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PETE HAM OF BADFINGER: Take a sad song and make it sadder

PETE HAM OF BADFINGER: Take a sad song and make it sadder

Put simply: Pete Ham was one of the singer-songwriters in Badfinger, the British pop band of the late Sixties and early Seventies which enjoyed the patronage of Paul McCartney. He gave them his Come and Get It (used in the Ringo-Peter Sellers movie The Magic Christian) on the condition they record it exactly as his demo. They did, it...

Shoes: Tomorrow Night (1978)

Shoes: Tomorrow Night (1978)

In that great alphabet of power pop kicked off by the Beatles and which includes Badfinger, Big Star, Cheap Trick and so on, the Shoes out of Zion, Illinois are perhaps the least known today. That doesn't mean they are forgotten or won't be rediscovered however: the Elektra bio which came with their major label debut Present Tense noted that...

Luke Jackson: . . . And Then Some (Popsicle)

Luke Jackson: . . . And Then Some (Popsicle)

After a mention of the late Robert Kirby's string arrangements in a review of the Magic Numbers' The Runaway, this Canadian singer-songwriter with a well-stamped passport got in touch: he too had benefited from Kirby's smart touch. And he sent on a copy of this album which opens with a classic blast of power-pop (Come Tomorrow, the title even...

Marc Cohn: Listening Booth; 1970 (Sony)

Marc Cohn: Listening Booth; 1970 (Sony)

The way singer-songwriter Cohn remembers it, 1970 was when the Beatles, and Simon and Garfunkel, broke up. It was classic singles, the dawn of the singer-songwriter era (James Taylor, Neil Young and others), great albums by various solo Beatles, Van Morrison, Cat Stevens, Creedence . . . So he goes back to that year for this collection...

MATTHEW SWEET INTERVIEWED (1993): It should be a more Sweet world

MATTHEW SWEET INTERVIEWED (1993): It should be a more Sweet world

Matthew Sweet comes with a double handicap: the unthreatening “Matthew” and then . . . “Sweet” Hmm, very soft, very sweet. It isn’t a promising start and he made life doubly difficult by calling his last album Girlfriend and putting a lovely furwrapped, teenage Tuesday Weld on the cover. Wow, Matthew...

Matthew Sweet: Girlfriend (1991)

Matthew Sweet: Girlfriend (1991)

Bitter irony is how Matthew Sweet's small but devoted following might describe his recent profile and measure of success: this gifted singer-songwriter, power-pop rocker and fine interpreter of a lyric is currently gathering kudos for the Under the Covers albums he has been doing with former Bangle Susanna Hoffs. Yes, it's good to know he's...

POWER POP: God's gift to guitars

POWER POP: God's gift to guitars

The perfect pop gig, no doubt about it. A tidy 40 minutes of three minute songs accompanied by lots of bouncing up and down -- then off. And back for a four-song encore. By my reckoning, that's the playing time of two sides of vinyl and an encore of EP dimensions. Perfect. And this was pop -- power pop more correctly – and...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 The Young Veins: Take a Vacation! (One Haven/Southbound)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 The Young Veins: Take a Vacation! (One Haven/Southbound)

Here's my theory about The Young Veins, for what it's worth: they are aliens who crashed landed secretly in California behind a music store, got on the computer late at night and Googled "pop music". Disturbed by the cops they grabbed some band names and songs at random, fled with some instruments and have subsequently launched...

BADFINGER (1968-73): The shop-soiled Apple band

BADFINGER (1968-73): The shop-soiled Apple band

There are two stories every young musician should read, the first is obvious. The Beatles story is full of magic and coincidence; McCartney's meeting with a drunk Lennon, Harrison getting in by playing Raunchy to them while on a bus, the Hamburg days and the death of Stu Sutcliffe, the firing of Pete Best and Ringo entering just before...

MARC BOLAN; A WIZARD, A TRUE STAR, a doco by MIKE PARKINSON (Pride/Triton DVD)

MARC BOLAN; A WIZARD, A TRUE STAR, a doco by MIKE PARKINSON (Pride/Triton DVD)

It was hardly surprising that Ringo Starr, then an aspiring film-maker because he had little else to do other than churn out hits, should have made a film of Marc Bolan in 1972. Bolan was at the peak of his powers with T.Rex and the "T.Rexstacy" of screaming girls drowning out the music and trying to get a lock of Bolan's hair...

T.Rex: Electric Warrior (1971)

T.Rex: Electric Warrior (1971)

By the time of the Tanx album in 1973, things were starting to go sour for T.Rex's frontman Marc Bolan. He hadn't cared when his old champion John Peel had dismissed his glam pop for its shallowness, or that Bowie and others were starting to snap at his heels. He was in fact oblivious to it all, he was far too busy being the star he always...

David Peel and the Lower East Side: Up Against The Wall (1968)

David Peel and the Lower East Side: Up Against The Wall (1968)

New York's David Peel was living proof of the adage, "It isn't what you know, it's who you know". And how you could milk that association -- however brief -- for all it's worth. He was also one of those "only in New York" guys. In the late Sixties when this insightful if reductive piece of political rhetoric was...

THE JAM and TOM PETTY in '79: Two bands separated by a common language

THE JAM and TOM PETTY in '79: Two bands separated by a common language

At the fag-end of the Seventies, the sound of the Sex Pistols explosion in Britain had faded and in the place of furious punk anger came the more intellectual and cooler sound of post-punk: bands like Magazine, Wire and Joy Division. Across the Atlantic the Ramones' flat-tack energy was faltering and the names to note were Talking...

THE BARGAIN BUY: The Who; Who Are You and The Kids Are Alright (Polydor)

THE BARGAIN BUY: The Who; Who Are You and The Kids Are Alright (Polydor)

The Who -- with as few living members as the former Beatles -- continue to tour and record, and while we wouldn't deny their current firepower, it is worth noting that the explosive energy of their early years was when they really excelled. From the late Sixties onward Pete Townshend started to over-analyse in a way that perhaps blunted the...

The Woofers and Tweeters Ensemble: Daytripper (1983)

The Woofers and Tweeters Ensemble: Daytripper (1983)

And you thought YouTube threw up fly-by-night stars and oddities? This one puts the surfing cat and dancing pig into perspective. In the early Eighties a couple of Australians -- over a few wines -- fiddled with computer technology to simulate the sound of dogs barking and used it to have the "dogs" "sing" a Beatles song....

Holmes: Stop Go (Yellow Eye)

Holmes: Stop Go (Yellow Eye)

Okay, this album came out in 2007 -- which is of course an eon ago in the world of of pop -- but Elsewhere has an unashamed affection for power pop, and this album seems to have just been given distribution on New Zealand so . . . Holmes is a US indie band but really the work of producer Roy Shakked who made his name remixing tracks by Sarah...

Papercuts: Fading Parade (Sub Pop)

Papercuts: Fading Parade (Sub Pop)

Although San Francisco's Jason Robert Quever – who is for most purposes Papercuts – opens this fourth album with the drilling indie.pop of Do You Really Wanna Know and the dreamy Do What You Will, which puts them in the lineage running from the power pop of Shoes in the late Seventies through the shoegaze dreamscapes of...

Peter Bjorn and John: Gimme Some (Cooking Vinyl)

Peter Bjorn and John: Gimme Some (Cooking Vinyl)

By giving themselves three thumbs up on the cover of this, their sixth album, Sweden's pop-friendly outfit are doubtless hoping for some similar critical consensus for their return to a more power pop sound after the rather more interesting but failed experiment of the darker Living Thing two years ago. Nothing here will rattle rafters or...

THE BARGAIN BUY: Abba; 4 Original Albums (Polar)

THE BARGAIN BUY: Abba; 4 Original Albums (Polar)

To be honest, I didn't get the appeal of Abba (beyond the obvious pop hooks) until the darkness in some of their songs was explained to me by Chris Knox -- whom I had never taken to have had much interest in them. I was wrong and he was enthusiastic -- and I still don't fully get it. Certainly you can scan their song titles and get melancholy...

Urge Overkill: Rock&Roll Submarine (Redeye)

Urge Overkill: Rock&Roll Submarine (Redeye)

Possibly the most coolly knowing, confidently aloof band since Steely Dan, Urge Overkill out of Chicago were touring mates with Nirvana and Pearl Jam but their stylish and increasingly power pop sound (and cover of Neil Diamond's Girl You'll be a Woman Soon which was used in Pulp Fiction) took them to a mainstream, but small, audience....

John Lennon: Strawberry Fields Forever (1966, demo)

John Lennon: Strawberry Fields Forever (1966, demo)

The working drawings of famous songs can often be as interesting as the finished product, although in this instance the final version of Lennon's psychedelic classic Strawberry Fields Forever of '67 takes some beating. But here, at home in Surrey after he had returned from Spain where he had been filming How I Won The War and had sketched...

Harry Nilsson, Nilsson Schmilsson (1971)

Harry Nilsson, Nilsson Schmilsson (1971)

The too-short life of the greatly under-appreciated singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson (1941-94) was full of bitter ironies: not the least was that this gifted songwriter's biggest hits were written by others. His memorable Without You was penned by Pete Ham and Tom Evans from the Beatles-blessed power poppers, Badfinger; and although...

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