Friday, May 06, 2005

Power Pop 1966-1978 - Pioneers

The Who
Power Pop 1966-1978 - Pioneers
Power pop started as a Beatles/Byrds hybrid, mixed with the emergence of a 'louder' rock drum sound. The term 'Power Pop' was coined in an interview with Pete Townshend in 1966, referring to the style of music he was writing for The Who at the time, with songs like "Substitute," "Happy Jack" and the ultimate power pop proto-type "Pictures of Lily." The term wouldn't stick until much, much later.

The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society
The Kinks also provided inspiration with their combination of power chords and pop structures, especially with The Village Green Preservation Society which is an album that's been aped by many power poppers, even though it's probably not technically power pop. Meanwhile, elsewhere artists were moving into the power pop realm from the psychedelic side of things. Philadelphia's Nazz (featuring a young Todd Rundgren) wrote a great power pop song at the time as well ("Open My Eyes") but otherwise were a psychedelic group. Across the Atlantic, The Move, featuring Roy Wood ("California Man" later covered by Cheap Trick) and a young Jeff Lynne (who wrote the song "Do Ya" which he later reworked for ELO) were writing psychedelic pop songs that also crossed into the genre looking back after the fact, and had influence on many artists, especially in the 90's revival.
Badfinger
It wasn't until the 1970's, though, that there was enough of a collection of music to call it a genre, starting with Badfinger. Formed in 1968 and signed by The Beatles to their Apple label, Badfinger's Pete Ham really got the power pop genre jump-started with his songs "No Matter What" and "Baby Blue". Ham, frustrated with how his career was going, ultimately committed suicide in 1975, the first of power pop's early tragedies.

Big Star
1971 saw the release of #1 Record, the dazzling debut by Big Star, the quintessential American power pop band. Based in Memphis, the Alex Chilton-Chris Bell led quartet combined The Beatles, Byrds and The Who for a sound that both looked backward and forward. Even though they were a commercial faliure at the time, they rival only the Velvet Underground in their scope of influence - it's often exaggerated that everybody who bought the album formed a band. Chris Bell quit the group before their second album Radio City (his songwriting, while not credited, is obvious on many tracks, including "Back of a Car".) Bell went on to record some of his own power pop, but found no takers for his demos. After dealing with depression he took a management position with his family's fast-food chain. Then in 1977, the tiny New York label Car issued a single featuring the ultimate in beautiful meloncholy "I Am the Cosmos". It was well received and inspired Bell to form a new band. But another power pop tragedy strikes - Bell dies in a car crash in late 1978, never realizing his dream.

The Raspberries
Meanwhile, a couple other acts were finding the still-to-be-named power pop sound, this time achieving chart success. The Raspberries had a string of hits in the 1970s that carried the power pop sound (notably "Go All the Way" [1972] and "Overnight Sensation" [1974],) and Todd Rundgren perfected some of what he did with Nazz in the solo arena (especially of note, "Couldn't I Just Tell You" [1972].)

The mid-1970's brought an onslaught of bands that fit the sound. The Dwight Twilley Band ("I'm On Fire" [1976],) The Nerves ("Hanging on the Telephone" [1976],) The Shoes, The Rubinos ("I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" [1977],) The Records, etc. Because all this came about at the same time as punk, they were all folded into the title of new wave, and many 'new wave' bands even later fall in and out of the power pop structure (Squeeze, Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, etc.)

One new wave artist that was crossing genres at the time was Blondie. A journalist in NY decided that Blondies' sound at the time of 1978-1979 was "Power Pop" and thus Pete Townshend's original title finally gets ink on the genre.

Next:
Power Pop 1980-1989 - Charts & Excess
Power Pop 1990-1999 - 90s Flourish
Power Pop 1999-? - New Centurians
Power Pop Covers

1 comment:

drake leLane said...

Power Pop 1966-1978 - Pioneers

* "Pictures of Lily" - The Who
* "Picture Book" - The Kinks
* "Open My Eyes" - Nazz
* "No Matter What" - Badfinger
* "Back Of A Car" - Big Star
* "Go All The Way" - The Raspberries
* "I Am The Cosmos" - Chris Bell
* "Do Ya" - Electric Light Orchestra
* "I'm On Fire" - Dwight Twilley
* "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" - The Rubinoos
* "Surrender" - Cheap Trick
* "So It Goes" - Nick Lowe
* "Where Have You Been All My Life" - Fotomaker
* "Pretty Baby" - Blondie