I started a new school in the 5th grade. Not the best time of my life. Looking to fit in and stand out, I became obsessed with music. That was 1979. I'm still obsessed. Not all of these albums came out in that school year, but it's when I discovered them.
  1. Blondie, "Parallel Lines"
    "Parallel Lines" was the first album I bought with my own money. I first heard "Heart of Glass" on Kasey Kasim's American Top 40; I loved it immediately. Sounded disco but also rock, featured some excellent high-hat work, and contained the word "ass"--an important detail to a 10 year. It also seeded my completist personality, and I soon bought "Blondie" and "Plastic Letters," neither of which were that good. Debbie Harry became my first celebrity crush, even though she was 33 st the time.
  2. The Cars, "The Cars"
    "The Cars" was my sister's album, and I was I was drawn in by the woman on the cover biting a clear steering wheel. But the songs--sweet Jebus, it's a great album. The songs are quirky but accessible and crisply produced. And what other rock band gave vocabulary lessons? Rhapsody, illustrious, psyllium--I needed a dictionary just to understand the lyrics.
  3. AC/DC, "Let There Be Rock"
    When pressed to name their favorite Bon Scott–era AC/DC album,* most say High Voltage or Highway to Hell. For my money, it's Let There Be Rock. It has the title song and Whole Lotta Rosie AND the album opener is about how great Bon's lady is at giving head. Every song on this album kicks ass, and there are no bagpipes to be found. *No one ever asks what your favorite Brian Johnson–era AC/DC album is because it's Back in Black.
  4. Devo, "Freedom of Choice"
    Don't ask me how Devo slipped into my life. I guess it was the video for "Whip It," back when MTV threw everything on the wall just to see what stuck. Devo was weird: red flower pots on their heads, like 6 guys playing keyboards, electronic drums--a fair distance from my usual musical diet of LED Zeppelin. But Devo proves that good songs are good songs, regardless of headgear.
  5. Billy Joel, "Glass Houses"
    This is the only Billy Joel album I've ever owned. It's just a great rock record. It's wonderfully sequenced and sports great production, and for some reason "You May Be Right" poked at the wannabe rebel in me.