Regular visitors to PoP will be aware that I believe that the 70s was the finest decade for pop and rock music ever. And one excellent resource which allows the avid music fan to access this classic rock music is Spotify (haha you saw that coming!). But seriously folks, I’d like to leave you with introductory playlists I’ve curated of three classic 70s rock bands, which I hope will encourage you to explore more on Spotify.
Supertramp will always be remembered as a crucial influence on my music making in my late teens. Formed around the nucleus of two brilliantly gifted singer-songwriters Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies, this English quintet managed to come up with a successful blend of prog-rock and pop music sensibilities that resulted in two classic LPs in Crime of the Century (1974) and Breakfast in America (1979) as well as a couple of chart hit singles in “Give a Little Bit”, “It’s Raining Again” and “The Logical Song”.
You can listen to the band’s entire discography at Spotify but of course, check out my playlist for the comprehensive introduction to the delights of this iconic band. Enjoy!
I got into Lou Reed relatively late in life. 1989 to be precise – the release of the New York album, which I bought on cassette. That prompted me to investigate Reed (and the Velvet Underground, of course) in piecemeal form in the 25 years since.
As a rock scholar, it’s impossible not to recognize Reed’s importance to much of modern rock music – there’s really no point in setting out the sheer number of bands and artists that Reed had a tremendous impact on – suffice to say that Reed was influential. As a songwriter, Reed’s honesty and creative thinking was always challenging to me, with his lyric writing truly seminal.
His passing was hard to take – a sense that an era of rock music has ended. But Reed’s legacy will never be forgotten – the sound and attitude of indie pop & alt-rock bear his indelible stamp. Yes, Lou Reed may no longer be with us but his music will live on forever, something to cherish.
For the uninitiated, begin with Velvet Underground & Nico, Transformer and New York and work your way through from there.
“The music is all. People should die for it. People are dying for everything else, so why not the music?”
… and we’re back! Power pop is the original basis for this webzine’s existence so I thought it’d be appropriate to highlight all you needed to know about the foundations of true-blue original POWER POP. Enjoy…
Thanks to the Breaking Bad finale, Badfinger is back in vogue. This British band originally consisted of Pete Ham, Ron Griffiths, Mike Gibbins and Tom Evans and were signed by The Beatles to Apple Records in 1968. Badfinger had four consecutive worldwide hits from 1970 to 1971: “Come and Get It” (written and produced by Paul McCartney), “No Matter What”, “Day After Day”, and “Baby Blue” (the song featured in that Breaking Bad finale).
I have been using Spotify quite a bit since it was officially launched in Singapore. Of course, the streaming music app isn’t perfect (it doesn’t have any Beatles music for instance) but it has certainly helped me to get in touch with obscure music once again and I wanted to take this opportunity to share the same with you in this column.
First off, we have the eponymous debut album of The Waterboys. I remember first hearing this in the early 80s and feeling that it was highly spiritual folk-pop-rock music that was epic and earthy at the same time. Apart from this wonderful debut, one should also check out A Pagan Place and Fisherman’s Blues.
Lloyd Cole & the Commotions was a breath of fresh air when its debut album – Rattlesnakes – was released to critical acclaim in 1984. The band never quite took off despite the success of the debut and Cole eventually went on to a fairly viable solo career.
Finally, Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn has had a 40 year illustrious career but has remained fairly obscure outside of his homeland. His eclectic style has seen Cockburn embrace such genres as folk, jazz, reggae, new wave and rock n’ roll with great aplomb. This playlist is a collection of some of my favourite Cockburn tracks and serves as an excellent introduction.
It’s almost impossible for me to be completely objective about Paul McCartney & Wings and this particular DVD. After all, Wings Over America – the live triple album that was released from this tour was one of my very first album purchases as a wide-eyed 15 year-old fledging rock fan.
So it’s full-blown nostalgia as I watched this recording of the concert in Seattle in 1976 where 67,000 fans witnessed McCartney & Wings deliver 28 songs including not only the band’s greatest hits but also tunes from McCartney’s Beatles songbook!
Some of my favourite versions of McCartney’s material are featured here – “Maybe I’m Amazed”, “The Long and Winding Road”, “My Love”, “Let Me Roll It”, “Live and Let Die”, “Letting Go” and so on. Supported ably by arguably the best Wings lineup – Denny Laine, the late Jim McCulloch and Joe English – not to mention a crack horn section, Rockshow is a historic document that is wonderfully presented for audiences (old and new) almost forty years later.
Considering the number of iconic films that The Rolling Stones have been associated with – Gimme Shelter, Sympathy for the Devil, Performance and Cocksucker Blues, it was simply not enough for director Brett Morgen to come up with a by-the-numbers 50th anniversary retrospective. Which, to his immense credit, he didn’t!
Fact is, Crossfire Hurricane manages to provide a kaleidoscopic perspective of events that made the Stones the living rock n’ roll legends that they are. One very crucial decision made was not to shoot the Stones as they currently are – so they only provide the relevant voiceover but visually, the viewer is never distracted from the story by how the Stones look like in 2013 (basically, old).
In this manner, Crossfire Hurricane is able to be interesting to new and old fans alike. It never comes across as a nostalgic exercise but a critical study of key events of the Stones’ career that intersected with the milestones of rock n’ roll. Thus, this documentary film is essential for longtime fans as well as rock scholars.
I’ve probably said this before but the Seventies is/was my favourite rock decade! Basically, the Seventies built on the foundation of the Sixties and went OVER THE TOP! The sheer diversity of Seventies music is mind-blowing and once again, what I am going to share with you is merely the tiny tip of the massive iceberg (and only focuses on the singer-songwriters!) But rest assured, every artist mentioned is bloody essential listening, so… fasten your seat belts…
Recommended albums – Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders From Mars, StationToStation, “Heroes”, Low and Scary Monsters.
Recommended albums – After the Gold Rush, Harvest, On the Beach, Tonight’s the Night, Zuma, Rust Never Sleeps.
Recommended albums – Born to Run, Darkness at the Edge of Town.
Recommended albums – Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren, Something/Anything?, A Wizard A True Star, Todd.
Recommended albums: The Stranger, 52nd Street.
Recommended albums – John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, Imagine, Mind Games, Walls & Bridges.
Recommended albums - Tumbleweed Connection, Madman Across the Water, Honky Château,Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Caribou, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.
Recommended albums – Talking Book, Innervisions, Fulfillingness’s First Finale, Songs in the Key of Life.
Paul Weller first caught the public eye as a teenager with The Jam during the emerging punk years (late 70s) in England. Taking his cue from the Beatles, Small Faces, Kinks and The Who, Weller’s punchy and relevant songs launched the Woking trio (with bassist Bruce Foxton & drummer Rick Buckler) into the hearts and minds of British youth, achieving much success and acclaim on the way before calling a day in 1982 at Weller’s insistence.
Weller felt constrained by The Jam’s image and collective persona and formed (with keyboard player Mick Talbot) The Style Council to broaden his artistic horizons. So he literally plunged in at the deep end, developing an image that was miles away from the Jam – chic, sophisticated, Gallic, jazzy & brassy, the Style Council carried on where The Jam left off and Weller personally intensified his own socio-political ambitions during that time. However, things would eventually turn sour between Weller and label Polydor culminating in the label’s rejection of the last TSC album and its ultimate demise in the late 1980s. Weller seemed to disappear completely from the UK music scene. Spending his hiatus in reflection and regeneration, he re-emerged as a solo artist – unable initially to secure a UK record deal (he signed up with Pony Canyon Japan for his eponymous solo debut) – his star would rise again with the coming of Britpop in the 90s as bands like Blur, Oasis & Ocean Colour Scene acknowledged their debt to Weller. By his third album, Stanley Road, Weller had once again reached the summit of the UK Albums Chart.
“Down in a Tube Station at Midnight,” Jam single (Polydor, 1978)
“Down in a Tube Station at Midnight” proved that Weller was more than just punk opportunist or mod revisionist, he was an artist. Its structure is stop-start and its monotonous rhythmic underpinnings express perfectly the movement of a train. Lyrically, it provides a concise snapshot of the England of the late 1970s – claustrophobic, class conscious, economically depressed and socially dangerous. Its story is simple and stark, a tube passenger is ‘mugged’ by gangsters (‘they smelled of pubs and Wormwood Scrubs and too many right-wing meetings’) on his way home to the wife. And in the closing verses even as the protaganist’s life ebbs away, his last thoughts are of advertising images and graffiti on the tube walls. Powerful and affecting. Note: the album version (on All Mod Cons) completes the picture with the sounds of a train opening & closing its doors and moving off even as the instrumental passages fade in and out again – truly poignant.
“The Paris Match,” B-side Style Council single, A Paris (Polydor, 1983)
A torch song in every sense of the word and tucked away as a b-side (!) no less, “The Paris Match” remains Style Council’s finest moment where Weller was able to blend romanticism and sophistication with Gallic flair and savvy – no mean feat for a Woking lad! The accordion solo is pure heaven.
“Tales from the Riverbank,” B-side Jam single Absolute Beginners (Polydor, 1981)
Moody and introspective, “Tales from the Riverbank” provided the flip side to the Jam’s more recognisable anthems. With its insistent bass line, spidery guitar patterns and concepts of urban decay & menace, “Tales from the Riverbank” is a wondrous highlight buried obscurely as a B-side, which bore testimony to Weller’s prodigious talent.
“That’s Entertainment,” from The Jam Sound Affects (Polydor, 1980)
A Weller diary-in-a-song: with George Harrison headily evoked, “That’s Entertainment” spoke of the mundanity of day-to-day living – ” A smash of glass and the rumble of boots/An electric train and a ripped up ‘phone booth/Paint splattered walls and the cry of a tomcat/Lights going out and a kick in the balls ” – sheer bloody poetry!
“Sunflower,” from Paul Weller Wild Wood (GO! Discs, 1993)
On his sophomore effort, Weller decided to flow with the Traffic – decidedly more Steve Winwood than Steve Marriott! Transparent as usual with his influences, Sunflower is an intense rocker that is as soulful as it is pastoral. A great introduction to this breakthrough solo album.
“A Town Called Malice,” from The Jam The Gift (Polydor, 1982)
Perhaps the Jam’s best known tune, “Malice” featured Weller’s incisive assessment of English life – ” Rows and rows of disused milk floats stand dying in the diary yards/And a hundred lonely housewives clutch empty milk bottles to their hearts ” sung to a tune reminiscent of The Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love” (Yup! The one that Phil Collins took to the top of the charts)
“Uh Huh Oh Yeh,” from Paul Weller Paul Weller (Pony Canyon, 1992)
More than debut single “Into Tomorrow,” this R&B inflected mover announced that Weller was back! Based around a familiar three-chord progression, embellished with swirling organs, tight horns and a simple choral riff, one cannot help but be carried away by its cheerful optimism.
“In the Crowd,” from The Jam All Mod Cons (Polydor, 1978)
“And life just simply moves along/To simple houses, simple jobs and no ones wanting for the change ” bear Ray (The Kinks) Davies trademark slice-of-life writing applied to The Who pyrotechnics resulting in an incandescent commentary of English society that well and truly rocks!
“Speak Like A Child,” Style Council single (Polydor, 1983)
The re-invention of Paul Weller began with this Motown-inflected pleaser. However, Jam observers would not have been surprised as the stylistic shift is evident on The Gift, the final Jam album. What perhaps shocked was the total absence of the GUITAR! If only we knew what was in store for Weller fanatics!
“Peacock Suit,” Paul Weller Heavy Soul (Independiente, 1996)
“Peacock Suit” appears to poke fun at Weller’s own well-known satorial obsessions – ” I’m a narcissus in a puddle/In shop windows I gloat/Like a ball of fleece lining/In my camel skin coat”. Set to a driving beat, the song is a sheer delight and demonstrates Weller’s deft skill with the post-modern take on British R&B traditions.
“To Be Someone,” from The Jam All Mod Cons (Polydor, 1978)
With the critical beating that This Is The Modern World received, Weller and The Jam returned with a vengeance with All Mod Cons their best album. “To be Someone” opens the album and seems to uncannily forecast Oasis (!) both in its music and lyrical target – “And there’s no more drinking after the club shuts down/I’m out on my arse with the rest of the clowns.”
“My Ever Changing Moods,” Style Council single (Polydor, 1984)
Here is Paul Weller in full Curtis (Mayfield i.e.) mode, driving treble rhythms, tasty horns and a rhythm that just won’t quit.
“The Changingman,” from Paul Weller Stanley Road (GO! Discs, 1995)
Weller’s tribute to Jeff Lynne no doubt, as he freely pilfers from ELO’s “10538 Overture” shamelessly (down to the cellos) to sing lyrics about being a “changing man” with tongue firmly in cheek and a riposte to all his critics. Creative plagiarism at its best.
“You’re the Best Thing,” Style Council single (Polydor, 1984)
Weller’s finest romantic hour, as he concocts the perfect heart-tugger for lovers everywhere – the urban counterpart to the pastoral “English Rose”.
“In the City,” Jam single (Polydor, 1977)
Where it all began: an 18-year-old Steve Marriott wannabe lumped in with the punk set but possessing a breadth that would surpass most of his peers delivers his first stab at pop greatness. Clocking in at 2’20” In the City functioned as a statement of intent and a reaffirmation of British pop ala The Who, The Kinks, Small Faces and so on.
“Beatlesque” is one of my favorite music terms. I mean, who wouldn’t want to listen to music that sounds like The Beatles, eh? Of course, the key is not slavish imitation but to use the influence of The Beatles as a springboard for (hopefully) fresh ideas. Here are some bands that certainly come to mind, when the term “Beatlesque” is brandished about…
THE BYRDS – ALL I REALLY WANNA DO
Yes, I am aware that the song was written but by Bob Dylan, but The Byrds arranged Dylan’s folkie “All I Really Wanna Do” deliberately to reflect their love of the Fab Four, especially on the bridge. And let’s not even get into the hairdos…
BADFINGER – DAY AFTER DAY
A little cheatin’ here cos Badfinger was actually signed to Apple Records and this single was also produced by George Harrison so the comparisons with their heroes were always fairly obvious. Great song still…and certainly a foundation for numerous power pop bands to come…
ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA – THE DIARY OF HORACE WIMP
ELO was formed by Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood to re-create the Beatles psychedelic classics (like “I Am A Walrus”) live. When Wood left, Lynne turned the band into a hit-making machine in the 70s. Beatles inspirations always began as a starting point (like here, the rhythm of the middle section to “A Day in a Life”) to something entire new and different. In a league of its own.
OASIS – ALL AROUND THE WORLD
To the current generation, the closest one is going to get to The Beatles reference would probably be through Oasis. Often derided as Beatles copyists, in fact, the Gallagher brothers succeeded in copping the imagery and look of The Beatles, rather than any creative impetus. That and Liam Gallagher’s ludicrous attempts to imitate John Lennon’s singing style. Best forgotten.
To be honest, it is almost impossible to escape the influence of The Beatles in modern music, whatever ‘genre’ you may choose to discuss. The legacy of The Beatles was not merely four chords, clever bridges and three-part harmonies but constant experimentation. When that stopped (listen to Let It Be, folks), then it was time for The Beatles to end. The above examples only highlight a very simplified perception of what the term “Beatlesque” means and usually referred to by people as Beatles music pre-Revolver, when The Beatles was much much more than that… but that’s another story altogether.
“Old Fart Music” or “Dad-rock” are two derogatory terms that the music press might use to brand a ‘genre’ or band as past its sell-by date. But this is all nonsense, of course. All rock music is derived from “Dad-rock” as Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy was quoted in Rolling Stone in 2011 –
“When people say dad rock, they actually just mean rock. There are a lot of things today that don’t have anything to do with rock music, so when people hear something that makes them think, ‘This is derived from some sort of continuation of the rock ethos,’ it gets labeled dad rock. And, to me, those people are misguided. I don’t find anything undignified about being a dad or being rocking, you know?”
Indeed, I hate to break it to you, kids, but EVERYBODY grows old. The true artist is someone who still has something to say even when he or she is much older. Every youth culture is based on something that came before so kindly refrain from these ageist pronunciations.
For this bright Saturday morning’s PoPTV, we’ve decided to bring you some of our favourite OFM or Dad-rock for your edification and information. Enjoy…
As any card-carrying XTC fanatic will inform you, the Swindon-based band spent the better part of the 90s on strike from their record label Virgin, finally earning their freedom from a draconian contract sometime in 1998. The band then set up their own label – Idea – and proceeded to release two albums (Apple Venus & Wasp Star) in consecutive years!
So it certainly behooves the band to flood the market with as many XTC-related products as possible just to make up for lost time. So whilst ecstatic fans have been lapping up the demo and instrumental versions of the two latest albums and Virgin was kind enough to issue the Coat of Many Cupboards box set, the duo decided to begin releasing the voluminous demos (subject of legend and lore and much bootlegging) Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding amassed during that seven-year industrial action.
Alas, Moulding changed his mind and so we have volumes one and two of Fuzzy Warbles as Partridge begins an ambitious program to give his fans what they have been waiting for a long time.
And is it all worth the wait and the expense? Why most certainly! Here’s why…
From Volume One, Partridge includes the delightful “Dame Fortune” (inextricably left off Apple Venus One), the bouncy “Don’t Let Us Bug You” (written for Disney’s animated James and the Giant Peach – now that would have been something!), a fiery demo of “That Wave” (off Nonsuch) that surpasses the recorded version for sheer intensity, the folky “Everything” (excluded from Oranges and Lemons), the whimsical “Goosey Goosey” (also for Nonsuch), the chirpy “Summer Hot As This” (circa 1984 – with erstwhile member Dave Gregory on guitar, a bonus!) and the offbeat “Wonder Annual” (another that failed to make the grade for Nonsuch).
Slide in Volume Two and one gets the unusually stripped down and straightforward “I Don’t Want To Be Here” (recorded for a AIDS Charity disc), the domestic tirade “Young Marrieds” – ‘Love and marriage go hand in hand like horse and horse shit’ (meant for Wasp Star), the political “Obscene Procession” – a precursor of “President Kill” perhaps? (for Skylarking apparently), the jaunty “Ra Ra Rehearsal” & “Ra Ra For Red Rocking Horse” (not quite up to the rest of Psonic Psunspot, I wager), the McCartney-esque “Everything’ll Be Alright” (also for Giant Peach), the frenetic “Chain of Command” (a blast from the past, 1979 in fact!), a gorgeously cod-psychedelic version of Nonsuch’s “Then She Appeared,” the lovely enigmatic “It’s Snowing Angels” (circa 1990) and the vivid “Ship Trapped In the Ice,” written to reflect XTC’s Virgin dilemma.
And there you have it, not meant for the XTC newbie but once you picked up every single fantastic work released by this awesome band, then Fuzzy Warbles tend to become fairly indispensable items to have and to hold. For even if the discs did not contain precious XTC artifacts, the professional sound and overall amazing quality of the tracks here make Fuzzy Warbles important albums for any serious-minded music fan to explore and absorb. A+ (Vol. 1) & A (Vol. 2)
There are numerous landmarks achieved with this, the debut album of synth-pop combo, Depeche Mode. Released by Mute Records, it was a rare genuine indie album for its time. Speak and Spell contained also many songs which were amongst the first electronic numbers heard on the airwaves e.g. “New Life”, “Just Can’t Get Enough” and my personal favourite, “Dreaming of Me”. The use of synthesizers instead of the usual guitar, bass and drums instrumentation was so refreshing back in 1981. But what made the music of early Depeche Mode so memorable and timeless are the brilliant songs. Pop songs filled with hooks that captured the imagination of the post-punk generation, and taking Kraftwerk’s uncompromising electronic agenda to its logical conclusion. The album was also the only Depeche Mode LP with then-prinicipal songwriter Vince Clarke (who’d go on with further success with Yazoo, The Assembly and Erasure). Martin Gore would come to the fore in Clarke’s absence, turning the outfit towards the darker material it would become world famous for in subsequent years. Three decades later, thanks to the post-punk revival, Speak and Spell is as relevant as it ever was. Essential.
Probably one of the finest ‘pop’ bands to ever write and record music in the rock history. Well, that’s my humble opinion anyways. The band built around the songwriting core of Andy Partridge (vocals, guitar) and Colin Moulding (bass, vocals) and ably supported by Terry Chambers (drums, 1977 – 1983), Barry Andrews (keyboards, 1977 – 1978) and Dave Gregory (1978 – 1998). XTC effectively dissolved in 2005. These ten songs below represent merely the tip of the iceberg of the truly amazing music produced by XTC and hopefully, you will be inspired to find out more…
Sir Cliff Richard OBE, with global record sales beyond 250 million and a ceaseless performance schedule spanning 54 years, is set to return to Singapore for two nights only with a hit-packed national tour Still Reelin’ and A-Rockin’. Tickets are now on sale.
As rock n’ roll history moves further and further away in time from its origins, live recordings of epochal performances become our relics of a Golden Age that we will never ever see again. The rock n’ roll world in 2012 (if we can even call it that) is completely unrecognizable from the late 60s rock & pop scene inhabited by The Doors. Watching this remarkable restoration of an incandescent concert film recorded 44 years ago in Los Angeles, it’s uncanny how ageless the band, its music and especially the legendary Jim Morrison comes across.
Grammy-winning group, The Mavericks, announce the release of In Time, their first album in seven years. Here’s a tasty teaser – the panoramic Roy Orbison-channeling “Born to be Blue”. Rather brilliant.
Last night’s media preview/gala of Jersey Boys was impressive! Even if you are totally unfamiliar with the story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons – the show will blow you away! The performances were evenly strong (from a South African cast), the production was first-rate and the presentation was flawless. So much to savour about every aspect of the show.
Beginning a new series where we take a look at modern art’s impact on pop culture at large.
Portrait of Magritte by Lothar Wolleh, 1967.
“It is a union that suggests the essential mystery of the world. Art for me is not an end in itself, but a means of evoking that mystery. ” — René Magritte on putting seemingly unrelated objects together in juxtaposition.
Mystery. It is impossible to appreciate a Rene Magritte painting without considering this quality. This quality, of course, was the province of the surrealists – to see the world in different perspectives. Belgian painter Magritte (1898 – 1967) managed to combine classical works with the surrealist idiom to create something unique and distinct. Recording artists have a certain affinity with the works of Margritte as evidenced by the artist’s powerful influence on numerous album covers over the years.
Even as I write this, The Beach Boys are mired in yet another dispute which has colored somewhat the feel-good vibes of the legendary band’s highly successful 50th Anniversary tour. Suffice to say there has been a disagreement over the continuation of the tour as Mike Love & Bruce Johnston tour their own diluted version of The Beach Boys instead, without the participation of Brian Wilson, Al Jardine and David Marks.
Here’s a brilliant set of fan-made videos of Sting‘s recent Back To Bass Tour performance in Europe. As some of you may know, I am a huge Sting fan and it’s amazing how good the man looks at his age (he’s a decade older than I am!). It’s fun to see this icon in intimate settings with a basic band setup doing what he does best! Sting plays in Singapore Indoor Stadium 13th Dec 2012 at 8pm.
Back in the good ol’ days, Power of Pop focused mainly on the Pop Underground – melodic pop-rock inspired by the 60s/70s. Much of the content is no longer available and so this special feature will correct that oversight. Get ready to be educated, hipster kids!
SPLITSVILLE Incorporated (Houston Party, 2003)
Discounting the Beatles-Beach Boys pastiche cum tribute that was The Complete Pet Soul, Incorporated is actually Splitsville’s first album of all-new material in close to five years (since 1998’s Repeater in fact).
Regular visitors to PoP will be more than acquainted with the fact that Queen is one of my favorite rock bands of all time. Music videos have always played a significant role in Queen’s success and finally almost all of the band’s promotional videos have been compiled and collected into one 2-DVD set for fans to savour. All the videos are restored and shown in 16:9 widescreen and audio has been remixed for DTS 5.1 Surround Sound. Also includes audio commentary from Brian May and Roger Taylor (even snippets of interviews with Freddie Mercury as well).
If you’re a Queen fan, I don’t really need to sell it to you, do I?
The Rolling Stones, ABKCO Music & Records and Universal Music Group are pleased to announce the release of GRRR! by The Rolling Stones on the 12th of November 2012 for the World Excluding North America and on the 13th of November 2012 in North America.