As far as badass women who rock go, former Smashing Pumpkins bassist Ginger Pooley takes the cake. Pooley is a veteran alt and punk rocker who can play bass and groove with the absolute best of them. Don’t believe me? Just ask Billy Corgan, who Pooley played beside when she was a member of the Smashing Pumpkins from 2007 to 2010, aka the underrated Zeitgeist (2007) era.
What’s more, there’s a fair shot she would have stuck around longer and impacted the band further had she not chosen to step away to begin her family. Smashing Pumpkins aside, Pooley has also been a member of the all-girl punk outfit Halo Friendlies and Lo-Ball. She’s working on a new project with her husband called Burning Pools, which is as excellent as anything she’s ever done. It has a great vibe, and I highly recommend it.
To date, Burning Pools has three singles out, which you can check out via Bandcamp. You can listen to “Woman” to catch the vibe while reading the ten albums that changed Ginger Pooley’s life.
# 10 – Renaissance by Beyonce (2022)
I wanted to include something newer on this list because I’m still moved by new music. This album is unapologetic and empowering. The production is from another dimension. “Plastic Off the Sofa” is a sweet and vulnerable song with killer vocal delivery, while the bassline takes you on its own magical journey. And “Church Girl” is a fun and honest song that makes you want to let your guard down. I love the message of letting go and encouraging the freedom to be yourself.
“Cozy” is a wonderfully empowering song that talks about self-love. I was lucky enough to sit down and chat with Nova Wav, who produced and co-wrote a bunch of songs on this album, including some of my favorites, “Virgo’s Groove” and “Heated.” They blow my mind and are so talented! The production on this record is off the charts. It’s like dancing to a piece of art. The transitions between songs alone are perfection. It’s such an amazing album. I loved it from the first listen and never stopped listening to it.
# 9 – Moving Pictures by Rush (1981)
Rush was very influential in getting me excited about bass. I don’t know why I was drawn to the bass, but as soon as I knew it existed, I was like, yup. That’s the thing I want to do. Intertwined with learning how to play bass was the instant knowledge of and requirement to listen to, learn, and love Rush. I don’t know about it now, but the universe made it a rule in the ‘90s that if you were going to play bass, you needed to love Rush.
Like being hit by Cupid’s arrow, you instantly fall in love with Rush. In high school, my musician friends and I used to listen to Rush records and, at every musical turn, look at each other in awe at the musical choices crushing our ears by these three wise men. With every drum hit, incomparable bassline, and cool guitar part, Rush was a musical force not to be reckoned with. You can hardly not air drum, air bass, or air guitar to Rush. It’s just a natural jerk reaction. It’s science.
I chose this record because it’s full of the classics! “Red Barchetta,” “YYZ,” and “Limelight!” What I love about Rush is that their music is so iconic, but they don’t take themselves too seriously. Only as an adult did I realize that the badass song “YYZ” is just the code for Toronto Airport. Also, the Moving Pictures album art is a triple entendre. There are guys moving pictures, people are making a moving picture in the background, and the pictures are moving onlookers to tears. I was lucky to see them live in 1992 on their Roll the Bones tour. If I remember correctly, I was the only female in attendance.
# 8 – The White Album by The Beatles (1968)
I’ve been a huge Beatles fan since diving into their catalog in high school. I love all their records and have listened to the Breakfast with the Beatles radio show every Sunday since high school. It was hard for me to pick a favorite Beatles album for this list. I always said this album was my favorite because you get thirty songs on one album. I may not be in love with every song, but most of my favorite Beatles songs are here.
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Happiness Is a Warm Gun,” “Mother Nature’s Son,” and “Long, Long, Long” are some of my favorites. And then, some hits are obviously great, like “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “Blackbird,” “Revolution 1,” and “Helter Skelter.” The ones that have been incorporated into my life are as follows: I named my solo project Ginger Sling after a line in Savoy Truffle.
I used to sing and play “Rocky Racoon” on guitar for my daughter when she was little. I would sing “Good Night” to her every night at bedtime. I just learned to play “Marth My Dear” on piano and “Blackbird” on guitar without remembering that they were both songs from The White Album. So, I suppose composing this list has helped me to realize that The White Album is my favorite album after all.
# 7 – Whatever and Ever Amen by Ben Folds Five (1997)
I don’t know why this album hit me so hard. I just love the angst and brattiness of Ben Fold’s delivery and lyrics. The band’s playing is high energy and so fun, too. When this album came out, I must have felt many of the same things Ben Folds sings about: anger, angst, longing, and heartbreak. There’s a lot of vulnerability on this record, but it’s also very funny and so clever! It’s an emotional roller coaster!
# 6 – Gig by Circle Jerks (1992)
The summer before my senior year of high school, my friends and I spent every day skateboarding in some suburban parking lot in Orange County, California. We’d occasionally break for the beach or for those of us who had to go to our summer jobs for a few hours a day. Then we’d get right back to hanging out. This album was the soundtrack to a bunch of skate-punk teens driving around looking for the next place to skate. I love this record for its pure punk rock energy. It’s a live album and probably my favorite of theirs! Keith Morris is so sarcastic in a funny way, and the band is killing it.
# 5 – This Year’s Model by Elvis Costello & The Attractions (1978)
I love many Elvis Costello albums, but this one best represents what I love most about him. The first time I heard Elvis Costello, I was asleep in the backseat of a car on my way back from attending a wedding in Las Vegas. His angsty voice and Beatle-esque melodies woke me up, literally and figuratively. I asked my friends who this was. I absolutely loved it.
I dove into his music as soon as I got home. What I love about this record is the conviction and complete abandonment of fear in Elvis’ vocal delivery and his lyrics. It’s pure punk rock. The playing on this record is so badass with Pete Thomas on drums, Bruce Thomas on bass, and Steve Nieve on keyboards. The high energy is off the charts. My favorite song on this record is Lipstick Vogue. It captures everything I love about this album. It’s just the best.
# 4 – Everything is Everything by Donny Hathaway (1970)
This record is on the list because it’s the one my family listens to the most in our home. It’s one of my daughter’s favorites, and she’ll just randomly throw this vinyl on at any given time. I was first introduced to this album when my husband and I started dating. At the time, he was just finishing a tour with Gwen Stefani.
She had the coolest band, including Gail Ann Dorsey, Zach Alford, Gabe McNair, Stephen Bradley, Warren Fitzgerald, and Kris Pooley. They spent the whole tour listening to the coolest music. So, when Kris and I got together, I was blessed to be introduced to so much music that had never been on my radar before, including this record. It’s so great.
# 3 – Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys (1966)
I seem to have always been into music that existed before I did. I can’t remember the first time I heard this record; maybe my late teens? This is one of the most beautiful records to be made. It’s extremely delicate and vulnerable. I don’t have to explain the craftsmanship and creativity of this record as it’s well-documented and celebrated. But this album makes me tear up every time I listen. There is something otherworldly about it. Emotionally, it is tapped into something from beyond that resonates with the core of who I am.
A pure connection to the universe is expressed in perfect pop melodies, harmonies, and the most creative production of its time. I feel like I need to mention the heart-twitching teenage angst and sadness expressed in the vocal performance and lyrics throughout the record, especially on “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times.”
# 2 – Siamese Dream by Smashing Pumpkins (1993)
This record definitely changed my life in more ways than one! When this record came out, it instantly spoke to me. It resonated with me completely. It was like a lightbulb went off. I felt seen. The video for Today burned in my brain from the first watch. “Cherub Rock” was everywhere, and I loved everything about this song and this album.
The guitar sounds, the drums, and the bass lines are all great. The lyrics and Billy Corgan’s vocals felt so raw, honest, and emotional. They were powerful and unapologetic. The mix on this album! You could hear everything individually, and yet it all worked together to tell you some secret to the universe you always knew was there but couldn’t find.
I was just about 15 and already playing bass. To be able to hear the basslines the way you could on this record was huge for me. They were so well written and well crafted, as is this entire album. And to see a female playing bass in this band was so inspiring. D’Arcy Wretzky was such a badass and an icon to my teenage self. One of my favorite songs off this record is “Hummer.”
The first time I ever played live on a stage was at my high school talent show with some friends. We played “Hummer!” Years later, when I was officially the bass player for the Smashing Pumpkins, we played this song at the Leeds Festival in front of tens of thousands of people, and I was in awe thinking back to my high school talent show. I now have better insight into this album than I did at 15. I now know that it was not only magic but also a lot of hard work and talent that made this album what it is.
# 1 – Ok Computer by Radiohead (1997)
Obviously, this is a great and greatly beloved album by the masses. When it came out, I was touring the country in an Isuzu Rodeo with my all-girl punk band called the Halo Friendlies. Just the four of us girls packed in like sardines, pulling an old wooden trailer for our gear. Two of us would stay awake all night and drive while two slept in the back.
I remember everyone would fall asleep when it was my turn to drive because I’d listen to this record non-stop. It was like nothing I had heard before. Driving around in utter darkness for hours without any electronics to guide us (it was the 90s) really left an impression on me. I would just drive and allow myself to get lost in the emotional world this album painted through its beautiful sonic soundscapes. It was true 90’s magic. I once pulled into a gas station in the middle of nowhere, in the dead of night, while listening to “Paranoid Android.”
Suddenly, a grim-looking man in a flannel slowly approached our vehicle, and I thought he was going to murder us. That was until I realized we were in Oregon, where they didn’t let you pump your gas. It was just the gas attendant doing his job. I also saw the OK Computer tour when it came through L.A. at the Universal Amphitheatre in 1998. It was a real scene with Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston celebrity types. Besides that, the show was terrific. This album is so beautiful and is the soundtrack to my early days of D.I.Y. touring.
Ginger Pooley: 10 Albums That Changed My Life article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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