Whether its Raspberries’ naughty testosterone-fueled epic “Go All the Way,” most recently prominently featured in “Guardians of the Galaxy” or Badfinger’s “Baby Blue,” which scored the climactic final scene in the series finale of “Breaking Bad,” power pop is feel-good music whose sonic reverberations continue to make an indelible impact on the culture. In “Play On! Power Pop Heroes: Volume Two” (Jetfighter/$45), the just-released first installment of a three-volume series, Ken Sharp honors the musical innovators who built the genre’s foundation.
Back in ’67, in describing their new single “I Can See for Miles,” the Who’s Pete Townshend coined the term “power pop,” not knowing that the genre would come to take its name from his offhand description. “A Hard Days Night”…”You Really Got Me”…”Glad All Over”…”Feel A Whole Lot Better”…”Pictures of Lily”…”Tin Soldier”…””Open My Eyes”…”Go All the Way”…”No Matter What”…”September Gurls”…”Surrender”…”My Sharona”…”Stacy’s Mom” these classic songs share one common thread: they contain all the ingredients that make up a musical form known as “power pop.”
From the ’60s to present day, power pop music has gone on to mean different things to different people. For some, the term conjures the guitar crunch of Badfinger and Cheap Trick; for some, it’s the intricate orchestrated melodicism of the Beach Boys, the Zombies or Jellyfish; while for others it epitomizes the quirky jagged pop tread by acts like Squeeze, XTC and Fountains of Wayne. But the stylistic glue that welds it all together into one thrilling two-to-three-minute musical joyride is a collective reverence for a picture-perfect melody that will take your breath away and a supersonic hook, the size of the Empire State Building, that’s near impossible to forget.
Featuring a foreword by Rick Springfield and afterword by Cyril Jordan of the Flamin’ Groovies, the 765-page book culls exclusive extended interviews with 23 artists that defined the genre and is profusely illustrated with rare photographs and original handwritten lyrics.
Track-by-track commentary is provided about seminal albums including
Argy Bargy (Squeeze,) Working Class Dog (Rick Springfield), Shades in Bed and Crashes (The Records), Present Tense and Tongue Twister (Shoes) , Union Jacks (The Babys), Pezband (Pezband) No More, No Less (Blue Ash), The Rubinoos, Back to the Drawing Board, and Basement Tapes (The Rubinoos) and Elevator (Bay City Rollers) plus select artist commentary about classic recordings from members of Cheap Trick, XTC, Sweet, Utopia, Flamin’ Groovies, Dwight Twilley and others add to the inside story of this influential genre.
Buyers will receive over 90 tracks of incredible bonus music (over a $90 retail value) of rare, unreleased and live music from Rick Springfield, Glenn Tilbrook (Squeeze), Chris Difford (Squeeze), The Babys, Dwight Twilley, The Flamin’ Groovies, Shoes, Artful Dodger, Blue Ash, Piper, The Rubinoos, The Records, The Hudson Brothers, Duncan Faure (Bay City Rollers), Kasim Sulton (Utopia), The A’s, Ian Lloyd (Stories), The Toms, The Flashcubes and Richie Fontana (Piper). In addition to those artists, there will be out of print and rare tracks from Jellyfish, The Posies, Tommy Keene, Hawks and many, many more…
Play On! Power Pop Heroes: Volume Two is available exclusively from
Acts featured in Volume Two:
The Hudson Brothers
Bay City Rollers
Now here’s the excerpt:
FLAMIN’ GROOVIES CHAPTER EXCERPT FROM “Play On! Power Pop Heroes: Volume 2.” The 765–page book is available in a limited sales window with cut off date of March 31st. Get the book now exclusively from: http://www.ken-sharp.com/power-pop-v2/index.html
Why was there a five-year gap between the albums Teenage Head and Shake Some Action?
Chris Wilson: We didn’t have a label basically. In 1972 when we went to England we never had a signed contract with United Artists. They dumped us at the end of it because of some very nasty personal things that came about. Danny, our drummer, was a bit of a bully and he alienated several people at the record label. (laughs) So we got back to the States and there was nothing for us to do. We couldn’t get any gigs. We changed out name to the Dogs briefly because we felt like a bunch of dogs, like curs on the street. So that’s why there was that five-year gap between albums. There was not much interest. We did a single with Bomp! Records in ’74, “You Tore Me Down,” and through that we met Seymour Stein with Sire Records. Greg Shaw with Bomp was working with him at the time. I think Seymour was helping him publish his magazine. Seymour finally came around and took us out of obscurity and signed us.
Discuss the Groovies’ stylistic shift from snarling Stones–garage rock to a power pop sound. What was the thinking behind the decision to move in that direction?
Cyril: You can see on Teenage Head the break was already happening because I was starting to write a hell of a lot more and singing more on that album. It’s funny—hardcore Groovies fans dig the Teenage Head period and hate us for doing Beatlesque-type stuff.
Chris: We loved the Beatles, we loved their music and we loved their image. People seemed to be forgetting about it so we thought, Let’s bring it back and throw our hands in to see what we can do. That was our roots. It was a time both in the States and in England that that kind of music was just passing away and not getting much notice anymore. We wanted to bring back the sounds of groups like the Beatles and the Byrds. We did covers by both of those bands; we recorded “Misery” and “There’s a Place” by the Beatles and “Feel a Whole Lot Better” by the Byrds.” We did the covers we liked and just had fun with them. So that’s the vibe we tried to follow with records like Shake Some Action, Now and Jumpin’ in the Night. See, we always liked eclectic songs in the Flamin’ Groovies, especially in those days. We did 14th-century songs. We did “St. Louis Blues,” the most recorded song ever in the history of English recorded music.
Cyril: On the Jumpin’ in the Night album I was listening to a lot of Byrds stuff. To me, those songs are so great. When we were in the studio cutting an album, we did covers to get energy. It’s like, “Hey man, we did it. We cut ‘5D’—that sounds fucking incredible!” Now we’re jazzed.
The Groovies adopted not only the power pop sound but the image as well.
Cyril: We wanted to look cool because I think fashion is part of the whole power pop scene too. We had a fan in Holland who told us about the Beatles’ tailor who lived in Islington. These were the guys that the Beatles had make them all these psychedelic coats around Sgt. Pepper. They had patterns going back to the Edwardian period. We used them to make our suits at the time. The day we came to get the suits we took those photographs for the front and back cover of Shake Some Action. That place was located right across the street from the tailor in Islington, London. I walked into this parking lot and saw this Jaguar XK 12 and said, “Hey, let’s take a picture in front of this Jaguar.” Years later we’re playing the Whiskey and people are going, “Where’s the Jaguar?” They thought that building in the back was Flamin’ Groovies headquarters and this was our car. It was like this James Bond image they had of us or something, which really shocked me. (laughs)
Why do you feel the group was more popular outside of America?
Cyril: The Groovies were out of time in America. I’m not saying we were ahead of out time—we were past it. The time that we were personifying had died in America years before. We were trying to put it into a capsule. I kept doing it with the Groovies because I was trying to communicate to everybody that this genre, this art form should not die. It’s not burned out. There’s still a whole lot of songs yet to be written that’s gonna give us this incredible feeling. In the ’60s when I was a kid and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” came out and then like two days later “I Wanna Be Your Man” by the Stones and then “For Your Love” by the Yardbirds—this was an addiction. I’d go down to the Record Changer on Market Street every Saturday and they had the top hundred on the wall and I’d get “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago” by the Yardbirds and “Live” by the Merry-Go Round. You’d go home and play these things and it was just like you were a drug addict. This was heavier than heroin.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ken Sharp is a New York Times best-selling author who has penned more than 18 music books, contributes to a variety of national music magazines, works on music documentaries and has done liner notes for releases by Elvis Presley, Sly and the Family Stone, Janis Joplin, Small Faces, Santana, Cheap Trick, Raspberries, Eric Carmen, KISS, Hall and Oates, Jellyfish, Heart and others. In addition to the Play On! Power Pop Heroes series, his books include “Starting Over: The Making of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Double Fantasy,” “Elvis: Vegas ‘69,” “Nothin’ to Lose: the Making of KISS (1972-1975),” “Elvis Presley: Writing for the King,” “Sound Explosion: Inside LA’s Studio Factory with the Wrecking Crew,” “Overnight Sensation: The Story of the Raspberries,” “Play on!: Power Pop Heroes,” “Reputation is a Fragile Thing: The Story of Cheap Trick,” “Kooks, Queen Bitches and Andy Warhol: The Making of David Bowie’s Hunky Dory.”
For more information or to arrange an interview with the author, contact email@example.com