Essay by Alan Haber
This is the kind of full circle thing that tickles one’s funny bone or, at the very least, raises a smile when one thinks back to how it all started for him–him, and one, being me.
When the weekly Pure Pop Radio Show started back in 1995, I had moved on, in quick succession, from two short-lived programs. The first, Lost Treasures and Guilty Pleasures, outlived its usefulness in short order when I quickly realized that my supply of real, actual lost treasures (album cuts and b-sides that I thought were truly “lost”) and guilty pleasures, a concept I didn’t believe in because I really don’t believe that one, meaning me, should ever feel guilty about something they like, were in shorter supply than I thought they would be.
The second, a Beatles show, the title of which has been snugly wrapped in a cloud of misty and rather moist memory, lasted a bit longer–a couple of months, I think. The show, a mix of Beatles group and solo tracks lounging comfortably in the same hot tub as groups that sound Beatlesque (and don’t get me started on whether the term Beatlesque actually means anything), songs by artists who touched shoulders with the Beatles, and artists not connected with the Beatles who covered Beatles and solo Beatles songs, was fun for those couple of months and then, not so much. I know–you can’t understand how an all-Beatles show could get old, but it did for me. And I’m the world’s biggest Beatles fan (look me up in Guinness, if you must).
Stuck with a time slot and no show to fill it, I started to think about what I might tackle next, looking vainly through my humongous record collection for signs, any sign at all, that might clue me in as to my next radio move. The signs were not forthcoming. But then I remembered, for whatever reason, visiting a local mom-and-pop record store in my old neighborhood in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn about 10 years earlier. I found myself looking at a rather impressive wall of singles, many of which sported picture sleeves. One of those picture sleeves housed a 45 by a group called Common Knowledge, which was new to me.
Common Knowledge was actually the duo of Andrew Gold and Graham Gouldman, and the two songs on that single, released in 1984, the delightfully catchy “Don’t Break My Heart” and the b-side, “J.B. in Arabia,” functioned as nothing less than what would become the group Wax two years later. I remembered playing “Don’t Break My Heart” for the first time and falling in love with it. It was, to my ears, a perfect pop song, which led me to reminisce about listening to the radio, growing up in the 1960s, and hearing a whole lot of perfect pop songs, one after the other. The memory was an instant motivational shot in the noggin for me. I thought, why not do a show full of great pop songs?
But what to call it? For that slice of inspiration, I looked to Nick Lowe’s 1978 Pure Pop for Now People album (the US title; in the UK, it was Jesus of Cool). A snip here and another snip there, and I had my title: Pure Pop. That seemed to sum it all up for me, for these were songs that were pure of heart, with natural melodies and harmonies and hooks, glorious hooks, and most of them were three minutes long (give or take). That kind of thing could fill a radio show, right?
And so it did. But playing the great old numbers wouldn’t be enough…I needed new music that played in the same sandbox, which led me to peruse the pages of two great, much-missed publications: Audities, the Journal of Insanely Great Pop and POPsided. Both magazines featured reviews of then-current and archival releases by pop music artists. I would read these reviews and contact the record companies and/or artists for copies of their music to play on Pure Pop. I was working a pretty demanding day job at the time, and this was before cell phones; I made many calls in between flights for work trips, standing in my suit at payphone kiosks in airports talking to people who made the music that turned me on.
I invited artists into the studio for live performances and revealing chats–Pete and Maura Kennedy (see the photo at left for proof, and dig Maura’s Partridge Family tee), Glen Burtnik, John Wicks and the Records and the Van DeLeckie’s (christened the Recorleckie’s that day), Lee Feldman and others were early visitors. Pure Pop became Alan Haber’s Pure Pop, not because I wanted to put my name in the spotlight, but because there were many other “Pure Pop” sites springing up on the Internet and I didn’t want there to be any confusion. Plus, Glen Burtnik did a jingle for the show in which he sang “Alan Haber’s Pure Pop” and added a big poof! for a big-time, show biz touch that made me smile (that jingle, cut on February 13, 1997, is still in use today).
So, a little more than 20 years later, I’m still at it, except now Pure Pop is a 24-hour-a-day Internet radio station playing the greatest melodic pop music in the universe. I’m proud to say that, because it’s still around despite many times when personal considerations tugged so hard that the only sensible thing would have been to walk away from it and move on. The fact is, I still get excited when I push the play button and hear something that moves me in a way that no other form of art could ever do. Reason enough to continue, I think.
Another reason to continue is to marvel at how things come full circle if you’re around long enough. Linus of Hollywood and David Myhr, whose music I first discovered when he was a member of the Merrymakers, have just released a joint digital and physical EP that was created for their 2015 same-named tour. Melody and Madness is fabulous for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that on this EP, Linus covers David’s song “Icy Tracks,” written with Peter, Bjorn and John’s Peter Morén (David’s version appears on his album, Soundshine); and David covers Linus’s song, “Ready for Something Good,” the original of which appears on Linus’s latest album, Something Good. The third track on the EP finds Linus and David pairing up to cover Paul McCartney’s “Come and Get It.” It’s all quite grand.
We’re playing all three of the songs on the Melody and Madness EP on Pure Pop Radio, a reality which comes as no surprise, I suppose. The full circle bit, which is the whole reason for writing this essay, is that both Linus and David figure heavily and importantly in the early history of all that is Pure Pop. I had heard about Linus’s first album; I eventually received a pre-release CD-R copy with unmastered final mixes, which I still have. I was an instant fan, needless to say. That was in 1999, a pretty good year for pop music, because the Merrymakers’ No Sleep ‘Til Famous album, also released that year, was on my radar and in my hands after meeting David’s brother Niklas (he was living in the United States) for dinner at a local eatery outside of Washington, DC, before which he gave me a copy. The future station manager of Pure Pop Radio, Janet Haber, was in attendance at that memorable meeting. Now you know one of the reasons I call her my lucky charm. So, full circle and tied together with a neat little bow.
I’ve been in a bit of a reflective mood lately while I’ve been dealing with a number of health issues, which is reason enough, I guess, to have written this essay, which is, you may well guess, reason enough to say that it’s time to start reporting on new music added to the Pure Pop Radio playlist. I’ve added a ton over the past many weeks; starting next week, if the creek don’t rise, I will begin said reporting, and the Melody and Madness EP will be first up. Trust me, the wait will have been worth it.
So, full circle. Who would have thought, right?
Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the original 24-hour Internet radio station playing the greatest melodic pop music from the ’60s to today. From the Beatles to the Spongetones, the Nines, Kurt Baker, the Connection and the New Trocaderos, we play the hits and a whole lot more. Tune in by clicking on one of the listen links below.
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