1 – Bon Jovi, Slippery When Wet: I’m loving this album at any time. Although I pride myself on being a fan of the New Jersey lads before Slippery (there was the self-titled debut album, followed by the perplexing 7800 Farenheit), they set the benchmark with their breakthrough album and, ever so sadly, have not quite managed to exceed it since (although New Jersey and Bounce came close). It’s not just that three of their most well-known singles have emanated from this album, it’s the feel, all the way through, that they KNEW they were going to nail the charts with this one. That they had got it right, and you can hear in every track the raw energy and anticipation, like a racehorse in the starting gate that knows it’s going to blast the field. OK, it’s a sloppy metaphor but to me Slippery embodied much of who Bon Jovi were and who they would become. And not every band has an anthem, yet Wanted Dead or Alive has not only endured but has transcended taste and opinion.
2 – Bruce Springsteen, The Rising: I fell in love with the Boss when I was 10; Born In The USA was actually the first album I ever purchased. And I did think about including it here, but in the end Springsteen’s post-9/11 album had more of an impact on me. By turns poignant and aggressive, Springsteen juxtaposes the traditional sound of the E Street Band with the melancholic vocals of Middle Eastern Qawwali singers. Worlds Apart is his testament to the rift between East and West, while the eponymous track offers hope for the future. Having waited for 20 years to see the Boss live, The Rising Tour finally brought him and the E Street Band to Auckland, where I had never been happier to squelch in the orange goo of Western Springs. And as trite as it may sound, the opening lines of The Rising – “can’t see nothing in front of me, can’t see nothing coming up behind” – never fail to make me tingle. Everyone loves music that can do that.
3 – Queen, A Night At The Opera: Most people think that Queen fans love this album because it includes their most well-known anthem (and in a repertoire that includes We Are The Champions and We Will Rock You that’s saying something), Bohemian Rhapsody, but most people are wrong about Queen fans in that respect. Yes, it’s a magnificent epic, but it’s also over-exposed. What I love about A Night At The Opera are the less well-known tracks, particularly Brian May’s ’39, the meaning of which I struggled enjoyably with for years. I also enjoy the fact that Roger Taylor and John Deacon make their mark; Deacon’s trilling You’re My Best Friend would become one of the ultimate feel-good songs of the century, while Taylor unleashed his raunchy yet diverse vocals on I’m In Love With My Car. Interestingly, A Night At The Opera does not, in fact, contain any of my all-time favourite Queen tracks, but it’s one that I consistently enjoy from single to single, without the need to skip any. Which, I think, is quite rare.
4 – Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here: When my future husband and I first met at the age of 17, he introduced me to this album. Until then, I’d been in a rock chick bubble, having really only paid attention to Pink Floyd when The Wall took off. At first I thought it was weird how the tracks all seemed to melt into each other, and I’d never listened to an album where songs came in “parts” – like a mini-series, Shine On You Crazy Diamond unfolds in episodes. Despite the fact that there are only four songs on this album, the listening is like a dark sort of musical. You get on a train at the start and you have to stay on the journey until the end. Some might say it’s not ideal for long car trips, but in fact I’ve covered many solitary miles with this album for company. Despite the dark nature of it, I have always found it strangely soothing.
5 – Peter Gabriel, So: I know that a lot of die-hard Gabriel fans see this album as his desperate clawing into the mainstream, but I thought it was actually refreshingly honest. And I’ll admit it – as someone who grew up in the 80s, In Your Eyes is always going to be a lip trembler for me, no matter how tacky the scene from the movie. I especially enjoy the African influences in this track. And although I remember one critic as saying that Sledgehammer “bludgeoned” the album (isn’t that clever?), I like how it plays against the delicacy of his duet with Kate Bush in Don’t Give Up (although the video makes my toes curl). I prefer this version of Excellent Birds with Laurie Anderson as opposed to Anderson’s version of it, and Red Rain to me has all the depth and drama of an epic mini-series. It doesn’t include my favourite Gabriel song, Solsbury Hill (another song whose meaning I grappled with for ages; so gratifying to finally work it out), but like Queen’s A Night At The Opera it’s one that I always listen to right through, and I think it has something for almost every mood.