In this age of downloaded music, kids will never know the delightful serendipity of hanging out in a record store and being turned onto a great band they've never heard of, all because a store employee chose to play that particular album in that particular hour of that particular day.
(And they'll probably never have to write a summertime filler column. See where I'm going with this?)
Generation Download will also probably never know the addictive pleasure of the famous "desert island discs" debate, i.e., which albums you'd take if you had to be stranded on a desert island for the rest of your life (a desert island apparently equipped with reliable electricity).
The great thing about the debate is that it's not at all about what you think are the best albums, just the ones that you yourself find yourself listening to over and over again. The Beatles might be the best thing ever - I just don't want to hear them all the time. Sue me.
Anyway, in order to take a much-needed break from serious stuff, here's my own list of Desert Island Discs. Most of these lists tend to lean heavily toward the music of the listmaker's youth, and that seems to be the case here.
Laugh/scoff/make fun of my dated taste at your pleasure:
Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, Global a Go-Go - Debut from the late great former Clash frontman and his erstwhile backing band is a pitch-perfect mix of Afrobeat, bhangra, reggae, ska, punk, rock, and trad Irish that only Strummer could pull off.
Frank Black, Fast Man/Raider Man -- Not sure what all I was listening to in the early '90s but apparently it wasn't the Pixies. It took local musician and show promoter Jim Reed bringing Frank Black to Savannah on a solo tour a few years ago to turn me onto this fiendishly brilliant and distinctively American songwriter. This double album is great road trip music too.
Buddy Guy, Sweet Tea -- My wife and I both fell hard for this album on a road trip when we stopped in a bar in Pensacola where it was playing with the bass cranked up unbelievably loud. Who knew subwoofers are great for blues too? I bet Buddy did...
Los Lobos, Kiko - Beautiful, wide-ranging Latin-influenced rock, blues and soul in this 1992 release from the East LA ensemble that is amazingly now entering its fifth decade and still going strong.
Peter Tosh, Captured Live - There will never be another Bob Marley, but I've always found the Steppin' Razor's everyman sensibility more accessible. Unlike Tosh's easygoing ganja-haze vocal style in the studio, his more robust singing on this 1984 album recorded at L.A.'s Greek Theatre is remarkable for its sheer alpha male presence.
Bassekou Kouyate, I Speak Fula - This Malian genius pretty much gets my vote for best musician in the world. Thanks again to the Savannah Music Festival for bringing him to town and supporting African music -- the first music.
R.E.M., Chronic Town - Proving the power of entropy as well as the power of hearing an album for the first time in the Wuxtry store in downtown Athens, their debut EP is still my favorite R.E.M. release. (On a related note, it's exciting that the iconic Georgia Theatre in Athens has just re-opened after its post-fire renovation.)
Black Crowes, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion - Ridiculously heady collection of guitar-driven Georgia hippie blues, with a Marley cover thrown in.
The Clash, London Calling - Strummer again. If you gotta ask why this is on the list, there's no hope. Also my vote for best double album ever made, though again, "best" doesn't matter in desert island discs.
Iron Maiden, Killers - The birth of speed metal in this 1981 sophomore effort from the Irons, with original vocalist Paul Di'Anno rather than the overwrought Bruce Dickinson. As the title indicates, lyrically it's about little else but stalkers and ax murderers, but musically it's crack and meth put together, with the two lead guitars frantically and mostly unsuccessfully trying to keep up with the skull-crushing drums.
U.F.O., Strangers in the Night - Love at first listen when the staff played this at the old Record Bar in Oglethorpe Mall. Easily the most underrated hard rock guitarist, Michael Schenker -- older brother of The Scorpions' Rudy -- puts on a tour de force of soulful blues combined with rock chops in this 1979 live album by this very influential band, a progenitor of the new wave of British metal.
Rockers Soundtrack - Soundtracks and greatest hits collections are usually considered out of bounds for a desert island disc list, but I'm making an executive decision on this collection of early ska/reggae from Jamaican masters like Gregory Isaacs and Junior Murvin. These tunes graced the eccentric and totally awesome 1979 film Rockers, sort of an early version of reality TV set in Jamaica and starring many of the same musicians, who play themselves in delightful fashion. A must-see film as well as a must-have disc.
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"And you deserve better."
Thanks, Jim, for my new campaign slogan.