Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Rickey’s Life Through Music, Part I: The Formative Years

A while back, Mr. Furious tagged Rickey for an exceedingly ambitious meme: “Your Lifetime Through Music.” We know, it sounds like a syrupy Time-Life audio CD collection, but we assure you, it is far superior (and mercifully devoid of Dick Clark). What this meme boils down to is that those tagged are responsible for selecting their favorite albums for each year they’ve been roaming about on this crazy blue marble called Earth. You proud few should begin at the specific Wikipedia page for the year you were born, and proceed to pick what you consider to be your favorite albums from each year you've been alive. Bear in mind that this is based purely on personal preferences, so opinions will undoubtedly vary somewhat. But we’re telling you right now: if just one of you jackasses says something along the lines of “Hey Rickey, why didn’t you pick the Jethro Tull album for 1982?” we will promptly delete your comment without any hesitation whatsoever. We refuse to recognize bands containing flutists here at RwR (doing so would only encourage them). Anyhow, here’s the first installment in a three part series:

The Formative Years: 1979 - 1989

1979 – December 8, 1979: Emergence Day. This is when Rickey hit the ground running and never looked back. In world events, the Iranian hostage crisis had the public glued to its tv screens, “Alien” was tearing it up at the box office, and Jimmy Carter was attacked by a terrifying killer swamp rabbit. So to commemorate this magnanimous year, we’re selecting the epic and trippy album “The Wall” by Pink Floyd to kick things off. It seems quite fitting, doesn’t it? Honorable mention also goes to “The Specials” by The Specials, one of the very best ska albums ever made. A band that combines danceability and reggae with the raw aggression of punk? Oh yes please.

1980 – In this year, Mattel started us down the slippery slope to Grand Theft Auto with their release of the Intellivision video game system, Richard Pryor burned himself while freebasing cocaine, and moustache aficionado Rollie Fingers shattered the record for career saves. Rickey’s top pick from this year is “Making Movies” by the Dire Straits. Rickey is a massive fan of Mark Knopfler’s twangy guitar playing—the dude’s flat out incredible. “One For the Road” by The Kinks is noteworthy as well if you’re looking for a terrific live album that presents a band at its creative zenith.

1981 – “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” one of Rickey’s favorite movies of all time is released, Ronald Reagan figured it would be fun to fire 11,359 air traffic controllers, and Simon & Garfunkel performed live in Central Park before half a million people. Musically, this is a pretty tough year to pick from. Screw it, we’re going with “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” by AC/DC. Like clockwork during the 80’s, this band published an album every year for roughly 10 years so let’s give ‘em some lip service shall we? Besides, how can you go wrong with an album containing a song entitled “Big Balls”? Honorable mention also goes to “Chariots of Fire” by Vangelis. What? Rickey’s a big fan of jogging on the beach…

1982 – MCMLXXXII, the year that Margaret Thatcher dispatched the British military to conquer Puffins living in the Falkland Islands. In case you were unaware, this is the year when Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” hit the streets. Thriller, people. But if we’re going to talk about androgynous pop musicians with highly charged sexuality, why not go for broke? This is why we’re selecting “1999” by Prince as Rickey’s top pick for the year. To hell with the idea that Ronald Regan won the Cold War. If you don’t agree that Prince’s infectious backbeats and lyrics such as “Mommy, why does everybody have a bomb?” didn’t single handedly end the conflict with the Soviets then Rickey will beat you senseless, all funky Purple Rain style and whatnot.

1983 – Ah yes, the year that Lotus 1-2-3 was released for IBM computers everywhere, thus boldly paving the way for office dwellers everywhere to stare endlessly at spreadsheets. Obviously you’ve got U2 breaking loose with “War’ and “Under a Blood Red Sky” but criminally overlooked in this year is “Murmur” by R.E.M. Since we here at RwR fashion ourselves as modern day nightwatcher flamekeepers, top honors for this year must go to “Swordfishtrombones” by Tom Waits. The first album in his trilogy consisting of “Rain Dogs” and ‘Frank’s Wild Years,” this album (and Waits in general) is definitely an acquired taste: a combination of spacey jazz, blues, spoken word poetry and down-and-out lyrics combined with vocals that sound like Bob Dylan's older barfly brother. Damned good stuff if you ask us.

1984 – Scarlet Johansson is born (huzzah!) Ronald Reagan defeats Mondale (boo!), the Brewers and White Sox play the longest game in MLB history (uh, push), weighing in at eight hours and six minutes, and “Let it Be” by The Replacements is released to critical acclaim. This one stands alone as Rickey’s pick for the year. What other punk band opens their album with a pop song? What punk band out there churns out blistering hardcore beats, then slows the tempo and throws in a piano? What band captures teen angst better than John Hughes ever did with "Sixteen Blue?"

1985 – Since we’re big fans of any band that fuses Celtic tradition with punk rock, “Rum, Sodomy, and The Lash” by The Pogues gets Rickey’s top selection for this year. (Coincidentally, the album shares its title with Senator Larry Craig’s forthcoming autobiography). Moving on, “The Firstborn is Dead” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is another album we’re compelled to mention—it’s feels timeless yet extremely experimental. The album includes a cover of Dylan's "Wanted Man" that makes every other cover of the song sound childish in comparison. "The Six Strings that Drew Blood," Rickey’s personal favorite from the CD, is a dark western-blues jam that sort of reminds us of a heroin induced vision of a guitar player. Highly recommended.

1986 – A rather good year for Mets and Giants fans. In keeping with the gleeful raucousness of these victories, we’re selecting “Licensed to Ill” by the Beastie Boys as our pick of the year. Back when Eminem was bully bait in a preschool playground in Detroit, these three Jewish gentlemen were crafting the most crude, fun, and original white boy rap that has ever been recorded. As Rickey gets older, it makes him sad to see the generation gap exhibited as "Fight For Your Right" and "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" are no longer part of recent generations’ collective memory. And when Rickey has a child, you damned well better believe that he’s buying the cassette tape for this album, sticking it in a boombox, putting that boombox on his shoulder, and blasting "Paul Revere" as the child exits the womb. Also from 1986, “Strength in Numbers” by .38 Special is a fun album too, provided you’re in the proper environment for that sort of thing. *Note: typically, the “proper environment” for a .38 Special song is defined as frequenting a strip club and receiving a lapdance, but hey, we dig the southern rock…

1987 – In this thrilling year, “The Untouchables” garnered Sean Connery an Oscar, “The Simpsons” first appeared on the Tracey Ullman show, and Bruce Willis released quite possibly the worst music album ever: “The Return of Bruno.” Mere words cannot describe just how shitty this vanity project was. Meanwhile in the realm of reputable music ventures, Guns N’ Roses was tearing it up with “Appetite for Destruction” which garners Rickey’s pick as top album for the year. If Rickey needs to explain to you how great the album is then you are a complete fool and we pity you as we would a lost child at the mall. Also from this year, “Sister” by Sonic Youth is a great listen (for those not in the know, the album was inspired by the life and writings of Philip K. Dick).

1988 – Aided in no small part by Prince’s unbridled awesomeness, Perestroika sweeps through the Soviet Union, “Mystery Science Fiction Theater 3000” premieres on tv, and in a rare moment of levity, the U.S. Supreme Court tosses out Jerry Falwell’s defamation case against Larry Flint. In the Year of the Rabbit, it’s hands down no contest: Rickey’s top pick is “The Travelling Wilburys, Vol. 1” by the Travelling Wilburys. This is one of those few supergroups that actually lived up to its promise, primarily because they didn’t try too hard to be anything other than a terrific pop band. Harrison, Lynne, Dylan, Petty, and Orbison make one helluva great album here. For Rickey’s money, it doesn’t get much better than “End of the Line.” On the other end of the spectrum is “Surfer Rosa” by The Pixies which is a superb mix of brilliant songwriting, insane lyrics, abrasive guitars and stunning melody. By far their rawest album and one of Rickey’s all-time favorites.

1989 – Heralding our impending doom, George H. W. Bush is sworn in as the 41st President of the United States, Prozac is introduced to consumers everywhere, and a little known show entitled “The Seinfeld Chronicles” debuts on NBC. Since we’re big fans of jam bands, “Junta” by Phish gets our nod for pick of the year (and arguably their best album). And for a smashing display of British humor, “Monty Python Sings” by Monty Python is a freaking riot. All together now folks: “Alllllways look on the bright side of life…”

Now then, if you’ve read this far and still feel like giving the meme a shot, by all means consider yourself tagged (be warned, if you want to do it right, you’ll find that it’s time consuming as hell). Rickey will be back tomorrow with the second installment, “The Roaring 90’s.”

*if it so pleases you, feel free to rate Rickey's post at Humor Blogs.

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25 comments:

Mike said...

Junta

I always thought that was a bit of a sprawling mess (double album? triple? Quadruple?).

But, if I'm not mistaken, it has "Fee," right? Love that song.

Rickey Henderson said...

It's a double album and yep, it has "Fee" on it. Sprawling mess? This is an improv jam band we're talking about here... Most Phishies consider it to be their White Album. "David Bowie" is probably Rickey's favorite track from the album. Rickey's not as much of a Phish fan anymore (he was back in high school) but there's still a sentimental spot in Rickey's heart for 'em.

Deb said...

Rickey and I agree on two major things here -- Mark Knopfler, whose hauntingly beautiful and finely tuned guitar work on "Making Movies" is probably one of the most creative and wonderful pieces of music I've heard. The other thing on which we agree is The Traveling Wilburys. Simply amazing, fun, catchy, kvetchy, a wonderfully upbeat collaboration of megastars whose talents surely were not wasted nor exploited on that fine album.

leigh said...

i would do this, but i don't everyone to know how old i am.

1979? holy crap. you're a pup.

Smitty said...

We refuse to recognize bands containing flutists here at RwR (doing so would only encourage them).

AMEN. I am still, to this day, an enraged Metallica fan, spurned by their loss in "Best Metal Band" category to Jethro Tull. I don't even listen to Metallica any more, having moved on to much meaner and heavier music. But I am still irritated.

Rickey Henderson said...

Wait, The Tull won an award for "Best Metal Band?" Precisely what is "Metal" about them? The brass buttons on the flutist's marching band uniform?

Deb said...

Uhhhh, I think the flute is metal, n'est-ce pas? lol

I've always wondered how certain bands fit into the "metal" category, anyway. I've often thought there should be three categories, "heavy metal," "miscellaneous metal" and "pop metal," the last of course, created solely for bands like Kiss, lol.

Alice said...

Alice was pleased to see that Rickey included The Pogues.

Did this take you over 3 hours to write? Thorough is what I guess I mean.

Jeff said...

Holy crap - I didn't know Rickey was so young! I would do this but who the hell wants to read 47 entries?! And btw, I graduated from high school in '79.

You DO know who your father is... right?

Toasty Joe said...

I considered doing this meme, but the from around 1997-present will just be one Radiohead and Beck album after another. Not very interesting. However' my 1970s and 80's choices would be very interesting.

Toasty Joe said...

"I don't even listen to Metallica any more, having moved on to much meaner and heavier music."

Wow...what do you listen to, a recording of a pneumatic drill?

George said...

I love the image of a four-year-old Ricky listening to Tom Waits.

Rickey Henderson said...

leigh/jeff: yeah, Rickey's young, blah blah blah... Rickey compensates for this with a lifetime of profanity.

Toasty: You're right, with the lack of decent musicians in recent years, its going to be tough for Rickey not to pick Radiohead and Beck in the next segment.

Meg said...

Shawn McGowan and The Pogues--what could be better?

Well, maybe Wilco.

Stephanie M said...

What a great idea! I was waiting for you to mention Donny and Marie Osmond - did I miss something?

Rickey Henderson said...

Wilco wasn't formed until 1994, hence Rickey not mentioning them in this first installment. Wilco is most definitely coming however.

Rickey Henderson said...

did I miss something?

Yeah, you missed Rickey's notice of warning at the beginning of the post where he threatened to delete any posts lamenting the absence of mediocre artists.

Chat Blanc (aka Sandy) said...

omg, what a trip! who knew a stroll down meme memory lane with Rickey would be so much freakin' fun! Looking forward to part 2.

LOBO said...

Like Leigh, I ain't touching this meme with a ten-year-old pole.

Suffice to say, I've burned through numerous copies of "Pink Floyd's The Wall".

(and brain cells)

Brian H said...

Great list Rickey!

"Life's a piece of shit....when you look at it...life's a laugh and deaths a joke it's true..."

AmyV said...

does Ms. Henderson know your plan for "Paul Revere"? I'm thinking not.

However, Amy believes Rickey has excellent taste in music.

Joel B. said...

This is awesome, good work.

I'll be posting my list (all 32 years) on my blog on Saturday...look for it!

theflitgirl said...

Rickey, Toasty's father in law (aka, my father) is a huge Mark Knopfler/Dire Straits fan. We danced our father-daughter dance at my wedding to one of Knopfler's more recent songs, "All That Matters" off his Shangri-La cd. Everyone thought it was an old Irish folksong.

(By way of an aside, Toasty and his mom did their dance to the Beatles' "Two of Us." And Toasty and I danced to Van Morrison's "Jackie Wilson Said." We were definitely not about the generic wedding-song choices.)

Mr Furious said...

Making Movies in indeed an fantastic album. So is the debut album, and Brothers in Arms minus the track most associated with it—"Money for Nothing"

I have no use for Tom Waits. And little for the 'mats or Sonic Youth either.

Mr Furious said...

Be sure to check out the Knopfler / Emmylou Harris duet album from last year(?)