Bon Jovi - Slippery When Wet
When I told my mate, Dave, I liked the Bon Jovi albums Slippery When Wet and New Jersey, he looked at me like I had just punched one of his kids in the face. ‘Bon Jovi?’ he said, his disgust filling the room. ‘You like Bon Jovi? Oh, Steve…’ The sentence faded to silence. I was left looking at Dave, his head shaking slowly.
I tried to defend myself. ‘Those albums are brilliant.’ And then, trying to turn it around, I asked, ‘Why do you hate Bon Jovi?’
Dave’s answer: ‘I find them incredibly mediocre yet people talk about them like they're very special. It’s pretend rock which attracts middle age women who don't like real rock (normally). They are the Sex and the City equivalent of a proper band and everything that is wrong with America. They remind me of Spurs or panda bears. Very overrated for no real reason.’
If I’m being brutally honest, I can’t disagree. When Jon Bon Jovi does his weird little half-jump half-dance thing it makes me cringe, a lot. To me, he doesn’t look like a rock star should look - his appearance is too polished, his smile too bright. If I’m watching him sing about pain, I don’t believe it.
And yet, no matter what all the Daves of the world say, I love Slippery When Wet. I’d not listened to it for a couple of years, but I put it on in preparation for writing this piece. I still know every word. Not just to the hits, but to every track. When I heard Social Disease, I could remember the younger me realising the he wasn’t really singing about love (spoiler - he was singing about sex).
For some reason, despite being born and raised in Manchester, England, I’m a sucker for stories from the towns of New Jersey. The kids in blue jeans and white t-shirts, drinking from a six-pack, listening to the radio on a warm summer night. The ones in the Springsteen and Gaslight Anthem songs. I’m a hopeless romantic for songs about Wendy and Maria, about Tommy and Gina, or the young couple in Never Say Goodbye who had a fight at the prom and then made up by slow dancing as the band played their favourite song. Despite Bon Jovi’s perfect teeth and polished looks, I love Slippery When Wet because it was the album that started a love affair with those types of songs, about those types of people, from those types of towns. And Dave will never change that.
Oasis - What's the Story (Morning Glory)
I can remember exactly where I was when I first heard Oasis. I was in my friend James’ bedroom, playing darts on a board that was mounted to his bedroom wall. We were listening to a tape an older kid who lived on James’ road had made for him. The tape had two albums on it: Blur’s Parklife on one side, Definitely Maybe on the other. There was a moment, which I can pinpoint to the start of Live Forever when there’s only drums playing, when I thought: ‘This is different.’ Different to me meant not pop. Not radio friendly stuff I’d heard in the car or at the business my parents owned where I spent hours listening to Key 103. It meant attitude, swagger. Rock n Roll.
That copied tape brought Oasis into my world but What’s the Story (Morning Glory) was the first album of theirs I bought. I was thirteen. I played it and played it and played it. I’d bet I listened to it every day for a year. The songs became part of my life in a way music never had before. I’d stand in my bedroom with my hands behind my back, a Poundshop Liam Gallagher, singing along terribly to Champagne Supernova, wondering how many special people did change?
Now, as I write this, I’m actually struggling to put into words what What’s the Story did for me. It changed what I liked, what I wore, what I thought was cool. Most importantly, it changed the music that I listened to. It sent me back through time to discover all the stuff that inspired Oasis (yeah, I know what you’re thinking, and they ripped off).
Oasis were the first band I ever properly loved. There are so many reasons why. Too many to list here. I do know though, that one of those reasons is all those hours, days, weeks, months, listening to this album when I’d just become a teenager. It was time well spent.
Counting Crows - August and Everything After
If you drew a Venn diagram of mine and my then girlfriend (now wife), Gemma’s music collections when we got together in July 2000, in the middle you’d put Britpop, the Beatles and some Michael Jackson. On my side would be The Stones, Dylan and Bon Jovi and all the other stuff she thought was crap. On her side there’d be the Spice Girls, Ministry of Sound albums I could never quite get on board with, plus various female singer songwriters like Lisa Loeb and Tracy Chapman. She was, and still is, the only person I know who owns Hootie and the Blowfish albums (no bad thing), a band who, for a while, I’d thought had been made up by the writers of Friends.
August and Everything After by Counting Crows was one of the albums in Gemma’s collection. It soundtracked much of our early relationship: those long, brilliant hours at her parents’ house spent talking and laughing and building the foundations of a relationship that now has children, mortgage payments and all the joys and stresses of adulthood.
I’d never heard Counting Crows before meeting her, but now, whenever I hear the intro to the opening track, Round Here, I get transported back to the first few months of our relationship. I don't know if I’d have ever got into them as a band if I’d not met her at that point in my life. I’m glad I did, not just for the album.
The Strokes - Is This It
It was love at first sight. I mean, look at them. They were just so cool. They looked like how a band should look, without it seeming forced. One of them was called Albert for fuck’s sake. You’ve got to be super cool to pull off a name like Albert. People like me look to our heroes to see the lives we wish we could live. They score goals in cup finals or play guitar to thousands. That’s why, when I first saw photos of The Strokes, I knew I’d be into them. Even before I'd heard one note of their music. They looked like a band I wished I was in.
Then I heard the album and it was confirmed. The Strokes were everything I wanted to be: cool.
Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
Alex Turner was the first writer of any kind I looked up to despite the fact he was younger than me. All my heroes in life until that point had been older than me, people to aspire to. Not anymore. I still remember where I was when I first heard the album. I was living in the first house Gemma and I rented. A few weeks earlier I’d caught the last thirty seconds of I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor after stumbling across it whilst flicking through the music channels. That brief snippet was enough to convince me. I went out and bought the album. That night Gemma had a friend round so I went upstairs and put it on. I listened to it six times in a row. Start to finish. I was amazed by it. I honestly couldn’t believe a kid in his teens could write like that.
Writing is an incredibly important part of my life and this album’s impact on the stories I want to tell is important to this day. I want everything I write to feel as real as those songs.
There’s not a weak track on it. It’s so quotable (try getting in a taxi and not saying ‘How come it’s already two pound fifty? We've only gone about a yard’), so real (‘trackie bottoms tucked in socks’), so funny (‘she dunt do major credit cards / I doubt she does receipts’).
And the tunes are class.
Noel Gallagher's High-Flying Birds - Noel Gallagher's High-Flying Birds
This came out when Gemma was pregnant with our first child and we bought it during our last, lazy, holiday before parenthood. We were staying on the south coast and actually planned in finding somewhere to buy it as part of one of our day trips because I was so desperate to hear it. Noel’s Oasis songs had been a huge part of my teens and twenties and, as we listened to this first solo record on repeat driving from town to town in Dorset, it felt like the next stage of his musical life was starting to soundtrack the next stage of our lives.
Before my son was born, I had this big thing about what the first music he ever heard would be. This album was the only real choice. At the start of that first journey home with our new baby, I set up the iPod and found this album and hit play. ‘Joel, this is Noel.’ Everybody's on the Run started and we drove home.
Recently, I was at home with Joel. His younger brother, Nate, (who was brought home from hospital listening to AM by Arctic Monkeys) was out with Gemma. Joel and I spent an hour or so building a Lego castle. I put this album on and liked the fact that it’s still around, soundtracking moments in our family life.
Bruce Springsteen - Nebraska
Where to start about the importance of Bruce?
If I could articulate what it feels like in my mind when I hear ‘A screen door slams, Mary’s dress waves…’, the opening line of Thunder Road, the first track on the Born to Run album, I’d put every word down here and you’d understand. Unfortunately, my ability to form sentences that explain that feeling of the impact of Bruce’s music on me is nowhere near his ability to write the songs that make me, and others, feel that way.
I saw him live in 2016 and he did three and a half hours in the pissing Manchester rain. My wife cried, twice. And she’s not even that big a fan. I was so caught up in watching him, in being in the same venue as Bruce fucking Springsteen, that it took me about five songs to remember the guy on stage next to him, his guitarist, Stevie Van Zandt, was Silvio Dante in The Sopranos, my favourite TV show of all time.
Bruce Springsteen has spent a career telling America’s story. The people, the issues, the crimes, the injustice, the dreams, the hopes, the failure of its systems and leaders. And he’s done so in a way that can make it radio friendly and tell those stories to millions and millions of people. It’s an incredible achievement.
Anyway, my album choice… Nebraska isn’t my favourite Springsteen album, that prize goes to Born to Run. But Nebraska makes this list of eight albums for several reasons.
Springsteen recorded it in one day during January 1982, ten days before I was born. The tracks he recorded were supposed to be the demos but the full band versions didn’t work so they released the demos as the album. When I got really into (read: became obsessed with) Springsteen a few years ago, I saw this album on his discography and had never heard of it, or anything from it. I didn’t recognise one song name. When I heard it for the first time it was like uncovering a long-kept secret.
The songs are so raw, so stripped back. Mostly they are just Springsteen and his guitar, and they felt a million miles away from the Bruce I listened to: the size and sing-along-ability of Thunder Road, Born to Run or Born in the USA.
For me, knowing more about Springsteen’s career and intentions to document American life through his work, I think the stories of those lives and that world that he writes about are best captured and presented here. The minimal number of instruments makes the people in the songs the focus, leaving you to go with them through their journeys. It’s a very dark album, with a sadness that runs through the songs and their characters. Discovering it led me to hear a different side of Bruce’s writing. One I had no idea about but I’m glad I discovered.
Brian Fallon - Local Honey
Do you ever get the fear when a band or artist you love releases something new that it will be utter shite? You put on the first track of the new record thinking: ‘Please don’t let me down.’
I do. There’s almost a relief when the first few tracks aren’t crap. Sometimes a band I love will release something and I think ‘It’s OK but I’ll probably not listen to this as much as the early stuff’. I won’t name names but everyone has their own equivalent. Fortunately, this was not the case with Local Honey.
Local Honey is the third album by Brian Fallon, the former frontman of The Gaslight Anthem. Again, he’s from New Jersey. I love everything Fallon has ever done. His band, his side project The Horrible Crowes, and his solo stuff. He writes songs that feel so personal to me, it’s like he has written them for me.
From the moment I put it on, I knew it was an album that was going to live with me for years. It’s rare in these busy, modern times to sit with headphones on and just listen to an album, but Local Honey made me do just that. It’s a quiet, almost understated record, and it’s lyrically beautiful. There’s one line: ‘Part of me stays in the room where we met’ which instantly transports me back to the night, twenty year ago, when I met Gemma for the first time. As I said, it sometimes feels like he’s writing the songs for me.
It also feels right to select an album that was released in 2020 for this list of eight, as it was the year Matt and I started Eight Albums. It’s good to know that there’s still music being made that can change us, make us feel things, create and stir memories and soundtrack moments. That simply, there are albums still being made, that will mean something to us forever.
Steven Kedie is the co-founder of Eight Albums. He lives in Manchester with his wife, Gemma, and their two sons. His spare time is spent writing, running and trying to complete Netflix.
His novel, Running and Jumping, about an Olympic rivalry, is due to be released later this year.
Steven has set himself the challenge of listening to 365 different albums in 2021. He can be found banging on about this on Twitter (@stevenkedie).