The Most Important Albums of my Childhood

One Tree Hill


I’ve been feeling nostalgic lately and decided to try and list off the top of my head the essential music during my formative years through college. I went to high school and college during the 80s, so a lot of that decade is represented.

I thought this might be tough to do, but I breezed pretty quickly through the list. Most of my life-changing albums were more like soundtracks to the events from age 15 to 21.

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 would watch it every day after school, along with the 60s Batman show and Star Trek. The Monkees Greatest Hits was the first album I ever owned. It was a Christmas gift from my grandma, and I still have it. I kinda want to put it on the turntable right now.

Journey Escape and Frontiers

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 both Escape and Frontiers simultaneously, and so they feel like one album to me.

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 dominant album of my freshman year of college, even if I didn’t own it at the time.

Led Zeppelin IV

I remember being in grade school and hearing “Stairway to Heaven,” and it blew my mind. There isn’t a bad track on the album.

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. Remember “cruising?”

Simon and Garfunkel Greatest Hits

This is the cassette my parents listened to all the time in the car. I’d either end up hating it or loving it, and I ended up loving it.

AC/DC Back in Black

I remember looking at this cover and seeing just how black it was. It was all black with an embossed logo. 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 good 90s music. It’s definitely their best record.

Beatles Revolver and Rubber Soul

I listened to Rubber Soul 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. 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 for “Photograph” 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 keeper. I don’t think the band could ever top it, which is one of the reasons they broke up afterward.

As I was writing this all down, I noticed that I tended to choose strong albums from start to finish. I call these, unsurprisingly, complete albums. I’m thinking the era of the complete album is over with the ease of listening to single tracks from places like Spotify.

Soon I’ll be saying, “Remember when artists put out a full album of material?”

Man, I’m old.

Leave a Reply