20 Albums That Influenced Me: David Bowling

by David Bowling


Twenty albums do not a lifetime make, but they sure help it over the rough edges...


1. Eddy Arnold Have Guitar Will Travel

I told my grandson a few years ago that my family did not own a television set until I was 10 years old. I’m not sure he believed me, as he has never known a world without computers, never mind one without a television set. That meant that the radio and phonograph were the king and queen of the house; my grandfather was in charge of both, and he loved Eddy Arnold. It was country music at its most basic, since Arnold had not yet added strings to his sound to compete with rock and roll. I still have my grandfather’s old worn copy on Have Guitar Will Travel in my record collection. I have only played the album once that I can remember, and that was when Arnold passed away in 2008, as a tribute to the artist who introduced me to music.


2. Marty Robbins – More Gunfighter Ballads And Trail Songs

A relative gave me an old record player and a stack of albums she was about to discard. The album that received the most play was More Gunfighter Ballads by Marty Robbins. Robbins was at a crossroads of his career that found him moving from pop/rockabilly to straight country. Country music was originally known as Country & Western, and this album is one of the reasons why. It was story songs of the old West, and when you are a young teen, growing up in an old mill town in New England, it was a picture of something that was beyond my experience.


3. Jan & Dean – Ride The Wild Surf

A number of years ago, each member of the Daily Vault staff reviewed the first album they ever purchased with their own money. My first album purchase was Ride The Wild Surf by Jan & Dean.  I remember buying this rather than a Dick Dale release, which would have been a lot cooler in retrospect. But being a teenager, I assume Shelley Fabares in a bathing suit tipped the scales over a picture of Dick Dale. The music was typical for a Jan & Dean album in that it took two hit singles, the title song and “Sidewalk Surfin’,” and surrounded them with a lot of filler. The album cost $3.00, but when you were earning 50 cents an hour shoveling snow, it was a major purchase.


4. Roy Orbison – More Of Roy Orbison’s Greatest Hits

As a teenager, I had purchased several Roy Orbison singles. My copy of More Of Roy Orbison’s Greatest Hits still has the $1.00 price tag stapled to the jacket, so I assume it came from some sort of sale or cut-out bin. I bought it on the strength of the ballads, “In Dreams,” Blue Bayou,” and “It’s Over.” But what knocked me out were the rockabilly-type tracks “Working For The Man,” “Mean Woman Blues,” and “Lana.” I began looking for more Orbison material, and so for the first time, I became a collector and I soon began filling in releases by the Beach Boys and Four Seasons. That Orbison record has been joined by over 30,000 more. I still troll for Orbison material.


5. Ronny & The Daytonas G.T.O.

I remember being in a music store with enough money to purchase one album. I had Ferry Cross The Mersey by Gerry & The Pacemakers in one hand and G.T.O. by Ronny & The Daytonas in the other. I purchased the Gerry & the Pacemakers LP, but when I went back the next week, the Ronny & The Daytonas album was gone. It was not only gone from my usual record store but every record store in the area, and it had gone out of print. There was no eBay, Amazon, or Goldmine magazine, and so the album became my Holy Grail of collecting. It took me three decades to find a good copy. It’s a terrible album, but it represents what the obsessive nature of record collecting is all about.


6. Judy Collins In My Life

One summer in my late teens, I worked at a camp as part of the general staff. I was basically a mainstream music fan and collector, but one of the girls on staff was into folk music and anti-protest songs. She played Judy Collins’ In My Life over and over and over. This was at a time when Collins was an important part of the 1960s folk movement and the Vietnam was ramping up. It is a mild album, but it contained songs by Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Donovan, Randy Newman, and Richard Farina, which were outside of my normal listening habits but served the purpose of expanding my musical horizons and sent me in search of the artists who wrote the songs.


7. Bob Dylan Highway 61 Revisited

My life journey with Bob Dylan, at least musically, began with Highway 61 Revisited. It remains one of the classic releases not only of its era but of rock/folk music. The album is best known for the classic “Like A Rolling Stone,” but such songs as “Tombstone Blues,” “Ballad Of A Thin Man,” “Just Like Tom Thumb Blues,” the title track, and the 11 minute opus “Desolation Row” spoke for a generation and would be a building block on Dylan’s path to a Pulitzer Prize.


8. Phil Ochs I Ain’t Marching Anymore

Bob Dylan wrote protest songs; Phil Ochs was a walking and breathing protest song. His albums were too raw and angry for mainstream success, but he was a voice of the Vietnam generation. “Here’s To The State Of Mississippi,” “Days Of Decision,” “That Was The Present,” and “Draft Dodger Rag” took no prisoners and asked no quarter. Right in the middle of the madness is “The Highwayman,” which is the Alfred Noyes’ poem set to music. It fit the theme of the album but was a thoughtful and almost wistful track that presents Ochs at his reflective best. Ochs died at the age of 35 in 1976. As the ‘70s passed, he had become inconsequential and forgotten, but this is the song I remember him by.


9. Cream – Fresh Cream

I was attending a party with a friend when the first notes of “I Feel Free” by Cream came blasting out of the speakers. As my music world had changed with the exposure to folk music, it shifted once again courtesy of Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Jack Bruce. Clapton in all his incarnations has graced my turn table for decades. I even wrote a book about Clapton that can still be found on Amazon. The album itself with “Toad,” “I’m So Glad,” and “N.S.U.” was good though it paled in comparison to what would quickly follow – but oh, those first few notes.


10. The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced

I saw Jimi Hendrix perform three times. The first was at a club in New York City. The amazing part of the concert was that my parents would allow a high school student to travel into New York at night to attend the concert. The real amazing part is that my girlfriend’s parents would allow her to go with me, not only that one time but a dozen or so times to the Fillmore East. This was early Hendrix, and when I purchased Are You Experienced, it was quickly apparent there had been a great deal of growth. “Purple Haze,” “Fire,” “Hey Joe,” “Foxy Lady,” “The Wind Cries Mary,” and “Third Stone From The Sun” have been constant companions down through the years.

Interlude one: By my mid-twenties, my tastes in music were set and really did not change until about ten years ago. American pop and mainstream rock (Beach Boys, Bob Seger, Bruce Springsteen, folk music (Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul & Mary), and psychedelic/hard rock (Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Rush) represented my styles of choice.

Interlude two
: So, what albums have I actually listened to the most?


11. Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin III

Tucked in between the “Whole Lotta Love” from Led Zeppelin’s second album and their eternal “Stairway To Heaven” from their fourth is the gem of their catalogue. I have just about worn out a vinyl copy and a CD down through the years. There is blues, hard rock, and a lot of acoustic guitar. The heart of the album is the smoldering “Gallows Pole” and the album opener “The Immigrant Song,” with its Norse mythology. The original vinyl album even had a cover you could actually spin.


12. Eagles – Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975)

This is one of the two biggest selling albums of all time. People bought it and played and I was one of those who really played it. Albums by the Eagles always contained some fluff. There popularity revolved around their hit singles for the most part, and most of the tracks here fall into that category. “Take It Easy,” “Already Gone,” ”Peaceful Easy Feeling, and “Take It To The Limit” are joined by “Desperado” to form a perfect pop /rock album.


13. Dave Edmunds Anthology

Dave Edmunds’ career began with the experimental band Love Sculpture and then progressed to the power pop of Rockpile. It was his solo career that had great appeal, at least for me. He combined a basic rock and roll sound with 1950s and 1960s rockabilly. The result was tracks like “I Knew The Bride,” “Singing The Blues,” “Queen Of Hearts,” “I Hear You Knocking,” “Get Out Of Denver,” and “Almost Saturday Night,” which had a modern retro feel but at its foundation was simply joyful rock and roll.


14. Simon & Garfunkel Bridge Over Troubled Water

A perfect pop album, made memorable by the soaring title track plus well-known but very different hit singles: “El Condor Pasa,” “Cecilia,” and “The Boxer.” It had a number of lesser-known songs that pushed it over the top, including “Keep The Customer Satisfied,” “Baby Driver,” and the spot-on live tribute to the Everly Brothers “Bye Bye Love.” The duo officially broke up after its release, leaving behind one of the perfect pop albums in American music.


15. Ten Years After Cricklewood Green

Everyone needs an odd album among their favorites, and Cricklewood Green by Ten Years After is mine. Alvin Lee was one of the fastest guitarists alive, but this album moved beyond just his guitar playing and was his most creative effort. “Sugar The Road” floats just outside the band’s norm in a good way. Add in “And The Sun Still Burns Away” and “50,000 Miles Beneath My Brain” and you have an all but forgotten classic…except by me.


16. Meat Loaf – Bat Out Of Hell

It’s bombastic, over-the-top, and I’m not sure it’s all that creative, but it sure is a fun ride. In many ways, it is Todd Rundgren’s guitar that dominates the album musically, especially on the title track. The humor of “You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth” and “Paradise By The Dashboard Lights” are another saving grace. Despite its flaws, it ends up being a great listen. Fourteen million Americans have purchased the album and they can’t all be wrong.

Interlude three: I find that as I have grown older my listening tastes have changed once again and possibly for the last time. My proclivities have gone in a lighter direction and finally I began exploring the blues.


17. Mary Chapin Carpenter The Essential Mary Chapin Carpenter

Why Mary Chapin Carper is not a bigger star, I have no idea. When you gather all of her best material onto one release, it contains some of the best pop, country, and folk of the past quarter-century. The exuberant “Down At The Twist And Shout,” the energetic and nostalgic “Passionate Kisses,” the quietness of “Stones In The Road,” and the joy of “Shut Up And Kiss Me” and “Quittin’ Time” add up to an excellent compilation album.


18. Blackmore’s Night The Village Lanterne

How Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple and Rainbow, ended up in a Renaissance rock band is beyond me, although it may have something to do with vocalist and partner Candice Night. They have always been more popular in Europe and Japan than the United States. What they have done is combine two different styles into a unique sound. If you like one of their albums, you will probably like them all. The Village Lanterne is representative of their approach. Songs such as “World Of Stone,” “I Guess It Doesn’t Matter Anymore,” and “Windmills” have textures and layers that always make them an interesting listen.


19. Robert Johnson The Complete Recordings

I have been exploring the blues for the last decade or so, from modern electric blues to British blues to the post World War II Chicago blues and finally to the Delta blues of the first part of the 20th century. The blues of the Delta are raw, almost painful, acoustic, and a pure American art form. Robert Johnson may not have invented the blues, but he defined them and remains its most influential early practitioner. “Sweet Home Chicago,” “Terraplane Blues,” “Crossroad Blues,” “Hellhound On My Trail,” and “Love In Vain” have influenced generation of musicians who have followed.


20. The Beach Boys – All Summer Long

This is an album that bookends my life. As a teenager, it painted pictures of a summer that was just beyond the horizon. Fifty years later, it reminds me of summers past. All Summer Long was the first Beach Boys concept album and their ultimate ode to summer. The first two tracks, “I Get Around” and the title song are the best album openers of their surf career. It is not just the well-known songs like “Little Honda” and “Wendy” that make the album memorable but the lesser-known “Do You Remember,” “Girls On The Beach,” and “Do You Remember,” which are pure Americana. The only throwaway track is the interview “Our Favorite Recording Sessions” that ends with Brian Wilson clearing his throat, which is the first note of the album-ending “Don’t Back Down.” Sometimes it’s the little things that make life memorable.

Finale: That’s it! Twenty albums from my life’s journey to celebrate 20 years of the Daily Vault. See you in 10 years (I hope).

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