Oh crap! Here goes Keller again, going to rattle on ad nauseum about some band we’ve never heard of. I mean, come on Scott! Just write about those bands WE know, like REO or Bon Jovi. Well, yes, I could very well do that, but where’s the fun in writing about a ’70s journeyman band that finely made good with one huge selling album a couple of years after they wrote their true masterpiece. Or, I could write about that New Jersey band which took the Springsteen sound, stripped it down to its pop essence, then decorated their songs in some pop-metal trappings, laughing all the way to the bank. But, noooooooo! I want to write about some little-known Californian band that released two classic power pop albums in the late 1970s who went by the commercially repugnant name of The Rubinoos.
The Rubinoos first came to my attention back in 1977 when they “played” the new “hit” song, a cover version of the Tommy James & the Shondells’ “I Think We’re Alone Now”. The song stuck in my conscience for a very long time because once in a great while I would discover the song on a CD compilation in the 1990s. But, the big coup occurred when I was out visiting Graham & his lovely wife Kaitlyn in the Wilkes-Barre area this past Independence Day weekend. Graham, Seth and I had a Kellers’ Men Day Out by going to Graham’s favorite record. In and amongst our discoveries, I had found copies of the band’s now classic first two albums: The Rubinoos (1977) and Back to the Drawing Board (1979). Imagine my excitement as I had been on the hunt for these two used albums for a dollar a piece.
Those albums were the first two I played after we got back from our trip. But, as I played them, I was transported back to those late-Seventies summer days when AM radio was still somewhat important. The Rubinoos were just a step beyond Shaun Cassiday, but not quite as the dirty rocking sound that The Knack quickly made popular by The Knack in 1979 or The Romantics in 1980. Still, The Rubinoos provided an important stepping stone in the Power Pop continuum. (Shoot, even Cassiday recorded a Power Pop classic with Todd Rundgren in 1980, but that’s another story!)
First, their cover of “I Think We’re Alone Now” opened the door to late-Seventies California Power Pop scene that was burgeoning at the time. Once the record companies had poked open a hole into the bands’ area, the scene was ready to explode. Following The Rubinoos and The Knack, we got classic albums over the next decade from The Plimsouls, The Bangles, The Go-Go’s, The Long Ryders, The Greg Kihn Band, The Three O’Clock and Jellyfish, to name a few.
Now, The Rubinoos have only achieved cult status like most power pop bands. Still, there is a fairly large group of power pop aficionados all around the world like myself, who will write about these partially-know bands in the hopes of piquing the interest of others to seek out these bands.
All I know is that Power Pop brings to me a sunny disposition, which when you are suffering from chronic pain can only help your outlook. By the way, The Rubinoos are together and still releasing relevant Power Pop music. As a matter of fact, some critics even believe that the band’s more recent releases are some of their best music. Me? Personally, I find the new stuff much like I find the new stuff of all classic band. Their new material is very workman-like, but lacks the naivety and youthful enthusiasm of those original two albums. Still, the new stuff is better than much of what is currently being released. So, raise a glass to The Rubinoos, one of the original inductees in the relatively new Power Pop Hall of Fame.