michael stipe once took some heat for opining "the Beatles were elevator music in my lifetime. Yummy Yummy Yummy (I've Got Love in My Tummy) had more impact on me."
it sounds like heresy, but i know what he means. we are often influenced by work that didn't appear to be very influential to anyone but us. i've got two examples, related to music and writing.
i can trace my passion for garage rock directly to a single called liar liar by the castaways, an improbable local hit by some less-than-glamorous (i'd say dorkish but that seems a bit mean) university of minnesota undergrads in the sixties. [if bikinis don't offend you, there's also a groovy full-color version too.] about 45 seconds into the song, there's a little bass riff, a hearty OWWWWW! and a rippin' good five-second guitar solo. though i was still a preschooler, i was forever hooked by that OWWWWW! i remember worrying at the time that all the good songs would be taken before i could get my band together, figuring that such magical sounds could only be discovered rather than invented.
soon thereafter i was inspired by my first power chord. did it come from sabbath? zeppelin? nope: mother freedom by bread, those so-soft-you-can-hardly-call-'em-soft rockers staples of the am dial. and i still play the opening riff whenever i'm plugged into a fuzz box. no wonder i never got anywhere as a guitar player.
as for writing, i sometimes claim to have learned the craft in adolescence by aping lester bangs' articles in creem and circus. before that, however, i picked up an odd book that wasn't really about baseball cards by brendan boyd and fred harris. at age 10 or so, i was struck by the authors' wit, nostalgic reverie, and inspired personifications of the two-dimensional images and information contained on the cards. of course, i wouldn't have used those words at the time. more importantly, their snarky profiles of long-retired players doubled me up in choking, eye-watering, laughter. this is waaaay better than Mad magazine. if i could write like that, i might quit the band. especially since all the good songs are taken already...
i still love the book, but doubt anyone else would see it as an undiscovered classic. here are a few of my favorite pages, though, describing the cleveland indians' relief tandem of ray narleski and don mossi -- reimagined as creepy small-town undertakers. the page shown above is a little bio on wayne terwilliger, the former twins and saints coach. if you like this sort of thing, copies of a '91 edition remain available at your favorite online bookseller. as for the castaways, well, they're holding up quite well at #284,948 on the amazon charts.