20 Albums That Influenced Me: Ludwik Wodka

by Ludwik Wodka


Here is a list of 20 albums that influenced me. They are not listed in chronological order of release, nor sorted by most to least influential. They are simply in the order that I first heard them.


1. AC/DC Back in Black

This was my first love. I was six years old when I got it, on vinyl. This laid down the foundation for a lifelong love of music. It is the perfect rock and roll album. My musical life was off to a hot start!


2. Joan Jett And The Blackhearts I Love Rock And Roll

Back in the early ’80s, assertive female sexuality like this was electrifying. Yet she was more than just a “female” rock star – she was a total rock star who bowed down to no one. She is also the reason why I think a woman playing an electric guitar is sexier than hell.

3. Original Motion Picture Soundtrack The Sound Of Music

I never actually bought the album because I didn’t have to. My mom watched this movie about a thousand times when I was a kid, and from sheer exposure, I ended up knowing almost every word of every song by heart. It is now the source of endless inside jokes amongst my brothers and me. Joking aside, it has more classic songs throughout than any other musical I can recall.



4. The Beatles 1962-1966

This was the first Beatles album I ever got, when I was in fourth or fifth grade. To quote Mozart, “I never knew music like that was possible!” I got it on cassette and played it until it wore out. I wore out its replacement copy, too.

The Beatles 1967-1970

This showed me how the Beatles went from a great band to the greatest band. If you don’t like the Beatles, I don’t like you.


5. Rush Exit… Stage Left

I was listening to the song “Xanadu” on this album a little while ago, and remembered that back in high school, I found out that this song was based on a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Two years later, I was majoring in English in college. At the time, it may have seemed like pure happenstance, but in hindsight, no other single song ended up having as profound on the course of my life as that. If my dad had known that was going to happen, he would have gone back to 1977 and shot Neal Peart.


6. Guns N’ Roses Use Your Illusion I & II

This was an epic of self-indulgence, and at 16 years old, I was all about that. I cringe looking back on it now, but in 1991, this is what rock super-stardom looked like.


7. U2 Achtung Baby

When I first heard this, it blew my mind, and I remained obsessed with it for months. Not only was it loaded with excellent and innovative songs, it (along with its videos) brought glamour and style back to rock at a time when hair metal excess was melting into kitsch. As a side note, I also remember getting a copy of a bootleg of the rehearsals for this album. For the first time, I felt like I got an honest look a band’s artistic process for creating songs. When put up against the finished album, this bootleg revealed how making art can be messy and spontaneous and full of dead ends. Yet it was this “cutting room floor” material that exposed what went into making an album that ended up as great as Achtung Baby. That process in art and literature has fascinated me ever since.


8. Various Artists Red, Hot, And Blue

I originally bought this because there was no other place to find U2’s version of “Night And Day.” This album not only introduced me to so many artists I never would have otherwise paid any attention to, it also introduced me to the music of Cole Porter. His music, by way of this album, led me to discover and fall in love with classical jazz and the “standards” of the American Songbook.


9. Jane’s Addiction Nothing’s Shocking

There was nothing as exciting and dangerous and this album at the time. It made me want to do risky and dangerous things… which I did, and will not discuss here.


10. The Smiths The Queen is Dead

I was late to the game with this one, but in it, I discovered a higher caliber of poetic lyricism blended with crisp jangle-pop in a way no else has ever done. Beautiful and brilliant in a way that seemed like it was made for English majors.


11. Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream

It was my roommate in college that introduced this to me, and he will never forgive me for playing it to death. To me, this was ‘90s guitar rock’s finest hour. Without a doubt, I spent more time trying to learn to play these songs on the guitar than any other, and have thus burned every single note of it into my brain.


12. Jimi Hendrix Band Of Gypsys

The Master plays it lean and mean after the sprawling psychedelic excesses of Electric Ladyland. Every rock guitarist who hears this understands that this album is the touchstone of the Hendrix catalogue. While “Machine Gun” is the song this album is most known for, “Power Of Soul” is the one that sticks with me.


13. Bob Dylan Nashville Skyline

This was the album that really should have been called “Yet Another Side of Bob Dylan.” Its strength was in its simplicity and directness. There were no lyrical acrobatics or surreal wordplay or oddball characters – but at the same time, it has a way of connecting with me at a deep level that is hard to describe. It was country music from the North Country. If you’ve never felt the wind hit heavy on the borderline, you just wouldn’t understand.


14. The Burning Brides Fall Of The Plastic Empire

Although not widely known, this band was a sensation in the Philadelphia rock club scene around 2000-2001. I made a point of seeing them every time they played live because their shows were just that good. How that power and energy failed to translate into album form was as heartbreaking as it was mystifying. It also made me realize just how many other bands out there must have stumbled at this crucial step and then disappeared. Alas, Yorick, I saw them play live! 


15. Slayer Reign In Blood

This made every other metal album I had ever heard previous to it sound like a bunch of wimps. No power ballads, no self-pity or whining, no bullshit. This is what metal is supposed to sound like, and it is the album by which all other metal albums are judged.


16. Metallica St. Anger

Speaking of judging metal albums, few have been so sharply disappointing to their fans as this. It barely even sounded like Metallica. Paired with the movie of its making, Some Kind Of Monster, it yanked back the curtain of stardom and exposed the Titans Of Metal as petty mortals. It was truly an epic failure. Look up on this album, ye Mighty, and despair!


17. Rufus Wainwright Want One

Here is where I discovered what “baroque pop” meant. It revealed to me a lush, beautiful, and sometime silly world that could make the stylistic flourishes and melodrama of musical theater actually work on a pop album. In hindsight, nobody else could have pulled this off. It made me re-evaluate what was I liked about pop music.


18. Brian Wilson Smile

The ultimate comeback album. I braced for disaster when the release of this album was announced, as did many others. Brian Wilson responded by reminding the world what he was really capable of. There is nothing else like it. It is pure magic and an inspiration to everyone who thinks they’re too old to do something great.


19. Ryan Adams and the Cardinals Cold Roses

I like to think of this as the high-water mark for Ryan Adams, full of confidence in himself and his backing band. Even as a double album, it seemed heavy-laden with great material. Like this album, it echoed a tendency in myself to start looking backward upon the legacy of rock music longingly, but slowly accepting the reality that age of rock and roll was over. It was around this time that I heard “Jane Says” (by Jane’s Addiction) playing over the speakers in a grocery store. This album was my balm for the quiet agony of getting older.


20. C. Duncan Architect

I never would have discovered this if I had not affiliated with the Daily Vault. This reassured me that there was still great music being made, and released me from the shackles of the past. For the first time in a long time, it got me to look forward to the prospect of new music with optimism.


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