Ahhhh, it’s Friday! Usually, Saturday mornings are my moments to play music that has become known as Yacht Rock. Yet, for some reason, not sure if it has to do with my increased pain level or what, but I have a need to listen to such music. Today, I am test driving a recent compilation of yacht rock music from the late-Seventies/early-Eighties that never really became hits. The compilation is titled Seafaring Strangers: Private Yacht. It’s an interesting listen. I’m not sure why a couple of these songs were not hits, but such is life. Rock is littered with great songs, or even good songs, that should have been hits when compared to some that ended up near the top of American Top 40’s countdown.
Today, I am putting the finishing touches on My 100 Favorite Power Pop Albums of All-Time. As you know, this genre is close to my heart, so you will be recognizing many of the Top 25, as many of them are flat-out rock classics. I feel that I would like to thank the following people for their work that I have referred to. To the retiring Bruce Bodeen, formerly of Pop Geek Heaven website and former Not Lame Records owner, thank you for the years of pimping this great music and enlightening my life to some many newer power pop artists. I have never met you, but your references are invaluable. To Ken Sharp, not only do you create fantastic power pop music, but you also have written that great four-volume series, Play On! Power Pop Heroes, in addition to many other great books. I hope to one day own your book about the Raspberries’ Eric Carmen. To John Borrack, your book Shake Some Action is an invaluable power pop resource that includes your 200 favorite power pop albums, along with other tidbits of information. Then, there are the websites, such as NME, Classic Pop, MOJO, Uncut, Rolling Stone, NPR, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Metacritic, AllMusic and Digital Dream Door. I suggest all of these as resources for your rock needs. Finally, thanks to all of the artists, power pop or not, who have brightened my days with your gift. Music is one of the few things that can help me deal with this stupid chronic pain thing.
Now, let’s get on with the countdown!
25. Velvet Crush – Teenage Symphonies to God (1994). I remember picking up this CD only because I loved the titled, which refers to Brian Wilson’s explanation as to the sound of his infamous Beach Boys’ album, SMiLE. He told a reporter that they were creating “teenage symphonies to God.” FYI: this album lives up to its title.
24. Material Issue – International Pop Overthrow (1991). This album got lost during the early days of grunge. Still, this highly influential power pop gem’s title has been used by a power pop festival that plays in several cities throughout the world. Now, that’s quite an honor for this obscure, yet fantastic album. Being from the Chicago area, it’s no wonder that Material Issue picked up where Cheap Trick had left off in 1979. Unfortunately, leader Jim Ellison committed suicide before the band could take off.
23. Chris Bell – I Am the Cosmos (recorded in 1978, released in 1992). The former Big Star co-leader left after their first album. He then battled mental illness, while slowly recording the tracks that ended up on this album. He died in a car crash in 1978, leaving the power pop world saying, “Only if…”
22. The Romantics – The Romantics (1980). These Detroit rockers knew how to write and play classic-sounding rock songs. They will forever be known for the big track from this debut album, “What I Like About You”, which was never a hit back in the day. Now, that was a moral outrage! Fortunately, this song has outlived the number one hit, “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)”.
21. 20/20 – 20/20 (1979). This band and The Knack were two of the biggest L.A. power pop bands on the scene in the late-Seventies. Many critics felt 20/20 would find similar success that The Knack had found. Unfortunately, that was not true. Still, this album remains a power pop classic.
20. The Records – The Records (the U.S. title), or Shades in Bed (everywhere else) (1979). This album would be a classic if it only had the minor hit “Starry Eyes”. But, this album is loaded with the power pop of the U.K., proving once and for all that power pop is NOT just an American jam.
19. Blondie – Parallel Lines (1978). Yes, “Heart of Glass” is a disco-parody. But, the rest of the album shows Blondie’s love of power pop and Sixties pop music, making for a classic album, no matter if you call it pop, rock, punk or whatever.
18. Joe Jackson – Look Sharp! (1979). I remember the first time I heard “Is She Really Going Out with Him?”, and I was certain this song would be huge. Well, it was so big that it is played more today than it was back then. But, if you listen to the whole album you will hear a classic power pop album with the energy of punk music.
17. Buzzcocks – Single Going Steady (1980). The Buzzcocks were the original pop punk band, years before Green Day hit the scene. These Brits laid the groundwork for setting a perfectly great pop song to the aggressive tune of punk. This compilation has all of the band’s early hits.
16. Bram Tchaikovsky – Strange Man, Changed Man (1979). Bram had just left The Motors, when he released this album on the world. And a power pop classic was born on the backs of hit song “Girl of My Dreams” and “Lady from the U.S.A.”
15. Fotomaker – Fotomaker (1978). Back in 1978, it was difficult for a power pop band to get their music played. But, the few times I heard their minor hit song “Where Have You Been All of My Life”, I knew this band had the goods, even if it was only for this album.
14. The Rubinoos – The Rubinoos (1977). I remember seeing The Rubinoos on American Bandstand after a Saturday morning basketball practice. It was cool to see these guys rock out on their cover of the Tommy James standard “I Think We’re Alone Now”.
13. Nick Lowe – Pure Pop for Now People [US version] or Jesus of Cool [the title everywhere else] (1978). Lowe taught everyone what power pop was on this album.
12. The Jam – Sound Affects (1980). This was the sound of a punk band growing up and playing great, aggressive power pop cranked up to 11.
11. Marshall Crenshaw – Marshall Crenshaw (1982). This album should have been huge during the early days of MTV. It was perfect music for that era. Unfortunately, Crenshaw’s video for “Someday, Someway” was boring, and I am left wondering “What if?” again.
10. Todd Rundgren – Something/Anything? (1972). Rundgren proved on this album that he could do anything he wanted musically, by playing power pop, blue-eyed soul and everything else between.
9. Ramones – Rocket to Russia (1978). Once again, like The Jam, this album represents a transition from the band playing straight up punk to smoothing out the edges to be more of a power pop album.
8. Weezer – Weezer (aka The Blue Album) (1994). When Weezer burst on the scene, I thought to myself that I was finally hearing the heirs to Cheap Trick’s thrones. And, personally, I think I could not have been more correct. The bands’ careers parallel in uncommon way. Still, The Blue Album is a classic.
7. Elvis Costello & the Attractions – Armed Forces (1979). The third Elvis album is a tour de force of power pop classics, with his cover of Nick Lowe’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” leading the way.
6. Teenage Fanclub – Bandwagonesque (1991). This album is so good, that the Scottish band that was kneeling at the Big Star alter sophomore album was chosen by SPIN magazine as album of the year in 1991 over Nirvana’s Nevermind and Michael Jackson’s Dangerous. And the album deserved it!
5. Raspberries – Greatest (2005). I decided to go with a greatest hits package because I really could not decide which studio album to choose. And, this one has ALL of their classic songs, including “Go All the Way” and “Overnite Sensation (Hit Record)”.
4. The Knack – Get the Knack (1979). I played the hell out of this album during the Summer of 1979, which was a high point for classic power pop music. As a matter of fact, I do not think I was the only person listening to this album all the time.
3. Jellyfish – Bellybutton (1990). When I first saw Jellyfish’s Alice in Wonderland-take of a video for “The King Is Half-Undressed”, I went looking for the album by a band that sounded like a mix of Squeeze, XTC, Queen and everything else that was great about music. I never could find this album anywhere until in the 21st century. This is a must-hear album by a band that only lasted for two albums.
2. Cheap Trick – Heaven Tonight (1978). In Color was my first Cheap Trick purchase, and At Budokan remains my most played Cheap Trick album. But, it was Heaven Tonight that solidified my passion for the little band from Rockford, Illinois. And, “Surrender” is just the tip of the iceberg on this album.
1. Big Star – #1 Record (1972). I did not hear this album until I was in college. Then, I was not hooked on it until the early-Nineties. Now, #1 Record is my favorite power pop album. My favorite songs are “The Ballad of El Goodo”, “Feel” and “Thirteen”.
Let the debate begin! Have a great weekend everyone!