I have spoken about power pop before in this blog. I have commented on it's history, on it's pedigree, on it's popularity. But, what really becomes noticeable when discussing power pop LPs is it's universal regionality, if that phrase makes any sense.
Bands across the US (and England and Australia) away from the hip scenes of New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco (or London and Sydney) regularly picked up their instruments and pounded out tunes that were new but not so new that rock fans would be thrown off. The songs had to trigger something in the collective historical rock n roll memory and be danced to, not thought about.
Sure there were power pop bands from Los Angeles and New York like The Knack, The Plimsouls and Dirty Looks but that was nothing compared to the bands from the "regions" …
Cheap Trick from Rockford, Illinois , Dwight Twilley Band from Tulsa Oklahoma, The Cars from Boston, The Romantics from Detroit, Pezband from Oak Park, Illinois, 20/20 from Tulsa, Oklahoma, The As fron Philadelphia, Clocks from Wichita, Kansas, D.L. Byron from New Jersey etc etc
Power pop is the music of the nowhere, and everywhere.
I suspect power pop in some form was always out there in the suburbs or in the backwaters, in the mid sized towns that dot the landscape between the capitols. Bands in the backwaters didn't have access to fantastic recording facilities, walls of horns and strings, magnificent venues or access to promotion facilities.
And, importantly they had to pay the bills.
I'm sure their rock n roll was the rock n roll of survival. It was about earning a wage, getting a girl (or girls), and having a good time.
It is the music of dances, drinks, live concerts, Friday and Saturday nights and doing as much as you can before everything (life) explodes on you.
The music was new but old. Check out my other comments but you can trace the music back to the 60s and perhaps back to the late 50s. The music was always there biting at the heels of self importance that seems to take over rock like a reoccurring flu. Before the resurgence in the late 70s there had been Big Star(from Memphis), The Raspberries (from ), The Flaming Groovies (from San Francisco) and many bands in-between.
And like many other musicians from the regions who had been plugging away for years, the new wave gave them that second chance in the form of power pop.
I had said this before
I have always had a soft spot for powerpop (though with reservations) mainly because any music that is short, sharp and jagged is worth a listen. And in the 70s awash with disco funk excess, prog rock excess , saccharine Eagles pseudo country rock excess, bloated glam rock excess and nauseating world music excess, powerpop filled the rock void until the rise of punk.
Punk it isn't but rock in a youthful, jubilant way it is, and that's enough. It's easy to see how it was incorporated into punk and the New Wave.
The 20 something Hawks from Fort Dodge, Iowa fit the definition.
wikipedia: "Frank Wiewel and Kirk Kaufman met in junior high school in Fort Dodge, Iowa, during the 1960s. This eventually led to the formation of the group West Minist’r, a popular group during the late 1960s to early 1970s … until its demise in 1974. Kaufman, Wiewel, Keith Brown and Arnie Bode opened West Minist’r Sound in 1972. Housed in a brick chicken coop that the band had used for practice, this Tom Hidley- designed space was located on Kaufman’s parent’s farm outside of Otho, Iowa … Both Wiewel and Kaufman continued writing and recording during the 1970s. By 1979 Wiewel had recorded several tracks that his wife encouraged him to send out to various record labels … they sealed the deal with Columbia. The only immediate stipulation made by Columbia was that the group’s name be changed. Wiewel had sent the demos out using the name Nighthawks. Using the first letters of their last names, it was decided to just shorten the name to Hawks".
A lot of power pop enthusiasts love the Hawks debut LP. I haven't heard it so I can't say. The general criticism is that this sophomore album is not as enthralling or power pop as their debut. They made compromises to commerciality ant AOR (album oriented rock).
But, if the songs and music is good then , perhaps, it doesn't matter.
Their first album, didn't sell and, like many bands signed by the major labels at the time you only had a couple of albums to prove (read – make big sales) yourself.
The Hawks are slick (this album was recorded in LA), and their music can be quite anthemic but their power pop sensibility is there in every song. The songs are well crafted (four of the five band members write) and hit all the genre motifs. Their sound recalls Cheap Trick, Dwight Twilley, Badfinger, Rick Springfield and Todd Rundgren.
The music is a little familiar (power pop by it's nature tends to be a limited genre regardless of how joyous and exhilarating it is) but the songs are well crafted and well played.
The album still didn't sell … what is regional success doesn't always translate into national success. There are too many factors working against a band ….
"It's a long way to the top it you want to rock n roll"
Columbia let the band go after this second album and they split up. (there was a "Two Album Deal" curse in the '80s …)
I'm not sure if they are referencing Jefferson Airplanes 1973 live album "Thirty Seconds Over Winterland" or the Spencer Tracy 1944 war film "30 Seconds over Tokyo" in the title which also refers to their recording origins.
Check my other entires for definitions of power pop
Tracks (best in italics)
Tonight You Are Mine – (Steen/Kaufman) – a big sound but a good balance between classic power pop and
- Somewhere in the Night – (Hearn) – A big song and very catchy. Even the synths (and Meatloaf references) don't ruin it. It's a slippery slope from here to REO Speedwagon though.
- (If We Just) Stick Together – (Steen) – a great Springsteen-ish song .. not surprisingly there is (distinctive) saxophone by Clarence Clemons of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band.
- Nobody Loses Tonight – (Steen) – a fitting anthem to be played at any dance. It sounds a little Dwight Twilley-esque to me. And, there is nothing wrong with that.
- Angel – (Kaufman) – a touch of The Beatles and Badfinger here.
- The Great Divide – (Hearn) – Great fun
- Don’t Walk Away – (Hearn) – a little more sedate but catchy.
- Black and White – (Wiewel/Steen) – catchy and quite busy.
- Listen to Her Sing – (Steen) – the obligatory love ballad though this is a mid-tempo one with beautiful chorused backing vocals
- Call On Me – (Harders/Kopp) – a cover. Originally released in 1977 by German pop band "Sunrise". Pure pop .. and extremely catchy.
A minor masterpiece of the genre … I'm keeping it.
Nothing no where
Tonight You Are Mine
(If We Just) Stick Together
Nobody Loses Tonight
Black and White
Call On Me – (Harders/Kopp) –
- Produced by John Ryan … (Badfinger, Styx, Allman Brothers Band etc) http://chicagokidrecords.com/discography/
- A third album, " Perfect World Radio", came out in 2003 which was compiled with the assistance of the band, and features various demos and unreleased tracks including material they were putting together for a new album in 1983 .