Top Ten – Gamechangers

For my first Top Ten list here on HUA, I decided to do Gamechangers. A Gamechanger is a song that absolutely blew me away, changed my outlook or direction in music, and in one way or another had a profound effect on me. This list is in no way complete, but it’s the ones at the top of my list. I’m gonna go in reverse order this time, starting earlier in my life. Here we go…

1. Kiss – Detroit Rock City – What can I say that hasn’t been said? Kiss rules. Kiss - Destroyer Always have (we will forget about that Crazy Nights business). Being a young lad of 5 or 6, Kiss scared me, excited me, and made me lose my mind. Being born in 1974, I pretty much missed the heyday, but have been hooked ever since. Detroit Rock City was the song that started my obsession.

2. Van Halen – You Really Got Me – VH was one of those bands that just revolutionized rock and roll. Van Halen 4 insane dudes playing very distinct parts: Eddie redefined guitar, Diamond Dave redefined karate kicks and swagger, Mike was the most solid bassist around and had backup vocals better than some frontmen, and Alex sounded like the tazmanian devil on the drums. They took a fun little ditty by The Kinks and turned it into a party.

3. AC/DC – Shoot To Thrill – I admit, I didn’t get into the Bon Scott era until later in life. AC/DC - Back in Black As a young kid, hearing a song with the power of Shoot to Thrill (along with the rest of the Back in Black album) was overwhelming. They took the blues and made it mean and heavy. Later on, I would learn the history of AC/DC, and the fact that they went right into this album right after Bon died, because they had to. There were no other options. Brian fit in as if he had been there all along, and out of sorrow came one of the biggest selling albums of all time (5th in the US, 2nd Worldwide).

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4. Twisted Sister – I Wanna Rock – The easy answer to the question “WHAT DO YOU WANNA DOOOO WITH YOUR LIFE?” Twisted Sister - Stay Hungry I Wanna Rock, along with We’re Not Gonna Take It, were such huge anthems, especially for a young kid in the 80s. We didn’t need a huge political statement, we just needed to rock (and not listen to our parents). Their videos, featuring Mark Metcalf (Neidermeyer from Animal House) as a human Wile E Coyote, with Dee and the boys destroying him at every turn. These songs spoke directly to every kid in pretty much any grade at the time. Classic song, timeless anthem.

5. Metallica – Hit The Lights – In 7th grade, Motley Crue and Van Halen were about the heaviest stuff I listened to. In 1987, we moved from Falls Church to Fairfax, and a good friend Rick declared that it was time to get heavier. Metallica - Kill Em All After some prodding, I bought Metallica’s Garage Days EP, which I dug, but was quickly informed that that was not their music. Start at the beginning and get Kill Em All. The first track of the album opens with the crescendo of guitars and drums, then BOOM. That was the sound of my head exploding. I had never heard ANYTHING that fast or heavy in my life! To say I was completely blown away is a massive understatement. This is why Kill Em All will always be my favorite Metallica Album.

6. Anthrax – Among The Living – So now that my mind had been blown by Metallica, the flood gates were open. It only got heavier from there. Anthrax - Among The LivingBands like Slayer, Megadeth, Exodus and Over Kill would become a fixture in my life. But Anthrax was the very next thing I heard, and it was (again) like nothing I had heard before. They wore Jams and acted nuts. They wrote songs about Stephen King books (this song is about The Stand) and Judge Dredd. They were the coolest thing ever. At the time, “anthrax” was some weird disease cows got, not a weapon. Their insane riffs, Charlies drumming and Joey’s melodic voice truly set them apart, and they remain one of my favorite metal bands to this day.

7. Metallica – Blackened (live) – March 11, 1989. The day that changed me forever. I was in 9th grade, and FINALLY…I was going to my first concert. Metallica Live in 1989 The show was Queensryche and Metallica at the Norfolk Scope. I had no idea really what to expect. Queensryche came out, and I was floored. I had never heard anything so loud in my life. But I was there to see Metallica. They came out (as they always do, to The Ecstasy of Gold by Ennio Morricone. the anticipation was overwhelming. They opened with the first song from their latest album, Blackened. I felt like I had been hit by a Mack truck at full speed. I have included the video for what I have just described (from Live Shit: Binge and Purge) in case you wanna see it. Still gives me a chill when I watch it, and is one of the most memorable moments of my life.

8. Testament – Disciples of the Watch – Another fixture of the Bay Area thrash scene, Testament quickly became another favorite. Testament - The New OrderAlex Skolnick was a wizard on the guitar, with a very different sound stemming from his classical and jazz influences. Chuck Billy’s voice was in your face, and there was no mistaking it. While one of their later albums (1999’s The Gathering) would become my favorite from the band, The New Order was what got me hooked. I was also given a daily reminder of Testament when I got to see them in 10th grade. Thanks to an insane moshpit, my nose got broken at that show, and I never got it set. Crooked to this day, and I still look back fondly on that show.

9. Kyuss – Green Machine – In 1992, Kyuss released Blues For the Red Sun. It had a heavy, low sound – think if Black Sabbath had come out of the California desert. Josh Homme (later of Queens of the Stone Age) played his guitar through a bass amp for extra low end. Kyuss While they would never be commrcially “successful”, their place in the timeline of the stoner rock genre was cemented, and the 4 full albums they released are treasured by many. Green Machine was the first video to come out, and I happened to catch it one night on MTV (yes, they used to play music videos). It was totally unique, and I was hooked in a heartbeat. That song led to me becoming a huge fan of the stoner rock genre, one of my favorite genres of music.

10. Johnny Cash – Folsom Prison Blues – Heavy music, to me, comes in many forms. I remember being sort of fascinated by Johnny Cash at an early age. He seemed to have a mystique about him and do haunting songs like Ghost Riders in the Sky. Johnny Cash Then he would turn around and be on tv singing songs with the Muppets. As I got older, I became more interested in not just Cash’s music, but Cash the man. He was like a crystal. Whenever you looked at it a slightly different way, you saw something different-there were many aspects to who he was and what he was about. But his music-whether it was the early rockabilly records on the Sun label, country or folk tunes from the main stretch of his career, or the beautifully haunting songs on the American albums, has always been heartfelt, moving, and authentic. While Folsom Prison Blues doesn’t seem “heavy”, I ask you, what is heavier than a man staring out from prison at the free people rolling down the train tracks?

There you have it. Hit the comments below, and tell me some of your gamechangers.

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One Response to “Top Ten – Gamechangers”

  1. GREAT LIST, JON! Thanks for posting! I dig that you listed what was true to you. We all have songs that put us on the path to where we are now, regardless of their genre. I believe it’s just what speaks to you. I, personally, remember my journey beginning with Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock N’ Roll” in 1981 when I was 11 years old. That song blew me away and I used to stand in front of the mirror with a tennis racket and “play along”. That song led me down the rabbit hole and I started researching her first band, The Runaways…a heavier, grundgier sound. It was then that my little metal heart started beating! John Mellencamp said it best when he said that great songs are songs you feel in your groin, your heart, and then your head…in that order! I couldn’t agree more!

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