During those heady days during the years 1977 through 1980, power pop music was undergoing its first renaissance since the early-Seventies when a bunch of renegades such as Todd Rundgren, Raspberries, Emmit Rhodes, Electric Light Orchestra, Big Star and some other lesser known names turned their backs on the overbloated blues-based virtuoso jams popularized by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin by taking the melodies from early Beatles and Beach Boys’ records and set them to the power chords of the Who, Kinks and Small Faces. Thus, those rock outlaws gave birth to this thing called power pop, which gives the listener the sweetness of pop melodies surrounded by those squealing and jangling electric guitars mixed together with beautiful two-, three- and even four-part harmonies.
This era of power pop is often referred to as the Golden Age of Power Pop. No matter how its labeled, all I know is that everywhere I turned, there was yet another fantastic power pop album being released as I was coming of age during high school, prior to the go-go days of MTV. During these years, fantastic records were released by Joe Jackson, Nick Lowe, Bram Tchaikovsky and, of course, The Knack. One band, The Records, released their debut album in 1979 to much fanfare. In their native England, the album was titled Shades in Bed, while in the States, it was given an eponymous title and packaged with a four-song, seven-inch EP of cover songs from the initial power pop era as well as influential songs from the Sixties. There was no difference between the songs on the two albums, except that the UK version had “Girl” as the first song on Side 1, while “All Messed Up and Ready to Go” was the first song on Side 2. On the LP version released here in the USA, those songs were the first songs on the opposite sides of the album.
Now, this album is known for one bonafide, absolutely class power pop single called “Starry Eyes.” This song has everything that one wants to hear in a power pop song. There’s the jangly of a 12-string guitar, a driving rhythm section, Beatlesque vocal harmonies, a soaring chorus and lyrics describing unrequited love in a very modern manner: “Take those starry eyes and be on your way.” The song is nearly four-and-a-half minutes of pure pop heaven with a melodic guitar solo that only enhances those frustrations of teenage lust, uh, I mean love.
That is the best thing about power pop, whether it is Cheap Trick or Badfinger or The Records. When these artists are describing the frustrations of love, it really sounds like “love”. However, the lyrics, upon closer inspection, tell us a much different story. That’s when these love stories become tales of lust and sexual frustrations, all of which heightens the intensity of the songs. Maybe that’s why power pop appealed to me. I related more to those guys’ lyrics than the tall tales being sung by those glam metal cross dressers, though some of their songs are more power pop than metal (“Talk Dirty to Me” comes to my mind!).
Anyway, The Records hit upon a brilliant power pop sound that they were not able to duplicate in subsequent albums. And, outside of Cheap Trick, few power pop artists have parlayed the genre into a lengthy career, though Trick, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is OPENING for Def Leppard (not in the HOF!) on tour the summer. There is just something wrong about. The Records sophomore album, Crashes, is a strong album, it lacks a standout track such as “Starry Eyes”. But, few albums ever have a classic like that one. But, The Records did set a high standard that they were not able to touch again. But, thank God they bottled lightning once.
And, that’s why you need to hear this debut album by The Records. And I really do NOT care whether you hear the US or UK version of the album. You will hear greatness on either version. My advice is to troll your favorite used record store to find this album. And, then wear it out on your turntable! It’s so much more than one song.