Friday, July 22, 2011

An Attempt At A Power Pop Biography: Introduction

As I've been a poor correspondent of late I'm going to try something a little bit different. Indulge me.

One of the hallmarks of any discussion of power pop as a genre of music stumbles upon the definition of just what the hell power pop is. Some have chosen an appeal to authority, usually invoking Pete Townshend and early Who. Others have performed a bit of audio vivisection and determined The Beatles brought together all of the elements of the genre. Still others have followed an archaeological approach going back to the 50's tracing the rock and pop influences of artists like Buddy Holly. Further evolutionary thinkers eschew the neanderthal or cro-magnon predecessors in favor of the 1970's emergence of homo power popus, otherwise know as Badfinger, Big Star and The Raspberries. It turns out it is possible to trot out as many different definitions of power pop as there are people listening to it. Power pop, as such, turns out to be a little like obscenity; we cannot define it but we know it when we hear it.

What I propose to do here is give in to the idiosyncratic nature of it all and sketch out a listening life that led this individual to Power Pop in all of its weird glory. In doing this I'm not suggesting the previous attempts and approaches to defining the genre were wrong as such, but I am suggesting it is the emotional attachment of the individual which is inseparable from the listening experience. Somewhere out there exists a person who vividly remembers being a teenager and putting on their copy of The Flamin' Groovies "Shake Some Action" and being transported away from whatever was making life less than palatable for them at that time. That experience, however, isn't mine. It is in fact inaccessible to someone like myself who didn't really come to know the Groovies until he was in his 30's. (Sad but true.) As a result of this any definition of the genre which jibes with that emotional component will probably feel right for the Groovies' fan, at the same time it doesn't do anything for someone like me. Now, the subjective nature of all this doesn't make it wrong. Deciding we like some music and dislike other music is inherently a subjective enterprise, but it is only human to want to share what we know and feel, thus we seek out a common vocabulary in order to talk about this stuff. So, we search for definitions, however partial or inadequate they may be.

The biographical approach I am taking is meant to flesh out exactly what these definitions mean to me. How did I come to find the music I love so much and that I choose to make available to anyone in the world who wants to listen to The Pure Pop Pub? When you think about it, just putting this radio station on the air is an act of almost unimaginable egotism only made palatable (some could argue) by the fact it is free. But these days most every committed music fan is in may ways a disc jockey. Sure they may be spinning tunes for only themselves or a few friends for whom they make mix discs, but that is every bit as much an expression of their personal musical biography as my scribblings here.

So, in writing this I'm making no special claim of privilege. Hundreds of thousands of others could do the same if they took the time. What I hope this reveals is my take on this multi-dimensional beast we call Power Pop. Some of it could resonate with your own experiences, or may seem quite alien. Generational differences could loom large for some, while for others they are transcended.

As far as I can see all such reactions are to the good...but I promise you the soundtrack is better.

[I reserve the right to edit the ever living shit out of this thing as this first part came out almost in a stream of consciousness.]

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