To say young four-stringer Shannon Wilk is simply a “bassist” would be doing her a disservice. Sure, she’s young, but her resume is already beginning to sprawl, as she’s not only shared the stage with some of her formative heroes, such as Steve Brown, Pat Travers, C.J. Snare, and Stevie D, but also interviewed the likes of Nita Strauss, and Lzzy Hale as an aspiring music journalist.
But that’s not all; ever-creative, Wilk not only scribes about rock and metal, but she snaps photos, too. That said, Wilk’s greatest strength is her creativity, which oozes from her good-time, old-school approach to the bass, which summons the ghosts of players such as Rob De Luca, Duff McKagan, and Cliff Burton—all of which appear on this list.
From a young age, Wilk branded herself a dyed-in-the-wool rock ‘n’ roll junkie, and it’s a good thing, as her passion, skill, and instincts have translated to early success. Time will tell which avenues Wilk heads down in the future, but in the meantime, she’s looking back by beaming in with ClassicRockHistory.com to recount the ten albums that changed her life. Can you spot any of your favorites?
# 10 – New York Dolls – New York Dolls (1973)
Something that I’ve learned through punk and many ’70s rock bands is that perfection is not necessary to create great music. The New York Dolls, and Johnny Thunders specifically, had this raw and imperfect sound that taught me that rock music doesn’t have to be entirely technical and polished to be great.
A lot of great rock music is the antithesis of perfection. I’ve always been a fan of ’70s glam rock, like Sweet and Hanoi Rocks, Girl, and the Dolls, of course. I also pull a lot of style inspiration from New York Dolls, the big platform boots and scarves, loud hair and makeup and clothes…, and the whole package.
Not to mention, many of my favorite bands cite New York Dolls as an inspiration for them. A couple of my favorite tracks on the Doll’s debut album are “Trash,” “Looking for A Kiss,” and “Jet Boy.”
# 9 – As the Stages Burn – Arch Enemy (2017)
Arch Enemy was the band that got me into heavier metal music at the ripe age of 11 years old. This album was the first CD I ever bought, mainly because it was recorded live at Wacken, which I always dreamed of playing and still do. I remember learning the lyrics to all the songs and resonating with a lot of the messages in their music.
The members of Arch Enemy have so much musical skill that it still inspires me today. Alissa White-Gluz, the band’s frontwoman, is someone I really look up to as a person as well. Women in extreme music are so strong and badass. This album is one hour and 19 minutes of sheer power in the form of melodic metal instrumentation and aggressive growling vocals singing about betrayal, independence, confidence, etc.
# 8 – Live Fast Die Loud – Beasto Blanco (2013)
This was a big one for me. When I was 11 years old, I saw my first concert. It was in southern Florida, a pre-party before my first Monsters of Rock Cruise. The band playing was one called Beasto Blanco. The brainchild of Alice Cooper’s bassist Chuck Garric and Alice’s daughter Calico Cooper, Beasto Blanco created a shock-rock machine.
Calico, dubbed the “Motor Queen” and the “Machine Girl,” shot sparks out of her hands and swung around a baseball bat with nails on the end. “Shannon is gonna need therapy after this,” my parents said. Rock’ n’ roll therapy, maybe.
Beasto Blanco was the first of many, many concerts that week on the Monsters of Rock Cruise, and 11-year-old me was shell-shocked. That was when I decided I wanted to be a badass rock chick like Calico Cooper, Vixen, and Lita Ford, all of whom I saw in concert that week.
# 7 – Kill ‘Em All – Metallica (1983)
I remember hearing the opening riff of “Seek & Destroy” as a kid and thinking, “This is so heavy and cool.” As I got older, I delved into old-school thrash metal and finally listened to Kill ‘Em All in its entirety. Kill ‘Em All is a no-skip album for me; it’s got great riffs and speed, and it’s melodic and aggressive. “The Four Horsemen” and “Whiplash” are my current favorite tunes from the album, and it remains my favorite Metallica album to this day.
# 6 – Among the Living – Anthrax (1987)
I grew up listening to all the music downloaded on my dad’s iPod; everything from Tesla to Garth Brooks to Anthrax. I have to say I was much more drawn to Anthrax and Tesla. Specifically, I remember one song from Among the Living playing a lot, ‘Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.).” Maybe I remember it for its creative title, but more likely for the chanting chorus backed by fast-paced drums.
Needless to say, I have since become the proud owner of my dad’s Among the Living CD from college. Since I’ve become such a big fan of this album, specifically the bass playing, I purchased the Frank Bello signature ESP LTD, which I’m rocking at most gigs these days. I had the opportunity to meet Frank when I was 15 years old.
That was an interaction I certainly will not forget. He took over 20 minutes to talk to me and encourage me on my musical journey. Frank Bello is one of my favorite bassists, and Among the Living inspired me to push myself in my own bass playing.
# 5 – Vicious – Halestorm (2018)
Lzzy Hale is my biggest hero when it comes to being a woman in music, as well as confidence and self-growth. Vicious came out in the summer of 2018, and from the start, I was hooked. It’s an album full of confidence, strength, and empowerment; everything I needed at the time.
Just a couple of days after the album came out, I saw Halestorm in concert for the first time, and I knew I wanted to be just like Lzzy. Lzzy Hale is the personification of authenticity and confidence, the kind of person I strive to be. “Uncomfortable,” “Do Not Disturb,” and “White Dress” are all songs that broke down walls in my mind of what I was “supposed” to be.
I had the opportunity to interview Lzzy Hale last year and it was such an amazing experience finally getting to talk to her face to face. Hopefully, one day, we’ll be able to do a song or show together.
# 4 – Midnite Dynamite – Kix (1985)
Midnite Dynamite is the third album from one of my favorite bands, Kix. I’ve seen Kix live countless times, including their recent final show, but one show and one song did it all for me. At 12 years old, I saw Kix for the first time on the Monsters of Rock Cruise.
The sun was beating down on me in the middle of the Caribbean as I watched the band play their set on the pool deck. Their bassist, Mark Schenker, began playing the bassline; I heard it and said, “I need to play bass.” Well, that bassline was “Cold Shower,” from that point on, I saved all my money to buy my first bass.
Really, the rest is history. Midnite Dynamite is such a solid album from cover to cover. KIX has been an influential band for me in countless ways, especially their live performances, Schenker’s bass playing, and the band’s overall songwriting.
# 3 – Spread Eagle – Spread Eagle (1990)
This is easily one of the most underrated hard rock albums ever made. Spread Eagle is one of my favorite bands, and I’ve been lucky enough to see them many times. Dubbed “NYC Street Metal,” Spread Eagle has an attitude that rivals the top two albums on my list. Rob De Luca is probably the bassist who has been most influential on my playing in so many ways.
Back in December 2022, one of my bands opened for Spread Eagle up in Boston and it was such an amazing night. Rob and I were using the same backline for the night, and he called me over to the amp to show me his settings and how he gets his tone. I have so many great memories with Spread Eagle.
The guys in Spread Eagle have been immensely supportive of me and given me so much advice in my career. I could not be more grateful to have such huge support from people who inspire me so much. Their debut album is certainly one of my all-time favorites; I listen to it in its entirety almost daily.
# 2 – Slave to The Grind – Skid Row (1991)
Ah, Slave to The Grind, the perfect balance of sleaze and aggression. Rachel Bolan is one of my favorite bassists and songwriters of all time. Every time I go back and listen to Skid Row’s discography and even their latest record [The Gang’s All Here], I hear more intricacies in the bass parts that are so rad and so critical to the Skid Row sound. There are a few songs on Slave to The Grind I consider to be damn near perfect; “Wasted Time,” “The Threat,” “In A Darkened Room,” and “Livin’ on a Chain Gang.”
# 1 – Appetite for Destruction – Guns N’ Roses (1987)
Appetite for Destruction is, in my opinion, a perfect album. Nine-year-old Shannon was absolutely on the edge of her seat, hearing Appetite for the first time. Guns N’ Roses was one of the first rock bands I fell in love with, along with Mötley Crüe and Aerosmith, my Holy Trinity of rock n’ roll, so to speak.
As I’ve gotten older and grown into my identity, Appetite remains the album I resonate with most as an artist and as a bassist especially. Duff McKagan’s bass playing on this album is beyond superb. Everything about Guns N’ Roses is so me; the style, attitude, sound, etc., was all formative for me, and it’s still an album I go back to for inspiration.
Shannon Wilk: 10 Albums That Changed My Life article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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