THREE MINUTES IS LONG ENOUGH....
On the coat tails of the punk revolution of mid to late 1970’s came New Wave and Power Pop. Much has been written about New Wave but Power Pop seems to have disappeared under the radar.
It was Pete Townshend who first used the term “power pop” to describe the style of music played by The Who in their early days, as a mixture of the Small Faces guitar pop with the melodic sounds of the Beach Boys.
One of the new Power Pop bands that caught my ear and finally my eye were The Rubinoos. They were from California and stable mates of Jonathan Richman on the Beserkley record label.
The first track I ever bought of theirs was Rock ‘n’ Roll is Dead, an energetic blend of electric guitars and vocal harmonies; the single was less than three minutes long.
mp3 : The Rubinoos - Rock'n'Roll Is Dead
They also released a cover version of Tommy James and the Shondels single I Think We’re Alone Now. The Rubinoos version was never a hit in the UK when released in 1977 but it reached number 45 in the States. It was also covered by Tiffany 10 years later, with an absolutely shit version that went to number one the world over.
I managed to see The Rubinoos as they featured on two BBC television programmes, The Old Grey Whistle Test and Rock Goes to College, which was screened early evening on a Saturday simultaneously on BBC2 and Radio2 for stereo sound. RGtC featured some of foremost up and coming bands of the time from colleges or universities, Such as the Boomtown Rats, Joe Jackson, The Specials, the second band in this feature Rich Kids and The Stranglers, who famously, walked off, fifteen minutes into their set after five songs, smashing their equipment as they went and verbally abusing “their” student audience.
The Rubinoos also played many live shows in their home land, not least when they were support act to Elvis Costello on one of his early tours across the USA.
Years later I managed to buy a CD Home of the Hits... Best of Jonathan Richman which came with a bonus CD with the Definitive Beserkley Anthology, which featured The Rubinoos, Greg Kihn and Tyla Gang all who featured on that label, for £4.99.
Around the same time in London, another Power Pop band, the Rich Kids were formed by Glenn Matlock (after he was thrown out of the Sex Pistols for liking The Beatles) and Steve New, who was second guitarist in the Pistols for short time and Rusty Egan, as drummer.
The lead singer of this newly formed act however , seamed a strange choice . It was Midge Ure, who has previously enjoyed chart success as lead singer with teenybop Glaswegian band Slik. - an act who could probably be accurately desctibed as Glasgow’s own version of Edinburgh’s Bay City Rollers - indeed Slik's sole number one hit was written by the same writers of all the Rollers hits.
Ure had been offered the lead singer role in The Sex Pistols in 1975 by Malcolm McLaren. (R.I.P.)
The Rich Kids made one album Ghosts of Princes in Towers which had two stand out singles. The self titled Rich Kids was the first release which reached Number 24 in the UK charts and came out on red vinyl. They were also another of the bands that featured on the afore-mentioned Rock Goes To College.
mp3 : Rich Kids - Rich Kids
The second single Ghosts of Princes in Towers which in my opinion was one of the great singles of its era. I think it stands the test of time.
mp3 : Rich Kids - Ghosts of Princes in Towers
The album was produced by Mick Ronson, who was David Bowie’s guitarist in the Spiders form Mars band.
After less than two years the Rich Kids split, Matlock and New toured as part of Iggy Pop’s band, Egan joined The Skids for a short spell and Ure joined Thin Lizzy for a tour of America and Japan.
Rusty Egan and Midge Ure re-united to form New Romantic outfit Visage. Ure went on to have a successful period with Ultravox; many feel he spoilt Ultravox after he replaced John Foxx as the main songwriter and singer.
Another Power Pop band that deserves a mention are Belfast’s Starjets, who at one time were known as the “Bay City Rollers of punk” because on their clean cut image.
Their one and only single to dent the British charts in 1979 was the wonderful War Stories another less than 3 minute’s piece of pop classic.
mp3 : Starjets - War Stories
After no commercial success they split but the main songwriters left Belfast for London and formed The Adventures who had a number 20 with the single Broken Land in 1988.
And there you have it.....a potted history of a fine musical genre that has been sadly neglected for 30 years and more. Any other fans out there?
John Greer, Sunday 11 April 2010
PS : I'm another who will be at the Dundee United v Raith Rovers semi-final today that JC mentioned yesterday. It's a great feeling seeing your team reach this stage of a competition for the first time in 47 years.