Incredibly, this past week 50 years ago, saw the release of two landmark pop albums that changed the face of rock music viz. The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde.
“Melodic guitar pop-rock inspired by the 60s/70s” is probably the best definition I can come up with of ‘The Pop Underground’. Personally, I believe this ‘genre’ encapsulates several pop-rock styles like Rock ’n’ Roll, Power Pop, Chamber Pop, Orchestral Pop, Glam, Punk, Mod, Merseybeat, Psychedelic Rock, Garage, Alt-Country and the like. Simply put, this is retro rock music that thrived initially in the 90s but has been truly under the radar since 2000 and continues to struggle to gain prominence, dismissed as ‘irrelevant’ by the hip and the cool. Fuck ‘em, cuz GOOD music is GOOD music. Some jumping on points from way in the beginning.
Bowie in his element – as captured by his 1977 hit single – and as usual, in full control of what he wants his audience to see and hear.
It seems so bizarre that The Beatles streaming was such a big deal when you consider that the band split up 45 years ago!
“With every song that I write, I compare it to the Beatles. The thing is, they only got there before me. If I’d been born at the same time as John Lennon, I’d have been up there.”
This mind-boggling quote comes from Noel Gallagher. The self-delusion is obvious but the fact that Gallagher has made a career out of plagiarism is proof of how wrong this statement is. If not for the inspiration of The Beatles (and many others), nobody would have even heard of Noel Gallagher (sounds like heaven!).
Here’s part one of a playlist put together to celebrate The Beatles’ entry into the streaming services. This playlist covers the Fab Four’s early years of Beatlemania (1963 – 65) whereby in 2 short years, the band released SIX albums and numerous non-album singles and EPs, the majority of which were filled with ground-breaking, iconoclastic pop music. Enjoy!
… still there’s more …
The Beatles 1 album compiles all the #1 hits that the Fab Four issued during their career & always provides a concise history of the band’s popularity. The original compilation was released 15 years ago and this reissue pairs the 27 tracks with videos (it is the Youtube age, after all).
Rock legend David Bowie was a bit of a late bloomer in the business of rock ’n’ roll. Even though he was only 17 years old when he released his debut single in 1964, he would never achieve commercial success and critical acclaim till the 70s. His first three solo albums failed to set the music world alight and in fact, Hunky Dory – which would become his fourth LP – started life as a demo to secure a new recording contract, which he duly did with RCA Records.
Hunky Dory finds Bowie in pure singer-songwriter mode – which was in vogue around the time – thus, the individual songs are quite strong and the production values rather straightforward – with simple pop-rock/folk-rock instrumentation and arrangements by and large.
Backing Bowie would be the musicians that would subsequently form The Spiders from Mars (with the exception of Rick Wakeman on piano) viz. Mick Ronson (guitars, mellotron), Trevor Bolder (bass, trumpet) and Mick Woodmansey (drums).
Many of Bowie’s classic material – “Changes”, “All You Pretty Things”, “Life on Mars?” “Quicksand” and “Kooks” (written for his son, Zowie – director Duncan Jones) – were recorded during this fecund period. The second half had Bowie pay tribute to his heroes viz. Andy Warhol (“Andy Warhol”), Bob Dylan (“Song For Bob Dylan”) and Lou Reed (“Queen Bitch”) whilst “The Bewley Brothers” concerned Bowie’s relationship with his mentally disturbed brother, Terry.
After Hunky Dory, Bowie would adopt the persona of Ziggy Stardust and found fame and fortune and the rest of his 70s would see Bowie acting out different roles, played out on his discography.
So perhaps, on Hunky Dory, fans could see Bowie for who he was – before he decided to change the face of rock music irretrievably.
What goes up must come down.
In 1979, riding on the popularity of the Saturday Night’s Fever film soundtrack, the Bee Gees‘ Spirits (Having Flown) sold almost 20 million copies. I still remember heading down to the Kwang Sia record store at North Bridge Road where the LP was literally flying off the shelves. Crazy.
However, barely 2 years later, the band’s follow-up Living Eyes would only sell 750,000 copies worldwide! What happened?
Well, disco had become unfashionable and the Bee Gees were (unfairly) associated with the genre. Not only that but rock music had begun to make a return to the charts in a big way with bands like The Police, REO Speedwagon, Genesis, Rush et al, and suddenly the Bee Gees sounded very dated and somewhat lame.
That said, the Bee Gees themselves took pains on Living Eyes to move away from the disco sound that had made millions of them and the trio explored once again the pop balladry style with which they first made their name. But the music critics and fans alike did not want any of it resulting in an abject failure, that the Bee Gees barely recovered from.
BUT listening to Living Eyes now, 34 years later, it is clear that it did not deserve the criticism and hatred it did. The songwriting is sharp, the singing is beautiful and it’s fair to say that the album should be re-assessed by any serious pop music lover.
Songs like the title track, “Paradise”, “Don’t Fall in Love With Me”, “Wildflower” and “Soldiers” are as good as anything on 70s classics “Mr. Natural” and “Main Course”. True blue pop fans will find these tracks irresistible and will want to listen to them over and over to savour the wondrous melodies and harmonies.
Listen without prejudice and prepare to be amazed.
… still there’s more …
By the time I really got into rock music (at age 13), the Beatles were over. It was 1974 and though live rock music was banned in Singapore, it didn’t stop us delinquent youth from discovering the music that would keep me alive & kicking for the rest of my life. Abbey Road – the band’s final opus – was the first Beatles LP I ever owned. I believe it was a gift from my sister Melinda. To this date, Abbey Road is my 2nd favourite Beatles LP, after the White Album. The medley from Side Two is unforgettable – I remember jamming the songs constantly with my first band – it was magical. From “You Never Give Me Your Money” to “The End”, it encapsulated the wonder of the Fab Four even as they were making plans beyond the group. There will never be another pop group like The Beatles ever again. Amen.
… still there’s more …
Alright. This is a lil embarrassing but late last year Spotify made Power of Pop a ‘Tastemaker’ with a new account and despite my best efforts (?), so far we’ve had only 10 (!) followers. Shameful!!
So I am still pushing this the best way I know how – by working hard at putting together more playlists that I imagine would interest the kind folks who visit us every day. Recently, I have focusing on PoP Legends – artists whom we believe deserve that accolade so here’s what we have so far. Enjoy, spread the word and FOLLOW!
Punk is conveniently used as the defining moment in the 70s where the rock scene was fractured bringing about bands/artists with more arty, conceptual and experimental sensibilities. Of course, by the mid-80s post-punk or new wave or whatever the hell you wanted to call it became the norm and by the 90s, something else had come along i.e. grunge and alt-rock. It’s revival in the last 15 years or so has rendered the ‘movement’ a fashion trend and nothing more. But it’s worth looking back to those special moments in the 70s, where the seeds were planted…
The original line up of Miami Power Pop legends, The Wind, are back with their first release in 30 years….Re-Wind!
Singer-songwriters, Lane Steinberg & Steven Katz (aka Steve Barry) have worked together as both the creative force behind The Wind (1981-1988), and as a duo under the name Tan Sleeve (1998-present).
Now that drummer Steve Burdick is back, Re-Wind represents the trio’s first recordings for over 25 years and for power pop fans, it’s good news. Very good, in fact. The moment “Fight Like a Girl” kicks in with its guitar arpeggios and floor toms, it’s obvious that the band has lost none of its chops and sets the tone for the rest of this album. The warm balladry of “Let Me Show You How It’s Done”, the jaunty jollity of “Weak Spot” and the folk-rock of “Yes and No”demonstrate The Wind’s mastery over the melodic rock form, complemented superbly by the high production values. Re-Wind is a great-sounding album and comes with our highest recommendations.
We managed to pick Steve Katz’s brains to talk about the return of The Wind.
What was the impetus to re-form The Wind?
When Lane Steinberg and I look back on all our musical endeavors over the years, both together and separately, the early years of The Wind was the high point, due to the chemistry we had with drummer Steve Burdick. Steve had played drums on several songs on all the Tan Sleeve CDs. So it was almost The Wind, but not quite. Making a whole album as The Wind seemed like a logical step that we should have taken awhile ago.
Once upon a time, there was a music industry that existed where music fans had to actually buy records, cassettes or compact discs if they wanted to listen to their favorite music anytime they wanted. And whilst the bands & artists did not see much of the money generated from the purchases, they were often given the funds to record ambitious sounding music that the bands & artists had percolating in their talented little minds.
In celebration of The King, Spotify has created The Elvis Influence, a web app that connects any artist to Elvis based on artistic influence, as well as an Elvisulization audiographic that maps his influence to famous artists of today. By entering any name into the web app, you can see and hear how they have been influenced by Elvis, directly or through other artists.
Listen to the ELVIS 80 Playlist on Spotify now….
The legendary Crosby, Stills & Nash – one of the biggest bands of the early 70s gets to finally play in Singapore, forty years later. Not much else to add to that, really. Except for the concert details.
CSN perform live in Singapore on Thursday March 19, 2015 at The Star Theatre.
Standard tickets priced at S$98, S$128, S$158, $188 and S$228 goes on sale 9:00 am Friday 9 January, 2015 at SISTIC.com.sg and 10:00 am via all other SISTIC channels. (Excluding Sistic booking fee)
For VIP packages, please call LAMC Productions at +65 6324-0764.
Not to be missed.
Seems appropriate to start this series with Bob Dylan, doesn’t it? Considering that The Beatles are currently not on any streaming service, Dylan deserves top billing. After all, can one imagine talking about singer-songwriters without mentioning Dylan’s massive influence?
The man is the very definition of the modern folk troubadour but more than that, Dylan’s legacy extends to rock as well, of course. For me personally, I remember hearing Dylan on the radio when I was a kid – especially his well known early folk songs but I really got into his work (ironically enough) – with his controversial Christian conversion album Slow Train Comin’ (1979), which explains why I kick off the playlist with “Precious Angel” (which also features incandescent guitar work from Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler). Including “Make You Feel My Love” was necessary to provide Dylan’s continuing relevance as Adele’s cover version proved conclusively. The rest of the playlist focuses mainly on his seminal 60s/70s works. Enjoy!
… still there’s more …
Is there a mini classic pop-rock happening in 2014? Well, you could argue that it has never really gone away when guys like Bob Mould, Guided by Voices, Tom Petty, J Mascis, Johnny Marr, Sloan and the like have continued to make vital music. Never mind the fact that Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack has all but brought classic 70s pop-rock back to the mainstream. AND with ex-MCR frontman Gerard Way releasing a debut solo album that has the ’emo-punk-pop’ kids in an uproar, then you know for sure that something is going on. In any case, here’s a couple of 70s-era song videos that will demonstrate, I hope, why this is the kind of music that I will always be rocking to!
… still there’s more …
A transitional year for me. I welcomed the new decade as a National Serviceman having enlisted on Boxing Day, 1979. But more importantly, my musical tastes were changing as well, significantly. Sometime in 1978, I had been exposed to punk when a JC friend played to my friends & I, the Sex Pistols‘ Anarchy in the UK LP (banned in Singapore but smuggled in for good measure) and to be honest I was unimpressed. For a pop-rock lover weaned on The Beatles, Deep Purple, Queen, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, the Sex Pistols seemed dumb and barbaric!
That said, by 1980 I had begun to cotton on to the post-punk movement and had already started listening to the pioneering new bands of that era, which seemed far removed from the old-school rockers of my relative youth. Fueled by the noises made by rock mags like NME, Sounds & Melody Maker, I had started to abandon the old bands (as irrelevant) and had ’embraced’ the future of rock.
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!
…still there’s more…
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).