*MY* Top 10 Most Influential Albums

One of my friends – Alex Kunz – wrote about about his Top 10 Most Impactful Albums. Which inspired more friends – Tracy, and Jeff to do the same. Go check out their lists – some intersect in a few choices, some are bands I have never even heard of. We all had slightly different criteria too. Mine was simple – I need to remember where I was and what I was doing the first time I heard it (or a song from the album) and even now when I listen I’m instantly transported back to that moment in time. It has nothing to do with how good I think the band is – if it’s their best album, if I think they influenced others. The album just had to resonate with me.

There’s also no way I could rank them. There is a broad range of musical styles, eras, and genres. This list is in no particular order, but numbered for convenience. Also the links are Amazon affiliate links. If you chose to purchase one of these albums, I’d appreciate you using the link. Your cost stays the same, but I’ll make a few cents to put toward running this website.

This album came out at a time when I was old enough to be excited that they were an all woman band, but young enough to not realize how rare that was. I also lived in Southern California at the time and that sound and feeling is etched in my brain and heart. I cannot listen to it without thinking of my first best friend Adrienne – I remember listening to the radio waiting and waiting for them to play Our Lips are Sealed so we could record it to the portable cassette player! Sorry ladies, I did buy the album later!

While not a conscious thought at the time, looking back they were the first time I saw women being successful in a traditionally male world. They helped me have gender blinders for not just music, but life in general. That alone is a huge gift. 

I’m not a big metal (heavy, glam, whatever GNR is) but I remember the first time I saw the video to Welcome to the Jungle. I just stopped and stared. It was so different than anything I had heard before – so raw and complex. Before them I thought of metal as just being loud with indecipherable lyrics. I still kinda think that, but less so 🙂 

Appetite for Destruction (and later albums) has some really great lyrics too. Maybe I noticed them more because I could understand Axl singing, but while being raw and angry, there was something more cerebral about them than how I thought of the metal/glam/whatever genre. They really got the draw of music videos as well. Instead of just concert footage, each video was a mini movie.

This album is home to me. U2 may be from Ireland, but this album has the Sierra Nevada in it’s soul. The original cassette insert (I think) had photos of the band in Bodie – as did their tour programs as well as other locations along the eastern Sierra and Death Valley. I cannot hear Red Hill Mining Town without thinking of Bodie. The song was written about a different town, different country, but for me, it’s Bodie. 

 In God’s Country always reminds me of home – especially in the Spring when everything is lush and green. For much of the 1980s many vehicles had license plate holders that said that (pre Joshua Tree). 

But my absolute favorite is One Tree Hill. Most of my favorite photographs remind me of a lyric from this song. One of these days I’m going to put together a collection that’s a visual version of the lyrics. It’s sweet, sad and hopeful all at once. Much like California. 

Am I cheating by having a compilation record? Perhaps, but this was the first record I ever owned. It was either a birthday or Christmas present from my dad. I LOOOOOOOOVED Elvis when I was little. I remember the day he died, I remember being glued to the radio because they played him non-stop and I cried non-stop. The funny thing, is even though I was only around for his later years, it’s younger Elvis that I love. Drugs and fame absolutely ruined him and his talent. 

For as risque as he was back in the day, there’s something sweet and innocent about this album. Maybe it’s nostalgia, life was simpler when I was 5 and listening to this. And life was certainly different in the 50s, maybe not better, but different. I didn’t understand why some hated him for getting fame by taking black music – or why some hated him because he didn’t sing “white” music. He was my gateway to blues and gospel, I am grateful for that. 

And always, love me tender 🙂 

I’m cheating and also including Listen Like Thieves here. Since they were a little late coming to where I lived, the two albums reached me at about the same time, and I think of them more like double albums. 

INXS has that rare talent of making me happy to remember driving around in a mid 80s tuna boat Buick station wagon with fake wood panels. That car was worse than the Griswold’s Family Truckster, but somehow it never bottomed out on Roller Coaster Hill. 

These albums, like Appetite for Destruction, just sounded so different than anything else. And their early albums still sound fresh to this day. Shine Like it Does reminds me of the best parts of high school dances – and still makes me want to get up and dance. It’s just so dang happy and optimistic, and a gentle reminder that if you look for good, happiness and success, you will find it – and spread it around.

Johnson’s Aeroplane always makes me smile, and Burn for You…. just yum. 


While I didn’t get along well with my college roommate that year – she did introduce me to Little Feat, so all is forgiven. Again they were such a different style of anything I had listened to before then. They opened doors to jazz, blues, probably zydeco and more. 

Dixie Chicken, Oh Atlanta, and so many more great songs on this album. It’s the perfect collection of hot summer night sit out on the deck songs.

This album. Oh my goodness. The first song I remember hearing was Life Ain’t Always Beautiful. It haunted me. HAUNTED. I could not sleep the first night after hearing it. So after work the next day I bought the CD. My hands were shaking so bad I could barely get the stupid plastic wrapper off. I had to play that track first, then went back and listened to the whole thing. I think I drove around for a few hours because I couldn’t stop listening – the whole album haunted me. I knew nothing of the backstory of the album, I just knew something devastating had happened to this man. 

I went home and looked to see if Gary Allan was touring anywhere near me – I literally would have driven somewhere nearish that night. (It was a Friday – I remember that). He was far off that weekend, but he did come near enough a few months later. I dragged one of my friends to Reno to go see him. She hates country, but liked him. #smallvictories . 

One of the other reasons I love this so much is it is old school and tells a story. It’s a roller coaster of emotion, hurt, despair, with glimpses of light and healing, and coming to terms with it at the end. In the age of single song downloads, this is refreshing. It also brought me back to some modern country music. As you can see from my list, this is the only post 2000 album. I know many will object, but music died in the 1990s for me. (I do like some of it now, but I liked very little of it then). His music isn’t typical Top 40 Country, it’s very California country, a little twang, a little desert, a little Bakersfield. And yes, this album has an ode to Johnny Cash too – Nickajack Cave.

I’m pretty sure I listened to this and only this for a couple months straight. I wasn’t dealing with anything like he was, but it still reflected the emotions in my life at the time, and helped me deal with them. 

Green by R.E.M. just screams college to me. I remember the exact dorm room and who was in it the first time I heard it. It was on vinyl!! The person who had it played Orange Crush every single morning. But I don’t think anyone complained. 

Stand is still my favorite though. Is it  a simple song, yes. But a message we should all remember – take a look at where we are and where we are going. Appreciate where we are. This reflects on photography as well – I love out of area visitors because they always see places I’m accustomed to with fresh eyes. It’s invigorating. 


How the heck am I supposed to pick just one Beatles album? I went through their entire discography several times but eventually settled on Abbey Road. I have so many distinct memories of songs from this album that span several decades. It’s hard to argue with that. 

I never got to see the Beatles live, but I did get to see Paul McCartney in the late 80s. He’s the only one I’ve ever camped out for tickets for – remember that? It also was one of the coldest nights ever in Santa Cruz – it even got below freezing! So worth it for the 4th row tickets!! 

If I had to choose one Beatles song to listen to for the rest of my life it would be Here Comes the Sun. LOVE LOVE LOVE this song, it makes me happy and relaxed no matter what life has thrown my way.


I was a bit late “discovering” the Rolling Stones. My parents didn’t listen to them or radio stations that played them much so somehow they escaped me until I was around 11 or 12.  Let’s Spend the Night Together was the first song I remember hearing. I was hooked. It’s another song I remember exactly where I was, how I was sitting, and who else was in the room. (I was sitting on the floor of a camper in the middle of Minnesota on a hot, humid, mosquito filled night with 3 other kids around my age). I don’t remember their names, just that they introduced me to the Stones, and I am forever grateful. 

Honorable Mentions

I didn’t realize how hard this would be! Darn you people for posting about this. I have a page of mad scribbles of singers, bands, songs, albums, even album art doodles. I had arguments with myself about what to include and leave out. I had to listen to a lot of music today. (I’m not complaining) . In the end I had to leave out albums and artists I love. There can be only 10. Here’s a list of a few that easily could make the top 10. 

Prince Purple Rain.  It pained me to leave off Prince. And this album is nothing but awesome. But the odd thing is, as much as I love it, and loved the movie – I don’t have specific memories tied to it. I had the pleasure of seeing him in concert some 10ish years ago (maybe longer).  The live version of Little Red Corvette was the best thing I’ve heard live. Ever. I only say that because I wasn’t at his Super Bowl show. If the NFL really had class, they’d no longer have Half TIme Shows because that was the most intense 15-20 minutes I’ve ever seen. Even my parents who probably had no idea who he was were astounded. I had to watch the NFL video about it a few times this evening. 

Billie Holiday – I’m choosing the Greatest Hits album. Maybe I’m cheating again, but it’s the first CD of hers that I bought, it was my favorite rainy day CD for a long time. Maybe it still is. 

Earl Scruggs. Yep I love a good banjo and fiddle. Deal with it. 🙂 

There’s so many more I could list, but it’s nearing midnight already. Please make your own list and link in the comments!