52 Albums That Changed My Life (and Other Exaggerations): Chapter 1

Hi there, my name is Brent Chittenden and I love music.

Long time readers of this website may remember my name as a former regular columnist. I did a lot of top ten lists, a wrote a weekly column where it was ten degrees of separation a bunch of stuff about comics and music. All of this work lead me to a full-time position writing about music for another website. I did that for a while until that position disappeared and I needed a break. Music had become less fun in a weird way especially when I had spent the last few months of that gig writing about music I didn’t like very much. I walked away from writing about it for a year and just became a fan again. Rediscovered a bunch of albums that I loved and some new artists and sounds that I grew to love.

This period got me thinking about how much music has meant to me over the years. I can tell you the first CD I bought, the first album I felt betrayed by, the music I made out with my first girlfriend too. I have all of these musical touchstones throughout my life, I figured it was time to sit down and sort them all out. Alan, very generously, said I could do that through this space so here we are, a new weekly column of the 52 Albums That Changed my Life… okay that’s a little bit of an exaggeration but it makes for a nice title.

Before we get to the first album, a few things you should know.

  1. I was born in 1979 so I hit my teens in the 90’s so you may notice a larger than normal amount of albums from that time period. I have often said that the high school years are the most important years to a person’s musical identity and looking at my list, it’s true for me.
  2. These columns are going to be part memoir, part album review. Not all of these albums are good but they have had an effect on me and my relationship with music, for better or for worse.
  3. The people I mention are very real and most of them are still breathing but I may have changed some of the names to protect the innocent.
  4. These posts are not in chronological order.

That being said, let’s start with the first entry, shall we?

Star Wars – The Original Score by John Williams (2 CD Set)

I grew up a big nerd. I was into comic books and science fiction as much as any little kid could be and while I liked music, at the age of ten, it was still pretty much what my parents listened to. The Beatles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and John Mellencamp were big in my house as I recall. Around 1989, my parents got their first cd player. That summer as a present for doing well on my grades (or at the very least, not failing anything), my mom said I could go to one of the cd stores in Upper Canada Mall and pick out a cd of my own.

I ended up going to A&A Records (future site of my unsuccessful flirting with Shania Twain) and went through various CD’s and artists and nothing was standing out. At that point, I was at a crossroads of my musical life. I had no music that I liked that wasn’t my parent’s music and while I had been trying to fit in at school by liking some of the popular pop acts of the day like New Kids on The Block and Milli Vanilli, I wasn’t quite buying what that music was selling.

And then I saw it. Like an old friend beaming in the darkness, a CD that called to me and everything that I loved at that point in my young life.

John Williams’ score to Star Wars.

I LOVED Star Wars. Star Wars was the coolest thing ever. It had action, adventure, swords made out of lasers. Star Wars spoke to me on a level that nothing else did.

I had to have that CD.

My mother questioned my choice a little but figured out pretty quickly that I had made my mind up. We went up to the counter and I took home the double disc set of the score to Star Wars. When we returned home, I ran down to my bedroom and put it on and listened to it until dinner. In my young mind and hearing, it sounded like the entire London Symphony Orchestra was in my bedroom. The score was magical and epic.

As the years have gone by, I still have that CD set. The case is scuffed and cracked but the CD’s still sound as good as when I first purchased them. The release is labeled with RSO Records logos and materials (the packaging mirroring the original vinyl release) but every I’ve read leads me to believe that it’s a Polydor release as they had taken over RSO long before I bought the CD. It would go on to be a bit of a study partner during my high school years as I tended to listen to film scores and The Ongoing History of New Music while doing homework.

Musically, John Williams’ score still holds up and is as iconic as it ever was. With all of the various Star Wars films, cartoons and video games out there, there has been ample room for the powers that be to go in different directions with the music for the franchise but Williams created a score so iconic that was always used as the template for all of ancillary Star Wars projects.

And it still gets occasional play on my stereo, usually when I’m writing or in the lead up to a new Star Wars film being released.

Next week, we go in a very different direction with a landmark album for industrial music, Ministry’s Psalm 69.

(note I’ve included the spotify link, which I will do for every album in this series but I could not find the link for the version of the score I have. This is the closest I can get to it)

https://open.spotify.com/album/39vpWS7vrC4Pz33bNafjva

 

Brent Chittenden

Brent Chittenden is a freelance writer with a gift for the geek. Currently a writer with A Journal Of Musical Things and a podcaster with True North Nerds, he's also written for Comic Book Daily, Explore Music and a dozen other places. Currently, he is the co-host of the True North Nerds podcast. You can find out more at www.facebook.com/bcchittenden

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