Album Challenge

I was recently tagged by my Facebook friend Benjamin (you’ll always be seventh grade Benny to me) to “share the cover of an album that had an impact on your life, each day for ten days.”  The Facebook “challenge” demands you leave no commentary, just to tell your story through album covers.  I’m so bad at no commentary.

I did however, follow the Facebook rules, but here at Greater Than Gravity I AM THE RULES, so I can’t not explain.  It’s uncharacteristic of me not to blab on and on (and on and on, I know).  Though it’s just a social media thang, recollecting my feelings about these record albums has evoked a gamut of emotions and memories.

Day 1: Barenaked Ladies Rock Spectacle

Those in the know know it’s pronounced Rock “Speck-TACK,” and it was a game-changer.  While vacationing in Mexico more than two decades ago, my parents befriended a Canadian couple who recommended this disc, saying “You have to listen to this, you’re gonna love it.”  My parents, shortly thereafter, forwarded me both the disc and the message, and the rest as they say, is WW history.  Hard core “I own a copy of The Pink Tape” Barenaked Ladies fans continue to look down at the likes of me as a Johnny-Come-Lately since Rock Spectacle was my BNL starting line, but I think we can all agree that what I lose in duration, I’ve more than gained in intensity.

The original CD came with an embedded video I played on my first-ever circa 1998 laptop, but it ran wonky, so I don’t think I ever saw it through.  But I listened to this disc on forever repeat, and it takes me back to the time of my grandma’s death, a friend who died in a drunk driving accident’s death, and my divorce.  And healing.  To this day, When I Fall holds the #1 best-ever live recording in my book.

Day 2: Kiss Love Gun

How my mom let me purchase this album in fifth grade is beyond me, but to her everlasting credit, she did.  Probably she didn’t catch the double entendre of “love gun” (which, seriously! eeeewwww), and I sure as heck had no clue, but I wanted to be Christine Sixteen, (again, eeeewwww) and when Ace Frehley sang Shock Me, I rocked.  I dreamt endlessly about being the only one who knew what the Kiss guys looked like, dreamt they entrusted me with that deepest of secrets.  Fifth grade mega-nerd girls in 1978 didn’t rock.  Except I did.

Day 3: Bon Jovi Slippery When Wet

Holy.  Crap.  Changed.  My.  Life.  And my hair.  And my whole outlook on the world, as a young woman who at last found her place, her confidence, a hint of swagger even.  Does that sound melodramatic?  It’s the truth.  Those who know me know me to embrace what I love, and by embrace I mean “strangle with my love.”  This is my bedroom in 1989, two years after Slippery was released, but you don’t achieve this level of wall covering overnight, people.  It was the 80s–no internet, no immediacy of imagery.  You had to buy this stuff Circus magazine by Spencer’s Gift Shop visit, piece by piece, though it takes your parents only one day after you move out for it to come crashing down.  The next day.  All of it.  In an industrial size trash bag.  Which at least they saved for me. The bag has moved to four apartments and three houses with me since.


Day 4:  Rush Moving Pictures

The Spirit of Radio is the song that made me a Rush fan, but this album front to back is lonely high school underclassman me. Everyone knew Tom Sawyer, but I drifted toward Red Barchetta and Limelight. I’ve previously raved about Limelight, so won’t repeat myself. Hold on, I’m having a moment.

Day 5: Loverboy Get Lucky

Holy high school, y’all!  My friend Jodi, together with her sister, co-owned an ancient red Pontiac Sunbird with an in-deck 8-track tape player. We lived in a small town, so for kicks (read: cute guys), we spent an evening or two cruising. It was an entirely innocent way to spend a Saturday night: driving up and down the same 2-mile stretch in the big city, blasting music, looking for cute guys to talk with. I was a huge dork, the not-cute one of our foursome, so I never once actually spoke to a cute guy hanging out his friend’s car in this endeavor, but I did burn out Get Lucky tape after tape. And I turned out OK, so not being cute and/or able chat to up high school guys didn’t leave too much long term damage.

Day 6: Queensryche Operation Mindcrime

I didn’t understand what concept album meant until this, but I remember reading some 80s rocker say this album saved his life.  Naturally, because I thought he was hot, I wanted to investigate what intrigued him. This is an album you listen to front to back, you don’t skip tracks, and you don’t want to even though you cannot wait until the last track.  So good.  So good.

Day 7: Ralph’s World At The Bottom of the Sea

This album contains some of my favorite not-just-for-kids kids’ songs.  The songs stand on their own merit.  They’re clever, not sugary, condescending kids’ tunes, and the cover of Fly Me To The Moon has a death grip my heart, sweeter than Sinatra’s version.  I can remember singing this to my baby and toddler boys, when they looked at their mother with pure love–sparkle in their eyes, gummy and drooly smiles pasted on their faces at a time they hung on both to me and my every word.

Day 8: Original Broadway Cast Wicked

There is nothing I could possibly add to the volumes of superlatives attached to the story, the music, the performers, the production, the all of it!  My friend Colleen bought me the CD for my birthday one year, and my friend Barb bought me a ticket to see Wicked in Chicago, wrapped up and presented to me in the hospital room I shared with Baby E.  For Good is perhaps the finest song about friendship ever crafted, and Defying Gravity is an anthem without equal.  I cry each and every time I hear these songs.  To this day, I cry when I hear them; I can’t even sing along in the car without getting choked up.  I can still hear then-little Baby T singing Popular along with me, when he begged me to sing it for him.  Theater is magic, and Wicked elevated theatrical magic to ethereal.

Day 9: Barenaked Ladies Grinning Streak

I had no way to predict that my song would become MY SONG, the first time I listened to this album, but one listen was all it took.  I was done for.  This album was offered for pre-release listening over Memorial Day weekend in 2013.  I recall that though it rained all weekend that year, I felt deliriously happy knowing I’d soon have my hands on the CD.  I knew every word before the album technically dropped, and Did I Say That Out Loud? immediately became the happiest 2:28 of my life.  If you’d told me then that I’d get the chance to tell the Barenaked Ladies guys what the song has come to mean to me, and that they’d give me a smile or a nod during MY part of MY song when they see me in the audience, I’d have laughed at the ridiculousness of the notion.

I gained a group of friends because of my abiding love for this record and willingness to share that, OK, obsession with the internet.  It gave me the confidence to guest blog for a BNL fan website which in turn, gave me entree to an incredible fan group, several of whom I now call friends.  I blab to the world here, but I’ve experienced some special greater than gravity-ish moments I need to keep close.  Thanks for saving me, Ladies.

Day 10: Barenaked Ladies Silverball

Silverball was handed to me precisely when I needed it.  The online friends I made through the Grinning Streak years, became face-to-face friends with Silverball’s tour.  The album was released months after my son’s muscular dystrophy diagnosis, and became a buoy of a sort.  Get Back Up became my MD fight song because Odds Are failed.  The BNL Last Summer on Earth 2015 and Canadian tours hold so many memories!  #ketchupandmustard and road tripping to Toronto and Massey Hall and laughing like a lunatic with Bek at 3 AM over “Here Ed, just sign this,” and “Hey Ty, can you say hi to Nikki?” and cry-hugging Chantal the first time we met and in the category of things never to say to your idols, “My dog died today” ranks right up there and sitting in the very most front and center seats in the house and, and, and. . . Words fail.

Thank stars the music never does.

7 thoughts on “Album Challenge

  1. What an awesome, feel-good post, Wendy! I’m so glad you did this! (I may have to do one myself!) And bless you for having the courage to post that pic of your dorm room! That is what every eighties bedroom looked like!

    Slippery When Wet unquestionably was Bon Jovi’s breakthrough album, but I’ve got such a soft spot in my heart for their follow-up, New Jersey, because it was released right when I was twelve-going-on-thirteen — that last gasp of childhood before the hormonal complexities of adolescence. So when I listen to New Jersey, I’m whisked back to that halcyon period. I don’t give a s#!t how cheesy “I’ll Be There for You” is, I’ll belt it out in my car whenever it comes on the radio!

    I’m such a Rush fanatic, I’d be hard-pressed to pick a Most Influential album. My favorite album might be Snakes & Arrows, simply because I discover new things in it each time I give it a listen; even by Rush standards, it’s heavily layered piece of work: thematically, lyrically, musically.

    Moving Pictures is arguably their best piece of work, though, and not just “Tom Sawyer” and “Limelight,” which get all the airplay. (Perhaps too much.) “Red Barchetta” is like a great bedtime story; I love the way Alex’s guitar simulates the sensation of a shift in gear! “YYZ” never gets old no matter how often you listen to it, and I rediscovered the brilliance of “The Camera Eye” when they featured it on Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland.

    Thanks for giving me something to smile about tonight, Wendy! Excellent post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so happy you enjoyed it, and responded with your memories of the music too! I genuinely enjoyed writing this one, reveling in those memories. A few years ago, I was supposed to fly into YYZ for a Barenaked Ladies show. I got delayed mid-route, and never made it through to Toronto. I truly wondered if the pace at Pearson would be like what the song feels like to me. Alas, I’ll never know. . . New Jersey was IT for me, but Slippery preceded it as the game-changer. I slept outside a local record shop to be first in line for tickets to the New Jersey tour, and any time between then and the show, I knew precisely how many days, hours, minutes until the curtain. When I love a band, I’m all in! That’s how I’ve been all my life with music As for the photo. . . well, that was me. It was the first time in my life I knew where I fit (definitely not at conservative Marquette University), but I found myself in the hair, the “costumes” that accompanied the time. Through 2019’s eyes, it probably looks ridiculous, but I’m OK with that. Sometimes (old lady me here) feels that kids today have such a short attention span, they don’t find enough of what they LOVE in the 3-5 minute world of You Tube and on-demand everything. I knew what I loved–it came hard and fast, but it also stuck. *happy sigh*

      Liked by 1 person

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