By Lee Zimmerman
Throughout his career, Dave Pirner (above, second from left, with Soul Asylum in 2013) has consistently shown his musical adaptability. Prior to establishing himself as a swaggering frontman known for emotive vocals and low-slung guitar, he taught himself drums and anchored the aptly-titled band Loud Fast Rules with future bandmates Karl Mueller and Dan Murphy. After Pirner switched to guitar and vocals, the trio changed its name to Soul Asylum and became a rising star on Minneapolis’ seminal punk scene. Another change in direction followed when the band’s melodic instincts took over, bringing commercial success with the agitated yet accessible sound of songs like “Runaway Train,” Black Gold” and “Misery.” Although the group had become the poster boys for MTV, Pirner grew restless and eventually struck out on his own with the 2002 solo album “Faces & Names” and contributions to the films “Clerks” and “Backbeat.” Asked to list the 10 albums that changed his life, Pirner gave us this Top 10 list — with the disclaimer that his Top 10 is really a Top 11, as his No. 1 album is always changing. Since you can’t nail Jell-o to a tree (or an abstraction, either, for that matter), here are the 10 albums he did list.
Miles Davis, Kind of Blue: I was raised a trumpet player and spent a lot of time listening to Maynard Ferguson, but then I discovered Miles, and he showed me the way. It’s just beautiful music.
Stevie Wonder, Songs In The Key of Life: Coming up, I was a big vinyl collector. I started collecting at 8 or 9 years old. When I got this album, it showed me something that I didn’t know about yet, because I was just a dumb white boy from Minneapolis. This album opened my eyes. I think it’s one of the most impressive musical works of the 20th century.
The Velvet Underground, Loaded: In my opinion, this band was one of the most pivotal American rock bands that ever existed … straightforward and powerful.
Various artists, Big Hits of Mid-America, Vol. 3: This is an album that I got when I was still in high school. It made me realize that you don’t have to be from Los Angeles or New York City to be a working musician. It’s a great compilation of Minneapolis bands.
The Rolling Stones, Sticky Fingers: If you were to ask me tomorrow, I might pick a different Rolling Stones album, but if I’m picking my Top 10, there has to be a Rolling Stones album in there, and this is just an amazing record.
The Stooges, The Stooges: When this record came out, it changed the rock ‘n’ roll paradigm. Bands like the Stooges and MC5 set a new standard, and I think people are still trying to figure out why.
New York Dolls, New York Dolls: They were fearless, full of energy and rock ’n’ roll madness in all the right ways. Set aside the lipstick, eye shadow and platform boots, and they just rocked out without a bunch of bullsh*t.
The Beatles, The White Album: Number 9, Number 9, Number 9, Number 9, Number 9…
Meat Puppets, Up On The Sun: This is one of my favorite bands. I love the Meat Puppets, and I feel like we’re kindred spirits. We’re all friends, and like most musicians, we’ve traveled a lot of roads and we’ve shared highs and lows. I should probably pick their newest album, but f**k me for being sentimental.
Bob Dylan, Blood On The Tracks: Of all the Dylan albums, this is the album that speaks to me the most. If you want to write plays, you should probably know who Shakespeare is, and, if you want to write songs, you should probably spend a little time listening to Bob Dylan.