The 10 Albums That Changed My Life: Elliot Easton

Guitarist Elliot Easton was a big factor in The Cars' successful sound. Here are the 10 albums that influenced his guitar style.
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Photo of Elliot Easton by Scott Templeton.

Photo of Elliot Easton by Scott Templeton.

Elliot Easton’s outstanding guitar work on songs such as “Just What I Needed,” “My Best Friend’s Girl,” “Moving in Stereo,” “Candy-O,” “Let’s Go,” “Shake it Up” and “Hello Again” was a big factor in making The Cars one of the most successful bands of the late 1970s and 1980s.

Easton joined The Cars in 1976 and recorded six albums with the band until it disbanded in 1988. He participated in the 2010-11 reunion of The Cars that resulted in another album, 2011’s Move Like This. The Cars were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.

Easton released a solo album, Change No Change, in 1985. He was a member of the bands Creedence Clearwater Revisited, The New Cars and Elliot Easton’s Tiki Gods, and is currently the lead guitarist with The Empty Hearts.

The new album from The Empty Hearts, titled The Second Album, was released in August on Wicked Cool Records.

—John Curley

 

MeetTheBeatles

The Beatles, Meet The Beatles
This one is a no-brainer. If you were a kid in 1964 you know that, combined with the Ed Sullivan appearance on 2/9/64, this was the moment in The Wizard of Oz when the world went from B&W to Technicolor. The '60s had officially begun.

 

Revolver

The Beatles, Revolver
Possibly the greatest pop album ever made. George Harrison said that he always felt that Rubber Soul and Revolver seemed to him almost like parts 1 & 2. However, here in the US, the Capitol version of Rubber Soul felt like more of a mellow folk-rock record because most of the psychedelia was absent! I never tire of Revolver.

 

BigPink

The Band, Music From Big Pink
This and John Wesley Harding were a kind of antidote to the psychedelic hangover of '67. Hugely influential, one can site Clapton’s conversion from heavy blues-rock to playing with Delaney and Bonnie, The Beatles’ “Get Back “ (to the roots, as this album’s influence was so pervasive), CCR, Fairport Convention, Elton’s Tumbleweed Connection, maybe Beggar's Banquet in some sense, and so many others illustrate the influence that this record had.

 

King Curtis, Everybody’s Talkin

King Curtis, Everybody’s Talkin’
I learned so much about groove, playing ‘in the pocket,’ taste and restraint, listening to Cornell Dupree’s work with King. There’s usually a bit of Cornell in anything I play. Plus King Curtis’ phrasing and choices were impeccable. Just listen to Duane Allman in the unaccompanied section of “You Don't Love Me” from At Fillmore East. That’s King Curtis.

 

Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper and Stephen Stills, Super Session

Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper and Stephen Stills, Super Session
Bloomfield was my man. I don’t think I've heard anyone play a slow Chicago Blues better. He went in on a cellular level; it’s almost too big to verbalize adequately. People forget, but there was a time when he was guitar hero, on a level with Clapton, who loved him (actually a mutual admiration society). He also showed me that a chubby Jewish guitar hotshot from the suburbs had a shot at being cool.

 

Sweetheart of the Rodeo

The Byrds, Sweetheart of the Rodeo
I loved country music already; my dad played Marty Robbins all the time. But this brought country into a much hipper zone for a kid, than songs about rednecks, white socks and Blue Ribbon beer. From here, I dived headlong into Bakersfield and that style of ‘chicken picking’ on a Fender Telecaster.

 

Taj Mahal, Giant Step

Taj Mahal, Giant Step
I learned SO much playing along to this in high school. Jesse Ed Davis is another huge hero for me, and when I play the record now, I hear just how much my playing was influenced by Jesse Ed’s work here and on The Natch'l Blues.

 

Roy Buchanan, Second Album

Roy Buchanan, Second Album
Another record encoded in my DNA. Roy did things with a Telecaster that had never been heard before, but once they heard him, you started hearing those things, like the pinched harmonics, pedal steel licks etc. all the time.

 

Paul Butterfield’s Better Days, Better Days

Paul Butterfield’s Better Days, Better Days
Amos Garrett. Profoundly influential for me. The two-string bends to resolve a tritone, his Frankie Trambauer trombone lines, bending up to a fourth. A lot of what people may find interesting about my playing was learned from Amos, both on this one and on Ian and Sylvia’s Great Speckled Bird.

 

Beggars Banquet

The Rolling Stones, Beggars Banquet
My favorite Stones album. The Jimmy Miller period was their creative highpoint, and on this one, the way the acoustic guitars rock as ferociously as a Les Paul through a Marshall. Between this one, Let It Bleed and Ya Ya’s, the Stones at their creative peak.

BONUS PICKS:
Moby Grape, Moby Grape
One of the greatest debut albums in rock history. Every song is brilliant, and if you listen to my solo in The Cars’ “Shake It Up,” you’ll hear Jerry Miller’s lick on the fadeout of “Hey Grandma.”

The Grateful Dead, Live Dead
You either get it or you don’t. The Dead are like Facebook—no one has ever changed anyone’s opinion on any subject by ranting. You had to be there.

Delaney & Bonnie, The Original Delaney & Bonnie: Accept No Substitute
Another masterpiece. In my opinion finest fusion of rock, soul and GOSPEL ever recorded. It’s an aberration that they weren't huge.

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