Thursday, August 6, 2009

Power-pop for weekend consumption

When the tedium of daily life is just a bit too much, mindless pop music is the best solution. Perhaps because I was a child of the Seventies, I veer immediately to what was labeled “power pop” and was at one point known by the gimmicky nickname, “New Wave.” In April of last year I offered links to a number of key tunes (the last, most pungent example can be found here), and returned to the topic in October when I offered an all-too-brief personal survey of ’79 new wave.

In this post I return to those thrilling years of yesteryear by first of all mentioning tha the lame-asses at Warner Music have pulled from YouTube any and all postings of Bram Tchaikovsky’s “Girl of My Dreams,” so you must go immediately to our pals at Never Get Out of the Boat and listen to this sterling bit of perfect power-pop right NOW! (there's an embedded player right on the page, babies). I remember that the local oldies station, WCBS-FM, at the time the song was released included it in their playlist, saying it would become a classic. It didn’t, of course, sell millions, but it is fondly remembered by all of us who were addicted to it at the time (and still crack out the “Strange Man, Changed Man” LP to indulge).

And on the YouTube front, we discover the song that received much publicity some months back when Avril Lavigne released her latter-day power-pop ditty Girlfriend. It sounded quite familiar, and I immediately thought of the Ramones' “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend”. But those with memories even longer than mine remembered this Rubinoos item that still packs a kick (although Avril’s music-makin’ machine speeded the sucker up for the redo):

I identify power pop with the late 1970s, but there were a bunch of precedents for this sound, most notably the top-10 British hit-meisters The Sweet, whose Greatest Hits album is something I’ve worn out over the past few years. Here's “Wig Wam Bam” (which was gloriously celebrated in a great “Love and Rockets” — the comic, not the band — story several years back):

And from Cleveland, the Raspberries, with two of their biggest PP hits, including the wonderfully come-on, “Go All the Way” (never had pop seemed so… straightforward):

Let’s move back to the late Seventies, and celebrate a Deceased Artiste, Philly rocker Robert Hazard. Hazard was best known for having written the MTV hit “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” (his version here, different in its approach and lyrics from Cyndi's hit). His most memorable bit of Eighties hookiness, though, was “Escalator of Life.” Scope out this arch little vid made for the record:

I close out with two songs that have stuck in my brain since I first heard them quite a long time ago. The first comes from the band that Bram Tchaikovsky left to go solo, The Motors. Their 1980 EP “Tenement Steps” is deserving of a place in any Seventies pop fan’s library, and it can be found (along with the band’s albums) at the Digivinyltal blog. Apparently, there are no live recordings or TV lip synchs of the awesome song "Love and Loneliness" available, so one fan has put up a video of the EP cover, with the song playing in the background. It doesn’t convey at all the power of this killer tune, so I recommend you download the EP from the DVT blog. If you need a quick reminder of what the song sounds like from across the room, the link below is worth a click — with, again, the caveat that the melodramatic pop-rock majesty is lost. "Now loneliness is there/ despite the love we make/ And loneliness knows where to find the friends we make/ And the place we live/ is just a new street number/ on an old address/ called Love and Loneliness."

And every single time I find myself thinking or saying the phrase “I don’t want to argue…” in real life, my mind automatically produces the words “I don’t want to budge/take this number down before you call up the judge…” The absolutely perfectly produced tune in question is The Records’ “Starry Eyes.” (I hadn't remembered the legal pun, "The writ has hit the fan...") To hear the real song, go straight to this YouTube upload. I love this song deeply, and recommend the single first and foremost, but a reasonable, not as pitch-perfect, version would be this live TV performance:

One wistful commenter for one of these vids noted, “They tell me not to live in the past, but the music was so much better then….”

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