Lightbulb moment, spark of inspiration… call it what you want, but every musician has it: the moment when, as a young kid, they hear a record that utterly changes their life and sets them on the path that they’ll follow for the rest of their lives. We’ve spoken to 30 musicians and asked them to tell us the albums that made them who they are, from absolute classics by rock’s greats to lesser known but no less influential records…
Joe Elliott (Def Leppard) – T. Rex’s Electric Warrior (1971)
“I had just acquired myself a stereo – a fantastic Sanyo stereo. It was like a suitcase. You’d lift up the lid, the lid split in two and the speakers came off these flexi-hinges. It had a record player, a cassette player and a radio; you could tape off the radio and off records.
“My mum and dad had bought me a compilation album of everything on Island Records at the time, so you got a sample of Jethro Tull, Free, Mott The Hoople, Cat Stevens, Jimmy Cliff… So I taped that LP and traded it for a copy of Electric Warrior.
“Ziggy Stardust came out a year later, which might have actually gone on to become a bigger love. But my first love? T. Rex’s Electric Warrior, absolutely. It’s a great record. Get It On, Lean Woman Blues, Life’s A Gas… I can be in a dark room, and play that record by just shutting my eyes and just letting my brain hear it. I don’t have to put it on, it’s that ingrained in my brain. Chiselled in. It’s in my DNA.” PG
Paul Stanley (Kiss) – The Beatles’ Rubber Soul (1965)
“Clearly, The Beatles were being influenced by what Bob Dylan was doing, and with Rubber Soul they took a much more eloquent and stripped-down approach to their songs. Not only did Rubber Soul show the depth and breadth of their writing – as if that wasn’t obvious enough – they raised the bar. It was influenced by the folk music movement. This time there was no superfluous adornment to anything. A song like In My Life was just stunning, and the same applies to Norwegian Wood.
“The music being made by Dylan, Donovan and Judy Collins had really rubbed off on them, and yet they retained who they were. Their own identity that made them so great was kept. I found that album really, really impressive.
When I sit down with an acoustic guitar, In My Life is usually among the first songs that I’ll play. It’s completely gorgeous and soul-bearing. The words hold up so well.
“I think I paid around four dollars for my original edition of Rubber Soul. For the longest time I was a poor musician, and gradually my vinyl was sold piece by piece, but I’ve since then bought it many, many times on different formats.” DL
Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath) – The Shadows’ Apache
“I actually wanted to play drums, but we lived in such a tiny house that it would have filled up the whole place. So I went to the guitar, which I loved. I started listening to rock’n’roll and anything to do with the guitar.
There weren’t actually that many instrumental guitar bands in England at the time. You had [surf-pop pioneers] The Ventures, but they were American. The Shadows were pretty much the only ones, and they really appealed to me – a song like [1960 single] Apache was really adventurous for the time, really classy but moody.
We didn’t have the money to buy records in my house. If I did save up to buy one, it would have to be one I really liked. But I’d sit with the Top 20 on the radio and wait for The Shadows to come on – Apache or Wonderful Land. That’s what really got me going, really learning to play the guitar. And I wasn’t the only one – Brian May used to love The Shadows, David Gilmour too. In fact when I first met [Sabbath drummer] Bill Ward, we played Shadows tunes along with all the blues stuff, and that gradually progressed into writing our own things.
I’ve met [Shadows guitarist] Hank Marvin, but it’s always been in a rush. Two or three years ago he was due to come over, and I was asked if I could interview him. But his tour got cancelled, so he didn’t come, which was a shame cos it would have been an opportunity to tell him how much he inspired me.
Ann Wilson (Heart) – Led Zeppelin’s Led Zeppelin IV (1971)
“I think it’d be Led Zeppelin IV. I would listen to The Beatles and listen to the Stones and Elton John and the other groups that I was listening to in my teens, but that album really hit me where I lived.
“I knew from the first time I heard it that I had to reproduce that. ‘This is a teaching album,’ I said to myself.
“I know it had a lot to do with Robert Plant’s lyrics. I mean, that’s my favourite part of the gig. Getting to sing those words – our words, Zeppelin’s words, whoever – is just getting to recreate the poetry in song. And that’s the album when he really started to write in a more masterly way.”
Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine) – The Clash’s London Calling (1979)
“The Clash are my favourite rock’n’roll band of all time. London Calling was the launching point for my love of the band. Until I discovered punk I was a heavy metal fan. It was the cover of London Calling that first piqued my interest and made me think: ‘Who is this great new heavy metal band?’
“I devoured that record. The conviction with which the band played and with which Joe Strummer sang were indescribable. It was at a time that I was becoming politically aware, and here was a band who made me feel that I wasn’t alone. It was a band that told the truth, unlike my president, unlike the people on the national news, unlike my teacher, and I thought: ‘I’m in’.
The Clash were more than a punk band. They were much more musically adventurous. And London Calling was really the record where they incorporated music from around the world and every song sounded like the Clash. I’ve played the song London Calling in countless cover bands throughout the years. I wasn’t exactly sure what Joe Strummer was going on about, but it felt apocalyptic and I knew that he was right. The subtlety and the humour in Joe’s lyrics is sometimes overlooked.
“I couldn’t believe that there was a band for me. Up until that point I was settling, and when I discovered London Calling I didn’t have to settle any more.” SL
Chris Robinson (The Black Crowes) – REM’s Murmur (1983)
There were a lot of musical first loves, but I think the one that influenced me most was Murmur by R.E.M. I was a kid going to punk rock shows, Black Flag and Jodie Foster’s Army and whatever. But I was also into The Byrds and Bob Dylan, and with R.E.M, you had Peter Buck with a Rickenbacker – they were making a direct connection to the 60s music that I liked. And they represented a bohemian thing that I loved – there was an art school aesthetic to Michael Stipe. You could hardly make out what he was singing about, which was not the way it was done at that time, which made me even more curious.
They were totally anti-establishment in terms of the music business – their politics, they they looked, everything. They were this band from Athens, Georgia, which wasn’t that far away from where we were, winning album of the year in Rolling Stone magazine over Michael Jackson. They were totally doing shit their own way, which was huegly impactful on the young Robinsons.
Rich [Robinson, Chris’ brother and Black Crowes guitarist] and I loved all that jangle-pop from the South. Let’s Active, which was [Murmur producer] Mitch Easter’s band, the DBs [whose guitarist Peter Holsapple would tour wth REM]… Rich and I would go see the DBs in the early days of our band, and I’d be, like, ‘I wonder if Peter Buck is going to be there? We’d better take a couple of cassettes of our new shit.’ I’d see him in the club and be, like, “Hey man, here’s our new music.” “Okay man, I’ll check it out.”
Talk about full circle: Rich and I got to know [REM guitarist] Peter Buck. I’m sure whenever he sees us now, he’s thinking: “Those are the kids that kept bothering me in the clubs…”
Steve Lukather (Toto) - The Beatles’ With The Beatles (1963)
“The album changed my life? I don’t even have to think about that. It was With The Beatles [released in the US as Meet The Beatles]. That album was the ‘on’ switch for me, and fifty years later I’m playing in a band with Ringo Starr. It’s pretty crazy.
“The music on that record touches me deeply inside, more than everything else that came after it. And the song that really did it for me as a kid was I Saw Her Standing There. When I heard the guitar solo, George’s solo, I wanted to be that guy. When I saw The Beatles on TV, that was it. For so many people of my age, that was a game changer. There was something that resonated within me.
“I ended up working with Ringo, I worked with Paul [McCartney], and George was a friend and we played together. To know those guys and work with them is so weird, but wonderfully weird.
“When my mother was pregnant with me, this psychic friend put her hands on my mom’s tummy and said: ‘It’s a boy. He hears the music. When he’s seven years old something’s gonna change. And the world is going to know who he is.’ When I was seven years old, I heard The Beatles, got a guitar, it changed my life, and here I am. So that’s freaky shit – I wasn’t even born and it was all figured out.”
Rob Trujillo (Metallica) – Santana’s Abraxas (1970)
“Abraxas had Black Magic Woman on it. I was drawn to the Latin flair of this great rock song. I felt Santana had a very dynamic range. He’d [Carlos Santana] bring in heavy guitars for the riff to get everyone excited, and with the use of percussion there was this indigenous quality to the beat, the rhythm, the flow of the music he was producing. Not to mention all those nice, beautiful instrumental moments.
“The album cover was really fascinating too. The artwork was psychedelic and trippy, with beautiful women in it that made you look and go: ‘Wow’. There were many emotions stirred with that record.
“Santana’s in my film Jaco (a documentary on the late jazz bass virtuoso Jaco Pastorius), and I’ve seen him play a few times. The first time I saw him was with my father, in about 1980. My dad passed his love on to me, and I’m keeping it going.”
“The second album I bought was Kool And The Gang’s Wild And Peaceful. It had Jungle Boogie on it, and you can’t argue with that for a groove.”
Steve Hackett – The London Philharmonic Orchestra, Ravel’s Boléro (1962)
Ravel’s Boléro by the London Philharmonic Orchestra was the first album that I ever bought on vinyl – the year would have been 1962 – and back then I used to go completely nuts to it. I was twelve years old at the time, and I used to pretend that I was Hugo Rignold, the real conductor of the piece, leaping about the room and doing handstands. It energised me so much.
I’ve seen Boléro performed live by an orchestra, which was a great experience, and one of these days I’m going to have to record a version of my own.
Even now I can still remember hearing Boléro for the very first time. It was part of a TV play, and I saw it on a black-and-white set. The lights were turned out and it was used for a murder, so I always felt it had a dance of death undercurrent.
I love the slow crescendo of the piece, its mix of major and minor sections. The happy melody and the sad melody get twinned endlessly throughout, and I think that rubbed off on a lot of artists from the world of progressive rock. You can hear it in Zeppelin and of course Genesis. It has certainly seeped into my own music. I have used a lot of Boléro rhythms.
I find that people who say they don’t like classical music will often appreciate Boléro, which goes to show why it is so special. DL
Captain Sensible (The Damned) – The Groundhogs’ Thank Christ For The Bomb (1970)
“Thank Christ For The Bomb is the most amazing album I’ve ever heard. One minute it’s a full-on power trio playing this manic, almost punk rock – angry, anti-establishment, anti-war stuff – and the next minute it drops right down into this extremely quiet and subtle finger-picking stuff.
Tony McPhee, the guitarist, is an absolute genius. He was the British Hendrix, y’know? He could do soaring feedback solos, and really took the whole guitar-playing thing as far as he could. And what he doesn’t know about the blues isn’t worth knowing.
Thank Christ came out in 1970. I got it then, and I must have worn out about three vinyl copies over the years. I used to play it all the time. When I got into songwriting myself I was grateful to be influenced by that stuff. I thought of it as psychedelic punk – them and Soft Machine and Syd Barrett. The problem with the expression ‘prog rock’ is that it’s been sullied by the likes of Yes and Genesis and ELP. The Groundhogs were probably the finest example of prog rock you can possibly get – a mixture of blues and psychedelia and pop that’s never been bettered.
Thank Christ is a perfect album. There’s not a filler track on it and the sequence is brilliant. It’s also as moody as hell.“ SR
Tuomas Holopainen (Nightwish) – Metallica’s Metallica (aka The Black Album, 1991)
“When I was a kid I was mainly into classical music and Finnish pop. I didn’t listen to metal or rock at all. But when I was fifteen I spent a year in the US as an exchange student, and my host family took me to see Metallica and Guns N’ Roses in Kansas City on September 25, 1992. That was the day that changed everything for me. Metallica became my favourite band in the world, and the following week I bought all their albums on cassette and became a metalhead.
The Black Album is the album that did it for me. I’d never heard anything that big and punchy, like the riff on Sad But True, it just blew my brains out. I don’t think there’s a bad moment on that album, every single song is brilliant. It was the sound, the heaviness of it, the melodies, the compositions and also the lyrics that grabbed me – I think Metallica’s lyrics are the most underrated thing in the world. But it was funny that the first time I got into that band was at a live concert. I didn’t really know anything about them before that. After the concert I just had to get my hands on everything: Ozzy Osbourne, Dream Theater, Megadeath, Pantera…
Music had always been more of a hobby to me, so if my hosts hadn’t taken me to that concert I would probably be a marine biology researcher now. NS
Myles Kennedy (Alter Bridge) – Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite For Destruction (1987)
“When Appetite For Destruction was released during the summer of 1987 there was nothing else like it. It represented a changing of the guard. There were lots of hard rock bands around, but their records all had such slick productions; things were getting way too watered-down.
“Appetite For Destruction came from an entirely different place. It was primal – a hybrid of the best rock of the seventies and punk rock. The songwriting was amazing. Axl’s voice sounded great. Then there was Slash, a true phenomenon in his own right. With its in-your-face production it was a brilliant record from start to finish. But the overwhelming element that Guns N’ Roses reintroduced into the rock arena was danger; you never had any idea what they would do next.
“I was still a kid living with my parents the first time I saw Guns N’ Roses on MTV. In the video, a bus pulled up and Slash got out, then you heard Welcome To The Jungle. For the next three minutes I sat there with my jaw on the floor. It was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. I drove my parents mad with that album. Especially with Axl’s voice. Which was the whole point; you had to piss your folks off.
“Appetite For Destruction still holds up. It’s the perfect combination of a great band and superlative songs.”
Dave Mustaine (Megadeth) – AC/DC’s Let There Be Rock (1977)
“When I was in my teens I lived in Huntington Beach, California, and there was a girl called Cindy who worked at a record store. I used to sell pot, but I would trade her pot for records. That’s how I discovered AC/DC.
“The first time I put the record on, I was looking at the back cover and wondering: ‘What the hell’s up with that dude’s lip?’ But hearing the music, my life totally changed.
“To me it sounded like something was wrong, like it was too close to my face. Most records are all around you, but this one was right there [spreads his hand in front of his nose]. It was… unsettling. I remember everything, from that first millisecond, that little crackle before ‘ga-dun-gar!’ in Go Down, to the last guitar noise at the end of Whole Lotta Rosie.
“I remember the first time I heard the song Let There Be Rock I couldn’t understand what ‘schmaltz’ was. And I thought this guy Bon Scott sounds like he’s got peanut butter stuck to the roof of his mouth. But I just started to really love this band. I started collecting everything I could get my hands on.
“Bon was one of my heroes. I was really sad when he died. I still love and respect AC/DC. Brian [Johnson], I know he’s an absolute star, but it’s never really been the same for me since then. Thank god for AC/DC. A great band!” NJ
Kevin Cronin (REO Speedwagon) – Crosby, Stills & Nash’s Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969)
“I was a huge fan of Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds and The Hollies, so when I heard that David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash were combining forces, as it were, I was just in heaven.
“I remember going round to my girlfriend’s house to listen to it, and I just couldn’t get past the opening track, Suite: Judy Blues Eyes. I must have played it twelve times in a row before moving on to the rest of the tracks.
“I was so into folk at the time, and this was such a stunning, important record for me. I’d been hearing a special sound in my head for so long, one I couldn’t describe, and here it was on record. I guess this partially inspired me to want to get into a band and make my own music.
“I also got to see CSN live just before they did their amazing performance at Woodstock. I think it was their first ever gig, and it was awesome. Even recalling it now sends shivers down the spine.
“I got to meet Stephen Stills, and over a period of time we wrote a bunch of songs together, which was such an honour.
“The importance of that album to me can’t be overstated. The three of them changed the face of music, and it started here. If I had this, plus Rubber Soul and Madman Across The Water, I reckon I could happily survive on a desert island.”
Luke Morley (Thunder) – Montrose’s Montrose (1973)
“I remember exactly where I was standing in the Saxon Tavern, Bellingham, South London one Friday night in 1976 when I first heard Montrose’s Space Station #5. I had to find out who it was.
“The next day, I tried to buy the album but couldn’t find it anywhere on my manor, so I jumped on a train into town and found a copy in a little shop in Soho. I played the album to death.
“There’s nothing too self-indulgent, just blues-tinged vocals, big guitars and drums and, most importantly, songs you can remember. From opener Rock The Nation through to the end of the closing track Make It Last, the album never lets up. It’s in-your-face, uncomplicated and – as all great rock’n’roll albums should be – uplifting.
“This is one of the most important and influential hard rock albums of the seventies. Montrose built a bridge between seventies blues rock – Zeppelin, Free, Humble Pie etcetera – and what was to come in the eighties with the likes of Van Halen.
“Much credit must go to the producer, Ted Templeman, who gave Montrose a ‘live’, almost three-dimensional sound unlike anything that had come before it.
“This album is as close to perfect hard rock as you will ever hear. If you’re a fan of straight-ahead, unpretentious hard rock and you don’t have it in your collection, shame on you!”
JJ Burnel (The Stranglers) – The Doors’ LA Woman (1971)
“L.A. Woman first came into my life when I was a student up in Yorkshire; I’d dropped some acid. After that I never looked back. It was the soundtrack to an important time in my life, as I left home and got up to all sorts of mischief.
If you want the truth, I became a bit obsessed by L.A. Woman. As something of a zealot, I developed a habit of giving away that album to people that I felt should hear it. Over the years I must’ve bought it seven or eight times.
It wasn’t until many years later that I stepped back and realised that L.A. Woman is a blues album. It’s also quite hard-rocking. And the effects on the organ are great.
Back in the days of vinyl, the songs that ended each side – L.A. Woman and Riders On The Storm – were inspirational. Because of that, for a few years The Stranglers tried to close our own albums with a couple of epic songs. L.A. Woman and Riders On The Storm are by far its best-known songs, but as a record it’s extremely consistent. I love the way that Robby Krieger finger-picks as well as strums the guitar.
I did go out and buy the rest of their catalogue. For me, though, L.A. Woman will always be The Doors’ finest work. It’s my zeitgeist, and although I don’t play it as much as I used to I still love it.” DL
Scott Ian (Anthrax) - Kiss’ Alive! (1975)
“If I had to choose, the greatest album would probably be Kiss Alive!, just because of what it means to me and the influence that it’s had on my life. For me as a kid, Kiss was just the biggest influence on me as far as moving ahead in my life was concerned and knowing what I wanted to do with my life, which was play guitar in a band. Because of that album, that’s why anyone gives a shit about anything I have to say or do, because Kiss Alive! put me on that path of wanting to be a guy in a band.
“It just connected with me in a really strong way back in 1975. I loved the songs, I loved the look, and as a kid who was into comic books and horror, it was drugs for me as an eleven-year-old. It was the perfect place, perfect time for me to hear and see something like that. And they’re still one of the biggest bands in the world, so I guess it worked! I’m friends with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley and Ace Frehley and Peter Criss now. I’ve known Gene for thirty years, and he’s well aware of what Kiss means to me.”
Yngwie Malmsteen – Deep Purple’s Made In Japan (1972)
“I was nine or ten years old when my elder brother brought home Made In Japan. I’d already heard Deep Purple’s In Rock and Fireball, both of which had affected me in Biblical proportions. I went out and got Machine Head because I had loved Made In Japan so much. But as a naïve little kid from Sweden I couldn’t understand why Lazy and Space Truckin’ had suddenly become so short.
“No other live album had such a huge impact on me. Made In Japan had so much crazy energy, man. Back then, without the internet, MP3 players and thousands of radio stations to choose from, hearing a new record for the first time was such a religious experience. I actually wore out three or four copies of the vinyl edition.
“I often listened to the album with Blackmore’s solos turned down, replacing them with my own and recording them on to this cassette player of my uncle’s. I took the tapes into school saying: ‘Listen to this.’ My friends would go: ‘Yeah, Made In Japan. So what?’ But it was me playing the guitar! I had everything down so faithfully; I even knew when Blackmore touched his pick-up switch, so I did the same thing.
“Even now, when I put on Made In Japan in my car I still go: ‘Fuck! This is an incredible album.”’ DL
Matt Sorum (ex-Guns N’ Roses/Velvet Revolver) – Deep Purple’s Burn (1974)
“I first got into records through my brother, and as a drummer the one that I kept listening to was Burn by Deep Purple. The drumming on that record really got me. Growing up, the two drummers that shaped me were Bill Ward and Ian Paice. I’d seen both of them at the Long Beach Arena in the seventies, and Ian Paice was, like, the fastest drummer that I’d ever seen. Back then everybody was really into John Bonham, but I remember thinking: ‘Who’s this Ian Paice guy?’ I thought: ‘Man, I’m going to try to emulate the stuff that he played on Burn.’
“When I came into Guns N’ Roses in the nineties, you weren’t allowed to do shit like that because the drum wasn’t considered an elite instrument. There was a period of time back from the eighties hair-metal period all the way into the nineties, when drums all had to fit into that rigid hard-rock approach. Then Nirvana came out and brought drums back again; Dave Grohl was the first guy I heard doing a swing beat.
“Going back to Burn, the songs are all amazing. Burn, What’s Going On Here, Mistreated… It’s just a killer record. When I asked Glenn Hughes to play with me when we were doing Kings Of Chaos, I said: ‘Hey, just so you know, we’re doing Burn.’ Ha ha!“
Michael Schenker – Led Zeppelin III
“I was lying in bed one morning, aged fifteen, alone in my room, listening to our family’s old vintage radio. Led Zeppelin III had just come out, and it was being introduced on a programme that I always listened to. When I heard the drums of Immigrant Song I just went, ‘Oh, this is life…’ Then I’d hear it in clubs. I’d hear it everywhere.
There was something about III that was more snappy than the first two albums. I learnt the whole guitar part from Since I’ve Been Loving You, because [Scorpions singer] Klaus Meine and I performed it. It was a fantastic melody and the note structure was unbelievable. And the way Robert Plant sang – he sounded like he was just jamming.
“I think John Bonham is so responsible for a lot of Zeppelin’s songwriting on III. On Immigrant Song, I realised immediately that his drums were leading, and all Jimmy Page had to do was follow. What I loved about songs like Gallows Pole was the way the drums made the acoustic guitar work. They were so heavy and grooving, so it didn’t matter if it was accompanied by acoustic guitar, it still rocked.”
Geoff Tate – Black Sabbath’s Heaven And Hell (1980)
“I’m a huge fan of the three studio albums that Black Sabbath made with Ronnie James Dio on vocals. I suppose I like Heaven And Hell the best of the three because it was the trilogy’s first. I still remember buying my original copy on vinyl. The five members of what became Queensrÿche sat around and listened to that album, talked about it and really digested it. It was a great springboard to push our own creativity.
“One thing that’s sometimes forgotten is that Black Sabbath were on a downward curve until Heaven And Hell. After sacking Ozzy Osbourne they were written off by just about everybody. It was almost expected that they would fade out. But together with Ronnie they made an extraordinary album, and of course the opposite thing happened. The only thing I don’t like about it is that it could have been longer. Eight songs aren’t enough. But that’s how records were made in those days.
“For me, Heaven And Hell was where it all began. It had so much musicality. Sabbath took their songs into areas I’d never experienced before. Maybe the best compliment I could pay is that it was elegant yet very brutal.” DL
Peter Garrett (Midnight Oil) – John Mayall’s The Blues Alone (1967)
In Australia we had this thing called The Record Club. You could join it by paying, say, five dollars a month or something, and every month two or three records would be delivered. I was fourteen or fifteen, and John Mayall’s The Blues Alone was the first record I ordered. I don’t even know why I ordered it, but I absolutely loved it. To this day I still love all his stuff. He had a lot of great musicians playing with him, a lot of great black musicians, although this was him playing nearly everything.
He did so much for the blues revival around that time. Hearing him led me on to stuff like The Yardbirds and Cream. I always remember him, though, because unlike most big musicians he came to Australia. Not just for a gig, either. It was 1972, I was a law student at Canberra University, and he and his band showed up and did a music workshop. There were only about twenty people there. I was sat in the front row. It was a life-changing moment! The fact that he sat down with us was so inspiring. Freddie Robinson was the guitar player, who I loved. There’s these A-grade Chicago blues musicians in front of a bunch of pasty faced colonial Australian kids going: “What the…?” JS
Fish – Genesis’ Selling England By The Pound (1973)
“I got hooked on Genesis at an early age. I was very aware of previous albums such as Trespass and Foxtrot, it was Selling England By The Pound that defined my journey as a singer and a lyricist. I bought it during a family holiday in 1973, the year it was released.
“It was Genesis’s fifth album, and they’d really begun to tighten up. Keyboard player Tony Banks was making his mark, using a lot more synthesiser. Steve Hackett’s guitar contribution to songs like Firth Of Fifth was just sublime.
“With its Arthurian-style vibe there are few better ways to open an album than Dancing With The Moonlit Knight, which was a big influence on me when it came to writing Marillion’s debut, Script For A Jester’s Tear . The wordplay of The Battle Of Epping Forest definitely affected my own. I loved the fact that the eleven-minute Cinema Show had a flavour of TS Eliot’s 1922 poem The Waste Land. At the other end of the scale there was More Fool Me, a beautiful song sung by Phil Collins – still the band’s drummer – that set the benchmark for his solo career. It’s a wonderfully crafted, exquisitely balanced album.
“I consider Selling England the last great album made by the Peter Gabriel-fronted Genesis line-up. The writing is truly wonderful. As a backdrop to a Sunday afternoon in olde England, it’s indispensable.” DL
Brent Smith (Shinedown) – Soundgarden’s Superunknown (1994)
“It came into my life in my sophomore year in high school. I was sixteen, so I was getting a car. That was a moment in my life where, for the first time, I knew what freedom really was. On the weekends I could go to Nashville, go to Atlanta and come back, things like that, and that was my soundtrack.
“When that album came out, I wasn’t that big a fan of Badmotorfinger. I think the first single was Spoonman, and I was like: ‘Wow, that’s different.’ And then when I heard Black Hole Sun I was like: ‘What is this? It’s so interesting.’
“Michael Beinhorn, who produced Superunknown, came to Knoxville [Smith’s home town] with the first band I was signed to. And of course I was like: ‘Dude, tell me all the stories of making that record…’ With Black Hole Sun, Michael Beinhorn was asking Chris: ‘Have you ever listened to Frank Sinatra?’ And Chris was like: ‘What are you talking about? No!’ So the following day Michael goes to Tower Records, grabs every CD that they have of Frank Sinatra, brings them to the studio, hands them to Chris and says: ‘Listen to all of these, and get inspired and bring me a song.’ Long story short, Chris goes away, comes back with a song. He strums the chords and he goes [sings the first line of Black Hole Sun]. He was proving a point to Chris. Frank showed him how to croon, cos if you listen to that, that’s Frank Sinatra.” PG
Steven Wilson – Nine Inch Nails’ The Fragile (2000)
“I got into Nine Inch Nails with the previous album, The Downward Spiral. I can’t remember why I particularly picked up on them, but it totally blew me away when I got it in 1994. Production-wise it sounded like nothing I’d ever heard before. And I’ve always loved industrial music, very repetitive music. That’s something I’ve kind of grown up with too. Trent Reznor was using industrial music and fusing it with the great albums I grew up with in the seventies, the progressive rock and concept albums. He was doing that in a completely contemporary way. The same kind of ambition and a very alienated perspective on the world, almost in the tradition of people like Roger Waters in his lyrical perspective. And no less ambitious when it came to making huge monolithic statement records. The Fragile is really the zenith of that for Trent Reznor.
“The scale of The Fragile is huge. He worked on the record for five years, and there’s something about it. Two hours of music that has everything from instrumental interludes and instrumental overtures to conceptual continuity and themes that would reappear in later songs. It seems to have a scale and a conceptual unity that maybe the other records hint at.
“Reznor thinks of an album on a higher level than a collection of catchy radio songs. He’s created a whole aesthetic vision that’s totally his own.” JE
Steve Stevens (Billy Idol) - King Crimson’s In The Court Of The Crimson King (1968)
“I still recall the first time I saw the album cover, it freaked the shit outta me. That was in 1970, and I’d have been ten or eleven at the time. Then when I heard it I thought the music was equally as scary! But In The Court Of The Crimson King made an impact on me – one that continues to this day.
“Every time I play the record I discover something new about it all. For instance, it’s only recently that I realised just what an awesome drummer Michael Giles was back then. Absolutely brilliant. But then that applies to all of the people on this record. Robert Fripp’s guitar playing has been a massive influence on me ever since I discovered the record. To this day he inspires what I do and leaves me in awe
“One of the crucial things about the album is that it veers from being nightmarish to becoming absolutely beautiful. How many other albums can you think of where something like 21st Century Schizoid Man sits alongside something like Epitaph and I Talk To The Wind?
“I’d have to say that In The Court was the true beginning of progressive rock as we know it. Everything positive about prog rock began here. I’m staggered that something like this still sounds so fresh.”
Michael Akerfeldt (Opeth) – Black Sabbath’s We Sold Our Souls For Rock’N’Roll (1978)
“I grew up in a small society with, like, three streets – our parents took care of each others’ kids. Somebody there was a ‘home mum’, so she brought in a few of the kids during the day when my parents were away working, and they had a cassette player in the playroom with a Black Sabbath greatest hits tape. That’s what got me into metal music originally.
The first thing that struck me about it was Iron Man. That voice in the beginning, Ozzy with the effects – ‘I am Iron Man’ – I was like: “What is this?”
It was like horror films, which I used to watch on New Year’s Eve – they’d show the old black-and-white King Kong, which was the equivalent of a horror film to me then, and every kid sat up waiting because it was on at midnight, way past your bedtime. “Please can I watch King Kong!” And then you sit and you’re like: “I don’t want to watch any more!” Iron Maiden had that effect too.
It [the Sabbath cassette] was almost… scary. It was a cassette recorded from a vinyl – from some company whose early inner sleeves had a cassette with a pirate and says: “Home taping is killing music.” It seems so long ago now, but that’s what it said. This was one of those. PG
Scott Stapp (Creed) – Def Leppard’s Pyromania (1983)
“I was at my friend’s house in 1983, and the video for Photograph came on MTV, and from that moment I was hooked on rock’n’roll.
“That album connected to me in every way. I wanted to be those guys. When I saw the Photograph video I wanted a model wife and everything that a teenage boy thinks a rock star has. The music moved me; something inside me was different from the moment I heard this record.
“I’d heard Elvis records, and some Donny Hathaway and Otis Redding from my mother, but Pyromania was the record that completely changed the course of my life. The guitars, the rhythms, the energy in the music, the way it was sung… everything spoke to me. I’d never heard anything like it, and it just made me want to move – I just felt it.
“When my friend brought the record over to my house we must have listened to Photograph and Foolin’ ten times in a row. But my stepfather was extremely religious, and he came into my bedroom when we were listening to it and he said it was the devil’s music. So from then on I had to sneak over to my friend Robbie’s house to listen to it in secret.”
Richard Thompson – Les Paul’s The Legend And The Legacy (1992)
“My dad had a set of Les Paul records, seventy-eights he’d bought in the late forties when they came out, and I always remember hearing this weird music.
“A lot of the early records are multi-tracked, he’s using double-speed effects, he’s inventing tape echo, all these amazing special effects. It just sounded like music from Mars to me.
“On the records you heard the beginnings of rock’n’roll; he’s playing a lot of licks that became Chuck Berry licks, that became standard stuff. You hear that filtering through into rock‘n’roll music – in a lot of ways he was the unwitting father of rock‘n’roll.
“Favourite songs? His version of Duke Ellington’s Caravan is beautiful and strange. How High The Moon was a big hit for him and Mary Ford, of course, and What Is This Thing Called Love. The definitive anthology is Les Paul: The Legend And The Legacy, which is his complete works for Capitol.
“He was a showman and an incredible boffin. The guy never stopped inventing. I asked him once about one of these experimental guitars he was playing at his club [The Iridium, New York]. I said: What’s that pickup? ‘Ah,’ he said, ‘just something I’m tinkering with.’”
Clem Burke (Blondie) – Introducing The Beatles (1964)
“People of my generation in the States all cite The Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show as a lightbulb moment. Everyone mentions it. I’ve since come to realise that for you guys in the UK The Beatles were more like boys next door, not particularly unusual. But for people in the States, the way they used English colloquialisms in their songs seemed so exotic. When the film A Hard Day’s Night came out you actually heard them speak, their personalities came to the fore, another major insight for people in America.
Introducing… The Beatles was the first UK album Please Please Me, minus a couple of tracks . Back in the day, I’d have bought the mono version because the stereo was a dollar more. But we’ve all since come to know that The Beatles were only present for the mono mixes, the stereo stuff was done later.
It kicks off with I Saw Her Standing There and ends with Twist And Shout. It’s mostly covers of stuff by Arthur Alexander, Buddy Holly and girl-group songs like Boys, Chains and Baby, It’s You. I always thought it a bit weird having Ringo singing Boys. Even to this day it seems odd. It was very unusual then for any guy groups to do girl-group stuff. A Taste Of Honey would make me cringe, but the whole album’s so eclectic. And that eclecticism was a role model for everything we did with Blondie. IF