Categories
Birthdays

George Martin

Born on this day in 1926, in London, England, record producer, arranger, conductor and musician, George Martin. Martin famously worked with The Beatles, but his storied career included collaborations with Cilla Black, America, Gerry & The Pacemakers, UFO, Cheap Trick, Elton John and many more.

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Pop Sunday

Bill Lloyd /Working The Long Game

Bill Lloyd

Working The Long Game (SpyderPop Records/Big Stir Records 2021) 

https://bigstirrecords.bandcamp.com/album/working-the-long-game

As one half of Foster & Lloyd, Bill Lloyd experienced a run of success on the country charts in the late eighties. Based in Nashville, Tennessee,  the acclaimed singer, songwriter and mercurial instrumentalist has further enjoyed a gratifying solo career as a pop rock artist.

Originally distributed by the SpyderPop label in the fall of 2018, Working The Long Game marked Bill’s ninth solo excursion. Earlier this year, SpyderPop joined forces with Big Stir Records, resulting in a partnership focusing on reissuing select albums, with Working The Long Game rolling in as the third release in the series.

 If there is any album worthy of a reprise, it is definitely Working The Long Game. Musically and lyrically, every song radiates spirit and substance. Bill’s lucid and lilting vocals, paired with in-the-pocket performances, equals dose after dose of melodious brilliance.

 A number of notable friends were also recruited to lend their craft to the sessions. Among these familiar figures are Cheap Trick bassist Tom Petersson, Freedy Johnston, Scott Sax of Wanderlust, Buddy Mondlock, Aaron Lee Tasjan, and Graham Gouldman, whose credits involve authoring hit singles for The Hollies and The Yardbirds, as well as playing in his own renowned bands, such as The Mindbenders, Hot Legs and 10cc

Guitars that simultaneously chime and crunch man the punchy Satellite, and the title track of the album shuffles to a merry vaudeville- inspired beat, which sounds kind of like a collaboration between The Kinks and Paul McCartney. A pinch of swagger and crackling power chords  stand as the engaging elements behind Yesterday, where the jagged riffage and rustling rhythms of Interrupted produces a bit of a funky tenor.

 Sealed to the seams with bracing hooks and a perky chorus, the slightly-country seasoned Make That Face, and the haunting glare of What Time Won’t Heal are additionally accented by sharp and spacious arrangements. Another attention-grabber on the album is the incredibly catchy Go-To-Girl, which romps to a youthfully exuberant bounce that crosses the sunny harmonies of The Beach Boys with the bright polish of The Smithereens

If you missed Working The Long Game the first time around, now is your chance to score a copy and sink your ears into a groovy guitar pop extravaganza. Nothing but the best is expected from Bill Lloyd, and here’s an album that delivers the goods on all counts.

By Beverly Paterson

Categories
Pop Sunday

Star Collector / Game Day

Star Collector

Game Day (Clockwise)

https://starcollectorcanada.bandcamp.com/album/game-day

After a fifteen year sabbatical from recording, Star Collector are back on board and sound better than ever. Weighing in as the Vancouver, Canada band’s fifth album, Game Day picks right up where these guys left off, meaning listeners are in for yet another exciting expedition of dashing pop rock performed at a high-octane level.

Since their inception in 1996, Star Collector has met a variety of personnel changes. The current version of the band features lead singer, songwriter and guitarist Vic Wayne, lead guitarist and vocalist Steve Monteith, bassist and vocalist Adam East and drummer and vocalist Adrian Buckley

Dominated by the hot roar of soaring guitars, beefy drum beats and charismatic vocals blooming with melody and might, Game Day consistently reveals Star Collector’s astounding dynamics and ability to operate in an extra sensory perception manner. Astronomical choruses, supported by ribbons of rich and robust hooks are additional principal factors bedded into the songs.

Star Collector’s single-minded intensity arrives in full force on cuts like the title track of the album, the swaggering sneer of Rip It Off, the heavy-handed Super Zero Blues, Green Eyes and The Silent Type.  For a brief moment of quiet and solitude, there’s Hook, Line & Singer, which is acoustic-based.

Think the arena rock flash of The Who and Cheap Trick, layered with the Britpop of The Jam and Oasis, and that is basically where Game Day is at. Not a bad thing at all, especially when considering Star Collector has both the motivation and energy to make their songs fresh and imaginative. Well-oiled and sizzling with rockstar attitude, Game Day is a power chord fan’s ticket to the promised land. 

Categories
Boppin'

The Ramones: The Power Pop Hall Of Fame

Inducted into The Power Pop HallOf Fame in 2017, The Ramones!

The Ramones were one of the great power pop groups. They were also one of the great punk groups (of course), and one of the great bubblegum groups, and one of the great all-out rock ‘n’ roll groups. If these seem to be contradictory claims, I betcha Walt Whitman would have understood. The Ramones were large. The Ramones contained multitudes.

But the “power pop” part of that picture is dismissed far too often. Visually, The Ramones didn’t match any recognized notion of how a power pop band should look; they bore not even a superficial resemblance to The RaspberriesCheap Trick, or The Knack, nor to power pop progenitors like The BeatlesThe Kinks, and The Who. Their sound was rougher, less overtly melodic, lacking in harmonies, nearly bereft of jangle, lyrically more concerned with sniffing glue and beating on the brat with a baseball bat than with going all the way, wanting you to want them, or what the little girls do. Sharona is not a punk rocker. The Ramones were dirty–not leering-dirty like the salaciously horny approach of much power pop, but grungy, filthy punks. This is pop?

Well…yeah. Yeah, it’s pop. And it’s power pop.

Like much of the other power pop music we love, the music of The Ramones was rooted in the British Invasion, in hit singles played loud ‘n’ proud on transistor radios across the USA in the mid ’60s, in The Beatles and The Who and The Kinks and Herman’s Hermits. The Ramones added The StoogesThe MC5, and The New York Dolls to their blend of influences, but retained the 16 magazine appeal of fave raves and high-energy pop 45s. For their first single, they didn’t imitate Lou Reed or Bowie or Iggy; they tried to copy The Bay City Rollers, translating the “S! A! T-U-R! D-A-Y! Night!” of the Rollers’ first U.S. hit into the “Hey-Ho, Let’s Go!” chant of “Blitzkrieg Bop.” This was not coincidence; this was design and intent. The Ramones thought they were a bubblegum band. With their volume and ferocity, their bubblegum became power pop almost incidentally…but gloriously.

Listen to The Ramones’ early singles. “Blitzkrieg Bop.” “Swallow My Pride.” A cover of The Rivieras‘ “California Sun.” “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker.” “Rockaway Beach.” The perennial classic oldie “Do You Wanna Dance” (with its incredible B-side “Babysitter”). The supposedly country (but not hardly) “Don’t Come Close.” A cover of The Searchers‘ “Needles And Pins.” If these aren’t power pop, then power pop does not exist. This is the sound of an AM radio exuding sheer cool, radiating with both pimply hyperbole and rock ‘n’ roll swagger, its fist in the air, its heart on its sleeve, its volume set to MORE!! The kids are losing their minds. It may not seem so at first glance, but the kids are all right.

On This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio (a power pop radio show named after a line in a Ramones song), we routinely refer to The Ramones as “The American Beatles.” This is certainly not a comparison of units shipped and sold–if The Ramones ever released a counterpart to The Beatles’ compilation 1, they’d have to use a negative number–but it’s an acknowledgement of the comparably fab impact that Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee, and Tommy (and Marky, and Richie, and C.J.) had on my life as a rockin’ pop fan. Hearing The Ramones when I was 17 was nearly as important as seeing A Hard Day’s Night when I was four. It was the sound of freedom, liberation, possibility…and it was catchy! When Bomp! magazine published its power pop manifesto issue in 1978, writers Greg Shaw and Gary Sperrazza! were savvy enough to realize that the power pop story stretched from the British Invasion through The Raspberries, Big StarThe Flamin’ Groovies, and The Dwight Twilley Band, and that it for damned sure included The Ramones. Even into the ’90s, when I talked with Shaw about power pop, he made a specific point of citing “Rockaway Beach” as one of power pop’s defining singles. And he was right.

Like The Beatles, The Who, The Kinks, and Cheap Trick, The Ramones built a musical legacy that encompasses power pop but is not exclusive to it. It’s easy to look at the leather jackets and leathery sneers, to read the twisted lyrics of “Glad To See You Go” or “Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment,” or experience the breakneck 1-2-3-4! pace of a Ramones concert and conclude that a belief in The Ramones as a power pop band is just the fevered result of huffin’ too much Carbona. But the evidence is there. It’s in the grooves, where it should be: playing back at 45 or 33 1/3, on tape or compact disc or digital download, AM or FM, in your head, under your skin, and in that forever-young heart you’ll listen to next time. The melody! My God, there is indeed melody–irresistible, undeniable melody–that no amount of bludgeoning can obscure. Melody that’s faster. Louder. Immediate. Unforgettable. Melody with a sense of menace, a feeling that everything could careen out of control at any second, yet all in its perfect place within the familiar parameters of a 7″ slab of vinyl. It’s still a thrill. It’s still worth swooning over. It’s still worth turning up. And it’s still power pop to me.

Take it, Dee Dee!

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Categories
Boppin'

THE EVERLASTING FIRST: The Damned

Continuing a look back at my first exposure to a number of rock ‘n’ roll acts and superheroes (or other denizens of print or periodical publication), some of which were passing fancies, and some of which I went on to kinda like. They say you never forget your first time; that may be true, but it’s the subsequent visits–the second time, the fourth time, the twentieth time, the hundredth time–that define our relationships with the things we cherish. Ultimately, the first meeting is less important than what comes after that. But every love story still needs to begin with that first kiss.

This was originally posted as part of a longer piece covering both pop music and comic book characters. It’s separated here for convenience.

Phonograph Record Magazine figures into my first exposure to British punks The Damned, but a larger role in that introduction was ultimately played by a green-eyed girl named Mary Ellen. We’ll get to her in just a sec, but we’ll start with PRM.  Phonograph Record Magazine‘s coverage of this exotic, scary, mysteriously intoxicating music called punk captivated me as a senior in high school, 1976-77. I didn’t know what any of it sounded like, but I was aching to find out.

I was intrigued by so many of these bands that PRM name-checked so casually in its tabloid pages. The RamonesBlondieThe Sex PistolsEddie and the Hot RodsChris Spedding and the Vibrators! It was a long, long list of acts I’d never heard of before, from The New York DollsThe Dictators, and Milk ‘n Cookies through Cheap TrickElvis CostelloIggy PopTom Petty & the Heartbreakers, and Yesterday and Today (later shortened to Y & T). I was desperate to learn more.

Even if you’re my age or older, it may be difficult to remember just how different the world was just four decades ago. Today, if you encounter a reference to some new musical act, the great ‘n’ powerful internet can put that act’s complete c.v. at your disposal instantly. YouTube, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and a bunch of other cloud-borne resources that would have been the stuff of science fiction during the Bicentennial are now humdrum, banal fixtures of everyday living. Hell, a YouTube video was likely your introduction to this new act in the first place. The thrill of the hunt has long since been replaced by the smug, jaded smirk of entitlement.

Heh. I’m a curmudgeon at 58.

With that all said, I have to admit I enjoy the convenience of easily-accessible information. But there was something intangibly thrilling about the sheer mystique and wonder conjured in a young man’s mind by the hype and glory of fevered ramblin’ in the pages of mid-’70s rock rags like PRM. You couldn’t hear the music; you could only imagine how amazing it must sound.

The Damned were among the many loud and angry punks mentioned in the pages of Phonograph Record Magazine. I don’t recall the group necessarily getting a lot of ink in the few PRMs I was fortunate enough to grab, but I do remember Flo & Eddie discussing (and dismissing) one of The Damned’s singles–either “New Rose” or “Neat Neat Neat”–in their Blind Date column. Flo & Eddie were not impressed with British punk on first exposure.

In the fall of ’76, I met Mary Ellen at the ESSPA (Empire State School Press Association) Convention in Syracuse. I was there with a cadre of my fellow North Syracuse High School literary insurgents–Dan BacichTim Schueler, and Sue Caldwell–representing our school literary magazine, The NorthCaster.  At the banquet and awards ceremony, we shared a table with a group representing a magazine from a Rochester area high school, and Mary Ellen was part of that group. I think their magazine was called Brown Bag, and I’m pretty sure they won top honors at ESSPA that year.

I have no photo of Mary Ellen. 

Our two groups hit it off pretty well, and it turned out that Mary Ellen was a big rock ‘n’ roll fan. She was especially fond of The Who; I’d remembered reading ads for some Who bootlegs (probably in The Buyer’s Guide For Comics Fandom). I said I’d send her the information, and we exchanged addresses.

She wound up writing to me first, saying she was listening to Montrose and slipping into the terra incognita, a favorite phrase of hers. Starry-eyed teen that I was–I was kinda like Davy Joneson any random episode of The Monkees, except usually without reciprocation–I immediately began to imagine True Love. I was–what’s the word?–an idiot. On a January bus ride from Cleveland to Syracuse, traveling back home solo after visiting my sister, I daydreamed about Mary Ellen, about singing Beatles songs together and maybe exchanging a playful kiss. 

But this was all just fancy on my part. I wrote her a long, presumably witty letter, devoid of any attempt at romantic content–I wasn’t quite that much of an idiot–and she responded with delight. Further correspondence revealed that we would be switching neighborhoods in the fall; I would be starting college in Brockport, a mere 19 miles from Rochester, while she would be attending Syracuse University. She sent me her phone number at SU.

One fall evening in Brockport, I called Mary Ellen, and we spoke on the phone for about an hour. It was a breezy, banter-filled conversation. I remember mentioning The Raspberries (whom she didn’t know all that well) and The Bay City Rollers (which horrified her, since she saw them as not far removed from the dreaded “D-I-S-C-O!”). We had both discovered punk. I don’t know how The Damned came up in the conversation, but she asked me if I’d heard them yet; I hadn’t, so she cranked up the stereo in her dorm room and played The Damned’s LP track “Stab Yor Back” for me. So that was my true, lo-fi introduction to the music of The Damned.

We mentioned earlier how much easier it is nowadays to find out about something or anything. You wanna know what else has changed since 1977? The cost of long-distance phone calls. My 60-minute call to Mary Ellen cost a whompin’, stompin’ fifty dollars, which is an awful lot of money to spend for a few seconds of The Damned. My parents weren’t real happy about paying that bill for me, so that was my Christmas present that year; they threw in a copy of the Alive II album by KISS, because they were really great parents.

But that phone call (and, I think, one subsequent shorter one) were my last positive communications with Mary Ellen. I tried to get in touch with her the next time we were both in Syracuse, but she’d figured out by now that I mighta possibly had hearts in my eyes, and she didn’t need that at all. And honestly, I can’t blame her. In any case, I was soon involved with Sharon, a girl I met in Brockport, and then also with Theresa (another girl I met in Brockport), and significant complications loomed on my immediate horizon.

Complications. My man Archie understands.

It was more than a year until I would be in the same room as a Damned song playing on a damned stereo near me. In the Spring of ’78, a friend at school loaned me a compilation album called New WaveNew Wave included The Damned’s debut single “New Rose,” and I liked it a lot. It turned out that there would be a number of songs by The Damned that I like a lot, especially “Wait For The Blackout” on the group’s 1980 LP The Black Album. I’ll have to try listening to that over a $50 phone call some day.

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Categories
Pop-A-Looza TV

Cheap Trick / Dream Police

Categories
Pop-A-Looza TV

Cheap Trick / If You Want My Love

Released as a single in May of 1982, Cheap Trick’s If You Want My Love. Although is only reached #45 in America, its deft use of multiple Beatle-influenced elements resulted in it being a fan favorite and an international hit. It was also included on their Lp, One On One, alongside their MTV hit, She’s Tight.

Categories
Pop Sunday

Here’s Chippy / Pieces

Here’s Chippy

“Pieces” (2021)


After years of playing in bands in and around the Chicago area, Chip Muellemann decided to call it a day and embark on a solo career under the psuedonym Here’s Chippy. Based in Park City, Illinois, the singer, songwriter and multiple-instrumentalist has just completed “Pieces,” which marks his sixth full-length studio album. 

The old adage – “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – certainly applies when it comes to Here’s Chippy’s music. You always know what to expect when you purchase an album bearing the name, and “Pieces” proceeds to portray his tried and tested practice of straight up rock. The influence of bands such as Cheap Trick and Enuff Z Nuff are evident, while Here’s Chippy’s vocals tend to echo the cheeky grit of Joe Walsh.

 Therefore, tightly-coiled songs, brimming with harnessed energy flood the album. “Everytime I Think Of You,” “No One To Hold,” “Old Friend” and “A Woman Like You” roll in as specific sonic specimans amplifying Here’s Chippy’s knack for braiding together grinding rhythms and heavy hooks into a cohesive concoction. Crunchy guitar chords abound, and a powered backbeat keeps perfect time.

 Although hard rock is the theme, “Pieces” does feature a couple of slight diversions. Peppered with swirling atmospherics, floating melodies and phased vocals, “In My Head” ripples with psychedelic impressions, where  the properly titled “Bump” grooves and grunts to a fierce and funky pitch. 

If you’re itching to hear a big blast of no-nonsense rock, “Pieces” is the album to turn to. And the sound is crisp and clear, propelling these songs to leap right out of the speakers!

Categories
Pop Sunday

Nick Frater / Fast & Loose

Nick Frater

Fast & Loose (Big Stir Records 2020)

https://www.nickfrater.com/

September 18 is a date to celebrate, because that is the day Nick Frater – who hails from Croydon, England – releases his fifth studio album, Fast & Loose. Those already acquainted with the multi-tasking musician need not be informed of his forte for siring ingenious songs bleeding with radio-friendly frequencies. Nick’s radiant vocals, rife with melody and movement, are custom fit for the type of songs he writes so well.

Operating at an arresting tempo, supported by cracking guitar licks and ringing organ chords, Luna produces memories of Paul McCartney and Wings, and although Cocaine Gurls mentions The Talking Heads, Stevie Nicks and Steely Dan, the song crosses a rocking Cheap Trick inspired bite with the wry wit of Elvis Costello

Locked and loaded with infectious breaks and divine harmonies, Let’s Hear It For Love is a bona fide power pop marvel, while the title track of the album is a blazing instrumental, pronounced by an inviting interplay of slick dance rhythms and ripping rock grooves. Switching the dial to the easy listening station, there’s finely-engineered ballads such as Moonstruck, That Ship Has Sailed and Endless Summertime Blues, which emphasize Nick’s appreciation for the moodier and more experimental side of The Beach Boys

Filled to the limit with top-floor sounds and expressions, Fast & Loose captures Nick’s golden gift for reprising classic pop rock styles into his own understanding of the current moment. Diligently-designed songs, matched by a consistently punctual delivery, provide the album with pint after pint of scrumptious sonic delights.

Ever the generous guy, Nick recruited a group of good pals to contribute their talents to Fast & Loose, including Spygenius, The Stan Laurels, Whelligan, Super 8, Emperor Penguin, Do Me Bad Things and Steve Lowe

Not one to remain idle, Nick is now hard at work on his next album. Until then, spin the heck out of Fast & Loose and have fun singing and swinging along with these great songs. No mask or social-distancing required! 

Categories
Boppin'

THE EVERLASTING FIRST: Cheap Trick

Continuing a look back at my first exposure to a number of rock ‘n’ roll acts and superheroes (or other denizens of print or periodical publication), some of which were passing fancies, and some of which I went on to kinda like. They say you never forget your first time; that may be true, but it’s the subsequent visits–the second time, the fourth time, the twentieth time, the hundredth time–that define our relationships with the things we cherish. Ultimately, the first meeting is less important than what comes after that. But every love story still needs to begin with that first kiss.


A tabloid called Phonograph Record Magazine was a starting-point for a lot of my rock ‘n’ roll revelations in the ’70s, and it’s where I first heard of Cheap Trick. Flo & Eddie (aka Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, formerly of The Turtles) had a regular PRM column called “Blind Date,” which featured our happy-together heroes reviewing new releases without being told upfront what the hell they were reviewing. For one 1977 “Blind Date,” they were given the eponymous debut album from Cheap Trick, and offered the clue that the band’s name was like an inexpensive subterfuge. That was my introduction to Cheap Trick.
It seems likely that I must have heard Cheap Trick on WOUR-FM a time or several in ’77, but I have no recollection of that. As was the case with many other new rockin’ pop discoveries for me in 1977, my first conscious memory of hearing Cheap Trick came in the fall of ’77, when I was a freshman at the State University College at Brockport. Most of the new music I heard then was courtesy of the campus station WBSU–“The station where we BS you!”–but Cheap Trick first filled my ears on a commercial station in nearby Rochester, either WCMF-FM, or maybe even the usually-lame Magic 92. The song was “So Good To See You,” a track from the second Cheap Trick album, In Color. I think the cut got a little bit of subsequent radio play as well, though it wasn’t really a hit. In my mind, I hear it alongside “See Forever Eyes,” a then-contemporary prog-pop song by a group called Prism. I liked both “So Good To See You” and “See Forever Eyes,” though neither was specifically at the toppermost of my poppermost.

So I can’t claim to have been ahead of the curve in adoring Cheap Trick. I caught on to the irresistible appeal of Rockford’s Phenomenal Pop Combo about the same time everyone else did: with the track “Surrender” on their third album, Heaven Tonight, in 1978, and full-tilt Cheap Trick mania with Cheap Trick At Budokan, released as an import in late ’78 and–by overwhelming popular demand–domestically in 1979. There was a brief period there were everyone seemed to like Cheap Trick. For once, I was in the mainstream!
The “everyone” in this example included my lovely girlfriend (and now lovely wife) Brenda. We each bought our own copy of Cheap Trick At Budokan–me, to play with my Ramones and Jam records, and her to play with her Santana and Earth, Wind & Fire (plus the Buddy HollyRolling Stones, and Who LPs she’d “liberated” from my collection; she also bought a copy of The Kinks‘ Greatest Hits at the flea market, so her horizons were already expanding). Harmonic convergence!

I eventually acquired all of Cheap Trick’s early catalog–Cheap TrickIn ColorHeaven TonightBudokan, and Dream Police–and loved ’em all. When The Ramones’ fab flick Rock ‘n’ Roll High School played on campus in 1980 (the second time I’d seen the film), it was accompanied by a cool video promo for Dream Police; fitting, since Cheap Trick had been an early choice to star in that film (some time after director Allan Arkush convinced producer Roger Corman that the film shouldn’t be called Disco High, but before Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee, and Marky were cast).
I have to confess I lost interest in Cheap Trick after Dream Police. I didn’t care for the George Martin-produced All Shook Up in 1980, and it would be a while before I was interested in any new Cheap Trick albums. Turns out I missed some pretty cool stuff in that period. But I got back on board the Cheap Trick bandwagon with 1997’s underratedCheap Trick album on the Red Ant label. I had a chance to finally catch the Trick live on that club tour.

In the summer of  2016, our daughter Meghan accompanied Brenda and me to see Cheap Trick at an outdoor concert in Syracuse, and that was an even rarer harmonic convergence right there. Mommy’s all right, Daddy’s all right, we just seem a little weird. An inexpensive subterfuge? Cheap f***ingTrick!
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