I thought this might be tough to do, but I breezed pretty quick through the creation of the list. Most of my life changing albums were more like soundtracks to the events.
Here they are, in no particular order other than when I thought of them:
KISS Alive! – My grade school friend Mark’s older brother played this album and I listened to it outside his bedroom window. I saw the cover and I was hooked.
The Monkees Greatest Hits – I loved the old Monkees show and this was the first album I ever owned. It was a Christmas gift from my grandma. I still have it.
Journey Frontiers/Escape – On my high school cross country team, we had two guys who fought over the music we’d listen to before meets. One wanted Iron Maiden and the other Journey. I ended up liking both bands, but Journey made more of an impact. I heard these albums at the same time and I still have trouble telling one apart from the other.
Michael Jackson Thriller – You couldn’t escape this album during my freshman year of high school. Even today, I hear Billie Jean and I want to dance.
U2 The Joshua Tree – I liked early U2 tracks like New Year’s Day and Sunday Bloody Sunday, but this album was the dominate album of my freshman year of college even if I didn’t own it at the time
Led Zeppelin IV – I remember hearing Stairway and it blowing my mind. There isn’t a bad track on the album.
The Eagles Live – This was the cassette that the track team listened to all the time. I loved “Life’s Been Good” and “Wasted Time.” We’d go cruising on Friday nights and listen to this.
Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits – The cassette my parents listened to all the time in the car. I’d either hate it or love it. I ended up loving it.
AC/DC Back in Black – I remember looking at this cover and seeing just how black it really was. I can also remember counting the bells at the beginning of Hells Bells (there’s 13…)
Motley Crue Shout At The Devil – I’m pretty sure I bought this cassette after hearing “Looks That Kill.” I remember looking at the cover and thinking this was the second coming of KISS
Pearl Jam 10 – I was not a big fan of the Seattle sound. However, the first Pearl Jam record is probably one of the best examples of what was good about 90s music.
Beatles Rubber Soul – I listened to this and Revolver at my next door neighbor’s house. My parents never really liked the Beatles growing up so I wasn’t exposed to them until much later
Beatles Revolver – Along with Rubber Soul, these are the albums I most want to listen to by the Beatles. Plus, both are such complete albums from start to finish
Def Leppard Pyromania – The video was everywhere. Along with Thriller, this was the soundtrack of high school track season my freshman year
The Police Synchronicity – I had heard “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” and “Roxanne,” but this album was the topper. I don’t think the band could every top it, which is one of the reasons they broke up afterwards.
What I noticed as I was writing this all down is that I tended to choose albums that are strong from start to finish. I call these complete albums. I’m thinking the era of a complete album is over with the ease of downloading single tracks from places like iTunes. Soon I’ll be saying, “Remember when artists put out a full album of material?”