My friend, fellow Rampage veteran and former Fresno Bee colleague Greg Ahlstrand looped me in on one of those Facebook chains: “I was challenged by Greg to choose 10 albums that greatly influenced my taste in music. One album per day for 10 consecutive days, no explanations, no reviews, just album covers. Every day I will ask someone else to do the same. Today, I nominate…”
Usually, I don’t play along with those kinds of challenges — “Reply, then copy and paste to your status.” This one piqued my interest though, a pleasurable amble down memory lane.
But no explanation? Where’s the fun in that?
So while I will follow the rules on Facebook, I can expand — on my choices of albums and the significance of the people I’ve tagged — here in this space.
When Paul Simon’s “Graceland” came out in August 1986, I was a year out of high school, working fast-food restaurant management jobs and had just returned to Fresno after attending U.C. Berkeley for my freshman year. I’ve owned this album in multiple formats — cassette, CD and now digital.
Always a Simon and Garfunkel fan, I loved the different sounds the solo Simon made with South African musicians on this album. Although I tagged my significant other Randy Bell on this Day 1 pick, he is less enamored by the music than I am. But he’s my No. 1 guy, even though he won’t play this Facebook game.
The earliest albums I owned, which were vinyl, were hand-me-downs from my dad, including several early Beatles albums. They were the soundtrack of my high school years.
In this one, their sixth album, released in 1965, my unsophisticated musical ear detected a transition in their style, from the upbeat Mop Top songs that established their career to a slightly darker, more complex type of music and lyrics (“So I lit a fire, isn’t it good Norwegian Wood?”).
I tagged my friend Marilyn Mooneyham, who is a huge Beatles fan and was lucky enough to see them in concert in concert three times — at the Hollywood Bowl in 1964 and 1965, and at Dodger Stadium in 1966. She’s also seen three of the four Beatles in solo performances, including George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh at the Inglewood Forum in 1974 (she still has her ticket stub, which cost only $8.50!) and Paul McCartney’s 2016 show at the Save Mart Center.
Last year, I was supposed to take a trip to Vegas with Marilyn and some other friends to see Cirque du Soleil’s “Love,” which is entirely based on Beatles music. I wasn’t able to go on that trip, due to a family funeral. But I share my love of The Beatles with this friend.
This is one of the first vinyl albums I ever bought for myself, when I was in high school, I’m certain from a clearance bin in the Tower Records on Blackstone Avenue in Fresno. From 1971, this was pre-disco, pre-pop Rod Stewart.
I tagged Tess Robinson, who was my best friend in fifth grade in Ashtabula, Ohio, the last year I lived there before our family moved to California in 1978. We stayed in touch in the years after that, and my first trip back to visit Ohio was in 1986, when she got married. We lost touch for a few years after that, but reconnected with the rise of social media.
I saw Prince’s “Purple Rain” the day the film opened in 1984 with my high school best friend Melinda Minjares at a theater on Blackstone Avenue. It wasn’t her typical fare (Led Zeppelin, Rush, Yes and the Police), nor mine. But I loved that album. I followed Prince’s music off and on for the next couple of decades, and saw him when he played at the Save Mart Center in 2011.
Ed Sheeran is my teenage daughter’s favorite singer of all time (for now). Elton John was my Ed Sheeran in late high school and my early adult years. After John Lennon was killed in 1980, I loved Elton John’s tribute song about his friend, “Empty Garden (Hey, Hey Johnny)”: “And now it all looks strange. It’s funny how one insect can damage so much grain.”
I saw Elton John at the Oakland Coliseum Arena in October 1986 and again, with Katie and Randy, when he played at Save Mart Center on his “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” farewell tour in 2019. And last year for Mother’s Day, Katie took me to see the “Rocketman” biopic. And so I’m tagging her on this one.
I went through an early mid-life crisis when this album was popular in 1991 — divorce, changed majors (from business to journalism) and left a career in restaurant management to become a waitress, so I had more flexibility to get serious about college.
“Walking in Memphis,” “Dig Down Deep,” “Saving the Best for Last” and “True Companion” — so much good music on one album. So much deep feeling at a very rough, transformative time in my life.
I really need to bring him music back into my life today. On this one, I’ll tag longtime friend Herschel Peeler, who had just finished serving in the Army in Desert Storm around the time I was into this album.
Still working through that crisis period, I came to love the music of the Indigo Girls. A few years later, I had graduated with my journalism degree from Fresno State and was working at my first newspaper job. My colleague and friend Carey Wilson Norton gave me this live two-CD set for my birthday that year and I got even deeper into this duo’s harmonies. I got to see them in concert in 2009 at Fresno’s Tower Theatre with my sister-in-law Jill.
I discovered Sarah McLachlan with her album “Surfacing,” when the song “Angel” climbed the charts in 1998 into 1999. But as I explored more of her music, this album from 1993 really caught my attention. This is another concert I saw with Jill at Save Mart Center, when she came to Fresno in 2005.
I saw this movie in the theater in 2005 with my older daughters, Alyssa and Shayna (Katie was still too little). Several songs really resonated at the time, especially “Unwritten,” by Natasha Bedingfield. Years later, Katie and I saw her in concert at the Save Mart Center as an opening act for O.A. R. and Train. Then in 2019, I had my own Sisterhood of the Traveling Dress moment when I found an awesome dress to wear to Alyssa’s wedding.
Jason Mraz’s music brought a new light, bright spot into my life, from the first time I saw him, on “Austin City Limits” on a very rough day. I included his version of “Rainbow Collection” on a mix of lullabies when Katie was a baby. I remember a time driving to hear Alyssa sing with her Clovis Community College choir when Katie, Shayna and I had an impromptu singalong in the car to “I’m Yours,” from this 2008 album — “We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things.” Randy and I saw him in concert with Mark and Jill at the Saroyan Theatre in March 2014. I tag Shayna in this one.
So that’s my list of 10. Music is indelibly intertwined with specific times, places and people in our lives.