I was tagged by an old friend of mine, Charles Rosenberg, with whom I share a love of music, to share my top 10 albums. Yes, album music, not the streaming of random music from a particular genre as is common today. He has known for a long time that I’m hesitant to make a top 10 list of favorite albums because I’m torn between what I want to listen to now versus what music tells the story of me and therefore should go with me should I be stranded on a deserted island (with electricity and a stereo, of course). I have chosen to go with the deserted island approach, though. For me, the music in my list has stood the test of time and also evokes memories of my life that will probably be pretty important should I find myself alone on an island.
I gave myself the following rules when selecting albums. First, it should be music that I can’t see myself living without. Second, I have to own it, preferably physically. Third, greatest hit compilations should be avoided, because the greatness of an album is often about capturing a moment. I’m revealing the albums chronologically according to when they first impacted me, not by ranking.
Album 4: Phil Collins, But Seriously…
As another old friend of mine once said, my CD collection is “comprehensive,” though I don’t think he meant it as a compliment. This album was released in November, 1989, and it was a huge commercial success, as it reached #1 in the album charts of essentially every major country, including the U.S. Suffice to say, Phil is far from alternative, so I have always felt a little uncool (there’s that word again) whenever I play it– best to play it alone or with friends that don’t judge. Windows down at a traffic light with Phil Collins playing? Definitely turn it down. On the surface, listening to Phil feels a little like drinking Blue Nun wine (nothing special), but seriously, this album is great and evokes many memories.
I should have been attending UGA for my sophomore year in 1990, but I had left school with the intention of transferring to Georgia Tech to study Computer Science (I know, what was I thinking?). The previous fall of ’89 found me living by myself on the eastside of Athens, being blackballed by a UGA fraternity, and learning that my parents were likely heading for a divorce. Ugh. I left UGA, moved back home and worked in Atlanta for several months until matriculating at the Joke by Coke (Tech). I was a fan of Genesis and already owned Phil’s Hello, I Must Be Going and No Jacket Required albums, so it was no surprise that I picked up a copy of But Seriously… Though this album is more heavily produced and polished than I prefer today, I still listen to it frequently, drawn to the simplicity but sincere subject matter (relationships, homelessness, social inequality), Phil’s signature percussion arrangements, and the vocal and musical contributions of guests David Crosby, Eric Clapton, and Steve Winwood. There is a strong nostalgic pull, too.
I confess it seems trivial to write about the music I enjoy the day after yet another school shooting, but the weightiness of the moment seems appropriate for today’s album choice, since my two predominant memories of this album coincide with difficult times in my life. As I said, in 1990 my parents were heading for divorce. My father moved out, and I was at home with my mom as she dealt with the brokenness. My first car, Wilma, was gone, destroyed in a car wreck my senior year, and I had a new car, with an even bigger sound system– perfect for the powerful, dominant drums of But Seriously… I recall driving to Decatur to have lunch with my father, imagining the conversation we would have about his marriage to my mom, and the things that I would say to convince him to come home. The volume was up on Scott Boulevard as “I Wish It Would Rain Down” aroused strong thoughts and emotions due to the current state of things.
Fast-forward 26 years to April 2016, and I’m laying in a patio chair by a man-made lagoon in Duck Key, Florida at the Hawk’s Cay Resort, on vacation with my family. This was the third year of my battle with cancer, and the following week was huge. I was scheduled for a major abdominal surgery at MD Anderson in Houston, TX to remove a tumor, bladder, some colon, and whatever else the doctor thought necessary. Suffice to say I was attempting to relax and enjoy myself while dealing with a great deal of stress. I believe it was Wednesday when a tropical storm moved in. It was pouring, with heavy winds, and all of the sane people had taken shelter by the poolside bar or other areas of protection. But I thought it appropriate to ride the storm out, feeling a heightened sense of God’s power from my vinyl recliner with my cell phone streaming water-themed music. With a tropical drink by my side and miniature speakers in my ears, it was “I Wish It Would Rain Down” time all over again.
Alas, neither of those hope-filled moments that I associate with this music resulted in my expected outcomes, but my attachment to the songs is untainted. On a positive note, though, I share a fondness for this album with my buddy, Doug, so listening to it reminds me of a life-long friendship. I am easily moved when I listen to this album, so it has to come with me.
From “Do You Remember?”:
There seemed no way to make up
‘Cause it seemed your mind was set
And the way you looked it told me
It’s a look I know I’ll never forget
You could’ve come over to my side
You could’ve let me know
You could’ve tried to see the distance between us
But it seemed too far for you to go.
(So far to go)
Do you remember?
Through all of my life
In spite of all the pain
You know people are funny sometimes
‘Cause they just can’t wait
To get hurt again
Tell me, do you remember?
Interestingly, Phil released the remastered version of the album in 2016 and updated his photo accordingly. The featured image shows the original album cover (from my CD) and the updated one from my Google Play library.