no.103*

Powerpop & pop-rock: "T"

(Hyped to Death CD #24B)

Here's the new third volume #3 in the Teenline series. Another healthy mix of teenagers and aging twenty-somethings, with a hefty contingent from the upper right-hand corner of things... Remember, powerpop is where "Let's spend the night together" means "let's go out on a date!"

The Northeast... Loud 4/4 pop'n'roll was the heart of the Boston sound from 1975 well into the '80s. Boston bands strove for commercial success with a wide-eyed sincerity and desperation that most other bands outgrew in a matter of a gig or two... Maybe it's the opposite side of Boston's comfortable despair of ever seeing the Red Sox win the World Series, but the bands with the greatest staying power seem to have been those with the least developed (or best-sabotaged) ambition, including the Classic Ruins, the Lyres, and the 2x4s / Turbines / Hovorka legacy. But the first and best of the bunch was John Felice and the Real Kids, who, between 1976 and '88 or so, became the Taxi Boys, then the Real Kids again [Andy Paley producing "Kick"], then Primevils, then Lowdowns... and finally the Real Kids again. The Taxi Boys were named after a Depression-era series of Hal Roach film shorts, and it was mostly Felice with Matthew MacKenzie [Reddy Teddy, Willie Alexander] and Billy Cole [Baby's Arm, later Real Kids]: they did two EPs -one 12" on Bomp and a 7" on Dave Pearce's Star Rhythm label. Most everything by the Real Kids and family is currently available from Norton Records.

Marc Thor's first 45, from 1976 or maybe earlier, took its inspiration from the Kinks' "Hollywood Boulevard" days. His next appearance was on the Live at the Rat 2LP, followed by his great "Trak" 45 from '79 [Homework #102] and a flexi-disc. The Trademarks came from the least-punky extremes of the Boston scene but they mixed powerpop and British Invasion with more than a trace of North-of-Boston '60s popstars Teddy & the Pandas (who wrote the Yachts' "Look Back in Love"). Following a flexi freebie from Take It! Magazine, "Magic in her Eyes" was their first vinyl. After the Trademarks guitarists Dave Morrison and Matt Langone [Peytons, Bangs, now with NYC's Trash Mavericks] played with the Sorrows/Poppees' Jett Harris as the Juke Savages. Vocalist #3, Jack Moran, did some time in Diving for Pearls and now runs the Paris branch of the Hard Rock Café (d'ya suppose there's a copy of this 45 stuck to the wall?)

So...when did MTV introduce their theme-riff? The Tweeds first released "I Need that Record" on a 1980 12" EP, then again on this extremely limited (promo-only?) single. But who copped whom? Either way, those dum duh-dum duh-dum duh-dum chords were a perfect wrap to Marc McHugh's rocking love-song to the great record-shops of yore. "I'm Thru" is more typical of the rest of the Tweeds output (at least 4 other 45s and the 12"): kinda edgy pop, heavily influenced by mid-Reprise period Kinks. (Boston must've been the only place on the planet where "Victoria" made the top 20...)

The Toys' stage shows were legendary -as you might expect from the Kalicki brothers ex-Aunt Helen [H2D#41] and a scantily-clad bass-player named Meat Cleaver, but the "Livin' Fast" single and a comp track were all they released before losing the name to a lesser Rochester combo. There's a fine Toys collection out now on 13th Street Records. Third Floor Strangers also hailed from Buffalo, but the sound of "Last Chance" is pure Memphis and Big Star... The connection is that several of them had played in Buffalo's Party Nuggets, who backed Alex in '81 or so (there's an excellent live tape or two in circulation). Two were also in the Promise, who did an excellent poprock LP in maybe '82. With Bernie Kugel [Good, BCMK, Mystic Eye], though he's not credited on the LP...

Justin Trouble [a/k/a Justin Love] and Louie Louie [a/k/a ?] were mainstays of the post-N.Y. Dolls trashabilly scene and did their best stuff by far when they collaborated on this and Justin's first LP. Johnny Thunders produced and wrote the flipside, and Brett Wilder [Backbones] plays bass. Justin's art is now online at justinlove.com.
Tuff Darts never lived down their rep as the lone commercial turkey of Seymour Stein's utterly visionary '76-77 new-wave signings to Sire (Ramones, Richard Hell, Dead Boys, Saints, Radio Birdman, Talking Heads, Rezillos...). Robert Gordon was still in the band when Seymour started talking to them at CBGB, but the 'Darts cut a surprisingly solid pop-rock LP behind Tommy Frenzy (who's still going solo) that makes a nice point of continuity between the New York Dolls' glitter-trash and the punk scene.

We'd been looking for the Transformers for a number of years, but we always seemed to be a step or two behind til singer Eamonn Bowles took time off from the movie business to sing with the Martinets with Dave Rick [King Missile, Bongwater, Phantom Tollbooth]. The Transformers were a short-lived affair (although "Vacation" had debuted as a song by the Fabians, Eamonn's earlier band with gtr/songwriter Jeff Budge --son of tennis legend Don B.). Eamonn now helms Magnolia Pictures, and the Martinets' latest is "New Stories for Men."

Another one-shot-wonder comes from New Jersey's Torpedos who dress up "2486" with a cool, garagey doubled guitar-and-piano riff. The Torpedos got their official start in college, but Paul Kmiotek, Joel Bachrach and Frank Nardozza started playing together as ninth graders in River Edge NJ -and the rest are from the next town over.

The middle of things:
There was a band called the Trouble Boys who were major players on the early '80s Toronto trashpop'n'roll scene, but they never recorded. So "Nice Girl" comes from a different set of Trouble Boys in '82, from northwestern Ohio. Turns out Jon Stain went to highschool with Corey from the Necros: his punk band both before and after the Trouble Boys was the Stain, who did a Mystic 7" and a couple LPs, and he's written for Thrasher ever since...

20/20 started out in Dwight Twilley's hometown,Tulsa, Oklahoma before heading to L.A. "Giving It All" was a minor hit for Bomp! Records and it got them signed to Portrait, for whom they cut the immortal "Yellow Pills." Singers Steve Allen and Ron Flynt are back in Tulsa now and 20/20 reunite now and then for SXSW. Check out steveallen.com -more soon!


Out west...Tiny Voices don't seem to've done anything besides their 1985 single, "Please Write Back Soon." Writer Franklin Bruno remembers seeing them play on local Orange County TV perhaps a year later -something about a checked sportcoat... Bassist Ronnie Gomez has lately been playing with Kristian Hoffman.

There was no way two of the four astoundingly great poptunes on the Tearaways' lone EP weren't gonna appear here. They're still active out in Santa Barbara and recording on the Pinch Hit label. You probably don't want to know there was a whole CD of their early stuff on Not Lame that's long out-of-print... www.tearaways.com. Along with the Sleepers, the Tools were one of San Francisco's best artpunk combos, but by their third and final 7" they'd gotten pretty catchy (though "Over Now" is still at least as psychedelic as it is powerpop...). Band-members included Mike Fox pre-Sick Pleasure and Code of Honor, and Greg Baker pre-B-Team & Yo.

One might guess that the band-name of 2 Minutes 50 referred to the ideal powerpop song-length. If so, it was certainly a much-needed message in 1981 Portland, Oregon, where the Wipers (as great as they were), Steve Fisk's Pell Mell, and the Pigface label crowd had established the five-to-twenty minute range as the norm, and many, many, many far less talented bands were all too happy to follow their lead. 2M50 leader Duane Jarvis' newest is "Certified Miracle."


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