Quantifying the Unquantifiable… Or, in less twatty terms, ranking my early influences according to a different set of criteria.
I promise, that at some point, these posts will be less like playoff wins by Kansas City sports teams: incredible to experience but so few and far between. I intend to make this more like a Volvo, perhaps not quite as flashy each go round, but if you live long enough you can watch the odometer swing back to zeroes… Well, maybe that didn’t quite fit but you get the gist. Then again, given that my Packers (yes, I am an owner so I can call them “my” Packers without having to cut this short to head to my head-shrinking appointment to talk about my stalking and possessive behavior) play the Washington Injuns (insert equally offensive, racist name here) tomorrow, I may be in an entirely different mindstate for the next month or so and, therefore, unable to write through the pain of admitting Kirk Cousins somehow defeated Aaron Rodgers in a playoff game. It’s bad enough that, in some sick twist of fate, Kirk is actually favored to win. I know a certain #12 does not like that, Mr. Cousins. Mr. Rodgers is most certainly a lot more pissed off about this than I am, and I already ripped a sink out of the wall or started a one man riot and flipped a car (a smart car, but still, it counts) or whatever other Hollywood-type display you prefer for outwardly showing anger. Enough rambling, onto the good stuff! (editors note: The Packers won, of course, so hopefully everyone who was dumb enough to bet on Kirk Cousins, yes Kirk Cousins, in a playoff game against Aaron Rodgers is on permanent time-out)
Last evening, I was enjoying the warm glow that subtly and gently washes over one who has enjoyed a fine glass of bourbon or two, when, as is often the case, I started to think back on my younger days and how I came to be where/who/what I am today. The obvious place to start, the place where one of those runway people who direct the planes with the big glowsticks would point to, is music. I was sifting through my mind-grapes, and I began to look at the term “Musical Influences” in a different way. Now, normally I would pass over the thought of the question and just give my normal Springsteen, Petty, William Joel, Dylan, etc. but on this night, and perhaps due to the warmness of the glow I was enjoying, I started digging much deeper than that. Yes, those musical giants are, without a doubt, the ones who shaped much of the way that I perceive, ingest and “outgest”(neither my brain, perhaps as a result of last nights “glow,” nor Merriam-Webster can provide an antonym for “ingest” which seems really fucking weird to me. As a result, I’m sticking with “outgest”) music. But, when thinking in terms of a more measureable impact, I’m drawn to an entirely separate group of bands and albums that 16 and 17 year old Brad Wik(as he was known back then) used to forge the steel frame of what would eventually become to be known, and lovingly referred to, as My Life.
There were no specific criteria to compose the forthcoming list, but I was trying to apply an overarching cause and effect-type theory to achieve the, sort of scientific but not really scientific at all, results. For example, 16 year old Brad Wik loved Stevie Ray Vaughan a lot, and I mean a lot, but the very first band I ever played in played no SRV, was not a blues band by any means and therefore, SRV had little to no tangible effect on my life thereafter. However, our band did play “Corduroy” by Pearl Jam, thus making Pearl Jam much more “influential” in regards to this exercise. SRV was one of my main motivations for picking up the guitar, but had I not participated in my high-school era band, I likely wouldn’t have pursued the insane notion of music as a career (which, in retrospect, was probably a terrible decision, but somehow even 28 year old Bradley still believes fully he can become successful as a musician; however flawed his thinking may be). That being said, my high-school era band (“Third Production” I believe it was called) carries the most weight for this, and subsequently, I believe, for my life. I guess that makes Jake my equivalent of the escape pod with R2D2 and C3PO inside that begets Star Wars. I owe him a very large “thank you” which I will never fully be able to express with words alone…
Without further ado, here are the results (in no particular order, though I’ve numbered them for some ridiculous reason):
- Modest Mouse – The Lonesome Crowded West
After all the years I spent listening to Springsteen, Dylan, Neil Young, William Joel and Meatloaf (why not?), I would have never fathomed that a record like this would change my life. “Trailer Trash” straight up blew my mind. I had never heard anything like that before and was wholly unprepared for what that song would do to me. It became a staple in band rehearsals after libations had flowed…
- Radiohead – OK Computer
I can’t imagine anyone growing up in the same general era as me wouldn’t have this on a top five list. Then again, there are a lot of things that I can’t imagine. Like how many times Jake would play this on his acoustic guitar and we would drunkenly sing/yell-a-long to this, full of the spirit of youth; and Fleischmann’s…
- Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Weld (Live)
At first glance, this might seem like the outlier on this list. I know, it wasn’t supposed to inlcude the “pillar” type artists but I’ll never forget playing “Fuckin Up” at our first ever, and acoustic, by the way, show and badly “fuckin up” one of the changes, to which, Jake replied “Well, I guess that’s why they call it that.”
- Pearl Jam – (any of their Live Bootlegs but mostly the 11/6/2000 Seattle show and the 10/22/2000 Las Vegas show)
I can’t underestimate the importance of Pearl Jam to 16 and 17 year old Brad Wik. I almost left off Neil Young because the two songs we covered were also songs Pearl Jam covered: “Fuckin Up” and “Rockin’ in the Free World.” After finding out that Vedder, like most of us, was also a huge fan of The Who and Neil Young, my classic rock and alternative rock worlds aligned; and I was subsequently blinded by the eclipse, never to recover…
- R.E.M. – Automatic for the People
Not only does this album contain my favorite R.E.M. song, “Nightswimming,” but is, in my opinion, their strongest front to back offering. Coming off of Out of Time, they somehow took their game to another level. Also, amazingly, I’ve since had the pleasure of working with the one and only Mr. Ed Brooks (who mixed this incredible album). He mastered both “Burn What You Can, Bury the Rest…” and my new album, yet to be released. He is such an amazing person with some fantastic stories. Sidenote: I am, once again, listening to “Nightswimming” and crying gently. There are only maybe a dozen songs that can do that to me: “Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley, “Fade Into You” by Mazzy Star, “Bold as Love” by Jimi, “The Trapeze Swinger” by Iron & Wine, “Gold Miner” by the Fraidies, “At a Medium Pace” by Adam Sandler come to mind, though that last one is for different reasons…
- Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
There are so many things in this record that shaped my vision of what could be possible in music. This record was noisy and chaotic, sweet and simple, rockin’ and reckless, tight and dry(taking this one off, someone else make an inappropriate joke for once); it was so many different things that I never imagined could coexist. The vision Jake and I worked towards was heavily filtered through this album.
- Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
Every motherfucking song from “Hello” to “Champagne Supernova” is certifiably a goddamn hit. Everything about this album is so fucking cool. The Gallagher’s had swagger for days, and a uni-brow bigger than mine, no easy feat. Of course, we also covered “Wonderwall” coming up (who hasn’t? The easiest way to get chicks to notice our band was to play a song they actually liked and knew. Unsurprisingly, no chick ever complimented me for knowing all the words to “Visions of Johanna”or “Desolation Row”) and every band I’ve played in since has covered at least one song by Oasis, and it’s usually from this album.
So, there you go, fuckers…