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Lew Bundles

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CAFE 541: An Intro to ... power pop

Matthew Denis


Flowering from the mid-20th century’s explosive shoots of melodic (and non-melodic) expression, genre upon genre developed audible forces at once diverged and wrapped into each other.

A fusion of blues, country folk, jazz, Gypsy, ragtime and others plugged in to create rock ’n’ roll in the 1950s. Arising from the ’60s British Invasion — the rise of psychedelic rock and blues — power pop made its appearance in the ’70s.

Power pop combines pop’s structured, magnetic hooks with ranging, raging electric licks. Catchy refrains and musical lines that celebrate this life’s allure align with a tumultuous emotional undertone that confronts issues too long held from the light. In this edition of “An Intro to…,” CAFE 541 takes a chronological look at power pop’s history and relevance to this historical moment.

Raspberries, ’Go All the Way’

Western music fans know the moment: those first few, tight chords twisting the tension while the lead sing’s gritty voice intones, “Mama, oh yeh.” Like the call of Pavlov’s bell, there are few who can resist salivating at such sweet sound as Raspberries lead singer Eric Carmen’s voice.

With 1972’s “Go All the Way,” the Raspberries encapsulate all there is to love about power pop: Beatles-era harmonies with Rolling Stones dirty licks and raunchy suggestion added in for a perfect level of spice. To their credit, the BBC even banned the song for its sexually explicit lyrics.

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