Essential Series - 2017 Power Pop Vol 1

ExplorerExplorer England
edited November 2020 in Essential Series

ARTICLE:The Essential Series - Power Pop (Volume 1), by Explorer
YEAR: 2017



Power Pop was essentially borne out of the early 60's British beat boom with bands such as The Beatles, The Dave Clark Five, The Searchers and many others.

'Power Pop' as a term, if history serves me right was first coined by Pete Townsend when asked what he thought The Who's music was all about, and since then a slew of great bands have made music under the Power Pop umbrella. How do I see Power Pop? Well, jangly guitars, lush harmonies, thrilling, uplifting choruses, songs all about lost loves.

That's my take on it anyway and it's probably in essence an over simplification but I'm sure others better qualified could do a better job of describing it. So, where better to get a real insight into Power Pop? Well you only have to read Ken Sharp's brilliant 'Power Pop Heroes' series to see the depth and sheer eclecticism within the genre.

This particular list is all about my personal favourites of what I consider to be Power Pop, so I might as well add at this point that I've missed out SO many great names.Big Star, Dwight Twilley, Badfinger, Cheap Trick, The Knack, The Flamin' Groovies, 20/20, Emitt Rhodes the list goes on, plenty of time for Volume 2. so in no particular order, Let's Shake Some Action!

The Albums

Raspberries - 1974 Starting Over
I could of actually have picked any Raspberries album, but I'm choosing this one as it contains the mini pop opera 'Overnight Sensation'. 5+ minutes of utter brilliance and one of my all time 5 songs, but there's plenty more to enjoy here as new members McCarl and McBride give this album the edge over their preceding releases.

The title track was also a pointer to Eric Carmen's solo career which would hit pay dirt the following year with the evergreen 'All By Myself'.


Jellyfish - 1993 Spilt Milk
This album is so dense and layered that I've always drawn comparisons to this and 'Queen II', Essentially a duo of Andy Sturmer and Roger Manning Jr they conjured up a true masterpiece, unfortunately for them it was released at a time when Power Pop was not in vogue (was it ever?) but who can argue with the delicious 'Joining A Fan Club' and 'New Mistake', a cornucopia of true delights.

Nick Gilder - 1979 Frequency
Frequency is an album that still ranks in my all time top 10.

'Metro Jets', 'Electric Love', even the titles have that sassy LA edge to them. Filled to the brim with memorable hooks, the album starts with the Queen meets Cheap Trick rush of '(You Really) Rock Me' and from then on never lets go. This album didn't build on the success of Gilder's mega hit 'Hot Child In The City', but Nick went on to become a songwriter of some note

Cherry Twister - 1999 At Home With
Probably an album no-one apart from me has heard of!!. Released in the late 90's, Cherry Twister's leader Steve Ward delivered an album full of summery sounds with tracks that sound like the Beach Boys jamming with The Byrds, for me an undiscovered classic. Standout track 'Kinda Like A Star' a beautiful melodic song straight out of the mid 60's, a perfect pick me up for when you're feeling down.

The Rollers - 1979 Elevator
In the BCR's later career they decided to leave behind the tartan trousers and get serious and the result is this album, a finely crafted set of songs that fit perfectly into the Power Pop genre. With new lead vocalist Duncan Faure on board this album is full of mature songs that are a million miles away from their Teenybopper days. An album that died a death on release and didn't get the promotion it deserved, another lost classic, 'Hello, and Welcome Home' being the album's high point.

Shoes - 1979 Present Tense
The bands second album and their first for a major after the indie success of 'Black Vinyl Shoes'. Here they utilised the talents of producer Mike Stone (Queen, Journey etc) and the band came up with a nigh on perfect blend of both electric and gentle acoustic guitars topped off with some sumptuous harmonies. Headed up by the Murphy brothers John and Jeff, this album went on to hit the top 50 in America. Shoes I believe are still knocking around to this day. Album Highlight, 'Your Very Eyes'.

Phil Seymour - 1981 Phil Seymour
Another album that gets overlooked somewhat. Phil Seymour was the drummer for Dwight Twilley, but this his first solo outing back in 1981 did make some waves with the songs 'Precious To Me' and 'I Really Love You' both being sizable hits in the US. This album is overflowing with slick harmonies and beautiful arrangements and on occasions, a country feel to it. His follow up suffered as his record label (Boardwalk) collapsed. Phil Seymour was, unfortunately, unable to build upon the success of his first album and he passed away relatively young at the age of 41 struck down by cancer.

Todd Rundgren - 1972 Something/Anything?
Todd at his most accessible and even then he throws in a curveball with some rather strange (not for Todd I hasten to add) home recordings thrown in for good measure. This album shows Todd to be the genius that we all know he is. Something/Anything? alone contains some of Power Pop's quintessential moments in 'I Saw The Light', 'Open My Eyes' (which was a track originally recorded by Todd's previous band The Nazz) and 'Couldn't I Just Tell You'. This is a sprawling, daunting double album that like most of Todd's work has many hidden pleasures.

Angel - 1979 Sinful
Pop/Metal, Pop/Rock, who knows, but Angel on their fifth studio album got it so right. In terms of melodies/hooks, Punky and his crew nailed it and with a perfect Eddie Leonetti production. What's not to love about this album, the joyful 'Wild Ad Hot' and irresistible rush of 'Lovers Live On' make this a bona fide Power Pop classic'.

Kiss - 1980 Unmasked
Yes really, this album saw Kiss at their most melodic and who really cares about who played what on this album, the songs speak for themselves, brilliant pop songs and the production courtesy of Vini Poncia giving the whole thing a pristine sheen. Kiss at this time may have been floundering around for a direction, but I reckon they got it spot on, even though the public at large didn't agree. Highlights? The tempting 'Shandi' and Ace's 'Two Sides Of The Coin'.

In Summary

A mixed bag to be sure, from a genre much maligned and misunderstood. I've often thought about my roots with regards to music, and I've come to the conclusion it's in Pop music plain and simple. I'm a pop guy, its melody first and foremost. Of course, I like it hard 'n heavy and yes I'm also more than a little partial to a Prog influenced 12/8 time signature, but I will always come back to the melody, a hook, a chorus, call it what you will. Going through my album collection when compiling this list I found to my surprise that there is more Power Pop in it than any other genre, there ya go eh.

One last thing.

The ultimate Power Pop song for me comes from a man who is featured here but it's from his solo album, and its Paul Stanley's 'Wouldn't You Like To Know Me' which just reeks of The Raspberries and The Who, a perfect coming together of Power and Pop. Hmm, which is where I came in.

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