10 songs that shaped my musical taste

As per the long-ago request of one Josh Pincus, here is a list of ten songs, in no particular order, that shaped my musical taste (at least as of this moment)…

  1. “Heroin” by The Velvet Underground – Sometime in high school, Adam Weiner (also known as Ladyfingers) came to the class that was learning about the 1960s and presented a series of lectures about the evolution of popular music. I wasn’t in that class, but I somehow was allowed to miss my own class to hear Adam talk and play records. One of the songs he played (right after “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall,” I believe) was this song from The Velvet Underground. This song opened my eyes to how noise and experimentation could still make for listenable music.
  2. “Mr. Richland’s Favourite Song” by Harry Nilsson – This song, about a rock star who fades from fame, is a heart-wrenching tale that rings true for too many contemporary musicians (ex-Rainmakers frontman Bob Walkenhorst, to name just one). Nilsson wasn’t just The Beatles’ favorite singer and favorite band, but he is my favorite songwriter as well.
  3. ”Gangsters” by The Specials – This song turned me on to that glorious genre known as Ska. Sure, plenty of bands did it before The Specials, but “Gangsters” remains the bridge between ska and punk before bands like No Doubt and Reel Big Fish mucked it up.
  4. ”I’m Shakin’” by Little Willie John – Oh, that voice. Before I started listening to Louis Jordan, I listened to Little Willie. In jail by 28 and dead by 30, John’s short career is even more impressive by how young he was when he belted out this tune. This song also introduced me to the most horrible disease with the coolest name: St. Vitus Dance.
  5. ”Astronomy Domine” by Pink Floyd – I was likely already into the more well-known albums by Pink Floyd by the time I heard their first album, and it was like discovering a completely different band. Syd Barrett has since become one of my favorite musical figures. His enigmatic and unusual personality and songwriting on the two Floyd albums he was on as well as his two solo albums are gems of psychedelia.
  6. “Going Underground” by The Jam – Hardly the first punk song I ever heard, this was the first song on the Left Of The Dial box set that I didn’t already know (well, it’s the second song on the first disc). That whole collection shaped a good portion of my listening habits, as I’ve begun to listen to nearly every band on it, from The Go-Betweens to The The.
  7. “Heroes And Villains” by The Beach Boys – Part of the infamous SMiLE project that only recently surfaced in its entirety, this song showed me how The Beach Boys were much more than “Surfin’ Safari.” Since hearing their more experimental material, The Beach Boys have become one of my absolute favorite bands, if only for the universal misunderstanding of their musical career.
  8. “Dog Eat Dog” by Adam & The Ants – I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was the first song that introduced me to New Wave. Probably around 10 the first time I heard it, I picture people with giant Easter Island heads performing backup vocals. This, along with “(I Never Loved) Eva Braun” by The Boomtown Rats, was my intro to the post-punk scene, and the two were some of the weirdest songs of my early taste in music.
  9. “I Want To Rule The World” by 10cc – At the time, this song seemed to be goofy, outlandish and a bit scary, and only recently did I discover how right I was back then. When I first heard this multi-section prog suite, I didn’t quite appreciate the humor of Godley and Creme as much as I do now. Not only did this song introduce me to more modern experimental tendencies, but also to the pop geniuses behind it.
  10. “Jack Talked” by Stan Ridgway – Though I grew up listening to the music of Stan Ridgway, it was this song from his Partyball album that made me pay closer attention. I remember hearing this on a mix CD my dad sent to summer camp one year, and not realizing who it was performing. I recall thinking it was some weird They Might Be Giants-inspired project before I caught on that Ridgway had been doing the whole ‘weird Americana’ thing long before John and John. And he continues to do it much better than they do.

Don’t forget, you can hear songs like these and many more in the Ugly Rumor Podcast (updated Mondays)!!



~ by E. on May 4, 2009.

One Response to “10 songs that shaped my musical taste”

  1. you were the coolest kid in pre-school, kindergarten, elementary school, high school and college. those others only think they’re cool. they don’t know what “cool” means.

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