We love analysing our favourite music, which as it now stands, we apply the all-encompassing term POWER POP ROCK N ROLL to define. We do not believe that any artist or band worth their salt would create music that could be pigeon-holed so easily, which is why our term POWER POP ROCK N ROLL comprises quite a few key genres that we will spend a fair bit of time to discuss. We begin with POWER POP!
POWER POP as a term was originally coined By Pete Townshend of The Who in 1967, when asked by NME’s Keith Altham to describe what then-new single “Pictures of Lily” sounded like – “Power pop is what we play—what the Small Faces used to play, and the kind of pop the Beach Boys played in the days of “Fun, Fun, Fun” which I preferred.”
Although the moniker never quite stuck on the bands Townshend name-checked, his invention would brand a sub-genre of rock bands that went against the grain somewhat in the early 70s. Bands that recorded melodic songs with crunchy guitars and frenetic drumming, and thus POWER POP was born!
The three bands most closely associated with this new sound were Badfinger, The Raspberries and Big Star. It is important to note that none of these trio of bands managed to be huge commercial successes, in fact, the opposite is true as rock audiences were being seduced by hard rock, progressive rock and ultimately arena rock in the first half of the 70s.
Of course, the music industry would undergo a sea change in the mid-70s with punk signalling a ‘back-to-basics’ approach. There was a edgier dynamic to the bands that chose not to align themselves with the punk aesthetic but with the Beatlesque pop power of their early 70s forebears.
Amongst these late-70s ‘retro wave’ mavericks were the likes of Cheap Trick, The Knack, The Romantics, 20/20, Shoes & The Cars (in the USA) and The Jam, Elvis Costello & the Attractions, Joe Jackson, Nick Lowe & Squeeze (in the UK).
By the late 80s and early 90s, the major labels saw enough commercial potential in the upcoming new POWER POP bands that parlayed a different rock sensibility from the alt-rock and hardcore punk communities (e.g. Material Issue, Wanderlust, Greenberry Woods, Jellyfish and The Grays) to sign them to recording contracts but most were unceremoniously dropped in the aftermath of the grunge tsunami post-1991.
It’s fair to say that POWER POP has never quite recovered from that blow with most of its proponents having to completely change their modus operandi to break into the mainstream. Most notably, Kara Flowers, a failed Reprise signing with its first release a commercial dud achieving megastardom when reinventing themselves as neo-soul-pop outfit Maroon 5!
Next: POP ROCK
… still there’s more …