THE EVERLASTING FIRST: Quick Takes For K (Music Edition)

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.

KLAATU

I heard the Are-they-The-Beatles? hype long before I heard the music. A DJ on WOUR dismissed the rumor on-air with a sneering, They aren’t The Beatles! I may have heard Klaatu’s “Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft” contemporary to its release, and I definitely heard The Carpenters‘ cover version. It’s within the realm of possibility that I heard the Klaatu tribute album Around The World In 80 Minutes before ever hearing much of Klaatu’s original recordings. I picked up a CD reissue of Klaatu’s debut album, 3:47 e.s.t., on a visit to Brockport some time early in the 21st century. “California Jam” became my immediate favorite.

THE KNACK

Probably read about The Knack in Bomp! magazine before “My Sharona” was released. I had a love/hate relationship with The Knack, in the sense that I kinda liked them, I guess, but resented them for having the success I thought The Flashcubes deserved more. “Good Girls Don’t” and “That’s What The Little Girls Do” were my initial favorites on Get The Knack, but I like “Your Number Or Your Name” even more now. I have all of The Knack’s albums in either LP or CD format, including their reunion albums, so I guess I must have finally gotten The Knack.

THE KNICKERBOCKERS

Easy one! I heard “Lies” one afternoon in my dorm room during the fall of 1977, as I was listening to Brockport’s WBSU-AM. Listening to this incredible explosion of ersatz (but convincing!) Britboom, I wrote in my journal, They sound more like The Beatles than The Beatles do. In the spring of 1978, I bought a cutout copy of the Nuggets anthology just to get “Lies,” so The Knickerbockers were indirectly responsible for introducing me to the concept of ’60s psychedelic/garage/punk, and I thank ’em eternally. Much, much later, I’d discover that The Knickerbockers released a lot of other tracks that were nearly the equal of “Lies.” There is often more than just one side to a One Hit Wonder.

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Our new compilation CD This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, Volume 4 is now available from Kool Kat Musik! 29 tracks of irresistible rockin’ pop, starring Pop Co-OpRay PaulCirce Link & Christian NesmithVegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie FlowersThe SlapbacksP. HuxIrene PeñaMichael Oliver & the Sacred Band Featuring Dave MerrittThe RubinoosStepford KnivesThe Grip WeedsPopdudesRonnie DarkThe Flashcubes,Chris von SneidernThe Bottle Kids1.4.5.The SmithereensPaul Collins’ BeatThe Hit SquadThe RulersThe Legal MattersMaura & the Bright LightsLisa Mychols, and Mr. Encrypto & the Cyphers. You gotta have it, so order it here. 

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'

Pezband / The Power Pop Hall Of Fame

Sparkling power pop! Chicago’s musical DNA is understood to be that of a blues town. Rightly so; the Windy City’s seminal role in developing and shaping the blues as we know it is beyond question, and Chicago deserves further specific recognition as the home of the mighty Chess Records label. But Chicago is large; it contains multitudes. It’s not a contradiction for a city to produce and embrace more than one style of music. For power pop–sparkling power pop–Chicago’s favorite sons would have to be Pezband.

Pezband denied comparisons to The Raspberries, but the similarities were always too obvious to ignore.  Influenced by The Beatles and other ’60s pop juggernauts? Check! Breathy vocals over hook-filled jangle ‘n’ buzz, tailor-made for the best AM radio station ever?  Right-o, daddy-o. Harmonies? Guitars? Oomph? Yeah, yeah, yeah. Pezband released three albums of pleasantly Beatlesque pop, commencing with 1977’s Pezband.  That debut album included Pezband’s signature tune “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” and it carried a proud advisory to File Under: Pop Vocal. Pezband seemed primed for the poppermost’s elusive toppermost. And while the frenzied mass adulation of Pezbandmania never materialized, Pezband remains one of the all-time great power pop acts.

Pezband’s second album, 1978’s Laughing In The Dark, overtly embraced power pop as a marketing approach, its above-cited Sparkling power pop ad line beating The Knack to the punch by a year or so. 1979’s Cover To Cover was Pezband’s final album, and the group disbanded shortly thereafter. There have been reunions and scattered archival releases, but the U.S. market is sadly lacking the comprehensive Pezband reissue series pop fans deserve. Even a best-of set, collecting Pezband essentials like “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” “Stop! Wait A Minute,” “Love Goes Underground,” “Come On Madeline,” “Please Be Somewhere Tonight,” and “Waiting In Line” would serve as a potent reminder of Pezband’s status among the all-time giants of power pop. Pezband frontman Mimi Betinis remains active, crafting pure pop for new and old people, a national treasure waiting in line for overdue recognition. That recognition begins with Pezband’s induction into The Power Pop Hall Of Fame. Just another power pop band from Chicago? No. Chicago’s phenomenal pop combo, a blues town’s favorite power pop sons. Love goes underground. The bright sound of Pezband reverberates still.


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Categories
Pop Sunday

Bruce Moody / Forever Fresh

Bruce Moody

Forever Fresh! (Counterfeit Records 2020)

https://brucemoody.bandcamp.com/album/forever-fresh

 
Vocalist, songwriter and multiple-instrumentalist Bruce Moody began his professional music career as a teenager in the late sixties. Circus, Walkee Talkee and The Private Numbers are just a brief mention of some of the bands he performed with. His resume further entails a solo career, recording at Norm Petty’s legendary studio in Clovis, New Mexico, and session work with Willie Nelson and Mickey Gilley.

Bruce retired from music in 1991 to raise a family, but was never forgotten by his devoted legion of fans. So here it is, three decades on, and Forever Fresh!, a collection of  predominately previously unreleased material from 1979 to 1986 is now available. Bruce’s good friend Terry Carolan – who most of you know from bands like True Hearts, Blue Cartoon and Heirs Of Fortune – assisted in the remastering of the project and appears on a handful of songs.

 Had these tunes been issued at the moment they were produced, there is no doubt they would have volleyed straight to the top of the charts. Bruce’s pitch perfect pipes, matched by plump and pealing guitar chords and clusters of clasping hooks, encompass everything there is to love about classic AM radio. Solid compositional techniques, and the ability to deliver the songs with confidence and conviction also smack of star quality.

 A high energy expedition from start to finish, Forever Fresh! is the kind of album begging to be listened to at maximum volume when cruising the sights on a warm.and sunny Sunday afternoon with the windows wide open. Be it the aching bounce of This Is It, the slapping groove of Survival or the purebred power popping punch of glistening gems such as Don’t Look Back For Me, One Desire and Simple Love, you’ll find yourself humming along with happiness. 

Etched of rounded rhythms, jarring breaks and levitating harmonies, both You Do and Gotta Move Away echo the early efforts of The Who, the finely textured Rainy Day shifts and swerves with ravishing melodies, and Terminally Hip features a jumpy tenor and concludes to a nice little rocking jam.

 Due to the period the songs on Forever Fresh!  were conceived, new wave elements – involving tottering keyboards and a sheen of polish – are additionally part of the program. Following the scriptures of The Rubinoos, The Knack and The Romantics, Bruce wedded his passion for sixties pop to a modern edge, leading towards a repertoire of enduring and exciting sounds. Considering the positive response Fresh Forever! has received, perhaps a fire has been lit under Bruce and we can expect more great music from him in the near future. 

Categories
Birthdays

Mike Chapman

Born on this day in 1947, in Nambour, Queensland, legendary record producer, Mike Chapman. In Chapman’s long and storried career, he’s worked with; Sweet, Suzi Quatro, Blondie, The Knack, Rod Stewart, Pat Benatar, and so many more.

Categories
Got Any Singles?

Got Any Singles? Radio Days, The Legal Matters and Dw Dunphy

Radio Days

I Got A Love (Rock Indiana)

https://radiodays.bandcamp.com/

Radio Days serves up a swell slice of power pop via 1979, channeling bands like The Knack, that combined killer bubblegum choruses with powerhouse drums and muscular guitars. 

This one track is reason enough to anticipate the May 21st release of their long-player, Rave On! I have a feeling it’ll be one of the highlights of Spring/Summer.

The Legal Matters

Light Up The Sky

https://futuremanrecords.bandcamp.com/album/chapter-three

Another band bringing it strong with a teaser track is Michigan’s The Legal Matters. Light Up The Sky feels like the Midwestern version of The Red Button’s She’s About To Cross My Mind, albeit with enough impossibly-thick harmonies to make Brian Wilson and his Wonderments blush.

Dw Dunphy

Crime Scene Reporter

https://dwdunphy.bandcamp.com/

Nobody’s better at atmospheric creation than Red Bank’s Dw Dunphy. Charm Offensive is his latest project, from which Crime Scene Reporter comes. Dunphy gets inside the head of the unfortunately-assigned journalist, leaving the listener feeling fortunate not to have that particular occupation.

I do have a feeling, though, that Dunphy might not literally be singing about the crime scene reporter, but anyone who feels helpless to stop a disaster after said disaster has already occurred. Well done.

By Dan Pavelich

Categories
Quick Spins

The Toms /The 1979 Sessions

The Toms

The 1979 Sessions (Futureman)

http://www.tommymarolda.com

When Tommy Marolda sequestered himself into his home studio one weekend in 1979, he probably didn’t realize that the Lp he was creating would come to be coveted by power pop vinyl collectors. As rare as that platter is, thankfully, our friends at Futureman Records have seen fit to reissue in on CD.

If bands like Shoes, The Knack and The Raspberries mean anything to you, this may just be your next favorite record. Boyish vocals top Beatlesque choruses, weaving through the Revolver-ish “Call The Surgeon (Part 2) to the Rutle-y “Guilty As A Killer Wave.” Marolda is a one-man band with rare aplomb, and these fourteen songs are an absolute joy to take in.

It would not be over-selling “The 1979 Sessions” to say that it is a pop masterpiece, because it most certainly is.

D.P.

Update: I was incorrect in stating that these recordings and The Toms’ debut are one and the same. These are previously-unreleased recordings, that were tracked during the same whirlwind sessions as the debut. Thanks to Futureman’s Keith Klingensmith for setting the record straight, I’m even more impressed now!