The 10 albums that changed my life, by Blackberry Smoke's Charlie Starr

Charlie Starr, Blackberry Smoke
(Image credit: Tim Mosenfelder\/Getty Images)

Charlie Starr is the singer and guitarist in Blackberry Smoke. Unsurprisingly, his record collection consists primarily of classic albums by top notch Southern rock bands, for he’s a man of discerning taste. And he takes his rock ‘n’ roll very seriously.

But don’t just take our word for it. Here are the 10 albums that changed his life…

10. The Rolling Stones – Exile on Main St

“This is my favourite Stones album without a doubt. It’s so loose. I think Tumbling Dice was the only hit single, which is interesting coming from a band that had massive success with singles. They found themselves in the AOR era around this time, and Exile was such a brilliant statement to make. They tapped into everything that I personally love about rock ‘n’ roll music with that album, and they wore all their country, gospel, blues and R&B influences on their sleeve. It’s a perfect melting pot of all those influences and music styles. Plus, it’s just cool. It’s the coolest record on earth.”

9. Aerosmith – Rocks

“That album was lightning in a bottle. For my money, it’s Aerosmith’s best record as well. I found a cassette copy of it on the ground when I was 11 years old and I had no idea who Aerosmith was at the time, but I took it home and put it on. The first song that really punched me in the stomach was Get the Lead Out. It was so nasty. I don’t think Joe Perry and Steven Tyler ever wrote songs more successfully together than on that record. The producer Jack Douglas apparently just mic’d the band up where they stood for rehearsal, and that’s how they recorded the songs.”

8. The Allman Brothers Band – At Filmore East

“The greatest live album in the history of live albums. Being the forbearers of the type of music that we play, I would say that album is just a great example of a band playing together. We’re on tour with Gov’t Mule right now and we’ve been playing some Allman Brothers songs in the encore with Mule every night, and we’ve been talking about how good the Allman Brothers were at jamming. At Filmore East is jam heaven. It’s guitar heaven, too. Dickey [Betts] and Duane [Allman] were a guitar team at the height of their powers on that record.”

7. Lynyrd Skynyrd – Second Helping

“Skynyrd were one of the first Southern rock bands that I was exposed to because they had big radio hits. I basically heard them every day as a kid. I also remember exactly which friend had Second Helping on vinyl when we were growing up because we devoured it. I was just starting to understand what I loved about rock ‘n’ roll music when I heard the album and I remember being aware that it reminded me of the Stones, who I was way more familiar with at that time. And I found out many years later that the girls who sang on the chorus to Honky Tonk Woman also sang on Sweet Home Alabama - so it was a specific sound.”

6. Guns N’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction

The best debut album ever. I was really getting into electric guitar when it came out and I was already hopelessly in love with Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones. But the rock ‘n’ roll music that was being made at that time was starting to get a little bit pitiful, with the hairspray and the posturing and the pointed headstock guitars. I wasn’t interested in whammy bar tricks and all that type of playing. Then here came this band out of the blue. The guitar solo from Welcome To The Jungle knocked me out: you could sing it, much like all the classic rock that I loved. With just one song they made everything else seem silly. They were dangerous and dirty and that really resonated with me. And I was instantly enthralled with Izzy Stradlin and Slash because I love guitar teams, and they couldn’t have been more perfect. They looked so damn cool.”

5. Little Feat – Dixie Chicken

“I got into Little Feat a little later. I was probably in my twenties when I first heard them. A lot of people thought they were Southern because they sounded so Southern, but obviously they were a Californian band. With Dixie Chicken they really tapped into that New Orleans sound though. They actually covered an Allen Toussaint song on the record, and they explored these funky, kind of gritty but clean tones across the board. And the songs are fantastic: Fat Man in the Bathtub, Walkin All Night, and of course Dixie Chicken. They were able to go even further than The Allman Brothers by having these great songs, but then being able to stretch out and jam and really chase the magic in a musical sense.”

4. Grateful Dead – American Beauty

“Grateful Dead invented their own little bubble to live in, and American Beauty was the first album by them that I really got into. It’s an Americana record. It’s just beautiful. They go from being these experimental improvisational wizards, and all of a sudden turned 180 degrees and showed they could be this acoustic pseudo-country band. That was the first record where they focused on the songs and I realised that not only were they crazy and weird, but they also had great songs as well.”

3. AC/DC – Powerage

Powerage couldn’t be better: the lyrics are genius, the riffs are as good as anything before or after, and it features some fantastic guitar work from Angus and Malcolm. As great as Highway to Hell would be next, Powerage was the last time that they were raw and under-produced and in their element. It’s just so gritty and real, warts and all. I heard an industry rumour a while back too, that Powerage is Keith Richard’s favourite AC/DC album - and if it’s good enough Keith!”

2. Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti

Physical Graffiti is sort of Zeppelin’s Exile on Main St. It was this sprawling collection of songs that ranged from big heavy bluesy rock ‘n’ roll to laid back Americana country type stuff. I really love The Wanton Song: Jimmy Page was really starting to explore on the guitar and I think he really hit his stride on that song. There are some beautiful jazzy chord changes in there. Then Robert Plant comes through with his beautiful melodies and lyrics, and the drums are just incredible, like every Zeppelin record. They were so on fire at that point as far as their creativity goes: they couldn’t fit it all on one record, which is why they had to make a double record, and it’s all good.”

1. The Beatles – Revolver

“I think Revolver really changed the game, as far as rock ‘n’ roll records were concerned. It was edgier than anything The Beatles had done prior, and everything was compared to what they had done at that point because they were the greatest band in the world. They made the greatest records and they changed the world. It’s funny to think nowadays that a band could change the world, but The Beatles did. People talk about the fact that it was perhaps Bob Dylan that influenced them, as far as being the impetuous for them to change and stretch out from writing three-minute pop songs, but George Harrison really shines on Revolver too. He’s kind of out there for the first time, experimenting with tone, and the album also has the first Beatles song with no guitar at all, namely Eleanor Rigby. It’s a masterpiece.”

Blackberry Smoke’s album Like An Arrow will be released on October 14 through Earache.

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Matt Stocks

DJ, presenter, writer, photographer and podcaster Matt Stocks was a presenter on Kerrang! Radio before a year’s stint on the breakfast show at Team Rock Radio, where he also hosted a punk show and a talk show called Soundtrack Apocalypse. He then moved over to television, presenting on the Sony-owned UK channel Scuzz TV for three years, whilst writing regular features and reviews for Metal Hammer and Classic Rock magazine. He also wrote, produced and directed a feature-length documentary on Australian hard rock band Airbourne called It’s All For Rock ‘N’ Roll, and in 2017 launched his own podcast: Life in the Stocks. His first book, also called Life In The Stocks, was published in 2020. A second volume was published in April 2022.