As you all know by now, I am a huge fan of power pop music. And my love of the genre seems to continue to grow the deeper I dig into this form of rock music. Now, my older son, loves to say that power pop is punk rock without the danger, and he might me onto something. I do love melody, maybe not what is currently pawned off as melody on Ryan Seacrest’s all-day radio programs. No, I am talking about the melody of the early Beach Boys and The Beatles, but I still love a loud guitarist whose solos mainly follow the Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ definition: “Don’t bore us, Get to the chorus.”
Next, you mix those two parameters in a Shake’n’Bake bag and, whammy!, you get the basis of power pop music. But, why was there ever a need for power pop to begin with? I have got to admit that I spent the past couple of weeks attempting to determine this.
The common belief is that the rock & roll era started in 1954 when Bill Haley & His Comets hit Number One with “Rock Around the Clock”. Other artists began to see commercial success, such as Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Carl Perkins, to quickly name a few artists. A short time later, the Everly Brothers dropped their brotherly harmonies on these new fans of this new music. They were followed by arguably the first person to follow the power pop formula was a Texan by the name of Buddy Holly.
Now, rock & roll continued to go and develop until 1965. In 1965, The Beatles released a musically and sonically mature album, Rubber Soul. That album pushed Brian Wilson to create the Beach Boys’ masterpiece Pet Sounds. The final episode that stopped rock & roll and turned it all into rock music was Bob Dylan leaving his folk roots behind by plugging in for his 1965 tour, inventing this folk rock thing, which signaled the end of superficial lyrics and declared that this music be taken seriously.
As 1966 rolled around, The Beatles responded with the even more sophisticated Revolver. A band of blues and jazz virtuosos formed rock’s first power trio Cream, who introduced the idea of extended solos and song arrangements. Now, everything was up for grabs.
Finally, to put the last nail in rock & roll’s coffin, occurred in 1967. First, it was The Beatles’ releasing Sgt. Pepper LP. Then, the Jimi Hendrix Experience took Cream’s power trio template to new aural heights. And the San Francisco bands began pushing the boundaries by playing extended jams instead of songs. After a few years of all of this serious instrument play dominating rock music, a small group of musicians wanted to bring back the fun of the music that sounded as though it came from the early Beatles, only adding a loud, punchy guitar like you could hear other English bands like The Kinks and The Who. And, all of a sudden, artists such as Badfinger, Raspberries and Todd Rundgren carried this banner into the Seventies. Mostly, these artists experienced some hit songs, but not the big hit careers many critics had predicted for them.
However against the grain these power pop artist moving, they were influencing budding musicians to follow in their footsteps. And the strange thing is, no matter how little money was made by these artists, more and more musicians were jumping into the power pop sweepstakes, through the golden age of the late 1970s/early 1980s, the anti-grunge power pop bands of the ’90s and well into the 21st century.
So, power pop is a viable road to cult status. Maybe a few of my favorite power pop artists, such as Big Star (a HUGE cult band now), Raspberries (had a couple of hits in the early 70s) and The Knack (it wasn’t their fault that The Clash called the band “phony Beatlemania”, since they could ROCK!). I will attempt to introduce the genre to you.