January 15, 2021

My Early, Influential Albums


Today, I will share with you some of the formative music that shaped my life.

To start, let me place myself: I was born in 1956, so that means I missed the fifties and didn’t become a teenager until the end of the sixties. Elvis was not my idol as a young boy, and though I listened to the Beatles — saw them on Ed Sullivan, watched their cartoon show, heard their songs on the radio — I didn’t really start to appreciate them until near the end of their career. Sgt. Pepper, The White Album, and Abbey Road were the formative Beatles’ albums for me, and these later records enabled me to go back and listen to their earlier music with more passionate ears.

My childhood took place pre-FM radio.

I listened to as much pop music of the mid-sixties as I could — I was an American Bandstand/Hullabaloo/Shindig/Where the Action Is kid who fell in love with the idea of rock music and bands. After school most days I listened to the Top Ten Countdown on WLS radio in Chicago where Larry Lujack was king, and I collected the station’s “Silver Dollar Surveys” of the top tunes from the record store.

I don’t remember the details, but I do recall my mom taking me to the store and helping me pick out my first LP record album to play on my little portable record player. It was The Best of The Kingston Trio (1962).

This was a formative collection for me because it introduced me to folk music. I was not old enough to appreciate traditional American folk music or the more political strains of people like Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, and Joan Baez. I missed out on the beatniks and the Greenwich Village scene, along with the poets, storytellers, and songwriters that have since become muses to me.

The Kingston Trio was a sanitized, popularized version of these more protest-oriented, bohemian folk groups and songwriters. These were the clean-cut, collegiate folk singers. Nevertheless, it was from them I first heard “Blowin’ in the Wind,”Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and other deeply thoughtful songs that questioned authority, opposed racism, and expressed cynicism concerning the military-industrial complex. The Kingston Trio introduced me to the acoustic guitar and the folk melodies and harmonies that have been the baseline of my contemporary musical tastes to this day.

Kingston TrioHere is the play list from The Best of the Kingston Trio:

1. Tom Dooley
2. Bad Man’s Blunder
3. The Tijuana Jail
4. A Worried Man
5. Everglades
6. Ally Ally Oxen Free
7. Lemon Tree
8. Jane, Jane, Jane
9. El Matador
10. Reverend Mr. Black
11. Desert Pete
12. Where Have All the Flowers Gone
13. M.T.A.
14. Greenback Dollar
15. Blowin’ In the Wind

Mom approved of my choice, but I am not so sure she enjoyed hearing her eight year-old boy running around singing, “And I don’t give a damn about a greenback-a dollar…”

DaveClarkFiveGladAllOver1Now it was time for me to pick out some albums on my own. While everyone else (it seemed) was caught up in Beatlemania, there was another British group that rocked my young world:  The Dave Clark Five. Their albums, Glad All Over (1964) and I Like It Like That (1965), became my first rock-n-roll records.

DC5 had an energy and enthusiasm that was infectious. They sang on the Ed Sullivan Show just two weeks after the Beatles’ debut and were part of the first wave of the British Invasion that took the U.S. by storm in early 1964. Extremely popular at the time, they appeared on the Sullivan show more than any other British Invasion group — 18 times. Their career imitated the Beatles’ pattern, and they even put out their own films after the success of A Hard Day’s Night. But the band didn’t have the staying power of the boys from Liverpool, and DC5 disbanded in 1970 after several years of diminished popularity, at least in the U.S.

Unlike other groups, the Dave Clark Five centered its sound and stage presence around Dave Clark and his drums, and their style became known as the “Tottenham” sound. Here’s a video of the hit “Over and Over” from one of their Sullivan appearances. The girls screamed for them, too.



These were the sounds that influenced me as a boy, along with the Monkees, Herman’s Hermits, the Beach Boys, Paul Revere and the Raiders, the Byrds, Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, the Supremes, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, the Association, the Mamas and the Papas, Tommy James and the Shondells, Peter and Gordon, Tommy Roe, the early Rolling Stones, the Animals, and a host of others.

Bring back any memories?


  1. My favorite LPs from 1964-1969 When I was living in them:

    1) Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – the Beatles
    2) Their Satanic Majesties Request – The Rolling Stones
    3) Are You Experienced? – Jimi Hendrix Experience
    4) The soundtrack from “From Russia With Love”
    5) Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones – The Monkees
    6) Highway 61 Revisited – Bob Dylan
    7) Surrealistic Pillow – Jefferson Airplane
    8) Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, Simon and Garfunkel
    9) HP Lovecraft II – HP Lovecraft
    10) Tommy – The Who

    Not a bad list, but here are the musics from that era that are in my CD player now:

    1) Pet Sounds – The Beach Boys (how did I miss this?)
    2) Dusty In Memphis – Dusty Springfield (or this?)
    3) Buffalo Springfield Again – Buffalo Springfield
    4) Triangle – Beau Brummels
    5) Something Else – The Kinks
    6) Atom Heart Mother – Pink Floyd
    7) Liege And Lief – Fairport Convention
    8) Highway 61 Revisited – Bob Dylan (some things endure)
    9) Hello And Goodbye – Tim Buckley
    10) Live At San Quentin – Johnny Cash

    • Extra Credit for mentioning The Monkees’s best album. “Door into Summer” is sublime, and “Daily Nightly” is perfectly trippy. I knew they were the 60s version of New Kids on the Block, but they had Neil Diamond and Carol King writing for them and belted out a few gems on their own.

    • Atom Heart Mother!!!! I remember the bovine cover art, back in the days when we still had cover art; and the dense thicket of sounds, non-narrative, stubbornly abstract. From there, it wasn’t a great distance to my subsequent love of Pere Ubu. All hail Atom Heart Mother!

  2. Good stuff. Did you ever get into Sly and the Family Stone?

  3. I *love* Greenback Dollar. And it’s all too true of me: “Spend it fast as I can.”

    Wasn’t it the Kingston Trio that had the great song that started “They’re rioting in Africa…” I knew that one by heart, though I can’t recall its title. “The whole world is festering/ with unhappy souls/ The Franch hate the Germans/ The Germans hate the Poles. /Italians hate the Yugoslavs/ South Africans hate the Dutch./ And I don’t like anybody very much.”

    • “The Merry Minuet,” which was also perfomed by Tom Lehrer.

      • “And I don’t like anybody very much.” Great song. I heard it just this morning on our local community radio station (which you can find at weru.org) because they were doing a program about the anniversary of the Hiroshima bomb. Newsreels, commentary, even fun songs about nuclear apocalypse (yes, that’s a genre, and I’ve heard a few good Australian ones too).

        Speaking of Tom Lehrer, one of the cheerful songs about nuclear annihilation they did not play this morning (and I felt like calling it in) was We Will All Go Together When We Go:

  4. Love most of your choices, but would add Motown: Supremes, 4 Tops, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Temptations, Jr. Walker & the Allstars. Loved them! I was never much of a Beatles or Stones fan, although I liked some of their songs. Later, into the 70’s it was Jethro Tull, Chicago, Grand Funk Railroad, Creedence Clearwater Revival.

    Must stop.

  5. That explains a lot….

  6. A ’60s album that was not finished and released until 2004 needs some love:

    SMILE by Brian Wilson.

    Simply amazing.

  7. Don in Oklahoma says

    I grew up in the early 80s, and I was raised on Top 40 radio. When I got my first job as a teen, I spent a lot of money on music…things like “Thriller”, Huey Lewis and the News’ “Sports” and, in a throwback to the 70s, “Hotel California” by the Eagles. I don’t buy a lot of albums anymore, but I haven’t listened to those three albums in years. Newer artists I’ve enjoyed lately are The Black Keys, Imagine Dragons, and Fitz and the Tantrums.

    My favorite band of all time, though is…Electric Light Orchestra.

  8. Thanks for introducing all these lovely ‘oldies’..i was born in the 80s but i have an old soul. The Beatles is still my favourite although recently, i fell in love with Frankie Valli…thanks again for sharing!

  9. Phil Ochs is one of my faves from the KT era (“There But For Fortune” I’ve practically taken as my anthem) and genre (maybe a little rawer than they were). And Tom Paxton who could sing a lovely ballad like “Come Away With Me” and then turn around and do “Wake up Jimmy Newman” or “Lyndon Johnson Told the Nation.”

    Of course, I discovered these guys in college…in the 80’s. Long after Phil had taken his own life and Tom had sung his eulogy.

  10. As a nineties/noughties Kid, the albums that set me on my way were What’s The story Morning Glory, Oasis; OK Computer, Radiohead; and Aerial by Kate Bush.

  11. As a kid with siblings a good bit older, growing up in the seventies, I was able to enjoy listening to the King Biscuit Flour Hour and Dr. Demento with them on weekends. All of my siblings loved music, so I made trips to “The Record Bar” with them several times each week. My two older brothers and I shared a room, and there was a great stereo system in there. The albums I listened to most back then were…

    Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen
    Best of the Doobies, The Doobie Brothers
    Endless Summer, The Beach Boys
    Live at Budokan, Cheap Trick
    Rumors, Fleetwood Mac
    Damn the Torpedoes, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

    Imagine a chunky 8 year old jamming to “Jungleland” by Springsteen one minute, “Good Vibrations” then next, and finally closing my imaginary show with an energetic rendition of “I Want You to Want Me”. Good times, good times…

  12. Peter, Paul & Mary was a huge influence on my early guitar playing. I learned how to play “Blowing in the Wind” and “Puff the Magic Dragon” note-for-note — actually, they both use the same Travis picking pattern. Then I used that picking pattern on the folky Christian songs we used to sing at youth group meetings. People thought I was a good guitar player but all I was doing was using the same Puff the Magic Dragon pattern on every song.

    My first few rock album purchases in the 60s (all mono because it was a dollar cheaper than stereo):

    The Best of Herman’s Hermits
    This Diamond Ring, Gary Lewis and the Playboys
    Mr Tambourine Man, The Byrds
    I Got You Babe, Sonny & Cher
    The Best of the Animals
    The Yardbird’s Greatest Hits
    High Tide and Green Grass, The Rolling Stones
    Collections, The Young Rascals

    Sonny & Cher’s 60’s output remains a guilty pleasure of mine. The production on their early stuff was impressive, probably because Sonny Bono had some experience working with Phil Spector and his Wall of Sound. The Byrds remain a favorite group of mine. I loved their chimey guitars, tight harmonies, and slightly dirge-like sound. Their rendition of “Bells of Rhymney” was a revelation. To this day, I prefer their version of “Chimes of Freedom” over Springsteen’s.

  13. A bit of cross-post observation: So many of you seem interested in having a desert experience until someone mentions the Top 40….

  14. I was born in ’83, but found Simon & Garfunkel in my Dad’s record collection and they are my favorites ’til this day.

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