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The Records That Changed My Life

Liz Phair has evolved from the lo-fi diva of 1993’s Exile in Guyville to the modern-rock mom of last year’s Liz Phair.And through the years, her relationship with the music on herWalkman/Discman/iPod has remained as intimate and intense as thoseearly four-track songs she recorded more than a decade ago in responseto the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main St. “I’ve walked thousands of miles across Chicago and Manhattan listening to these albums,” she says.


My parents listened to the Beatles and Bob Dylan, and even though I liked some Dylan songs, I didn’t really understand them: [sings] ‘Everybody must get stoned’–ouch, that would hurt! [Laughs] But this is the album I can remember them playing the most. Looking back, I really think it had a big effect on my songwriting style.”

MURMUR (I.R.S., 1983)

“I spent a whole summer livingto this record. Lyrics are usually really important to me, and althoughit sometimes sounds like Michael Stipe isn’t even singing words, hefills your head with visuals. If music doesn’t make me feel likethere’s a movie going on in my head, I’m not interested.”

VIOLENT FEMMES (Slash, 1983)

“I was a Replacementsfreak, but the Violent Femmes made more important art. They had analmost drunken sensibility, but you knew they were deadly serious aboutmusic. They were just a trio, but they were alluding to a much biggersound with only a few elements.”


“In high school, my friends and I were living in an uptight white suburb, and we’d just discovered marijuana, as well as the idea that there were people who didn’t live like us. It took me until senior year to realize this [laughs]. This music was eye-opening: ‘Wow, there’s this whole different culture, with its own struggle, and I can relate to it!’ We really thought we got it.”

EXILE ON MAIN ST. (Virgin, 1972)

“When I was 25, I movedinto an apartment where the previous tenants had left behind a box ofdusty cassettes. I asked my boyfriend at the time to give me an exampleof a really good album. So he grabbed this tape from the box and said,’If you want to make a double album, this is a really good one.’ He just saw me as a suburban dork, but once I started listening to it, I became, like, a student dork. Even today, nothing makes me feel sexier than Exile. It has that primitive thing I respond to, the grandeur of the downtrodden, which, to me, is rock’n’roll.”

NOTHING’S SHOCKING (Warner Bros., 1988)

“Whenever I’m ina majestic environment, I want to hear Jane’s. When I was pregnant, Iwent hiking in Glacier National Park, and even though I’m not intomaking animals’ lives difficult, I liked to blast this in the outdoors.You could go back to the old fire dances and find the same spirit PerryFarrell has. He’s my aborigine.”

COURT AND SPARK (Asylum, 1974)

“I used to have really bad vision, and then a few years ago I had laser surgery on my eyes. I had to lay in the dark without looking at anything for 24 hours. Someone gave me Court and Spark and told me I should just listen to it. It was perfect.”


“This and Court and Sparkwere the two albums that hit me right after childbirth. This is theperfect breakup record. It’s very touching, the kind of record girlswould like, and after I had a baby, I was totally girl. Before I had ababy, I only liked stuff guys would like.”

KID A (Capitol, 2000)

“I took great pleasure in playingthis while driving in California with my ex-boyfriend, who was mymanager at the time. He was so pissed that Radiohead weren’t writing’real songs.’ I was just looking at the sky and the ocean and the sungoing down, and it was spectacular listening to Kid A. To me it was drama, so beautiful.”


“She played all theinstruments, arranged it, produced it, and it’s brilliant from top tobottom. I feel like, in a way, I helped make it, because she did it allherself, and I was part of that movement. If you liked my first record,you’d have to like this one.”

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