Review: Play On! Power Pop Heroes Vol II
Along with John Borack’s Ultimate Guide to Powerpop, Ken sharp’s Powerpop Heroes books are mandatory reading for any fan of the genre. Now, Ken gives us volume two. And for anyone who grew up cutting their teeth on FM radio in the late 70’s and early 80’s, it’s a glorious return to the days when music mattered.
Don’t be dis-swayed by it’s voluminous appearance. After all, it is a volume and must weigh in at over 2 and a half pounds (just a guess). Over 800 pages in length, Play On! Powerpop Heroes Volume Two is the War and Peace of powerpop books. However, with incredibly telling interviews with bands such as XTC, The Records, Cheap Trick, The Flashcubes and The Ramones, Ken takes us on a ride that’s every bit as fun as a Coney Island rollercoaster.
Ken has a way of getting folks to be frank, which is very much to the benefit of we, the reader. For example, I hadn’t realized that The Ramones were such big Kiss fans. I learned that the friction between Johnny and Joey must have started early on in the life of the band as Johnny was a staunch conservative Republican and Joey a liberal Democrat. In fact, when they toured, they always sat as far apart in the van as possible. We also learned that Craig Leon is a crappy producer/engineer.
It was fascinating to read about their individual quirks and the roles each band member played as each saw themselves and each other as keys to the band’s success. Despite their personality clashes, they were in fact a cohesive unit when it mattered – each understanding that the total added up to much more than the simple sum of their individual parts.
I was surprised to read that Chris Difford got early lyrical inspiration from King Krimson. Who knew that Gary Frenay of the Flashcubes loves The Spongetones (we wholeheartedly agree)? That the biggest mistake The Records made was not firing Huw Gower but hiring him in the first place? Well, truth be told, the greatest mistake may have been hiring of Craig Leon to produce Crashes.
Bands featured in volume two include:
Flamin’ Groovies, Rick Springfield, Blue Ash, Stories, The Hudson Brothers, Cheap Trick, Pezband, Sweet, Shoes, Dwight Twilley, Bay City Rollers, The Ramones, The Rubinoos, Utopia, The Babys Piper, Artful Dodger, XTC, Squeeze and The Records.
I’ve just started reading the book (just got it this past weekend) and frankly, I can’t put it down. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED READING.