Bash On Pop-The Power Pop Hall of Fame

Posted by on January 5, 2016 in Bash On Pop | 17 comments

badfinger
With all the hoopla and brouhaha surrounding the recent inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I thought it might be fun to put together a list of artists who I feel worthy of inclusion in a Power Pop Hall of Fame. I urge you to please read the entire article (aka, “the disclaimers”) and not merely the list, so that, while you ultimately may not agree with my selections and even call me an “American Idiot,” (hint, hint) you’ll at least know where I’m coming from with some of the more controversial ones.
 
First of all, the term “power pop” is almost as nebulous as “pop” itself, and while there is mass agreement about whether or not some artists are truly “power pop,” there are others which certainly beg debate. So rather than trying to answer the unanswerable, I decided to use common sense and include two types of artists:
 
a. Those that fit into the power pop category by anyone’s definition.
 
b. Those whose style may fall, by strict definition, outside of the purview of power pop, but are loved by the general consensus of power pop fans and are therefore often labeled as “power pop.”
 
I made my selections based on similar factors to which the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame purports to use, with longevity and influence being the major ones. Popularity did play a role in my decision, but of course that’s within the framework of power pop, rather than rock music as a whole.
 
I decided not to include those who most consider to be the “progenitors of power pop,” e.g. The Beatles, The Who, and other ‘60s bands of that ilk. Yes, Pete Townshend coined the term to describe his band’s music, but to me, it all starts with artists like Emitt Rhodes and Badfinger, and “No Matter What” may be the quintessential power pop song.
 
I didn’t go for that nonsense of limiting the first group of inductees to only five or ten when so many more are qualified, but I did decide to invoke the “20 year rule” – only artists whose first album was released at least 20 years ago (1996 or earlier) are eligible for induction. This allows for longevity, both with respect to career length or temporal perspective. If there’s enough general interest in this, I may decide to add five or 10 inductees each year, and have a fan vote play a part in that. We’ll see…
 
Without further ado, here are my initial inductees for the Power Pop Hall of Fame:
 
20/20
Badfinger
The Bangles
The Beat
Brendan Benson
Big Star
The Cars
Cheap Trick
Marshall Crenshaw
The dB’s
DM3
Jason Falkner
The Flamin’ Groovies
Fountains of Wayne
The Go-Go’s
Green Day
The Grip Weeds
Jellyfish
Tommy Keene
The Knack
Material Issue
The Nines
Oasis
The Posies
The Ramones
The Raspberries
The Records
Redd Kross
Emitt Rhodes
The Rubinoos
Shoes
The Smithereens
The Spongetones
Squeeze
Supergrass
Matthew Sweet
Teenage Fanclub
The Three O’Clock
Dwight Twilley
Wondermints
 
How’s that for a Top 40??
 
I put the inductees in alphabetical order because there’s no need for ranking here: if you’re in, you’re in.
 
I won’t try to explain the obvious choices, but I thought I’d go into some of those for which there may be some disagreement:
 
The Ramones, The Cars, and Squeeze: there is by no means a consensus that these bands should be labeled as power pop, and I can certainly see that argument, but to me they all contain the hallmarks of what true power pop should be: strong hooks and melodies by the boatload, vocal harmonies, and fealty to those who came before them. Call The Ramones punk-pop if you’d like, and call The Cars and Squeeze New Wave, but to me all three of them also cross the line into power pop, and that’s why they belong in a Power Pop Hall of Fame.
 
Big Star: I may be wrong that there is any sort of disagreement here, but if there is, it would be due to their relatively small output, paltry record sales, and non-major label status. Yes, it’s true, they only had three albums (none of which sold), but those albums influenced – and continue to influence- countless bands, including some rather huge ones such as R.E.M. In fact, one could argue that Big Star is one of the more influential bands in rock ‘n roll history, which is why I feel they should also be included in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame; hey, if Velvet Underground is in, by the same criteria Big Star should be as well. (I’ll get into why I think they haven’t been elected yet some other time.)
 
The Spongetones: No, they never sold a ton of records, and, unlike Big Star, they’re not really cited as a major influence on very many bands, but they released several excellent albums over a period of almost 30 years, and no, they are *not* all Beatle rips…and their melodies and harmonies are a thing to behold. If you haven’t heard them, or stopped after Beat and Torn, you owe it to yourself to delve further into their catalogue.
 
Oasis: Many readers, I presume, will think of Oasis as being “too rock” to be in the power pop category, but by the mid-‘90s (which was when the “power pop renaissance” began), we needed to be taking into consideration the NEW power pop, which is louder and harder-edged than what we grew up on while still retaining those signature melodies and harmonies…and Oasis does that as well as anyone.
 
Green Day: Yes, Green Day. What’s the problem here? Are they too “punk” for you? Yeah, maybe some of their earlier records are more punk than pop, but beginning in the mid ‘90s that changed, and their recorded ouput in the New Millennium is everything modern power pop should be, featuring faster and louder guitars, but with tremendous melodies and harmonies…and Billie Joe Armstrong can really sing when he wants to. Trust me, if Green Day was around in the late ‘70s, Greg Shaw would have hailed them as the next Power Pop Heroes, and as far as I’m concerned, they are the paragons of The New Power Pop.
 
Supergrass: Anyone who doesn’t think Supergrass is a quintessential power pop band hasn’t heard their albums. ‘Nuff said. Well, maybe some more does need to be said: some might argue that Supergrass, Oasis, etc. should be labeled “Britpop” rather than power pop, and to this I respond that power pop is a subset of Britpop, so one can certainly be both. However, not all Britpop is power pop, in my opinion; e.g. Blur is more along the lines of indie-rock than power pop. Confused? Go listen to some Supergrass and then get back to me.
 
One may wonder why I didn’t include artists such as Todd Rundgren, Game Theory, XTC, et al. Okay, one by one: Rundgren, while being an amazing songwriter and performer, is all over the map, and power pop is just a small corner of what he does. A classic like “Couldn’t I Just Tell You” notwithstanding, most of his stuff is way too far outside the parameters of true power pop. I would definitely put him in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – and I’m frankly astonished that he’s not there – but he doesn’t belong in a Power Pop Hall of Fame in my opinion. As great as they are, XTC is more about quirk and whimsy than power pop. Game Theory is another wonderful band, but they also traversed outside the boundaries of power pop; if there’s ever an Alt. Rock Hall of Fame, they should be the charter members.
 
The general rule here is that power pop *can* be a subset of other genres, and in the cases where I found that to be true, I was inclined to give that artist serious consideration.
 
Disclaimer #2: There will likely be some friends and acquaintances reading this who were not selected to be among the “initial 40” who feel they should have been included. I totally get that, and acknowledge that, in some instances, there will be legitimate cases to be made. Please know that it was never anything personal: I did my best to use my extensive knowledge on the subject, along with weighing factors in a way I felt held validity. In many cases, these artists will be added to The Power Pop Hall of Fame in future years; in some cases, not. Only time will tell.
 
Ok, enough of that. I’d love to hear your thoughts, so let the games (i.e. agreements and disagreements) begin!
 
I’d like to thank Justin Fielding and John Borack for their input.
 
 
Addendum: in early February I implemented a fan vote. I asked fans, over a period of one week, to vote for up to five candidates who were not in my original 40. The Top five vote-getters are as follows:
 
The Plimosouls
Sloan
XTC
Nick Lowe
Velvet Crush
 
All five are now accorded full membership into the Power Pop Hall of Fame, bringing our total number of inductees to 45, which, if you think about it, is the perfect number as the 45 RPM record pretty much codifies the genre. 🙂

17 Comments

  1. How about Sloan?

    • I have a feeling they will be elected in the fan vote I’m doing soon.

  2. Where are The Romantics? By the way nice list.

    • Thank you for your compliment, Eric. The Romantics had some power pop, and some too slick commercial pop. There’s an argument to be made for them, but I thought that there were 40 artists who were more qualified, and I wanted to keep the initial inductees at 40.

  3. I think The Plimsouls should be in the list.
    Anyway, thanks for the effort and the anazing work with IPO over the last 18 years .

    • Thank you for your kind words, Philippe! Please re-read the article; we did a fan vote and elected five more bands-you’ll definitely be happy with at least one of them. 🙂

  4. I envy your grasp of Power Pop but what about Wanderlust? Their debut Prize clocked in at 1995. Another fave of mine is Starbelly, but they splashed in 1998.

    • Thank you for your kind words, Russ. Wanderlust were awesome, but they didn’t make the first cut. Perhaps one day they’ll be selected (as may Starbelly).

  5. P.S. Not necessarily for posting but I just saw your post about your heart attack. Wow, I sure hope you’re doing well these days and feeling fine. I’ve known of you for many years and have taken your ‘best of’ lists for granted. Thanks to you and some others Spirit Kid has made my year with ‘Is Happening’. Here’s to hoping that you have heard anyone who can match that euphoria. Elvyn’s ‘Valley of the Kilowatt Hour’ is the best I know of so far. All the best and please take care.

    • Thank you again, Russ. If you friend me on Facebook you can revisit my past lists in the “notes” section of my page.

  6. Why is the requirement for consideration tied to an album release? Suppose an act only released singles? As for the Beatles and The Who and others, they should fall into the “early influence” category. Any act whose first release was from before the 1970s should be eligible as an early influence. You could start with the Beatles, the Who, the Searchers, the Kinks, the Byrds, the Hollies, the Beach Boys, the Monkees, the Turtles and the Left Banke.

    • Well, at the risk of being terse, my answer is “it’s my list, it’s my rules”. If you want to do your own list, you are free to do it any way you want. I don’t believe the progenitors should be labelled as power pop, just as the R&B acts who inspired Hip Hop artists shouldn’t be labelled as rap, just as the blues artists who inspired heavy metal bands shouldn’t be called hard rock. That’s my opinion; obviously yours differs, and that’s ok. 🙂

      Having said that, I may one day do some kind of an “influence” category, but we’re not there yet (and if I did do it, I would limit it to acts that were more “rock” oriented than The Turtles, The Beach Boys, and The Left Banke).

      As for acts who only released singles being eligible for the Power Pop Hall of Fame, I would be happy to have selected some if I felt any warranted inclusion, but in my opinion those who released enough excellent singles always happened to have enough good albums. Other than the ’60s artists you mention, which power pop “singles bands” do you feel warrant inclusion?

      • Well, this guy seems to disagree with your take that those early bands are not Power Pop.

        http://digitaldreamdoor.com/pages/best_songs-Power-Pop.html

        Instead of a dictatorship, why not let your readers here vote on who should be in, like you did with the 5 extra acts that you added to your original 40 elections?

        People like Robert Johnson and Hank Williams are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Flame as early influences, and nobody is saying that they are rock and roll acts. I say that you ask the readers here to vote on whether acts like the Beatles and Searchers belong.

        As for acts that never had an album, I’ll have to do some research.

        • The other listmaker is entitled to his opinion, as everyone is, but not sure what you’re trying to prove by offering the list, other than to elicit a reaction. I’m fully aware that people disagree with the way I did my list, but that’s what makes the world go round, and it’s ok.

          This is not a dictatorship; in fact, my Power Pop Hall of Fame is much more generous to fans than is the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame. They would never have given fans the latitude I have to vote 5 people into their Hall of Fame. Their “fan vote” consists of the entire number of votes counting as only one, which essentially amounts to nothing. I’m not going to have fans vote on everything; somebody has to be in charge, and since it’s my list it’s going to be me. As I said before, if you want things done differently, feel free to do your own lists your own way.

          Looking forward to the conclusions of your research.

          • Dave, you are absolutely right about the Power Pop list! The original wave were the basis but it’s Power Pop is the wave after or the response to all those seminal bands. But I have one that scarcely falls into your sixties exclusion and really aside from Badfinger was the first and perhaps the most important and worthy that I would like you to please consider for Bash’s Power Pop Hall of Fame. In John Lennon’s own words, “passing the torch to… The Electric Light Orchestra . Jeff Lynne meets all your criteria to spite their antics in disco and most recently a blues based approach. And it’s the Passing the Torch concept that IS Power Pop not any one influence or school. Thanks Dave for holding it all together to spite such outrageous gum flapping!

            The Captn

          • If we are to spend time considering the history and evolution of Power Pop, a much more interesting question is, when did power pop become a musical genre?

  7. Who is Brendon Benson? I’ve never heard of him and never saw him on another Power Pop list. I like your inclusions except for this unknown. Shoes my favorite (most songs I like). My favorite band is the Small Faces. If you like this early 60’s music. Try Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick and Tish. They have a 100 song CD but they have about 30 happy sparkling hits. A lot of derivative American rock that isn’t very good

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