THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE: Elevation

This chapter is in some potential drafts of my long-threatened book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1), but is more likely to be pushed back to an even-more-theoretical This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, Volume 2.

An infinite number of tracks can each be THE greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Today, this is THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE!

TELEVISION: “Elevation”

Written by Tom Verlaine

Produced by Andy Johns and Tom Verlaine

From the album Marquee Moon, Elektra Records, 1977
Vertigo.

For the disaffected and dissatisfied in 1977, no track expressed the feeling of rock music in dizzying free fall with greater menace and implied ennui as “Elevation” by Television

A large part of growing up manifests in staking one’s own claim on fresh vistas. We don’t necessarily crave a complete break from the past, from the frontiers settled by older siblings or preceding generations. But we want some real estate to call our own. 

From Television’s debut album Marquee Moon, the track “Elevation” just fascinated me when I was 17. Fall of 1977, freshman in college, trying to finally hear all these punk or new wave or whaddayacallit bands I’d read so much about in the pages of Phonograph Record Magazine. I asked the campus radio station for help, and was rewarded with the sounds of the Ramones,Blondiethe Dictatorsthe Advertsthe JamWillie Alexander and the Boom Boom Bandthe Runaways, and oh yeah!, Television. I could never get enough of this jagged, loping, serpentine noise, so mesmerizing, so different, so gratifyingly dizzying in its willful application of elevation going to my head. And staying there. Marquee Moon was among my earliest LP purchases in this broad category of NEW MUSIC circa ’77 and ’78. It would not be the last. 

Oh, no. Not even close to the last.

Years later, I read something that compared Television to the Grateful Dead, keying on the group’s essential musicality in contrast with the three-chord image of much of their CBGB‘s contemporaries. That comparison would have horrified me in the ’70s, and I doubt many Deadheads would have agreed with it either. Minus the determined DIY stance of original Television bassist Richard Hell, though, the members of Television–guitarists Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd, drummer Billy Ficca, and Hell’s four-string replacement Fred Smith–could be jazzier, more inclined to improvise, while still maintaining a Bowery edge. Television might not have jammed like Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia, but their sound was in some ways closer to the Dead than it was to the Ramones or Blondie, or even to Talking Heads.

Television split after their second album, 1978’s Adventure, and did an eponymous reunion album in 1992. Marquee Moon was their signature work, an acknowledged classic in rock ‘n’ roll’s storied history of fresh vistas claimed, frontiers settled. A song on that album begged (or warned), “Elevation, don’t go to my head.” The plea is for naught. The head surrenders. The body falls. 

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This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on the web at http://sparksyracuse.org/ You can read about our history here.

I’m on Twitter @CafarelliCarl

Categories
Birthdays

Paul Weller

Born on this day in 1958, in Woking, England, musician Paul Weller. In the 1970’s and 80’s, Weller fronted The Jam and Style Council, before moving on to a solo career.

THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE: This Ain’t The Summer Of Love

An infinite number of tracks can each be THE greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Today, this is THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE!

BLUE ÖYSTER CULT: This Ain’t The Summer Of Love

Written by Albert Bouchard, Murray Krugman, and Don Waller

Produced by Sandy Pearlman, Murray Krugman, and David Lucas

From the album Agents Of Fortune, Columbia Recoirds, 1976

I’ve written many times about my friend Tom, who killed himself in 1979. The other day, the random thought occurred to me that, if he had lived, Tom and I probably would have parted company somewhere along the line. It was an unsettling, sobering thought. As much as we had been friends, our paths were already starting to diverge when he carried out that final act. He is frozen at a point in time when we were friends. It’s been more than forty years, and the memory still aches. Losing a friend is difficult. Losing a friend to suicide leaves a wound that never quite goes away. That mental scar inevitably dominates my recollection of a former friend. 

There are specific songs that always remind me of Tom, songs I first heard when Tom played them. Both David Bowie‘s “All The Madmen” and the Runaways‘ cover of the Velvet Underground‘s “Rock And Roll” are superglued to Tom’s memory. And that is likewise true of “This Ain’t The Summer Of Love,” a track from Blue Öyster Cult‘s 1976 album Agents Of Fortune. I only knew the band from radio play of “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” but Tom had the LP, and played it for me. Tom was particularly fond of “This Ain’t The Summer Of Love,” and his enthusiasm was infectious. 

BÖC’s best-known tracks are “Don’t Fear The Reaper” and (later on) “Burnin’ For You,” with maybe an honorable mention for “Godzilla.” My favorite remains “This Ain’t The Summer Of Love,” a lean and efficient LP track from Agents Of Fortune(the album that gave us “Don’t Fear The Reaper”). I learned of the song through my doomed high school pal Tom, prompting me to purchase my own battered, used copy of the album in time for college. During my freshman year, Side One of Agents Of Fortune was as much a go-to slab of vinyl as my Sex Pistols and Monkees records, and “This Ain’t The Summer Of Love” in particular fit well alongside my steady diet of RamonesTelevisionJam, and Dave Clark Five.
For me, 1979 was the summer of love. I had met Brenda the preceding fall, and we were getting increasingly serious about committing our hearts to each other. She was with me the night I saw Tom for the last time, and she was with me the next morning when a phone call delivered the news of his death. She tried to comfort as best she could. It was a summer of love, no matter what a song said. It was also a summer marked by the start of a lingering sadness that’s not ever going to go away. Friendships end. That’s the nature of all things in this physical world. 

We make our way as best we can. Some are unable to make their way. The day a good friend of mine killed himself in 1979 was one of the worst days of my life, until an even worse day took its place decades later. The emotional scar never heals. I look back, and wish I could have helped.

If you find yourself in something similar to my old friend’s shoes, help is available. If you know someone else going through whatever it was my friend went through, please try to be a guide toward that helping hand, that helping voice, the bedrock of support your friend needs. Indeed, the support we all need. Your friend is not alone. You are not alone. 

We are not alone.

So this ain’t the summer of love. Who says it can’t be? Don’t fear the reaper. And don’t be afraid to fight back.

If you like what you see here on Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do), please consider supporting this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon, or by visiting CC’s Tip Jar. Additional products and projects are listed here.

This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on the web at http://sparksyracuse.org/ You can read about our history here.

I’m on Twitter @CafarelliCarl

The Jam / Going Underground

Released by The Jam as a single in 1980, Going Underground was the band’s first #1 record in the UK.

I’m At BAT! (No Pun Intended)

Love Letters 2 Rock N Roll recently asked its Legion of Super-Stringers to write a blurb about our “up-to-bat” songs, the tracks that would play if we were professional baseball players about to enter the batter’s box. I swear the pun in my choice is unintentional.

The crowd was anxious. This wasn’t supposed to be close, wasn’t thought to be any real challenge for the hometown heroes. But that’s baseball. There’s no clock. There’s no guarantee of dominance. The team who scores the most wins. Obvious? Sure. It ain’t rocket surgery, man. It’s baseball.

So there we were: bottom of the ninth, the visitors ahead by one run, two outs, the bases loaded, the season coming down to whatever happened next. The final playoff game in a best-of-seven series. The winning team would go on. The losing team would go home. We’d been the favorites to go 4-0. It hadn’t worked out that way. Injuries. Bad luck. Baseball.

Scratchy McQuade was at bat. He’d strode to the plate as his familiar at-bat theme “I Honestly Love You” by Olivia Newton-John played for the still-puzzled fans, desperate for a hit. Maybe not an Olivia Newton-John hit, but you go into battle with the pop music you have, not the pop music you wish you had.  First pitch: swing and a miss, strike one. Second pitch: high and outside, ball one. Ball two. Ball three. Strike two. C’mon Scratchy! C’mon Olivia!

Ball four. Scratchy strolled to first, the run scored, and the game was tied. A conference at the mound, the content of which caused seasoned lip-readers to blush like schoolgirls. Play resumed. Next batter.

Me.

I was so far down the line-up that no one knew what my at-bat song would be. I’d been an occasional designated runner, but otherwise hadn’t appeared since preseason exhibitions, and I was set to be traded in the off-season. I was not a hometown hero. But there weren’t many choices left. The manager had sighed, cursed, and thumbed me to the on-deck circle. With Scratchy now at first, and the potential winning run at third, it was time.

My song played. That well-known intro. The fans buzzed. They knew the song; they all knew the song. And they started to sing along:

Batman! Batman! Batman! Batman! Batman! Batman! Batman!
I wanted the TV version, but I was okay with a snippet of the longer version from Nelson Riddle‘s TV soundtrack album. I ruled out composer Neal Hefti‘s version, The Marketts‘ hit version, covers by The WhoThe Jam, the live Kinks. I wanted old school, old chum. I wanted the original.

Excitement surged through the crowd, palpable and electric. They didn’t know me. But they knew the song. They felt the confidence of the just and true. BATMAN WOULD SAVE US!

I was hit by the first pitch. Our run scored. The season was saved! I was traded to Metropolis, but I’d had my moment. A hero? I guess not. But I’ll take it. Yes, Commissioner. Yes indeed.

Na na na na na na na na na na na na na BATMAN!

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Pop In A Box

My collection of CD boxed sets is fairly modest, I think. Given my level of pop obsession, and fact that I co-host a weekly radio show (and used to regularly write reviews for publication), you might think I’ve amassed a wall or two (or at least a few shelves’ worth) of compact disc sets housed in pretty, pretty boxes. But no; I own a relative handful, and that supply generally satisfies my boxed set needs.

Looking back, I don’t recall owning vinyl boxed sets; The Motown Story is the only one I remember, and I got rid of that one because its spoken narration ran into and spoiled the intros of many tracks. I think my first CD boxed set was a collection of The Rolling Stones‘ ’60s singles. purchased shortly before my first Stones concert in 1989. The Monkees‘ Listen To The Band was the first boxed set I ever received as a promo when I was freelancing for Goldmine (a gig which also brought me The Clash‘s box Clash On Broadway and the first two Nuggets boxes). 

Bo Diddley‘s The Chess BoxThe Velvet Underground‘s Peel Slowly And See, and the Stax and Motown boxes were all record club purchases, and the Otis Redding set was a Christmas gift from lovely wife Brenda. (Earth, Wind & Fire‘s The Eternal Dance was in turn a Christmas gift I gave to her, but I listen to it, too.)

It’s funny how a simple matter of packaging decides what’s included or excluded from this list. Because they’re housed in jewel cases rather than some kind of box, essential pop resources like Prince‘s three-disc The Hits/The B-Sides, The Monkees’ three-disc Headquarters Sessions, and The Hollies‘ six-disc Clarke, Hicks & Nash Years aren’t considered boxed sets, but the two-disc Bo Diddley is most certainly a box. It even has “box” in its title.

These are the boxed sets I currently own. You’ll note the absence of the above-mentioned Listen To The Band Monkees box, which I sold to a co-worker when I picked up the newer Music Box Monkees collection. 

THE BEACH BOYS: Good Vibrations: Thirty Years Of The Beach Boys
THE BEACH BOYS: The Pet Sounds Sessions
THE BEATLES: The Capitol Albums, Vol. 1
THE BEATLES: The Capitol Albums, Vol. 2
BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD: Buffalo Springfield
THE CLASH: Clash On Broadway
BO DIDDLEY: The Chess Box
EARTH, WIND & FIRE: The Eternal Dance
THE JAM: Direction Reaction Creation
THE KINKS: The Anthology 1964-1971
KISS: Box Set
LED ZEPPELIN: Led Zeppelin
THE MONKEES: The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees
THE MONKEES: Head
THE MONKEES: Instant Replay
THE MONKEES: The Monkees Present
THE MONKEES: Music Box
PHIL OCHS: Farewells & Fantasies
THE RAMONES: Weird Tales Of The Ramones
OTIS REDDING: Otis!
THE ROLLING STONES: Singles Collection The London Years
SIMON & GARFUNKEL: Old Friends
VARIOUS: The Beach Music Anthology [incomplete]
VARIOUS: Children Of Nuggets
VARIOUS: The Complete Stax-Volt Singles 1959-1968
VARIOUS: Hitsville U.S.A.–The Motown Singles Collection 1959-1971
VARIOUS: Nuggets
VARIOUS: Nuggets II
VARIOUS: One Kiss Can Lead To Another: Girl Group Sounds Lost & Found
VARIOUS: Where The Action Is! Los Angeles Nuggets 1965-1968
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND: Peel Slowly And See
THE ZOMBIES: Zombie Heaven


Some of these get taken off the shelf with some frequency, particularly the Nuggets, girl group, Beatles, and Motown boxes. The Led Zeppelin box is rarely touched, but I’m glad to have it. The Zombies box is still listed here, but I actually haven’t been able to find it in months; if it doesn’t turn up soon, I’m gonna have to replace it. I missed out on Rhino Handmade‘s boxes of the first two Monkees albums; even as an obsessive fan, I couldn’t justify the cost of those, not when I already had two-disc editions that satisfied my needs.

I think The Kinks’ box is the most recent addition. I don’t buy boxed sets all that often, so my collection of them remains modest. 

Loud, but modest.


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THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE: The Batman Theme

This chapter from my book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1) includes bits from a few other previous posts, all remixed into its own unique piece. It was distributed privately to this blog’s paid patrons on September 1, 2020. This is its first public appearance. You can become a supporter of Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do) for just $2 a month: Fund me, baby!

An infinite number of songs can each be THE greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Today, this is THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE!

NELSON RIDDLE: The Batman Theme

Written by Neal Hefti
From the 20th Century Fox TV series Batman, 1966
I grew up in a time when TV theme songs routinely entered the public consciousness. The catchy ditties that opened shows like Gilligan’s IslandF TroopThe Beverly HillbilliesThe Patty Duke Show, and Car 54, Where Are You? weren’t hit records in the usual sense, but within our shared pop culture they were nonetheless as big as any 45 spinning on the radio. 

Many theme songs were sufficiently hook-laden to prompt release as a single, sometimes by the original artist and sometimes in cover versions, and sometimes to chart success. The Cowsills‘ swell cover of “Love American Style” wasn’t a hit, but it should have been, and it remains a staple of their live act. The VenturesPerry ComoHenry Mancini, and Johnny Rivers all made the Top 40 with their respective renditions of themes from Hawaii Five-0Here Come The BridesPeter Gunn, and Secret Agent Man. Television tunes continued to maintain a radio presence throughout the ’70s and ’80s. In June of 1995, The Rembrandts‘ “I’ll Be There For You,” the theme from the NBC sitcom Friends, was the # 1 song on radio the week my daughter was born. I thought that was appropriate, and pretty cool.

The campy 1966 Batman TV series had a seismic effect on me when I was six. No other television program could ever equal Batman‘s lasting impact on impressionable li’l me, creating a life-long interest in comic books and superheroes in general, and in the Caped Crusader specifically. I didn’t understand that the show kinda poked fun at the character, because actor Adam West played the title role straight, and to perfection. As West said decades later in a guest appearance on The Big Bang Theory: “I never had to say ‘I’M BATMAN!’ When I showed up, people knew who the hell I was.”

Batman was the most flamboyantly POP! TV show to ever grace the home screen, more so than The Monkees or Laugh-In, more even than essential jukebox shows like Shindig!  Each episode was an explosion of color and attitude, of purposely hammy acting accompanied by on-screen BIFFs, BANGs, and POWs.

But it wasn’t a rock ‘n’ roll show, at least not musically. Its musical direction was charted by bandleader Nelson Riddle, its simple theme song written by Neal Hefti, both of whom were traditional swing/jazz guys who normally eschewed rock. Paul Revere and the Raiders and Lesley Gore appeared as guests on the show, but it was always clear that Batman‘s producers considered themselves above such primitive noise.

(To illustrate this point that Batman‘s higher-ups did not love rock ‘n’ roll, consider the two-part episode guest-starring British pop duo Chad and Jeremy. When Catwoman literally steals Chad and Jeremy’s voices, a character played by Steve Allen [himself a vocal critic of rock ‘n’ roll] quips that maybe that loss isn’t such a bad thing. And we’re talking about agreeably goofy ‘n’ grinning Chad and Jeremy, who were wonderful but hardly hide-your-daughters ruffians on the authority-threatening scale of, say, The Rolling Stones.)

All of this just makes “The Batman Theme” all the more remarkable. It is rock ‘n’ roll; it’s rock ‘n’ roll written and performed by jazz guys who don’t care if you know they’re just slumming, but it rocks anyway. It transcends its secret origin. 

The Who covered it. The Jam covered it. The Kinks included it in their live set. George Harrison appropriated it for The Beatles‘ “Taxman” (which itself inspired The Bangles‘ “I’m In Line” and The Jam’s “Start!”), and Prince incorporated it into his 1989 Batman soundtrack single “Batdance.” The Marketts had a hit with it. Hefti recorded his own version, and it also charted. 

This entry represents the only spot in this book that’s not occupied by an actual record (although the track was finally given an official release on the CD version of the soundtrack to the 1966 Batman movie). The definitive version will always be the compact rumble performed by Nelson Riddle and his orchestra during the show’s opening credits, heard every Wednesday and Thursday night at 7:30, 6:30 Central on ABC. No subsequent recording has ever matched the specific feel, the unique sway of a caped-crusading call-to-arms accompanied by deadly-earnest chick vocals, rolling percussion, and the on-screen cartoon images of Batman and Robin boppin’ the bad guys at the start of another exciting episode. Riddle recorded a full-length version for the show’s official soundtrack LP, but even that fails to duplicate the simple magic of the short little TV version. 

Years ago, when I auditioned for a game show, prospective contestants were expected to dazzle and impress a small live audience. I did some schtick, got some laughs, and then said that I wanted to close with a rendition of  “The Batman Theme,” but couldn’t remember all the words. “Can anyone help me out?,” I asked. The response was tentative at first, then more confident, and soon everyone in the audience was singing with me: Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na, Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na BATMAN!
I whooped my approval. I didn’t succeed in getting on the game show, but I still felt that justice had triumphed. And right now, in your head, I bet you’re singing along with it, too. Thank you, citizen. And thank you, Caped Crusader.

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This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & Carl airs Sunday nights from 9 to Midnight Eastern, on the air in Syracuse at SPARK! WSPJ 103.3 and 93.7 FM, and on the web at http://sparksyracuse.org/ You can read about our history here.

The many fine This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio compilation albums are still available, each full of that rockin’ pop sound you crave. A portion of all sales benefit our perpetually cash-strapped community radio project:

Volume 1: download
Volume 2: CD or download
Volume 3: download
Volume 4: CD or download
Waterloo Sunset–Benefit For This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio:  CD or download
Carl’s writin’ a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1)will contain 165 essays about 165 tracks, each one of ’em THE greatest record ever made. An infinite number of records can each be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Updated initial information can be seen here: THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! (Volume 1). My weekly Greatest Record Ever Made! video rants can be seen in my GREM! YouTube playlist. And I’m on Twitter @CafarelliCarl.

Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men / Heart Inside Your Head

Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men

Heart Inside Of Your Head/One Of The Boyz (JEM Records 2021)

https://nickpiuntimusic.bandcamp.com/track/heart-inside-your-head

Although the members of Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men have been mainstays of the Detroit, Michigan music scene for many years, the band itself is a fairly new entity.  Made up of lead singer, songwriter and guitarist Nick Piunti, bassist Jeff Hupp, keyboardist Kevin Darnall and drummer Ron Vensko, the band issued its debut album, Downtime, in 2020.

Five-star reviews were delivered in droves, and the guys are set to return to the spotlight once again in the form of not one, but two smashing singles.  

Despite the name, there is nothing the least bit complicated about the band. In terms of classic power pop, Heart Inside Of Your Head clearly exemplifies such a genre. Nick’s radio-rich vocals sound like a less rootsy version of Tom Petty, while the instrumentation is rock solid and to the point. Navigated by a riveting rhythm, Heart Inside Of Your Head is further layered with muscular melodies and grooving harmonies. Great lyrics as well, which are universally-themed and executed with passion.

 On One Of The Boyz, Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men crank the volume to maximum decibels and turn in a fist-pumping anthem that combines the throbbing beat of Slade with the modliness moves of The Jam and the rebel bite of The Clash. Bouncing with intent, the rousing song contains a shouting chorus impossible not to sing along with. 

Both these singles fully express Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men’s expertise for composing and playing the sort of hook-packed pop rock that refuses to go out of style. 

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. 

He Buys Every Rock ‘n’ Roll Book On The Magazine Stands, Part 3: Power Pop Means Pop With POWER! (Not some whimpering simp in a Beatles haircut)

Continuing a look back at the rock magazines I used to read. Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here.

My favorite music had a name. I didn’t know that name until I was in college.

“Power pop” is a misunderstood genre, and there will never be a true consensus on its meaning and parameters. It’s my favorite music. It’s not my only favorite music–I adore so many sounds that fall outside my strict definition of power pop, even many that fall outside a broader, nebulous approximation–but it’s my primary boppin’ raison d’être. My awareness of power pop, my understanding of its meaning, began in 1978 with an incredible magazine called Bomp!

I’m not certain where I first heard this “power pop” phrase. It was coined in 1967 by Pete Townshend to describe his music with The Who: “Power pop is what we play–what The Small Faces used to play, and the kind of pop The Beach Boys played in the days of ‘Fun, Fun, Fun,’ which I preferred.” When the late night NBC talk show Tomorrow did a spotlight on punk rock in October of 1977 (with guests Joan Jett of The Runaways and Paul Weller of The Jam), host Tom Snyder prefaced the discussion by noting that, “This is called punk rock, and is also called new wave music, street rock, or power pop.” I betcha that was my introduction to the term. Roughly contemporary to that, a section in The Record Grove in Brockport (then managed by Bill Yerger, soon to open his own great store Main Street Records) was devoted to this strange noise, and the divider for that section said something like “PUNK, New Wave, Garage, Power Pop, Etc.” In January of 1978, I saw my first Flashcubes show; at the time, I thought The Flashcubes were punk, and I thought they were fantastic. I didn’t know they were power pop. I didn’t know what power pop was.

That specific revelation came in March of 1978.

Bomp! magazine was the brainchild of Greg Shaw, whose work I’d already seen in Phonograph Record Magazine (the rock tabloid that hooked me on the notion of punk rock to begin with), and in the sumptuous liner notes package for the way-fab 2-LP collection History Of British Rock Vol. 2. By ’78, Shaw was ably assisted on Bomp! by a writer named Gary Sperrazza! (always with the exclamation). Sperrazza! rarely gets the credit he deserves in the power pop story, but he was just as essential as Shaw in making Bomp! such a compelling and influential read. Nowhere was that impact more evident than in Bomp!‘s March ’78 issue. The eighteenth issue. The power pop issue.

As noted above: REVELATION!!
Jesus, this wasn’t a rock mag; it was a manifesto, pop advocacy journalism unlike anything I’d seen before. Shaw and Sperrazza! saw power pop (referred to in Bomp! as the single word “powerpop”) as a distinct genre, not a mere reaction or marketing term. They traced the origin of power pop squarely to The Who, and included other dynamic ’60s acts like The Kinks, Small Faces, and Creation (the latter a group I’d not heard of before that point). It continued into the ’70s, with The Raspberries (whom Gary ‘n’ Greg obviously considered the definitive power pop act), The Flamin’ GrooviesThe Dwight Twilley Band, some scattered tracks by The Bay City Rollers, and even into some of the then-current punk stuff like The RamonesEspecially The Ramones! Many years later, when I corresponded with Shaw, he reiterated his belief that you couldn’t conceive of something called “power pop” if it didn’t include “Rockaway Beach” by The Ramones.

Bomp!‘s view of the power pop equation was simple and evocative: the punk of The Sex Pistols plus the bubbly pop of teen idol Shaun Cassidy equals the power pop sound of the early Who. Shaw and Sperrazza!’s power pop timeline specifically excluded The Beatles and Eddie Cochran, whose records they felt lacked the prerequisite explosiveness, and The Rolling Stones, whose records were more plainly grown from R & B roots. The magazine also included coverage of British glam/glitter (seen as a complement to power pop), and a history of some group called Big Star. Hmmm. Never heard of them. But that would change. Man, would that ever change!

Around this time, “power pop” was also beginning to gather momentum as a marketing term, an opportunity for skittish record-label weasels to offer a diluted form of punk energy in an inoffensive package. It was a million miles away from what Bomp! was preaching. It manifested in bands like The Pleasers, a British combo that looked like a pub-tour version of Beatlemania! I liked The Pleasers, and their records deserve better than just being slagged for not being The Who, The Raspberries, or The Ramones. But they didn’t meet the dynamic ideal of Bomp!‘s power pop vision. Shaw and Sperrazza! pushed back at this co-opting of power pop, Sperrazza! sneering in a subsequent issue, “After all, power pop means pop with POWER! Not some whimpering simp in a Beatles haircut.”

Nonetheless, the moneychangers won this battle with the prophets. The moneychangers gave us The Knack, not that there’s anything wrong with that. The prophets moved on to other things.

Bomp! magazine predated the ’70s discussion of power pop. It had begun in 1970 as Who Put The Bomp, itself an outgrowth of an earlier Shaw zine called Mojo Navigator And Rock ‘n Roll NewsWho Put The Bomp evolved from fanzine format into a slick rock mag, and its focus shifted slightly from a longing look at rock’s past to a more active inclusion and appreciation of ’70s acts that likewise embraced the glory (and lessons) of the ’60s. The Flamin’ Groovies were the first then-contemporary group to grace the cover of Who Put The Bomp (for its thirteenth issue in ’75). Cherie Currie of The Runaways was on the cover of Who Put The Bomp # 15. The magazine’s name was shortened to Bomp! with issue # 16, showing Brian Wilson on the cover. Sperrazza! joined the crew in time for Bomp! # 17, which arrived with the glowering visage of The Sex Pistols’ Johnny Rotten grimacing from its face, a sign that evolution was becoming revolution.

The magazinedidn’t last much longer than its power pop manifesto in Bomp! # 18. Joey Ramone was on the cover of  # 19, but I missed it. I scrambled back to buy it via mail order when I discovered it had featured a short blurb about my Fave Raves The Flashcubes, and I hadda have that! Shaw, in fact, inspired The Flashcubes’ second single, Gary Frenay‘s “Wait Till Next Week.” Shaw had told the lads they would be mentioned in the next issue of Bomp! Time passed, and the issue did not appear, as Shaw kept promising “Wait ’til next week!” An alternate line in the song (as performed live, not on record) addressed that inspiration:

Greg Shaw writes about the music scene
Told us that he’d put us in his magazine
Three months later, it’s nowhere to be seen
He says, “Why don’t you call me next week?”

I was able to grab the next two issues at Main Street Records, content and engaged, still eager for more from what had clearly become my favorite rock rag. But that twentieth issue in 1979 was it; a planned Bomp! # 21 was never published. The beat would not go on.

Well, the beat wouldn’t go on in print, at least not in the pages of Bomp! However, Shaw had started an indie label, Bomp Records, a few years before that, commencing with a Flamin’ Groovies 45 in 1975. The label outlived the magazine, and released a number of incredible singles and LPs by the likes of The RomanticsThe LastNikki & the CorvettesStiv Bators, and The Plimsouls. Somewhat soured by the power pop implosion, Shaw’s interest moved to neo-’60s garage, an interest served by his new label, Voxx Records. By the time of my brief correspondences with Shaw in the ’90s, power pop had long since fallen off his radar. (My email interviews with him were an invaluable resource in crafting my history of power pop, The Kids Are Alright!) Shaw passed away in 2004. The Flashcubes happened to be playing a show that night. I informed them of Shaw’s death, and they played “Wait Till Next Week” as a tribute, its original line about Greg Shaw intact. One more time.

Greg Shaw did get a little bit of recognition for the influential work he did. I don’t believe Gary Sperrazza! ever received his just due. I met Gary when I lived in Buffalo in the mid ’80s (a tale told within a longer reminiscence called The Road To GOLDMINE). That seminal power pop issue of Bomp! had also detailed Gary’s pervasive interest in soul and funk, asking that musical question, “Where are the Sex Pistols of black music?” So it was no surprise when Gary opened a record store specializing in soul, funk, R & B, and hip-hop, Apollo Records on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo. Apollo also had a back room well stocked with choice garage, rock, and pop platters, so I visited often. Gary died in that miserable year of 2016. I regret he never got the credit he deserved in the power pop story.

Greg Shaw
Gary Sperrazza

Bomp! magazine was about much more than just power pop. It’s an ongoing testament to the sheer prevailing whomp of that lone power pop issue of Bomp! that the magazine remains so umbilically connected to the discussion of all loud things that jangle, buzz, and chime. More than anyone else before or since, Greg Shaw and Gary Sperrazza! defined the parameters of power pop. Many others (me included) have tried to refine the subject, sharpen its definition (and expand it just enough to include The Beatles, ferchrissakes). But no one did it better than Bomp!

Nowadays, our weekly radio show This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana &Carl  has a nominal power pop format, but we mix Motown and punk with our “September Gurls” and “Go All The Way.” As much as I love power pop, and as much as I want its definition to be clear and distinct, I have absolutely no interest in doing a strictly power pop show. What fun would that be? A more general rockin’ pop framework is way more interesting to me, with The Isley Brothers flowing into The RubinoosThe Velvet UndergroundP. P. ArnoldBadfinger, and KISS. Even though we don’t always remain within the criteria of power pop, we call ourselves a power pop show anyway.

Why? Because power pop means pop with powerBomp! said so. Don’t argue with Bomp!

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