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5 that changed my life: 2 Albums, 2 Books and a Film by Dave Wahlman

When the opportunity to write this came up, I didn’t have to think hard about it at all. Some things are easy to trace back because of how early in my life they appeared and how many times I’ve gone back to them over the years. When I look at it, all five of my picks showed up over a 6-7 year period, from when I was about 13 until I was 20. I’m 30 now and this stuff either made me or helped ruin me for mass consumption.

When I was around 13, I was truly discovering rock and roll. I hung out with this kid who lived down the street. We would listen to bands like Nirvana, Hole, and Soundgarden on the stereo in his basement. His dad had a box of cassettes, all kinds of shit from Alice Cooper to The Guess Who. One tape in particular made me feel what a 13 year old boy needs to feel from rock and roll, when I was at the perfect age to receive it: It was LET IT BLEED by The Rolling Stones. It was 1995 or 1996, yet I was clearly destined to be an old school throwback even then. From the minute those opening notes float out and the guitar and then two drum hits, and that evil groove of “Gimme Shelter” erupts… oh my god. Songs like “Monkey Man” and “Midnight Rambler” and the title track itself… over the years I have studied that album. I have this vision of sitting in a big black Caddy outside a pool hall in the Combat Zone of Boston in 1969, and cranking that album before mayhem ensues. Fuck the Beatles; it’s all about the Stones. My friend would get pissed because he would want to listen to The Offspring and I wanted to hear the climax of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Now, you tell me which of those bands has albums that have stood the test of time as well as Let It Bleed has?

Who here didn’t rip off Colombia House records back in the day? I sure as hell did. I believe I was a junior in high school when I embarked on a campaign to take them for all I could. Now, if you asked me about the albums I got into from thanks to this venture, all of them would escape me except for one: RAW POWER by Iggy and the Stooges. I can remember seeing a picture of the album cover in the Colombia House catalogue. Iggy covered in gold paint and glitter, leaning on the mic stand like a lizard. Holy shit, I had no idea what it sounded like but I needed it. The box showed up on a rainy Saturday and I distinctly remember putting the CD on and being blown the fuck away. The opening track “Search and Destroy” came roaring out of the speakers and right then I knew things had changed. I was a junior in high school at this time and was taking a music appreciation class where we were able to bring in albums to play for the class. I remember bringing Raw Power in and although I can’t remember what song off the album I played, I have a crystal clear memory of the class’s reaction. It was pure shock, horror and disgust. Nobody got it. It flew right over all of their heads. At first I was pissed but then I realized I had something nobody else did – during the dark days of high school that is worth its weight in gold.

Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover. It was a black and white image of a LAPD squad car door riddled with bullet holes. Each hole was circled in marker with a different caliber written next to it, depending on the size of the hole. The book was WHITE JAZZ by James Ellroy. I was 19 and working at this indie record store. That book was sandpaper on my brain. The language of it was rock and roll to me, which is funny because Ellroy hates rock and roll. He is a classical music freak. The man is a freak all the way around. I’ve seen him do spoken word twice. Once for Cold Six Thousand, then for Blood’s A Rover. Seeing Ellroy read is on the same level as seeing Iggy Pop live for me. I picked up AMERICAN TABLOID next. That book turned me on in a big way. Kemper Boyd and Pete Bondurant are two of the greatest characters I’ve ever read. The sheer visceral effect those two books had on me is immeasureable. I’ve read each of these books hundreds of times. I’ve owned god knows how many copies of each. The only other writer who has had as much impact on me as Ellroy is Joe Lansdale.

NARC came out in 2002. It’s the first film by Joe Carnahan, starring Ray Liotta and Jason Patric. It’s about two Detroit narcs who are fucked up from the job, who get a case that’s a shot at redemption. It’s filmed in a gritty washed out 70s style. The opening sequence crucified me. To this day I think it’s one of the most brilliant sequences ever filmed: Plainclothes cop Jason Patric chases a needle-brandishing junky through the projects. I came out of that movie unsettled. The bleakness of it hits me every time. Fun fact, Joe Carnahan held the rights to film White Jazz by James Ellroy with George Clooney as the lead. He said in an interview that he wanted to shoot it in a 50s-era cops style, which would have been perfect. I’ve showed Narc to a few people over the years. Like everything else I truly love, most people don’t get it. The brutality turns them off. I think its art. Sometimes you need a film to get in your face. Narc does that for me. I feel lucky I got to see it on the big screen

That’s my five.