Ten Albums that shaped me…

A research team at Durham University found that music that was around in the respondent’s 15th year brought back the most memories – a “reminiscence bump” as the researchers termed it. They concluded, wait for it, that  “memories that are central to one’s sense of identity are often inextricably associated with music”.

They suggested that the knock-on effects of this intense emotional bonding with the songs of your 15th year apparently play out in later life, too – and may play a key role in caring for dementia patients.

I am that person who used to spend all my birthday and Christmas money on albums – and I firmly believe that there’s a part of your brain (that researchers haven’t yet found) which holds song lyrics until they’re needed to sing along to something. It got me wondering what songs were around when I was 14 (or 15) and, further, what albums have been the most influential in my life – and if there is any correlation between the two. I’m about to turn 54 (on Friday, in case you’re interested), so the years between 1980 and 1982 are (according to the research) the most formative for me.

To an extent, this is true for the albums that formed me. They don’t all necessarily come from that time, but for various reasons each is important. Here are ten of them – in no specific order:

1.Bay City Rollers, Once Upon A Star (1975)

This was the first album I bought. I can still see myself carrying it home from the shop in Merriwa, where we lived at the time. It was 1975 so I was 8. I recall wanting tartan socks and to be able to roll my r’s like Les did in the little spoken part at the start.

Pick of the songs: “Bye Bye Baby”. Of course.

 2. Abba (self titled) (1975)

This one is my favourite of all my ABBA albums. It’s chock full of great songs like “Mamma Mia”, “SOS”, “Bang A Boomerang” (who can forget that fabulous lyric: “love is a tune you hummy hum hum”?), “So Long”, “I Do I Do I Do I Do I Do”, and what could be my absolute favourite of all my favourite ABBA songs – “I’ve Been Waiting For You”.

3. Goanna, Spirit of Place (1982)

Even though this album (and reminds me of summer days at Bombala swimming pool), the song “Solid Rock” was the first time I registered that music could awaken a political conscience.

It was the first commercial charting record to feature a didgeridoo and opened my ears to the issue of Indigenous land rights. Just listen to the lyrics – to my 15-year-old ears they were so powerful. Check it out here. Also on the record was “Razor’s Edge” which dealt with rural poverty. 

The album was re-released in 2003 and included another of their protest songs, “Let The Franklin Flow”, for the Tasmanian wilderness. (As an aside, it was listening to this song that inspired my novel Happy Ever After. #funfact)

4. Midnight Oil, 10.9.8.7.6.5.4.3.2.1 (1982)

If you’ve read my novel Happy Ever After you’d know how much I love The Oils. The songs and lyrics were the basis of my political education and through them, I became interested in indigenous rights, nuclear disarmament, environmental issues, corporate regulation, US forces in Australia, Maralinga…all of it. I read so widely and ended up studying political science as the major in my Economics degree at university. I even used a line from “Read About It” in an economics essay. 

The rich get richer
The poor get the picture
The bombs never hit you when you’re down so low

Midnight Oil

(I used that little factoid in Happy Ever After too – the eagle-eyed might have even noticed that I’ve incorrectly attributed the line to Power And The Passion #typo)

The standout tracks on this album are “Outside World”, “Short Memory”, “Read About It”, “US Forces” and “Power And The Passion.”

5. Moving Pictures, Days of Innocence (1982)

Oh my goodness I loved “What About Me?” so much. I loved the lyrics, I loved Alex Smith’s huge voice, I loved the saxophone solo, and that massive drum and voice moment in the last verse is goosebump stuff. This came out when I was doing work experience at a newspaper and the album will forever be associated with that time.

As an aside, the songwriter of this one, Garry Frost, also wrote “If I Could” for 1927 from their album “Ish” – the album falls just outside my top 10 but the song falls way inside my top 10 song list. Have a watch and a listen here.

6. Kate Bush, Never For Ever (1980)

I still listen to this album from cover to cover every so often – every song on it is quirkily fabulous and a self-contained story, but the standouts are “The Wedding List”, “Babooshka” and “Breathing”. 

7. Pet Shop Boys

If I had to choose just two bands to listen to for the rest of my life it would be Abba and the Pet Shop Boys. PSB are another band with a message – albeit to a disco beat – and from such an embarrassment of riches it was tough to choose just one album. Did I go with Please (1986) and “West End Girls” or 1987’s Actually with the “It’s A Sin”, or even Bilingual (1996) which will always remind me of evenings when Sarah was a baby and she and I would have quiet time reading magazines waiting for Grant to come home from work. What about Very (1993) where every single song is fabulous or 2009’s Yes with “Love etc” and “Pandemonium”.

It might be cheating but I just can’t decide. I couldn’t even decide which songs to feature in this post, but have narrowed it down to these two – both of which mean something really special to me: “Pandemonium”, and “Miracles”

8. Dire Straits, Love Over Gold (1982)

While “Industrial Disease” is a commentary on Thatcher’s Britain, it’s “Telegraph Road” that’s the standout for me. It starts hauntingly and builds into a story that encompasses generations. At 14 minutes long it’s epic, but it’s the story of how one man with a sack on his back puts down his load and a town grows up around it. Incredible.

9. ABC The Lexicon Of Love (1982)

Nothing says New Romantic quite like this album does. The cover is theatrical and over the top and the music, such as Poison Arrow, was equally as dramatic. It was also a little bit smart – and I liked that. As (another) aside, Martin Fry released The Lexicon of Love II in 2016. One of the songs on that one “Kiss Me Goodbye” was the inspiration for my novel Careful What You Wish For.

10. Damien Rice O (2002)

I came across this album in my late 40’s – just as I was contemplating a really existential mid-life crisis. I can still remember the first time I heard The Blower’s Daughter. Man, it blew me away (no pun intended). I saw it in a movie (“Closer”) in a hotel room in Melbourne – in those days I was spending part of every week in a hotel room in Melbourne. The next day I saw the album in the airline magazine. It was fate. Another highlight of this album is “Cannonball” – which has been redone so many times by so many people.

What about you? What albums influenced you the most?

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Author: Jo

I write, I bake, I chase sunrises.

14 thoughts

  1. I recognise all of these except the last. I’d probably choose one or two of these. Definitely Abba. Tropical Loveland (the single) was the second single I bought. The first was Normie Rowe’s Elizabeth.

    I went through a tragic Air Supply and Barry Manilow phase in 1983-1984 – I think I was mooning over a guy and they suited perfectly.

    Michael Jackson would be a biggie for me. Thriller probably rather than Off the Wall. Talking Heads, Sting and Dire Straits at Uni….

    1. Road To Nowhere is one of my fave songs. I went through an Air Supply phase too (so tragic) but it was a big no from me for Thriller. Billy Jean and Thriller are at the top of my top 10 most disliked songs (with Toto’s Africa, Baker Street, & about 50 others…it’s a big top 10).

  2. Some great memories Jo – Love me a bit of ABBA (who doesn’t???) And “What About Me?” was my anthem for many years! An interesting factoid is that the one album Ross and I both had when we met was Meatloaf’s “Bat Out Of Hell” and I think I know the words to 90% of the songs to this day…….want to join me in a little chorus of Paradise By The Dashboard Light?? And I just realized when I looked it up that I was 15 when it was released so the study wins a vote from me 🙂

  3. Jo, I can’t name songs, albums or artists, but when I hear a song that was popular between 1967 and 1970 I know all the lyrics. I was 12 in 1967. It seems as though life got in the way after my teenage years and music became less important. I think your researchers might be on to something.

  4. I mostly remember snippets rather than full albums – I remember this part of a song when I was travelling between here and there… that kind of thing.

  5. The power of music is amazing! I was listening recently to people in aged care talking about some amazing transformations with dementia patients, one even catatonic, with music. The music we listened to in those formative years you mentioned also lay down the foundations for the type of music you listen to for the rest of your life. I just love listening to my ‘old school’ stuff and it just transports me. Interestingly, there’s a lot of vocal harmonies, bits of orchestral overlays and acoustic stuff going on in a lot of my teenage listenings, which is the stuff I still gravitate to. Think Lobo, Moody Blues, Abba (very close harmonies), Queen, Brian Cadd, early Bee Gees (not the falsetto crap). Most of that will be a bit too old for you.

  6. Hi, Jo – Interesting info about songs/albums from when we were 15 having strong lasting impact. For me, that would b 1973 — Tie A Yellow Ribbon, Bad Bad Leroy Brown, Sweet Gypsy Rose….. Although I recognized most of the top hits from that year (that’s remarkably good for me), there was nothing there that I would consider life-shaping. Now, Melanie’s songs from 1970, I played over and over (and over) again….to my entire family’s chagrin! Thanks for sharing this.

  7. How I love this post. Although, I am not familiar with many of these artists or songs. I guess I have heard of most of them but Abba is really the only one I have a connection with. Probably because I am a decade older than most of you gals. At 15, I was all about Chicago, the Carpenters, John Denver and always from the tender age of 2 or 3, Broadway musicals like Oklahoma, West Side Story and Fiddler on the Roof. I am out of town but would love to link up with a post of my own, if I can get one together real quick. Such fun.

  8. I am trying to think of what music I listened to when I was 14 or 15… I know I did love music and visiting the local music store (called Strawberries). I bought a lot of singles though.

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