'70s Power Pop, Oh, How We Love Thee
by Justin Farrar | October 5, 2012
My music-nerd friends think my definition of '70s power pop is too broad. They're right, in a sense. I mean, of course, Cheap Trick, The Raspberries, Big Star, Badfinger, Shoes and Tom Petty embody the movement's canonic thrust: immaculately well-crafted pop-rock inspired by mid-'60s Beatles, Who, Byrds, Kinks, Beach Boys, Zombies and the (criminally underrated) Dave Clark Five.
But if you define power pop less as a genre and more as a tactic (i.e. just one tool in a box of many), then it becomes clear that all manner of artists and bands during that shaggy decade often made music fitting said description. In fact, I would say my spin on things becomes damn near irrefutable when going on a song-by-song basis. Look at Queen, Electric Light Orchestra, Todd Rundgren and Supertramp: All four belong to the art-rock genre more than any other. And yet each produced moments of power-pop perfection, from "Killer" and "Telephone Line" to "I Saw the Light" and "Goodbye Stranger." In fact, I think the same can be said of Abandoned Luncheonette-era Hall & Oates. The achingly tender "Had I Know You Better" is really no different than Rundgren's "I Saw the Light" in its fusion of Macca's sentimental tunesmithing and velvety Philly soul. And speaking of Paul McCartney, all four Beatles messed around with power-pop as solo artists. How could they not? After all, they invented the very concept.
Another area where my approach produces dividends is punk and New Wave. The Knack, The Records and Real Kids are all considered power-pop icons. But what about a group like The Jam? Does not "Sounds From the Street" (off their debut album In The City) echo perfectly the Mod restlessness found on The Who's My Generation? Also exhibiting strong power-pop flavor were Nick Lowe, The Cars, The Only Ones and especially Squeeze, whose Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford were often labeled "the next Lennon and McCartney" by the pop press.
But whether or not you agree with my definition of power pop, there's one thing that cannot be debated: This playlist is packed with a lot of truly awesome tunes!