Friday, December 9, 2011

37 days to 40

Time for a list, to break up the pace, I think. With 37 days to go, here are 37 things that have been a significant influence over the course of the past 40 years (in no particular order) with very brief descriptions as to why. I'm leaving people out of this one, as I'll no doubt tackle that list in a later post. I'm also trying to avoid the totally fucking obvious too, with a few obvious and notable exceptions. This isn't a "my favorite" list by any stretch, they're just things that helped nudge me in new directions.

Ozzy Osbourne's Bark at the Moon album
The first hard rock/metal album I ever bought. I was 11. Plus, I'd recently learned that the keyboard player (Don Airey) lived down the street from us, which humanized the whole thing a lot.

Iron Maiden's Number of the Beast
Absolutely the first time I noticed that music was "about" something. Iron Maiden's interest in history, and telling stories with music was something I'd never really paid attention to before. I didn't discover the album until a few years after it was out. I was probably 13 or 14 when I finally got a copy.

Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force
Not my proudest declaration of something that's influential - but it was one of the many albums that inspired me to keep practicing the guitar.

Gary Moore's Still Got The Blues
Another connection to our friend Don (he played keyboards on this album too) but most significantly was finally understanding the lyrical and emotional complexity of really good guitar playing. Another one that inspired me to keep practicing.

AC/DC Back in Black
For the longest time, I couldn't stand AC/DC, but I after I saw them at the Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donnington, I had a whole new appreciation for rock music that could be timeless.

Anthrax' Among the Living
Four words: I. Am. The. Law.
Another one of those moments appreciating that music could be unbelievably cool when it was actually about something you already thought was pretty awesome. Metal + Judge Dredd. Awesome.

Extreme II: Pornograffiti
I loved this album at the time. I first heard Nuno Bettencourt play because "Play With Me" was used in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. This was the first album by Extreme that I actually bought, and it introduced me to how clever and satisfying rhythm guitar work could be. I learned "Hole Hearted" and "It's a Monster" as quickly as possible, and still have them memorized.

Depeche Mode's Songs of Faith and Devotion
Teenage me would have laughed in your face for suggesting that Depeche Mode were a band to be taken seriously. Songs of Faith and Devotion came along when I was 21, and it opened my eyes to the wonderful and magical place where pop, rock, dance, and electronic music meet.

Bach's Toccata & Fugue in D Minor
There were two significant versions of this piece of music that ingrained it in my memory; a version played on acoustic guitar by John Williams (different one, not the composer) with his band Sky in 1980, and the soundtrack to the arcade game Gyruss which had a similar vibe. Virtuoso guitar playing and videogames; two things I'm a sucker for.

BT's Movement in Still Life
This one is definitely something that plays double duty as both "influential" and "favorite." The track "Never Gonna Come Back Down" opened my eyes (ears?) to how electronic music was able to blend genres so elegantly.

The Crystal Method's Vegas
Having grown up with rock and metal, I've always liked music with some bite. The Crystal Method showed me that dance music could have a similar, if not greater, bite.

Nine Inch Nails' Pretty Hate Machine
Not an especially original item on this list...but it was a biggie for me. It inspired me to experiment with playing a different kind of music, and blending my love of computers and technology with my love of loud guitars.

Star Raiders
I think in the grand scheme of all things that have ever blown my mind, the degree to which Star Raiders made me feel that I was in a space ship has yet to be matched. Looking back, it looks unbelievably simple, but the emotion it inspired at the time with stay with me, always.

Pole Position
Where my love of cars and my love of videogames first really intersected. My parents looked for the cartridge for the Atari 400 for ages so they could get it for me one Christmas. The arcade machine looked incredible at the time, and the computer version matched it pretty closely.

Super Mario World
Growing up in the UK, I didn't have a huge amount of exposure to Mario. The NES just wasn't a big deal in the UK, because we were all playing on computers like the ZX Spectrum, the Commodore 64 or the Atari 400. The first time I really played any Mario game (save for Donkey Kong) was Super Mario World on an imported SNES when I first started on Games-X. I was blown away. It opened my eyes.

Mario Kart
A benchmark for fun, multiplayer gaming.

Star Wars + Videogames. It was truly magical, and built on that magic that Star Raiders evoked, and sprinkled it with a Jedi-style magical fairy dust of awesome.

Gran Turismo
Still special, even after all these years. The fact that they did this on the original PlayStation still boggles my mind. The cars felt right...something that few games had achieved this consistently before.

Grand Theft Auto III
The boundaries moved with this one. Plus, it was a bit of a career-defining moment too; at the Official PlayStation Magazine, we were the only magazine in the U.S. to believe it was going to be special enough to put it on the cover. 

Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
I sank over 100 hours into this game. It was the first experience to pull me in to that degree. I've always loved games, and always loved fantasy worlds, but this changed my expectations of role playing games.

Philips G7000
Our first game console in the Davison household. Known as the Odyssey 2 in the U.S. In hindsight the "Videopacs" were mostly horrific knock-offs of better-known classics, but there were some very special games; Munchkin, Take the Money and Run, Battlefield (no, not that one) and my absolute favorite, space shooter Cosmic Conflict.

Atari 400
Our first home computer; the beginning of my life in technology, games, and media.

Atari 520ST
After the 400, we were Atari loyalists. I wrote my first game review on an Atari ST; about Epyx' Winter Games.

Star Wars Trilogy
And so we enter the movie portion of the list. An obvious one; but now seeing it through my kids' eyes, I'm even more in awe of the magic it weaves.

Silent Running
Little-known enviro-sci-fi flick that had a profound effect on me when I first saw it. My first exposure (outside of 2001, which I didn't get into until I was much older) to sci-fi with a real message.

Sword fighting mixed with sci-fi is always cool. (See: Star Wars) There's something elegant and intimate about it.

Not necessarily the Christopher Reeve movie, although that was special, but just the whole Superman thing. I'm not religious or especially spiritual in any traditional sense of the word, but I have a huge soft spot for the whole savior/hero thing.

The Hitchhikers's Guide to the Galaxy
My dad bought the albums of the radio series and we used to listen to them together. I later read all the books, watched the TV show, the movie, and re-bought the entire radio run on CD. It had never occurred to me that sci-fi could be funny before this.

Reeves & Mortimer
I still occasionally slip into Reeves and Mortimer mode when around more than one other Brit. It's utterly nonsensical to my wife, but I still find it hilarious.

The Fast Show
For the same reasons as Reeves and Mortimer, I guess. My sense of humor is still informed by this nonsense.

NPR's Fresh Air
Terry Gross' series on NPR taught me how to interview, and what makes a compelling interview. This show continues to illustrate that the key to this kind of content is really getting to know the subject, and presenting them as a human being, not just a vessel through which messaging about a book/movie/game/album/cause is conveyed.

The Dark Knight Returns
Kinda obvious, but what the hell. It's my list. Batman at his best, and at his oldest. Particularly relevant given the overarching theme of this whole 40 days blogging thing.

Another obvious one, but this was more about conveying a strong message through unexpected and original means. Something that anyone in media needs to be constantly thinking about.

I'm not sure what prompted me to read this. I don't remember who recommended it, or who first talked about it, but it was powerful stuff, and the story had a significant impact on me. It was beautifully constructed, cleverly executed, and the setting was remarkably evocative.

The Canterbury Tales
I read it at school, and basically hated it at the time - but something about it just stuck with me. It's still a tough read (although not as hard as it was) but it's one of those books I'm always glad I have some knowledge of. It's oddly useful from time to time. 

Sons and Lovers
Another one from school; where I discovered a love for (and a knack for) both metaphor and simile. Before I read this at the age of 15, I didn't really know what that even meant. It's been a useful skill ever since, and all because of DH Lawrence, and my English teacher Mr. Stevens.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
How I discovered Mark Twain, who's wit and intelligence I've grown to admire more and more with each passing year.

OK, so now that's done I realize there are a lot more than 37 things I'd want to single out. Maybe I'll do an addendum post later.

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