Pop-rock & powerpop LP cuts: A, B & C bands

(Hyped to Death CD #54)

Special treats this time include six never-released tracks from across the pop spectrum -and a bumper crop of astoundingly catchy mid-80s poprock that, you know, in a perfect world...

The East: We told you all about the Colors on Teenline #7, but after their 7" they hooked up with New Jersey's Dirt Club label for a great cut on the Dirt Compilation, and a seldom seen 6-song 12", whence "Tomorrow" and "Popstar," by singers Paul Sass and Robert Vickers, respectively. Robert went on to the Go-Betweens. The Now (ex-Arthur's Dilemma [H2D#41] & Peroxide) were fellow regulars on the NYC powerpop scene, but after their flirtation with major-label stardom fizzled, Geoff and Mamie tried reincarnating themselves as Alter Ego. Four tracks from their never-released LP have now surfaced on a fine Backstreet/ Rave Up* 7", but "Don't Let Her Know" had some nasty drop-outs that kept it out of circulation -til now (we've done a pretty swell job of patching it up, no?). Check out the Now's new radio concert CD: "Live...1979." (See also geoffdanielik.com.)

Hartford, Connecticut sat out the powerpop trend (sorta like it sat out all the others) but 1985 saw The Broken Hearts debut with "Want One," a solid LP of Mersey / 60s-influenced poptunes. The 'Hearts were fronted by three songwriters, including Michael Mazzarella of the Rooks [on Not Lame] and Tom Bittel who's now in See Jane Run. The full Broken Hearts LP and 11 bonus tracks will appear on Paisley Pop in 2003. From Boston, Jimmy Vigtone makes his third (and fourth) appearance on Teenline, this time leading the Clicks' poprock anthem "Beat of My Heart" ­another victim of the '80s "unreleased album" syndrome, plus a terrific "unplugged" pop strum to close things out.

Back to New York for a couple of demos that came in to Throbbing Lobster in our waning days: the Cheepskates sent 5 lovely tracks from their Perry Como EP sessions: a later recording of "Come Close to Me" eventually turned up on Confessional, though lead 'Skate Shane Faubert reckons this is his favorite version. Meanwhile,"The Things That Make Me Glad That I Met You" marked the symbolic end of the Riff Doctors [Teenline #1] and the birth of Cowboy and Spingirl: the 'Doctors were essentially Frank Bednash's solo project, while C&S was his official collaboration with Donna Esposito (ex-Cyclones [Homework #8] -and, not surprisingly, the "Donna" that Frank is singing about). The name? Well, they'd spied "Cowboy and Spingirl" on a Chinese menu somewhere in Manhattan and when Frank & Donna decided to sample it, the restaurant staff broke into mysterious laughter... Several C&S records later, someone in London explained it's the name of a pricey Hong Kong bordello service involving a young lady lowered from the ceiling in a basket Other tracks from the "Things" session formed side 2 of C&S's fab 12" debut on Subway: Frank and Donna remain happily in cahoots in Toothpaste 2000.

Craig Bevan & the Tourists released one wonderfully low-budget LP (only one printed label and a generic cover -the Bats [Teenline #6] used the same image) while making the most of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania's production facilities -check out the electronics break on "Modern Boys"...Bassist Bob Gryziec had played on the Buoys' creepy 60s smash, "Timothy", and he's now with Zydecoal. Craig himself soon moved to New York, where he's enjoyed a prodigious production and engineering career -largely in the hip-hop world.

Midwest / Prairies: Several first-generation powerpoppers here from the middle of things. The Circus actually hit the Billboard pop charts at #91 in 1973 with "Stop Wait & Listen" (though "Feel So Right," here, is a far stronger tune). They were part of the same Cleveland scene that gave the world the Raspberries, the Choir and the Michael Stanley Band, so it was only natural that Eric Carmen asked Dan Hrdlicka's next band, Magic, to back his solo debut. [Here's a brief web-bio...] The Boys (more later) were Omaha's unquestioned kings of pop, but Arlis Peach had paid his powerpop dues long before. "Ooh Baby" is Arlis and Larry Lee in 1973 or '74. Sessions recorded in Omaha, Texas and L.A. eventually resulted in one Peach & Lee single on RCA -and a[nother] never-issued LP. Three later Arlis songs appeared on Titan: see Teenline #6. The Boys "On a Night Like This" was their final release-on Titan's Just Another Pop Album collection, though there's more Boys and Arlis coming on the Best of Titan double CD (2003?). More Prairie pop from Tulsan (and ex-Scruff) David Branyan's sessions at Ardent Studios in Memphis, 1979. Despite David's best efforts to rekindle the classic sounds of #1 Record, the Ardent tech crew were heavily into ZZ Top at the time, so David and his brother Richard finally holed up with an intern to cut "Something Special" with David on drums & guitar, and Richard on organ, bass & vocals. When the LP deal failed to happen, David bagged the pop life for serious academia (we may have links to some writing projects and publications in 2003).

1976 saw the Suicide Commandos bringing noise and energy to the Land of 10,000 Lakes on a scale unheard since the garagepunk glory days of the Litter and the Soma label. Though they broke up in '78, each of the three 'Commandos composed a track for "TwinTone's Big Hits of Mid-America Vol. 3 (itself a tribute to Volumes 1 & 2, which appeared on the aforementioned Soma label in '65 or so) "You're Not the First One" was bassist Steve Almaas' tune, and his last stop before forming Crackers, who did one wildly-mixed EP with the confusing title of Sir Crackers, so nobody ever really knew who or what they were. "Ultimato" is the token poprocker. After a stint in Beat Rodeo, Steve has continued with 4 solo CDs, and his newest, "Steve Almaas & Ali Smith" is due out on Parasol in January 2003.*

Astrosurf were the proud folly of Bloomington, Indiana's Frank Haney. Although the two songs here feature almost completely different bands, both appeared on '81's "Ridin' the Amber Waves." To complement his guileless only-surfer-guy-in-town approach, Frank gleefully channels Beach Boys melodies circa 1963 and 1973 (but little of the stuff in between), then throws in what we're pretty sure are Teenline's only Vietnam-themed lyrics on "Girls." The whole LP and a half-dozen more great tracks are now on MP3.* Frank's currently promoting "Lust'n'Rust," the world's first (and finest) trailer-park musical -that's played to packed houses in Chicago and elsewhere. So, speaking of the Windy City, Bohemia's early efforts generally got caught between Chicago poprock, Ruthless postpunk and WaxTrax dance, though their later material shifted solidly toward the latter two. "Unconventional Boy," however, is a high-calorie slice of Rezillos trash-pop from their seldom-seen 10" (their second?). Bassist Francis Zirbel now helms Mental Insect, whose newest is Live at the Big Horse Lounge. Teenline #8's northernmost contributors, the Burdons, come from WAY up at the top of the Michigan mainland, though drummer David Davenport did time in sunnier climes with San Diego's Claude Coma [H2D #51 -on the same Government label]. The Burdons remain Bay City's patriarchs of pop-rock: their 1999 CD, "Penny Arcade" contains a live version of "Fell in Love:" it's available through the World Records website.

The late Stiv Bators may have started with Ohio's Dead Boys, but by 1980 he was certifiable powerpop royalty. His anthemic "I'll Be Alright" was slated for release as Bomp Records #129, but for reasons unknown, it never came out. Bomp put it onto a promotional-only compilation called "Where the Action Is," but it wasn't until the early '90s that [different mixes?] turned up on Munster and on Bomp's own L.A. L.A. CD. (Be sure to visit Bomp's Stiv photo shrine!)

The South and... The Breathers prowled around South Florida's indie pop-rock scene for a half-dozen years in the early- and mid-80s, and left behind "Did You Think" on The Land that Time Forgot compilation, plus two excellent EPs (one of them assisted by Bill Lloyd) that we unfortunately didn't have handy in time for Teenline #6. There was also a German-only LP. Even more Breathers material appears on CDs by leader Rick Harper and drummer Tom Staley. Tom pounded skins on the classic early NRBQ LPs: his newest CD is I've Always Known, while Rick's Rickenharper and Hoot are available on own HiVariety label. Steve Burdick (no relation to Teenline #7's David) started off on drums with the Wind [Teenline #4: they're still collaborating as Tan Sleeve], then went on to lead his own band, The Answer. 1985 was a pretty lousy time to be a pop band anywhere, and the Answer went nowhere in South Florida -but it's a brilliant LP anyway. Since then, Steve's done everything from blues to rap to a Wind reunion up in New York (2000): most recently he's been doing some high-tech/freeform deejaying at Apache Landing in Aventura, FL.

By 1983, the garage-revival and Paisley Underground scenes had thoroughly overrun the last remnants of L.A. powerpop... so the Corsairs never quite fit in, despite their record on garage scenester Lori Spilka's Music Rage label. After some more conventionally garagey material Alan relocated to Kansas, where he's produced Route 3 and others at his own studio: he's also doing web-development and recording a bit on his own.

Finally, a where-else-were-we-going-to-put-it bonus track from Sweden, where yet another band called The Beat found their path to fame and glory blocked by squabbling over the name. But in a flourish of commercial death-wish-fulfillment unparalleled since maybe Mom's Apple Pie, these three lovable mop-tops renamed themselves Stavros & the Beat, Naturally, none of them were named Stavros, and they compounded the damage by spelling it in the original Greek: "Stauros." Can you say, "straight to the 5-Kronor bins"?

Hey bands-- don't get pissed off, get in touch: we'll send you stuff!

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