Editor’s Note: Dan Warden is the latest contributor to On the Couch and we would like to thank him for bringing his musical taste and expertise to the blog. Dan is a musician, an artist, and author. He has been playing and writing music for about 15 years.
I have had many jobs over the course of my adult life, one of the most challenging and rewarding was teaching Air Force Technical Training. Technical training can be incredibly tedious, and unfortunately leaves very little room for interpretation or creative thinking. Trying to do my part to alleviate this, or maybe just to alleviate my boredom, I decided that question and answer sessions were necessary to stimulate intellectual discourse. I would typically start a class by asking questions such as, “If you could talk to any animal in the world, what would it be and why?”. Sometimes I asked the class to solve a riddle, but my favorite question to ask was what album changed their life? Unfortunately too many of my students thought of music as merely background noise, something to fill up space, and never had the life-changing experience that music can provide. That however was not the case for me. As an artist and musician, there have been many albums that have changed my life and I would like to share with the On the Couch readers my five most influential works. Please note, these are albums that had a huge impact on me, but are by no means my top five favorite albums.
1. Appetite for Destruction – Guns N Roses
I can remember first hearing “Sweet Child O’ Mine” on the way to a basketball game with my oldest brother. I was completely blown away by the opening guitar riff. I vowed then and there to myself that one day I would play the guitar. I think I was five or six at the time, and convincing my parents to buy me a guitar never really panned out. It took until I could make enough money on my own to finally start playing the guitar, I think I was 13 or 14. It really could have been any other song with a great guitar lead, but it wasn’t. Now every time I hear that song, I think back to riding in the car with my older brother and his friends on our way to watch a basketball game. Oddly enough, I have never learned how to play “Sweet Child O’ Mine” on the guitar.
Guns N Roses – Sweet Child O’ Mine
2. Pieces of You – Jewel
This album has a special place in my heart. As mentioned earlier, I started playing the guitar around 13 and naturally gravitated towards heavy music, due to my exposure to hard rock music from older siblings. I stumbled across this album because my brother’s girlfriend left it in his car, and I instantly fell in love with the simplicity of the music and the poetry of the lyrics. The problem with falling in love with a Jewel album when you are a teenage metal head need not be explained. Luckily for me, I found this album, and realized that music comes in two categories, good and bad, and that I got to be the one who defined the two. This album helped me understand that my elitist attitude towards music was a hindrance to my artistic development. It still took many years for me to come out of the Jewel closet.
Jewel – Pieces of You
3. The Great Southern Trendkill – Pantera
I signed up one of those 11 CDs for a penny scam through BMG, and based on my preferences, they sent me this album in the mail. I put it in the CD player and the title track begins with vocalist Phil Anselmo screaming. It scared the crap out of me, and because of that became an instant favorite. This album is heavy from beginning to end, a must for the budding guitarist and metal head mentioned earlier.
Pantera – The Great Southern Trendkill
I hate to put a greatest hits album down as a life changer, but this one has to be an exception. Released six years before I was born, it is understandable that I never experienced these songs as they were released on their original albums. One night, driving home from work, listening to NPR I heard “Last Year’s Man” and it spoke to me on levels that anything else I had heard to that point could not. Cohen helped me realize that good music as with all good art, is something that can be connected with, not just listened to or looked at. Good art creates great art, when experienced.
Leonard Cohen – Last Year’s Man
5. Nevermind – Nirvana
This one is going to be on many lists for many different reasons. For me, this album was a starting point in my development as a musician. The album is filled with great songs that are easy to play and as such helped form the foundations of many bands I have been in. The commercial boom that followed this album likely changed the course of popular music today, and probably not for the better. But chances are, if you put a group of 30-something year old musicians together, they can all play “Smells Like Teen Spirit“.
Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit
Again, these five albums are by no means my top five favorite albums, but each one holds a special place for me because of what they have meant to me as an artist and musician. Maybe one day when I am feeling less nostalgic, I will try to figure out what my top five favorite albums really are, but I am not sure I could ever pick just five.