The Record That Changed My Life

Ask any musician when he knew that he wanted to play an instrument, and most likely he'll tell you about a song or album that stirred something inside him for the first time. The epiphanic experience is so universal that musicians of every genre, age group and nationality can rightfully claim it as the moment at which their lives were forever changed - the instant at which music set them on a path to spiritual awakening, financial gain, megstardom or existential ruin. In that respect, the record that change a musician's life can tell you a lot about not only the artist's music but also the choices he's made for his life and career.

With that in mind, Guitar World asked some of your favorite guitaris to name the record that change their life. Their responses were diverse and, in many instances, surprising. You're certain to find several albums among their selection that have made a difference in your life. But hopefully, you'll also discover something new that will send you racing to your nearest record store and, perhaps, down your own path to sonic salvation.

Ray Toro (My Chemical Romance):
Ozzy Osbourne - Blizzard of Oz (1980)
My brother introduced me to Ozzy's music when I was 14, and right away Randy Rhoads became my biggest influence. I loved the fact that he wrote such incredibly heavy stuff as well as 'Dee' - a short classical piece for his mother - and 'Goodbye to Romance,' which is so different from any other song on the record. It just shows his remarkable range. After I heard that record, I was inspire by his mix of classical music and metal and started modeling a lot of my playing after his. I got interested in tapping, because he used little bits of that in certain sections of his solos just to move up the scale or move up the fretboard. I also started playing classical scales. I think you can most directly hear his influence on my playing in the song 'Thank You for the Venom' [from Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge]. Toward the end of the solo , there's a really fast triplet run down the scale that's totally reminiscent of him.

Gerard Way (My Chemical Romance):
The Misfits - Walk Among Us (1982)
This record changed everything for me. I was in middle school at the time and was a big Iron Maiden fan. I was playing Dungeons & Dragons and had yet to learn about punk rock. When I heard some of Walk Among Us from a friend, I knew I had to have it. Thanks to the PMRC [Parents Music Resource Center, the group responsible for getting parental warning labels placed on music CD, tapes and records], I had to be sneak about how I got the record, because they made it difficult for kids to buy records. My mom wouldn't buy it for me because it has a song called 'Devil's Whorehouse,' so I got my grandfather to buy it for me. I put it on and immediately I felt more liberated, free and pissed off than I'd ever been. It hit me all at once. This album made me realize that there is no right way to do anything-there are no rules. That's the beauty of punk rock: if you believe in it, you can accomplish it. I was an outcast, and that record really got me through some bad times.

Frank Lero (My Chemical Romance):
Nirvana - In Utero (1993)
When I was really young I listened to a lot of classic blues that I discovered through my dad. When I was older and heard In Utero, it was so eye opening. Through it I found out about bands like Big Black [whose frontman, Steve Albini, produced In Utero] and other guitar players like [Black Flag's] Greg Ginn and [Sonic Youth's] Thurston Moore. Basically, it helped me discover the underground hardcore and punk scenes. I also think Kurt Cobain's distortion sounds great, and I love how you can hear every pick scrape and finger slide. In Utero changed the way I thought about playing guitar. It made me realize that you don;t have to play like Van Halen; you just have to play from the heart and put your personality and emotion into it.

Dave Mustaine (Megadeth):
AC/DC - Let There Be Rock (1977)
I was 16 or 17 when I got this album. I remember taking it home, putting it on my cheap turntable and dropping the needle down on the vinyl. The first couple of notes of 'Overdose' just blew my mind. The sound of the guitar was so untamed, and it lit a fire inside me to approach the guitar like a weapon. the lore behind Let There Be Rock is that Angus and Malcolm Young would face a Marshall against the wall and crank the sucker all the way up. You can tell the amp was turned up unbelievably loud: you can practically feel Angus' fingerprints rubbing against the strings.

[Singer] Bon Scott instantly became a hero of mine, too, because of the words he was using. I was a teenager and here was this guy singing about blowjobs, overdosing and dating fat chicks! I'm thinking to myself, Well, I haven't had the misfortune of dating fat women yet, but I sure do relate to the rest of it. Bon was singing my song!

The more I got into AC/DC, the more I started to develop as a musician. When I was a really young kind and learning music, I was very influenced by the British Invasion: the Beatles, the Who and the Stones. But when it came to developing my own guitar playing style, it was all about the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Some people will argue whether or not AC/DC were a part of this new wave, but I do know there was a void between the British Invasion and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, and that AC/DC fell into it. When I think of how my style evolved, it was certainly influenced by bands like AC/DC, Diamond Head and Iron Maiden. If you listen to my style - even though it's sloppier - it contains essences of Jimmy Page, Michael Schenker and Angus Young. But while Angus was always a hero of mine, I identified more with Malcolm. Rhythm is really important in rock and metal, and taking a percussive approach to the guitar is an art that's vital to the sound of that music. That's what Malcolm brings, and that's why AC/DC is his band.

To this day, I listen to Let There Be Rock and it motivates me. That album marked the defining moment in my life when I made my mind up that I was gonna do this, no matter what.

Slash (Velvet Revolver):
Aerosmith - Rocks (1976)
I first heard Rocks when I was 13 or 14. There was this girl, Laurie, and I'd been trying to get into her pants for what seemed like forever. She was the hottest chick in school and just exuded-no, excreted-sex appeal. One day I rode my BMX bike over to her place. We smoked a bunch of pot, and she started playing me records.

My parents were in the rock and roll business, and I was raised on a lot of music - the Kinks, the Who, the Stones, Small Faces, Animals, Beatles, Bowie, Led Zeppelin - so I'd already heard the stuff she was playing. Except for Rocks. From the moment she put it on and 'Back in the Saddle' started playing, I was glued to the album. She just vanished into the shadows, and I completely forgot about her.

I'd been into records by Black Sabbath, Zeppelin and Deep Purple, but Rocks sounded like the Rolling Stones, who had been my favorite band from age three to 13. It had the blues-based rock and roll thing, but turned up to 15. Aerosmith delivered the songs with such urgency, and the music had an almost punk attitude, with its powerhouse rhythm section and guitars that were all over the place. Rocks was loose and frenzied, and I could relate to the emotional angst-filled vocals of 'Last Child' and 'Combination.' It wasn't pristine and perfect, but it gelled together perfectly. It's an amazing record.

Rocks was also right up my alley because I was one of those kids. I was bad in school. I had long hair and wore jeans. I smoked. I didn't fit into the yuppie crowd. I was basically just a punk who didn't fit in anywhere. At that time I knew nothing about the guitar, either. I had been to a lot of recording sessions woth my parents, but I didn't know anything about anything. But I always dug music, and Aerosmith's drunken, chemically induced powerhouse sound just sold me and changed me forever. Rocks was aggressive, loud and swaggering. It fit my personality perfectly.

After I digested the album six or seven times at this chick's apartment, I just got up, grabbed my smokes, jumped on my bike and went home. I never did get laid. But not too long after, I picked up my guitar, and I've been doing this ever since.

Kirk Hammett (Metallica):
Ufo - Force It (1975)
I was 15 years old and a friend of mine brought it over to my house insisting that I had to hear it. I was still living at my parents' house at the time, and they had a very loud stereo system. My friends would come over and we would blast it up to what we thought was concert level. Boy, was I naive! The first track my friend played was 'Mother Mary,' and I thought, Wow, these guys are just as heavy as Thin Lizzy, Aerosmith, Montrose and all the other hard rock stuff that I was listening to before I got into heavy metal.

When it got to the guitar solo, I was just blown away by Michael Schenker's tone, phrasing and technique. By the time the second solo came on with the fastest descending lick I'd ever heard, I was totally hooked! I immediately grabbed the album cover and saw the picture of Schenker playing a Flying V. From that point on I knew there was an entire rock vocabulary out there that was not just based on pentatonic scales, and I se out to learn as many Schenker solos as possible while trying to write heavy riffs just like UFo. i also wanted a Flying V so bad!

That record taught me a lot about solo structure, phasing and melody, as well as playing for the song. I was amazed how UFO could be so heavy and so melodi in the ocurs e of one song. I think the band I was in at the time added two UFO songs to its set that week.

For me the standout tracks on Force It are 'Mother Mary,' 'Shoot Shoot,' 'This Kid's,' 'Out on the Street' and ' Let It Roll.' Every time I pick up the guitar and start improvising, I think a lick or two from that album squeaks out subconsciously. I probably spew the most Schenker licks on Kill 'Em All because everything was still kind of new to me at that time.

Steve Vai
West Side Story - Original Broadway Cast Recording (1957)
I was about seven or eight years old when I first heard West Side Story, and it had a huge impact on me. I f you look at the elements of that reord, it ontains os many of the things I enjoy doing today. It has history melody - how can you compete with [Leonard] Bernstein and [Stephen] Sondheim - and the lyrics are wonderful. Along with its enchanting and exquisite melodies, West Side Story has attitude and a tremendous amount of frenetic energy. It's emotional, theatrical and technical. It's everything.

Because I was a young kid, that type of music represented a sort of freedom for me. It wasn't all groove or beat oriented, and it didn't fall within the confines of conventional pop song structures. These guys just did whatever the hell they wanted. When I first heard it I thought, This is what music needs to be. And you can see the influence in my approach. From the first note I ever recorded on my first solo record, I've made a very conscious decision to try and work outside of the box.

Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day):
Turn It Around (1987 maximumrockandroll seven-inch vinyl compilation)
When i was in seventh grade, there was a girl at my school who would bring punk records to me and say, 'Here, listen to this.' She had stuff like [L.A. punk band] TSOL. I heard some punk bands because of her, but I think I really started getting into punk with a record that [punk rock fanzine] maximumrockandroll put out, called Turn It Around. It was a double seven-inch and had songs by bands like Sewer Trout, and stuff like that. That's when it really started hitting me. The funny thing is when i started getting into punk rock, my friends and I mocked older punk bands like the Sex Pistols, because the cliches of the past were so over and there was this new thing happening that nobody knew anything about.

Later on, of course, I got into punk rock - and rock music in general - from all time periods. I think a band like the Clash showed people how to be able to change- and at the same time, how you shouldn't change. I think a band like Fugazi was able to take punk rock to a new level. But you don't have to be playing 100 miles per hour, as long as you show passion for what you do, and your politics. Then you win.

Robby Krieger (The Doors):
Bob Dylan - Bringing It All Back Home (1965)
This guy from Marblehead, Massachusetts, who I knew in school named Bill Phinity turned me onto Bob Dylan. We had a jug band called the Black Bay Chamberpot Terriers. This was the same time that Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and Pigpen were playing in a jug band before they formed the Grateful Dead, but they were a lot better than us. Our only gig was for the Ladies Auxiliary. We played a bunch of [folk singer] Dave Van Ronk stuff.

I was 19 attending [The University of California] Santa Barbara when Bringing It All Back Home came out. I was taking a lot of acid in those days, and everything Dylan said just really connected with me. There are a lot of great songs on that album - 'Maggie's Farm,' 'Mr. Tambourine Man,' 'It's All Over Now, Baby Blue.' 'Subterranean Homesick Blues' is one of my favorites. That was actually the first rap song as far as I'm concerned. Dylan used words like notes. He didn't really care what they said, just how they sounded.

I always liked the way that Dylan played guitar, although I never tried to copy the way he played. I was always amazed by how he could play guitar and sing or play harmonica at the same time. But the spirit of Dylan's music has always stayed with me through everything I've done with the Doors and the Robby Krieger Band.

Joe Trohman (Fall Out Boy):
Metallica - ...And Justice for All (1988)
I got it when I was in in fifth grade, and it was the third record I'd ever bought, I had seen Metallica's video for 'One' and thought, Holy crap, this band is awesome! but I didn't know much about them. My dad bought me the CD, and when I heard the intro for 'Blackened,' I couldn't believe how epic it sounded. That's what really got me into playing guitar. I fell in love with guitar melodies because of that record. Even today, the intro to 'Blackened' gives me chills.

Willie Adler (Lamb of God):
Metallica - ...And Justice for All (1988)
I started playing guitar when I was 11, a year before ...And Justice for All came out. I had been jamming on Aerosmith tunes, 'cause that's what my brother listened to. then I got my first Slayer record, followed by the first three Metallica albums: Kill 'Em Al, Right the Lightening and Master of Puppets.I already thought of Kirk Hammett and James Hetfiel as the ultimate guitar duo, but when Justice came out, it floored me. It had a classical vibe to its movements and arrangements and turned me on to metal's ability to be epic.

...And Justice for All totally influenced my songwriting and made me attempt to write more complex songs. It's epic, fast and in your face, yet so complex. A lot of bass players might get mad that I chose this record, 'cause you can't hear the bass on it, but it's an extremely pivotal record for me. When I sit down to write, I still think about the way Metallica put that album together and got away with six- and seven-minute songs. ...And Justice For All prove to me how truly amazing metal can be, that it is completely different from every other type of music and has the ability to transcendent any kind of style and be beautiful.

Mark Morton (Lamb of God):
Megadeth - Peace Sells...But Who's Buying? (1986)
Peace Sells made me realize that I could take all my adolescent rebelliousness and negative energy and craft it into something that was both sophisticated and dangerous. Basically, it made me want to be a metal guitar player. Before I heard the record, I was a 13-year-old skater listening to a lot of punk: Black Flag, Bad Religion, JFA, Sucidal Tendencies, G.B.H. and Sex Pistols. It was in that context that I got a guitar and started making noise, punk rock style. When I heard Peace Sells, I was struck by its punk edge. It was really raw, chaotic, unrefined and dirty, in the same way punk records were. It snarled and seem to be giving the middle finger to everything. There was nothing classy about it, but at the same time it was smart and meaningful. I thought it was the best punk rock I'd ever heard - except it was made by dudes who could play their asses off. I can still go back and listen to that record and get things out of it. The riff work at the end of 'Wake Up dead' is still a lesson to me. They flip time and veer off into odd time signatures, but they still maintain the groove and chunk. when yo can make someones head bob in 15/8 time, you've really achieved something. And the socially conscious lyrics are great, too. Megadeth seem to be selling the idea that you can be rebellious and still be smart, tat you can make a statement with your music and not lose any power or danger. That was a big influence on Lamb of God. We've had the opportunity to work with [Peace Sells guitarist] Chris Poland on two of our records, and those were among the coolest moments in my career.

Joe Perry (Aerosmith):
The Yardbirds - Having a Rave Up (1965)
That album was incredibly important to me as a young, budding guitarist, because it was really gravitated toward - the raunchy, basic sound of the electric blues. The album came out with all the other stuff from England - the Beatles, Stones, Freddie and the Dreamers, Dave Clark Five and all that. For the most part, those were pop bands that seemed to have reached the unattainable. But when I heard Having A Rave Up, I thought, Hey, I can play that! This was the first album on which the guitar solos were as important as the lead vocals or the songs themselves. Up until then, a lot of guitar solos would just be there to take up a little space between a chorus and a verse; they were really organized and premeditated. But when you heard the guitar solos on the Yardbirds stuff you felt that Jeff Beck didn't know what he was going to play until he played it. There was freedom to jam. And that was the foundation for where Beck, Jimmy Page, and Eric Clapton [who all played in the Yardbirds] went later. And the psychedelic side of Having A Rave Up was so hip, too.

The first time I heard Having A Rave Up I was at my friend Dave Meade's house. He had an older brother who was into playing and had a guitar. He also had a couple of Chuck Berry records, but it was Having A Rave Up that I loved. I sat down and tried to play everything on the record, including 'The Train Kept A-Rollin.' That song has the archetypal guitar riff-proto everything! It still hasn't been topped. It's as simple as you can get, but it makes that rhythm rock. You can dance around with it. It still amazes me when we play that song in Aerosmith, which is probably why it's still a cornerstone of our repertoire. It's the one song Steven [Tyler] and I had in common when we met. His band used to do it, and it was the one song we both knew.

Keith Richards (The Rolling Stones):
Elvis Presley - Heartbreak Hotel (1956)
You didn't hear a lot of rock before Elvis came along. I remember being 13 or something and listening to the radio under the bed sheets when I was suppose dot be asleep. 'Heartbreak Hotel' came on [European radio station] Radio Luxembourg, and I kept losing the signal. I remember actually daring to get out from under the blanket and walk around the room trying to get it back without waking up the parents.

Stephen Carpenter (Deftones):
Meshuggah - Chaosphere (1998)
This is the greatest metal record of all time. A friend of mine had a mix CD with some of the songs on it, and after I heard it, I bought the album at this little shop on South Street in Philadelphia. Even then, I still didn't know what to expect, but, man, there;s no sweeter band out there! Chaosphere gave me a whole new perspective on playing, with its unusual time signatures. Meshuggah's tuning alone influenced me: I've used seven-string guitars on the last two Deftones records; our last record was in G sharp, and the next one will be even lower - I'm on F sharp now. Plus, Meshuggah's got eight-string guitars! I can't keep up. It's kind of hard to find the parts in Deftones songs that sound like Meshuggah unless you're there - little shifts in the music that give the song their flavor.

J.T. Woodruff (Hawthorne Heights):
Jimmy Eat World - Clarity (1999)
Clarity was a very inspirational record for me as a young musician. Everything seemed to come together for that band; it was like they figured out everything on that one record. I resisted listening to it for about a year after it came out because it was all people in my town talked about. I come from a small town, St. Mary's in West Virginia, and I got tired of hearing about Jimmy Eat World and Clarity. But Finally one of my friends bought it and I listened to it. I realized what an idiot I'd been. I'd missed out on a great record for a whole year.

The thing that grabbed me about Clarity was the melodies. I'm a big fan of melodic stuff, like the songs of the Beatles and the Beach Boys, and on Clarity, the vocal melodies, harmonies and guitar lines all work together really well. The stuff isn't necessarily intricate, but that's part of its charm. It's great how they blend two guitar lines together so they intertwine and sound like one. No other band brings those Sixties melodic structures into a modern context as well as Jimmy Eat World.

Yngwie Malmsteen:
Deep Purple - Fireball (1971)
My sister gave me Fireball for my eighth birthday, June 30, 1971, and that day my life forever change. I knew immediately that I was going to be a guitarist for life and there would be no turning back. It's like one minute I was a kid playing with cap guns, and then someone handed me a fuckin' nuclear bomb! My life was never the same, to say the least.

I'd already started playing guitar. I had Hendrix and Clapton records in my house, and I liked the Beatles and the Monkees, but Deep Purple were it to me. When I heard Fireball, I didn't have many albums to compare it to, and even if I did, it would've still kicked my ass to hell and back. There is amazing guitar playing on it. Hendrix is godlike to me, but for a kid who wants o play guitar, the early Ritchie Blackmore solos were more challenging to play. I worked on the guitar solo to 'Demons Eye' forever until I could play it.

There's no question that Blackmore was a big part of my development. I learned how to play the blues from studying him. He has a unique sound a look, and there's a cool mystique about him. There's no one like him.

Claudio Sanchez (Coheed and Cambria):
Jimi Hendrix - Bold As Love (1967)
When I was a kid, I heard Sting's cover of 'Little Wing' from his album Nothing Like the Sun, and I was like, 'Wow, I really like this song.' My dad was a big fan of Jimi Hendrix, and he told me, 'Well, that's not Sting's song, it's Jimi's.' So I went out and bought some Hendrix compilation, found 'Little Wing' on there and then got Axis. The album is probably Hexdrix's prettiest and softest-sounding record; it's not as violent as Are You Experienced. It has a sound that really spoke to me and pushed me to start a band of my own.

Travis Stever (Coheed and Cambria):
Guns N' Roses - Appetite for Destruction (1987)
Appetite was the album that made me want to start playing guitar. My favorite song on it is 'It's So Easy.' it made me feel like a 10-year-old badass. My father was a musician - a late Seventies early Eighties rocker dude - and he used to wear leopard-skin pants and all kinds of shit. I remember I'd always be listening to Appetite and he wasn't impressed, because he was an old-school guy. But now we'll talk about it and I'll be like 'Dad, come on!' and he knows where I'm coming from.

Adam Dutkiewicz (Killswitch Engage):
Carcass - Hearwork (1993)
It's so rifftastic! I was in a band with Jon Donais from Shadows Fall when I was 17 and he turned me on the record. I didn't know who they were because I was just getting into death metal, but when I heard it I was like, Whoa, this is friggin' awesome! It totally changed the way I wrote riffs. Before that I was doing much more straight forward stuff, and suddenly here was this record that combined metal harmonic riffing with moshtastic chuggy parts. And there's lots of cool downtuning, too. Immediately, I wanted to incorporate something like it into my own music. I think 'This Mortal Coil' and 'Carnal Forge' have some of my favorite noodley riffs, but the whole album is kill and I think you can still hear the influence of Heartwork in what we're doing.

Bill Kelliher (Mastodon):
Dead Kennedys - In God We Trust, Inc (1981)
I chose In God We Trust 'cause it's really the record that change my life, not just my playing style. It changed the way I thought about music and how I wrote it. I was a fres

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Guitar World Staff

Since 1980, Guitar World has been the ultimate resource for guitarists. Whether you want to learn the techniques employed by your guitar heroes, read about their latest projects or simply need to know which guitar is the right one to buy, Guitar World is the place to look.