverlode, did a stint as a country artist and created this fine pop record which I’m still digging 8 years later.

GODDO – “Act of Goddo”
Greg Godovitz and I have known each other for many years – I re-issued the Goddo catalog in 2000 on my label. But the truth is that ‘Act of Goddo’ was the only record I ever liked from beginning to end. It was growth for his songwriting and a maturity for the band’s sound. It was also introduced to me by my old friend John Piercey. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnlgJsJOdvM

GowanGOWAN – “Gowan”
GOWAN – “Strange Animal”
GOWAN – “Great Dirty World”
GOWAN – “Lost Brotherhood”
GOWAN – “…But You Can Call Me Larry”
My fondness for Larry’s work is immeasurable. He inspired me to become a musician when I was 14 so he can do no wrong (well, except the the video I’ve included). However, I wish he’d get a new solo album out – his songwriting’s being wasted with Styx (though not his voice). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1rWo_QlR48

HARRISON, George – “33 1/3”
HARRISON, George – “Cloud Nine”
The quiet Beatle never really blew my socks off. His material was nearly as inconsistent as Ringo’s. I will get shot for this, I’m sure. I love a lot of George’s stuff but his albums, on the whole, always left me skipping tracks. I thought ’33 1/3′ was the most well thought out and the comeback record ‘Cloud Nine’ was the most commercial record The Traveling Wilburys almost made.

HART, Corey – “Corey Hart”
HART, Corey – “Boy In the Box”
Yes. Mock me now. Hart offered two solid 1980s contemporary pop albums filled with hooks galore. The fact that he sounded like Elmer Fudd doing it was the drawback.

HeartHEART – “Dreamboat Annie”
HEART – “Heart”
Rock chicks are hot. Rock chicks that can play and sing like Led Zeppelin are really hot. This is the full meal deal. No one can touch the duo.

HOOPER, Tom – “Unexplored Cosmos”
As one of two Grapes of Wrath front men, I signed Tom to my record label as a solo performer on the recommendation of Randy Bachman – before I ever heard note one of what would be the ‘Unexplored Cosmos’ album. It was introspective and laid back. A bit too much for some fans, but I always kept this album spinning in the CD player because it had some great melodies and Tom’s quirky personality in spades. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_bp7l5tPcY

HydeHYDE, Paul – “Living Off the Radar”
HYDE, Paul – “Big Book of Sad Songs, Volume 1”
The former Payola$ front man continued his witty and rye social commentaries following the band’s demise. He is one of the more erudite and observational of all singer songwriters and I look forward to each of his solo releases – as infrequent as they are. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_f66R8NpIdM

BILLY IDOL – “Billy Idol”
BILLY IDOL – “Rebel Yell”
As a fan of punk band Generation X, I followed Billy Idol after the band’s disintegration through the first two over-produced MTV extravaganzas. He was everywhere and soon became a caricature of himself. But he made his mark and I had a blast during the days these songs were coming out of the radio.

INXS – “X”
INXS struggled for years to break out of Australia and into North America finally paid off for INXS with the massive selling “Kick” and the sturdy follow-up “X”. Yeah, it was overplayed on radio…but they offered up a pretty unique sound at the time – especially with Michael Hutchence’s pure Jagger impersonations.

JACKSON, Michael – “Thriller”
If you lived through the 1980s this album is now part of the evolution of music. I didn’t even own it and it was a massive influence.

JamJAM, The – “Setting Sons”
Loved the Jam but never managed to get their albums as they were almost always expensive imports. Finally got my hands on the semi-conceptual ‘Setting Sons’ and was able to appreciate Paul Weller as a modern songwriting equivalent to Ray Davies. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9Whn2eQGSM

JOHANSEN – “Johansen”
Glen Johansen is a little known Canadian disciple of Eddie Grant who is a renowned engineer and one of the few white musicians to ‘get’ the reggae vibe. His one-and-only solo album offers up the best of his songwriting/production techniques. He also turns in a monster cover version of Grant’s “Killer On a Rampage”.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqcCcmjwRAg

JOHN, Elton – “Madman Across the Water”
JOHN, Elton – “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”
JOHN, Elton – “Greatest Hits”
JOHN, Elton – “Caribou”
JOHN, Elton – “Captain Fantastic & The Brown Dirt Cowboy”
JOHN, Elton – “Rock of the Westies”
JOHN, Elton – “Greatest Hits II”
My love for Elton John (and Bernie Taupin) songs began with my friend John Shuler in 1975 – though I already owned the ‘Greatest Hits’ in 1974. I’ve always been a monster fan even when he’s fallen into questionable MOR tripe. ‘Captain Fantastic’ is my desert island disc. Sheer perfection in every note.

Jordan_SassJORDAN, Sass – “Racine”
JORDAN, Sass – “Rats”
I admit it. I’ve never been a big supporter of female artists. Not when you’ve got one of the best singers of all time as a sister-in-law. But performing Sass’s stuff live gave me a full appreciation for Sass’s early 1990s output. Tough as nails, screaming rock in the Janis Joplin tradition. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=myXZSAQ_unY

KINGS, The – “The Kings Are Here”
KINGS, The – “Unstoppable”
KINGS, The – “Because of You”
Yes, those “Beat Goes On/Switchin’ To Glide” guys. Do yourself a favour and get a copy of ‘The Kings Are Here’ from which the Bob Ezrin produced song was extracted. The album is solid from beginning to end. Oh, and check out the catalog…the boys never stopped making new music and even had a successful radio run in the early 1990s with the ‘Unstoppable’ album. I’ve been friends with Dave Diamond and Zero for years and believed in them enough to help them release the 2003 album ‘Because of You’.

KINKS, The – “Misfits”
KINKS, The – “Low Budget”
KINKS, The – “Give the People What They Want”
KINKS, The – “State of Confusion”
KINKS, The – “Word of Mouth”
Like The Who, I came to the Kinks late. Never went backwards much into their catalog, but did get to finally see them at Maple Leaf Gardens in 1985. Ray Davies is a songwriting God.

KISS – “Destroyer”
KISS – “Rock And Roll Over”
KISS – “Love Gun”
KISS – “Alive II”
KISS – “Gene Simmons”
KISS – “Paul Stanley”
KISS – “Ace Frehley”
KISS – “Creatures of the Night”
KISS – “Revenge”
KISS – “Alive III” (I was in the audience for this one)
Let me be the first to say it in polite company. KISS ‘Alive’ is a God-awful piece of sonic shite. Kiss never sounded good on record until producer Bob Ezrin was given the money and the leeway to ‘produce’ them. No disrespect to Eddie Kramer – as he was given no cash or time to make the band sound any good – but it coloured my view of the first four albums…including ‘Alive’. But, let’s face it. No one was really there for the songs. It was all about the live show. And as a visual medium there’s no possible way it would ever translate to record. Still, the catalog is peppered with memorable moments – 14 year-old teen moments. Let me have this one. It got me through puberty.

KLAATU – “3:47 EST”
KLAATU – “Hope”
KLAATU – “Sir Army Suit”
KLAATU – “Endangered Species”
KLAATU – “Magentalane”
Those that know me also know everything I’ve ever said about these guys. Great progressive pop. Underappreciated except by the ravenous fanbase. Great songwriters and personal friends. That’s all.

LennonLENNON, John – “Plastic Ono Band”
LENNON, John – “Imagine”
LENNON, John – “Mind Games”
LENNON, John – “Shaved Fish”
LENNON, John – “Double Fantasy”
Confession time. I always thought Lennon was an asshat. When he died, relatives who knew that I loved the Beatles were quick to buy me all his albums. They sat in shrink wrap for years until I was musically mature enough to go back and listen to them without the noise of his legend overshadowing the works. An inconsistent but great catalog – I grew to respect his legacy without having to pronounce him God.

LewisLEWIS, Gary – “Listen!”
Got this album in 1974 in a K-Mart bargain bin. This is the same Gary Lewis of Gary & The Playboys doing an adult contemporary take on some of the most popular singer-songwriter material of the late 1960s including old tropes like “Reason to Believe” and “She’d Rather Be With Me” but it’s the deep cuts like John Sebastian’s “Six O’Clock” that made the album entertaining…even for my 11 year-old listening ears.

Saw Living Color in 1989 on a triple bill with Faith No More and Parliament/Funkedelic at the Palladium in New York City. My head exploded. Living Color was a force to be reckoned with. “Cult of Personality” made it safe for black musicians to ROCK. And they did. Corey Glover’s soulful singing and Vernon Reid’s Hendrix reboot were unstoppable. Oh, and they’ve reunited. New material is out now.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xxgRUyzgs0

McCartneyMcCartney, Paul – “Ram”
McCartney, Paul & Wings – “Band On the Run”
McCartney, Paul & Wings – “Venus & Mars”
McCartney, Paul & Wings – “Wings Over America”
McCartney, Paul & Wings – “London Town”
McCartney, Paul & Wings – “Back To the Egg”
McCartney, Paul – “McCartney II”
McCartney, Paul – “Tug of War”
McCartney, Paul – “Give My Regards To Broad Street”
McCartney, Paul – “Flowers In the Dirt”
Paul. Your mileage may vary. These are my faves. Hip Hip Hooray!

MEN AT WORK – “Business As Usual”
MEN AT WORK – “Cargo”
Try and deny it. “Down Under” has a hook a mile wide. The one-two punch of these Australians was a solid book end to what The Police were doing elsewhere. Cute, harmless and catchy beyond reason.

METALLICA – “Metallica (aka The Black Album)”
So not my genre. But points to the Bob Rock produced album which was filled with hummable rock hooks and studio musicians subbing in for the substance afflicted band itself. I believe Kenny Aranoff plays drums on it…better than Lars Ulrich would have.

MonkeesMONKEES, The – “The Monkees”
MONKEES, The – “More of the Monkees”
MONKEES, The – “Headquarters”
MONKEES, The – “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.”
MONKEES, The – “Head”
TV. Childhood. Some of the greatest songwriters to ever come out of the music business giving four actor/musicians turned musician/actors a springboard to become their own personalities.

MOTLEY CRUE – “Too Fast For Love” (original indie version)
MOTLEY CRUE – “Dr. Feelgood”
I always saw Motley Crue as KISS gone wrong. Vince Neil’s inability to actually sing was masked by the audacious attire and off-stage hedonism. But song-for-song their debut album broke new ground – marrying heavy metal to rock. The independently released version of the debut was better than the remixed repair job that Elektra Records attempted when the band got signed. Seek out the original 100 MPH original version of “Live Wire”. And points to the Bob Rock produced “Dr. Feelgood” which was filled with with hummable rock hooks and studio musicians subbing in for the substance afflicted band itself. I believe Kenny Aranoff plays drums on it……better than Tommy Lee. Wait, what? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vm5auKDPoSY

MothersMOTHERS OF INVENTION – “We’re Only In It For the Money”
Zappa lampoons ‘Sgt. Pepper’ and brings his buddies in to help with the joke. Full album here:

More of the list next week!

Send your CDs to: Jaimie Vernon, 180 Station Street, Suite 53, Ajax, ON L1S 1R9 CANADA


Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday.
Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonJaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 33 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 16 years. He is also the author of the recently released Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ is now available at Amazon.com

7 Responses to “JAIMIE VERNON: The Top 125 Most Influential Top 100 albums – Part 1”

  1. My God, Jaimie! You listed McCartney! Did you mean to do that or have you been hacked by judges on the “reality” music contest shows? This shows you what a difference a decade or two can make in your DNA. By the time most of your acts came along, I was tired of most of them. I liked ELO only because Mick Kaminski (Joe Soap) played violin, Elton John because all the good looking chicks dug him, INXS because of the one hit they had (what was the name of that again?), Beatles because people would beat the crap out of me if I said I didn’t, and The Carpenters because I saw them live at a huge lounge in Seattle during their early run and was fascinated by Karen Carpenter’s incredible drum skills. Then you have to throw in oddities like Sass Jordan and Klaatu and The Jam and I’m thinking, what the hell? But you probably always were an odd duck when it comes to music. My DNA list would make your eyes roll back in your head except for the fact that half of them are listed in your Canadian Rock Encyclopedia and you couldn’t deny their existence now, could you? Not to mention that that’s one hell of a lot of work you did for this, especially considering that this is only Part 1. My question is, how many parts are there going to be and will you have time enough to finish it?

  2. I’m 49 so my musical come-uppence happened around 1973/1974. Everything was pretty vanilla at that point. But when I grabbed my first guitar in 1978 it all changed – I was being influenced by what my friends were listening to and once I joined my punk band acts like McCartney were tossed on the deceased list (he truly started blowing massive chunks of treacle by 1982 anyway). I’ve been riding the rails of oddities ever since. PS – Part 2 is already written but I didn’t want to blow up Bob’s wordpress account 🙂
    PPS – the INXS hit was “Original Sin”.

  3. Ian McLeish Says:


  4. Just desire to say your article is as surprising.
    The clarity in your post is simply spectacular and i could
    assume you are an expert on this subject. Well with your permission allow me to grab
    your feed to keep updated with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please continue
    the rewarding work.

  5. […] containing the most influential artists/albums for me in my 35 years as a musician you can find it here. This week  I wrap up the list with the remainder of the alphabet. Enjoy…or get annoyed. Your […]

  6. Fantastic website. Plenty of helpful information here. I am sending it to several pals ans additionally sharing in delicious.
    And certainly, thank you for your effort!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: