Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

The Unspoken Magic: Greg Graffin Of Bad Religion’s 13 Founding LPs

As US punk rock hero Greg Graffin releases a new solo album he guides Ian Winwood through some classics of old time Americana, alongside albums by Elton John and former collaborator Todd Rungren

In 1983 Bad Religion released what has subsequently become one of the most widely discussed albums in the history of American punk rock. At the time of its release, Into The Unknown, the Southern Californian band’s second LP, was greeted with disbelief and disdain by an audience the attentions of which had been piqued a year earlier by the occasionally impressive if largely routine genre entry How Could Hell Be Any Worse? With its heavy reliance on synthesizers, measured tempos, expansive songs – well, expansive to a degree; this being the first time the band had written a track in excess of five minutes, a record that holds to this day – if nothing else, Into The Unknown provided an answer to the question faced by all bands fortunate enough to find themselves in the position of recording a second album: now that we have your attention, what do we plan to do with it?

For Bad Religion, in 1983 the answer was, gamble with it… but it didn’t work. A collection that owed more to Devo and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, even, did not find favour in a Los Angeles punk scene that after a promising start in the late 1970s was by now becoming more insular and violent. (It would be five years before Bad Religion released their third album, the economical and in time epochal Suffer) But what Into The Unknown did prove was that while its creators were hasty in their implementation of their ideal, the best bands draw their influences from as a wide a field of music as is possible.

Which is why today, singer and bandleader Greg Graffin is exasperated, describing the matter of compiling a list of albums for this Baker’s Dozen as constituting "an impossible task."

"A teenager might be able to do this," he says, "someone who’s just finding out who they are in life. But for me, it’s impossible."

Graffin has chosen to address this problem by compartmentalising it. On the stump to promote Millport, his third solo album, a set comprised of acoustic-based songs that draw deep from the traditions of American roots and country music, he has decided that this list will be comprised solely of singer-songwriters and music that influenced him up to and including the point that he reached 15 years of age. Otherwise, well, we’d be here all day. This tactic also seems fitting for a man whose life has for years now straddled the worlds of academia – Graffin, who holds a PhD in zoology, is at present lecturing at Cornell University in upstate New York – with playing music the beat of which leads its audience to dance while bumping into each other with force. Drum roll please…

Greg Graffin’s new album Millport is out now on ANTI. Click the image below to start going through the list

First Record

The Quietus Digest

Sign up for our free Friday email newsletter.

Support The Quietus

Our journalism is funded by our readers. Become a subscriber today to help champion our writing, plus enjoy bonus essays, podcasts, playlists and music downloads.

Support & Subscribe Today