Alice Bag: 5 Vinyl Albums That Changed My Life
In celebration of Record Store Day 2018, TIDAL enlisted a group of artists to tell us about some records, the vinyl kind, that changed their lives. Legendary punk musician Alice Bag breaks down her picks below.
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Freda Payne, Band of Gold
When I was in elementary school, Freda Payne came out with Band of Gold. It’s the first album I ever bought. I saved up my allowance money, and bought it at K-Mart. So, when I first heard ‘Band of Gold,’ I had no idea what the song was about. I could hear the disappointment in Freda’s voice, but it was the catchy base part, you know? The, ‘bom, bom, bom, bom, bom.’ It was reinforced by horns, and that’s the part that really hooked me. Refused to let me go.
So, the song is about a failed honeymoon, but in the middle of the song, there’s a hook, there’s a breakdown where Freda sounds like… longing and sassy as she beckons her lover to return, and try again. To love me like you tried before. So that was my first album. I had to actually work to save for it, so it was meaningful.
David Bowie, Hunky Dory
When I started middle school, I really got into rock. A friend of mine introduced me to David Bowie. And there are so many great David Bowie albums, but I chose Hunky Dory as my favorite album. And the reason I chose that is because there’s a song on it called ‘Life on Mars’ that I really related to.
I was like 12 or 13 around the time that I heard this song, and it felt like there was a lot of turmoil going on in the girl’s life, the girl in the song. And there was also a lot of turmoil going on in my house. So, sometimes, I felt like I wished I could run away. But I really only had the ability to run away in my mind, not physically. I’d go into my bedroom and put on my headphones and just kind of escape with Bowie to this far away place. And I guess it might as well have been Mars.
There are other great songs on that same album, like ‘Changes’ and ‘Oh! You Pretty Things,’ but now that I’m older, the song, ‘Kooks’… it’s sort of love song to a child. From a parent to a child. I can relate to it now, because I’ve been a parent. And I can say that there are times when you feel like, ‘I’m not a normal parent, but I’m gonna do my best to try and understand that you’re probably not gonna be a normal kid. And we’re gonna help each other out.’
Elton John, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
The third record I chose was Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Around the same time that I got into David Bowie, I fell in love with Elton John. Around that age, I was trying to make sense of my sexuality. And ‘All the Young Girls Love Alice’ was a song that I listened to a lot. And the song, actually, is not very kind to Alice. But the song set off all these lesbian fantasies for me.
But at the same time, I had this mad crush on Elton, himself. I mean, that was a time when people didn’t really talk about sexuality as openly as we do now. So, I didn’t realize that someone could be bisexual. So, I didn’t understand why it was so thrilling to be listening to this song about Alice, like, having sex with other girls. And at the same time I was having a serious crush on Elton John.
It actually took David Bowie to help me understand bisexuality, because I read an interview with him, where he talked about it. And even now, it’s so weird because as I get older, even talking about bisexuality, it seems like a dated word, you know? As we move away from talking about things in binaries, and making our sexuality having to be one thing or another, we should be open enough to just talk about ourselves as sexual beings. Sexual beings.
Bessie Smith, The World’s Greatest Blues Singer
My introduction to Bessie Smith was much earlier. I think I was in elementary school. Or maybe a young teen. I went to see Lady Sings the Blues with my family; my sister was a big soul fan. And we all loved this movie, so we went to see it, mostly because Diana Ross was playing Billie Holiday.
I heard the song, ‘’Tain’t Nobody’s Biznass If I Do,’ and I loved it. I connected with it. I just felt like, ‘Oh, yes.’ It’s snappy and there’s vulnerability and sassiness to it at the same time. I just fell in love with Bessie Smith, and I had to go out and look for her record. Now, I can’t even imagine my life without Bessie, because all her songs are so good.
I really like the naughty songs like, ‘Need a Little Sugar in my Bowl,’ and ‘Do Your Duty,’ and ‘If You Don’t, I Know Who Will.’ I just feel like Bessie Smith was probably someone that I would’ve really liked hanging out with. So, I love this album.
Eydie Gormé y Los Panchos, Amor
There are lots of good songs on this one. ['Reloj'] is about the separation of two lovers. And the singer is singing to the clock. The person is asking the clock to stop ticking, because with each second that passes, the longer separation grows nearer. I remember listening to this when my husband and I had to be separated for a long time.
Over the years, we’ve had to live in different cities, so we’ve been separated for extended periods of time. So, this song is always really close to my heart, because I feel like it’s exactly how I feel.
Another song that I really like on that same album is called ‘Piel Canela,’ which means cinnamon skin. And, again, I think of my husband, because he has dark skin the color of cinnamon. And I think of the scent, and the feel of it. The sweet taste of it. It’s sexual and beautiful, the way that the singer describes the love of the skin color. And also, it’s just really empowering, because when you grow up with beauty standards that value fair skin, or snow white skin… It’s very powerful to me, as a lover of brown skin, to hear this song say it so poetically.
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