The Albums that Shaped my Grade School Self

In some way or another, these collections of music were the staples of my youth. The way Emmitt Smith was to my love of sports. The way Pete and Pete were to my love of television. The way remote control cars were to my love of toys. The way those little plastic jugs of juice were to my love of pure sugar. So, In my typical elementary school fashion, I’ll stop wrting now before I bring up G.I. Joes.


I have a bit of a sentimental attachment to Tupthumber, because it was the first album I ever owned–on cassette no less. I cannot tell you one other song on it other than “Tubthumping” and “Amnesia”, and I only knew “Amnesia” because it was the song that succeeded “Tupthumping.” What I’m getting at here, is that I really loved that song, loved it so much that my Dad came home from work one day and gave me Tubthumper and my sister Spice World. I knew more songs off of Spice World, and still do, but will forever be indebted to Chumbawamba and that song that reminded me  of the best times.

Sum 41–All Killer No Filler

Sum 41’s All Killer No Filler was the first album that opened me up to the notion of youth revolution. But I was too scared and uniformed to take such a charge against my elementary surroundings. And plus, I was too busy playing with my Teck Decks. This debut release from the Canadian foursome was gold to me and my buddies. However, now, like most trends of my youth, it kind of makes me cower. Sum 41, I think, is still making music that sounds remotely close to this. But I don’t even want to know for sure. I’ll just stick with knowing All Killer No Filler, that “Fat Lip” intro, and my Teck Decks.

Will Smith–Big Willie Style

Some one get me Will Smith’s Q Rating during the mid to late 90s. Did any celebrity come close to his popularity once “Gettin’ Jiggy wit it” hit the radio waves? Big Willie Style was to elementary schools what Life After Death was to high school kids. Moms didn’t even have to worry about their son listening to rap, because Will Smith didn’t need to curse to convey his message. And, of course, his overriding message: He really enjoyed Miami.

So thanks, Will Smith, for allowing my mom to let me play your jams loudly on my cd/cassette player. And thanks for the greatest line in the history of linguistics: You got a…Prada…bag with a lot a…stuff in it.

Matchbox 20–Yourself or Someone Like You

I always felt like Matchbox 20 was indie rock to grade schoolers before I knew what indie rock was. And that in retrospect, Rob Thomas was kind of an underdog back then. He wrote a song called “3 a.m.” that everyone (myself included) sang together so joyously, yet it was about him as a child and being closed off to his mother’s battle with cancer. Matchbox 20 has released three albums since this debut, and all have been moderately successful. But their peak was surely their beginning, when I was young and wish I knew what the hell Rob Thomas was singing about.

Catch 22–Keasbey Nights

Just recently, fellow List Off writer, Jim,  uttered the most accurate statement I’ve ever heard him say: “If you’re from New Jersey, at one time you loved ska.” It was right on the fringe of graduating elementary school and proceeding to high school when I first heard Keasbey Nights and witnessed the Garden State explosion of this super-rhythmic pop punk sound, but with horns! Oh, those horns. My infatuation for ska lasted until I was able to grow hair on my face (senior year of high school, yikes), but my fondness for Catch 22 and Keasbey Nights will probably never leave me.


It wasn’t until “U Got It Bad” came out that I realized I had an R&B bone in my body. It’s lyrical content was plenty ahead of my years (slow songs at school dances meant I wanted chips), but I knew I enjoyed the vibe of it, and songs like “U Remind Me” and “U Don’t Have to Call.” Oh, and If you’re noticing a trend to these song names, well here is some 8701 trivia: The letter “U” is used as a substitute for the word “you” eight times on the track list.

Blink 182Enema of the State

Unlike All Killer No Filler, when I put on Blink 182’s Enema of the State, I don’t cringe in the slightest. I can pinpoint a moment, an image from my life to every song on this album. This collection of songs by Mark, Tom, and Travis are extraordinary to the other pieces on this list, because my own evocations aren’t solely from my youth, but to my adolescence and now into adulthood. Do I get a little chuckle  when I play “What’s My Age Again?” and “Dysentery Gary”? Sure. But only because I still love them like a sixth grader.


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One Comment on “The Albums that Shaped my Grade School Self”

  1. Liz Connolly
    03.16.12 at 8:31 PM #

    I remember when Dad brought those tapes home. I’m pretty sure you did a couple laps around the house screaming like a banshee. Also, whenever I think of most of these albums, I think of hearing their muffled sounds through your bedroom door.

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