New on Pure Pop Radio 9.1.16

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Spins and Reviews | 9.1.16 | by Alan Haber

We usher September in with another round of new artists and songs now spinning in rotation…

mimi betinis basement tapesMimi Betinis | Basement Tapes Vol. 1
A month ago today, I reviewed Mimi’s other 2016 release, Music Sounds, which I determined rather early in the listening was a simply wonderful collection of songs. Now, here is another Betinis collection, composed of tracks that he’s been working on over the years that have now been finished and gathered together all shiny and vibrant in one place. The treasures on offer are full of life: the achingly beautiful ballad, “All that Glitters,” picked acoustically with care, topped by tambourine and electric guitar shading, and featuring instruments from Mimi’s extensive collection, which, he says, give the song “an eerie and dark feel”; “Ray of Light,” a melodic sweetness sounding like an Andy Partridge outtake off of XTC’s Nonsuch album, and simply lovely covers (Paul McCartney’s song for Mary Hopkin, “Goodbye,” and the Hudson Brothers’ “So You Are a Star” are glorious). Saying that some heritage artists are only getting better as time passes by can sound like rather an empty assertion, but my, how that phrase does indeed fit snug as a bug here.
black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: “All that Glitters,” “Another Day,” “Brown Eyes and Bangs,” “Didn’t We 1979,” “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl,” “Goodbye,” “Ray of Light,” “So You are a Star,” and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine.”
black box Where to Get It: Available on October 1 at CD Baby. Pre-order now at Pop Music Sounds.

tom guerra all of the abovetom guerra trampling out the vintageTom Guerra | Trampling Out the Vintage and All of the Above
Mambo Sons member and a writer, since 1998, for Vintage Guitar magazine, Tom Guerra has been playing live since the late 1970s; he’s been a solo artist since 2014, when he released his first record, All of the Above. His latest album, Trampling Out the Vintage, was released this year; tracks from both long players are now happily spinning on Pure Pop Radio. From the debut, the warm, inviting singalong ballad, “Love Comes to Us All,” is a lovely charmer, and the rocker “Cup of Tea” is a solid toe tapper with a classic riff and a great melody. From Trampling Out the Vintage, “Tell the World” is an obvious, catchy pop single waiting to explode at radio, and the rocking cover of “Make Your Own Kind of Music,” made famous by Mama Cass Elliot, is a prime example of how to pay respect to a classic number and make it your own at the very same time. I hope to be able to add more music from Tom to the Pure Pop Radio playlist in the future.
black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio: From Trampling Out the Vintage: “All Purpose Song,” “Tell the World,” “Hard to Love,” and “Make Your Own Kind of Music.” From All of the Above: “Dirty Son,” “Here’s Tomorrow,” “Cup of Tea,” and “Love Comes to Us All.”
black box Where to Get Them: Tom’s E-Store, CD Baby, and Amazon.

I hate california coverTony ‘n’ the Recruiters | “I Hate California”
Standells veteran Tony Valentino and crew bemoan the state of life on the left coast with a down and dirty stab of pop and roll, stacked deep with four-on-the-floor emotion and spicy guitar licks. Tony continues to be the man with this latest release, a real corker of a record that makes the airwaves light up at any time of the day or night. Monumental.
black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio.
black box Where to Get It: Watch this space.

The Bradburys | “Marilyn” b/w “Hello Hello”
Barry Knoedl | “Baby Don’t Give Up” and “I Just Want to Make You Happy”
frodis records logoScott Carlson’s Frodis Records continues to do the pop community a great service by releasing vinyl-only reissues of important power pop and punk recordings. The label’s latest pearls are separate singles devoted to some essential sounds.

7 Inch Glue Pocket v4The Bradburys songs, both from the hard-to-find 1999 debut Introducing the Bradburys, are vibrant pop rockers with great hooks. An attractive sleeve and liner notes from the band’s Dan Pavelich, who still turns out great tunes, are key elements of the package (Dan currently draws the wonderful Just Say Uncle comic strip, and writes for the Kenosha News in Wisconsin).

barry knoedl photoBarry Knoedl’s poppy, catchy single dates back to 1976; it was recorded at the end of a session during which he played bass and was the second release on Jim Antonucci’s Death Records. Thankfully, Scott has rescued this pair of delightful, smile-inducing, pure poppy numbers.

A tip of the Pure Pop Radio hat for the work being done by Scott in rescuing some of pop’s greatest, seemingly-unknown treasures.
black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio.
black box Where to Get Them: Frodis Records

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The Pure Pop Radio Interview: Dan Pavelich’s Lost Hits of the 80’s Now Found

dan pavelich
Dan Pavelich

lost hits of the 80s(If Dan Pavelich, music critic at the Kenosha (Wisconsin) News and creator of the sweet comic strip Just Say Uncle, were a big top performer, he’d be the guy who, in clear defiance of all of the laws of physics, is happily juggling a bushelful of brightly colored balls through the air, never dropping a single one.

Through the years, Dan has been juggling quite a few balls in the air, many of them musical in nature. In addition to his writing and cartooning duties, he has been the rhythm guitarist in the Bradburys, and the producer of three volumes of the much-loved Hi-Fi Christmas Party series of CDs, benefiting research on Von Willebrands Disease being conducted at the Blood Center in Milwaukee. Dan’s 2014 solo project, released under the clever and catchy name The Click Beetles, produced a fun album called Wake Up to Music!
This year, Dan remembered songs he liked from the 1980s and decided to whip up an album’s worth of original numbers that paid homage to that decade. Hooking up with musician friends who could help him bring his ideas to life, he created fictional bands to make his songs come alive (like Frampton, kinda sorta).

Lost Hits of the 80’s plays like the fun soundtrack to a movie about a decade that produced good songs, and, it must be said, lots of big hair. Imagined groups, such as Atari Hand Cramp, Pest Control, and Asmatics UK, are brought to life with the help of such talented collaborators as Pop 4’s Andrea Perry, Lisa Mychols and the Well Wishers’ Jeff Shelton; highlights of the record include Redd Roxx’s poppy “No Regret,” sung by the Waking Hours’ Tom Richards; the steady, rocking “Camera Shy” by the Vaporizers; and the Images’ slowed down, impassioned take on the Romantics’ “Talking in Your Sleep,” the only cover on the album.

Below, Dan talks exclusively to Pure Pop Radio about his inspiration for Lost Hits of the 80’s. Lost Hits of the 80’s is available from CD Baby, Kool Kat Musik, JAM Recordings, and Amazon, and is highly recommended. You can win one of three signed copies of Lost Hits of the 80’s by clicking here or on the link at the bottom of this page.)

Dan Pavelich: Last summer, my local theater ran a series of classic ’80s movies, and for the first time since the ’80s, I was able to see them on the big screen. I wasn’t prepared for the way that reliving my youth would affect me. It sounds cliche, but I really felt like a kid again. The music, especially, knocked me out in a way that it hadn’t in years. For the first time since the ’80s (high school for me was ’82-’85), I didn’t hear the music as simple pieces of nostalgia. Underneath the electronic drums, synths and chorused guitars, I heard really great songs. Frustrated that most “Best of the ’80s” CDs available had the same song selection, I opted to write new ones, in the spirit and style of the decade.

It soon became clear that because each song was so drastically different in style, I couldn’t release [the album] under just one name. I’d have to pretend that each tune was done by a separate band, which would explain the wide variety. I asked some of my favorite singers and musicians to help out, and everyone said “Yes.” Several commented that they’d always wanted to do a period project like this, but never had the time or resources.

My recording career began in 1985, when I, along with Bradburys drummer John Goodman, released a vinyl 45 under the name the Images. Unfortunately, recording was incredibly expensive then, as it was years before home recording was common and affordable. Most of the songs I wrote during the ’80s went unrecorded because of that. Now that I have a home studio, though, I’m no longer held back by $50-and-up hourly studio rates.

I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun recording than I did with Lost Hits of the ’80s. I spent many hours searching for just the right keyboard patches and drum sounds, but it all went by in the blink of an eye. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s purely a vanity project. I had no expectations that there was even an audience for it, beyond the folks who sang and played on it. I always wanted to record a full album in the ’80s, and at the very least, now I can finally check that off my list.

Pure Pop Radio: What kind of mindset did you have to adopt to make the songs you wrote for this album sound authentic? Or was your aim to bridge the gap between the sound of ’80s music and what’s current?

Dan Pavelich: I think I have to give credit for a lot of the authenticity to my Roland Fantom synth. It’s jam-packed with sounds from the great Juno and Jupiter synths of the ’80s. You just hear those sounds and it puts you in the mood! I wasn’t aiming to sound current at all. For once, I just went in whatever direction seemed to be the most fun, without worrying about how I would sell it or promote it. It was purely for my own enjoyment.

Pure Pop Radio: Did you have specific, actual ’80s bands in mind while writing and recording these songs? Did you ever think, “Oh, that should sound like–“?

Dan Pavelich: I tried really hard not to do that, because I didn’t want to just copy any particular band’s sound. I wanted the songs and the fake bands to stand on their own, as individual songs from the era. The comparisons are inevitable, though, since it’s impossible to use the same sounds that Greg Hawkes used in the Cars and not have people think it sounds like them. I’m most pleased when listeners are a little confused and say things like, “This reminds me of a band, but I can’t think of the song, but that drum sound sounds familiar…,” but they can’t put their finger on it.

Pure Pop Radio: How did you pick certain singers and players to record these songs? Were there specific attributes that certain people had that lent themselves to them?

Dan Pavelich: At first, I tracked all of the songs with my own vocals, and it just didn’t feel right. I can do a couple of different things with my voice to mix it up, but there just wasn’t enough overall variety. It just didn’t make sense for all of these different bands to have the same singer. Luckily, I happen to know a lot of my favorite singers, so I just started asking them to do it. It’s pretty thrilling to hear people like Lisa Mychols, Jamie Hoover and Andrea Perry sing my songs. Everyone exceeded my expectations.

Two of my favorite moments are the guitar solos by John Scholvin on “I Don’t Miss You (Ghost Be Gone)” and Grant June on “Digital Wave.” They both nailed that ’80s rock style in a way that I never could have.

Pure Pop Radio: The band names you came up with are creative and could easily have existed in the ’80s. Atari Hand Cramp, Pest Control, Crab Rangoons and Broken China are evocative of the era in which they were supposed to exist. Was it easy to come up with these names? Were there names you ultimately rejected because they either sounded too authentic or possibly not authentic enough?

Dan Pavelich: It was really difficult to come up with the names. Initially, I started with a list of about 50, and started Googling them. Most were already taken! With the names, the fun part for me is seeing someone pick up the disc and look at the track order on the back. Atari Hand Cramp and Crab Rangoons both always get a laugh! That’s kind of the point here, to have fun and reminisce in a positive way.

the romanticsPure Pop Radio: The only cover on the album is of the Romantics’ “Talking In Your Sleep.” What was it about this song that called out to be included on the album, and were there other songs you considered tackling?

Dan Pavelich: Remember on the original Star Trek, how they’d validate a futuristic reference by lumping it in with others that are well-known? They’d say something like, “He’s a brilliant thinker…like Confuscious, Einstein, or Bleepo, from Magneto 8.” I was doing the same thing, but to a lesser extent. Also, I’ve always loved that song, but heard it in my head as being slow and slinky. It’s a little darker that way. I sent a copy to Wally from the Romantics to hear his opinion, but I haven’t heard back yet. I hope he likes it. There were tons of other ’80s songs that I thought about doing, but this one was the only one I thought I could switch up a little.

Pure Pop Radio: Are you thinking about other decades to recreate on future releases?

Dan Pavelich: I’d still like to do another ’80s project, this time letting the guest artists contribute their own tunes. I think that would be really interesting. Several of the people involved with Lost Hits told me that they’d been wanting to do something similar for years, so I think there’s some interest there to go a little further. Next up for me is a second Click Beetles album, and I strongly suspect that elements of this ’80s experiment will be creeping into that!

(Thanks to Dan Pavelich for talking to us about Lost Hits of the 80’s. Once again, the album is available at CD Baby, Kool Kat Musik, JAM Recordings, and Amazon, and is highly recommended. You can also win one of three signed copies of Lost Hits of the 80’s by entering our exclusive contest; click here to enter.)

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Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes
Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

Win One of Three Signed Copies of Dan Pavelich’s Lost Hits of the 80’s!

dan pavelich
Dan Pavelich

lost hits of the 80sIn conjunction with today’s exclusive interview with musician and cartoonist Dan Pavelich, whose ace album, Lost Hits of the 80’s, features songs styled as if they actually came from that decade and were recorded by bands that actually existed, we’re giving away three signed copies of the CD that’s sweeping the nation with big tunes, big hair and big synths.

Lost Hits of the 80’s plays like the fun soundtrack to a movie about a decade that produced good songs, and, it must be said, lots of big hair. Imagined groups, such as Atari Hand Cramp, Pest Control, and Asmatics UK, are brought to life with the help of such talented collaborators as Pop 4’s Andrea Perry, Lisa Mychols and the Well Wishers’ Jeff Shelton; highlights of the record include Redd Roxx’s poppy “No Regret,” sung by the Waking Hours’ Tom Richards; the steady, rocking “Camera Shy” by the Vaporizers; and the Images’ slowed down, impassioned take on the Romantics’ “Talking in Your Sleep,” the only cover on the album.

purepoplogoYou can win one of three copies of Lost Hits of the 80’s by filling in the form below and sending it on its merry way to us. Be sure to type your email address where noted, and type “The 80’s!” in the Comments box. Lots of typing, we know. As always, only one entry per person. Entries must be received here at Pure Pop Radio headquarters by next Tuesday, October 13, at 5 pm ET. Void where prohibited by hair stylists to the stars and beyond.

Good luck!

Listen to Pure Pop Radio on the go using your Android or iOS devices! Download Our Mobile App.

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes
Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

These are the Words that You Want to Hear: We’ve Got New Music for You!

“These are the words you wish you could hear,” Jules Shear sings in his current release, the quite catchy pop song called “The Words,” and these are the words we are happy to pass on to you; we love you, and it’s because of that love that we bring to you news of new music that’s been added to the Pure Pop Radio playlist.

purepoplogoWe’ve got only a smattering today as so many big projects destined for your ears are in the works and just about ready to pop out of the oven, but there is more, much more to come, all of it crafted with precision and with an eye on precise symmetry, and that’s all just around the corner, and of that we are confident and sure.

Today, we present to you the following, all now playing in rotation on the air, one after the other (but not in any kind of formal formation):

wordsJules Shear | “The Words” After having written a string of classic songs over so many decades, a string which ties together “All Through the Night,” “If She Knew What She Wants,” “If We Never Meet Again,” “The Trap Door” and so many others of such tall stature, this peerless songwriter and performer has begun releasing new material, some of which he says he will give away and some which he says he will sell. “The Words” is a giveaway, thank you very much, and rather a nice, warm gesture, essentially a three-chord construct with a knockout chorus that essentially functions as a master class in songwriting, so skillful it is with such a grand, satisfying payoff. A lyrical pedal steel part is icing on a very tasty cake, which we’re serving in rotation.

dana pop 3Dana Countryman | Pop 3! Welcome to My Time Warp! Words are kind of our business, but at some times, when the music takes us away to the ubiquitous somewhere else, we can’t see the forest for the trees or choose one thing, whatever it is, over another. In the case of Mr. Countryman’s latest release, the third in his spun-from-gold pop music trilogy, words do not fail us, even though it’s the music that takes us and, of course, you away in the end and after all is sung and done.

This outstanding collection of melodically-charged songs, set squarely in the world governed by all that is retro, actually opens up a portal that you fall into as sounds celebrating the joys of tightly-constructed audio treats take you away. Honestly, it’s like the sounds of the late 1960s and early 1970s are back, baby, and there you are singing along or humming, even if you don’t know the words. Echoes of the Four Seasons and the Spiral Starecase and Gilbert O’Sullivan and the Hollies and Eric Carmen and, yes, the Beatles, of whom much has been said and a lot more could and will be, run through the fabric of these songs that will be with you in the morning when you are buttering your toast and in the evening, just before bedtime, as your head hits the pillow and you drift off.

“Every Kiss Reminds Me of You,” “Run Back Into My Arms,” “Can’t Get You Out of My Mind,” “Nice Shot (Straight to the Heart),” “Don’t You Know You’ll Break My Heart,” “All You Need to Say,” “Twenty-Four Hours with You,” “There Goes My Heart Again,” “Shari Girl / You’ll Always Be a Baby to Me,” “That’s When I Knew,” and “Don’t Wanna Lose You,” pretty much all the bones of this album, are now playing in rotation (we’re saving “Christmas All Over the World” for the upcoming holiday season, and the gorgeous love song “What If?” has been spinning for a while). Do we need to say that Pop 3! is one of the best albums of the year? Well, you know, or you will know, that this statement is true.

bertling noise laboratoriesBertling Noise Laboratories | Matilda and 12 Others and “Ram On” You’ve probably heard yourself say, or you’ve at least thought to yourself, the words “Where has he (or she) been all my life?,” and therein lies the thing of it all. This is how we felt, really and truly, when we were turned onto Nick Bertling’s outstanding and astounding album through which all roads lead to you thinking “Now, that really hits the spot” as you spin it again and again, as we have done and will continue to do. “Good Morning” exists as if it were an outtake from McCartney (where else could that traveling, syncopating bass come from?); “Baby Talk” plays like a long lost Motown track from deep in the vaults with all of the excitement and oomph that such a thing entails; “It’s Not Funny” is nothing less than a crooner’s standard (surely some Broadway production will dial this one up); “Time for Us” is straight-ahead pop; and the title song, “Matilda,” is kinda sorta jazzy, like a Steely Dan-meets-not-Steely-Dan mashup, except it’s not really that, but it sure is something else. We’re playing all of these songs, plus “Bits and Pieces,” “I’ll Bet She Thinks,” and “Once in a While.” With this album in your hands, and you know you’ll want it, once in a while will not be enough. Oh, and of “Ram On”…it’s a lovely cover of the aforementioned McCartney fellow’s song from Ram, and it’s fabulously huggable. We’re playing that too, naturally.

tommy lorenteTommy Lorente | “B.B. (Tu Me Plais Tant)” and “Un Certain Savoir Faire” Not being anywhere near fluent in French, although we can count to six and nod like we know what somebody is talking about, we let the words of these songs float around us as the accomplished pop-rocker Tommy Lorente lets loose the three-different-beats-heavy vibe of “B.B. (Tu Me Plais Tant)” (“I Like You So Much”) which, based on the English translation of the lyrics Tommy sent our way, is a love song of sorts with a whole lot of energy that gets one moving from side to side. “Un Certain Savoir Faire,” or “A Certain Savoir Faire,” which is about self-confident people and rocks in a slow, steady kind of way, with stabbing guitars and strong, certain drum hits, is the flip side, or the other A-side, of this top-notch single from one of our favorite performers in this day and age. Both songs are playing in rotation, rocking and popping up the joint, as it were.

lost hits of the 80sVarious Artists | Lost Hits of the 80’s Dan Pavelich, music critic at the Kenosha (Wisconsin) News and creator of the sweet comic strip Just Say Uncle, has quietly been producing great music for so many years, kind of slipping in under the radar with albums such as this one, a loving trip in the Wayback Machine of the mind to the 1980s, as performed by a bunch of fictitious bands that exist only in Dan’s mind–bands like Atari Hand Cramp, Pest Control, and Asmatics UK (named that way to avoid confusion with Asmatics Canada, no doubt). Working with some top-flight collaborators–Pop 4’s Andrea Perry, Lisa Mychols and the Well Wishers’ Jeff Shelton among them–Dan turns in a fabulously fun trip. The songs range from Redd Roxx’s poppy “No Regret,” sung by the Waking Hours’ Tom Richards, to the steady, rocking “Camera Shy” by The Vaporizers, and The Images’ slowed down, impassioned take on the Romantics’ “Talking in Your Sleep.” Dan says he had a ball producing this record, from which we’ve slotted the aforementioned songs, and a couple of others–Asmatics UK’s “Temptress of London,” Metro Cafe’s “Am I Only Dreaming of You,” and The Images’ “Don’t Want Pretending”–into our playlist. We’ll have a Q&A feature soon, in which Dan will spill all of the inner secrets of this album, but for now, listen for a stone cold trip back to the decade that still, and always will, pop and rock. Loads of fun.

That’s it for today. Believe us, we’ve barely scratched the surface. We’ve added to the playlist hundreds of new and new-to-you songs from current and heritage artists over the past few weeks. We’ll continue to report on these adds and others we have waiting in the wings, during the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned. You will undoubtedly dig our continually diggable scene.

Alan Hpurepoplogoaber’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.

Listen to Pure Pop Radio on the go using your Android and iOS devices! Download Our Mobile App.

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes
Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

The Musician’s Opinion: Dan Pavelich: Ten Favorite Songs

(Win one of the last remaining physical CD copies of the Click Beetles’ Wake Up to Music! A download is also available to be won. See below!)
(Dan Pavelich is a power pop musician wearing many hats. He is the rhythm guitarist in the Bradburys, and the producer of three volumes of the much-loved Hi-Fi Christmas Party CDs, benefiting research on Von Willebrands Disease being conducted at the Blood Center in Milwaukee. Dan’s latest solo project, released under the clever and catchy name The Click Beetles, is Wake Up to Music!, all of the songs from which are now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio. We’ve got one of the very last, physical copies of this album to give away, plus a bonus download, for a couple of lucky people (see below). When he’s not playing music, Dan is a music critic and cartoonist for the Kenosha News in Wisconsin. His lively and funny strip, Just Say Uncle, can and should be viewed daily on the Go Comics website.
On the occasion of the release of The Click Beetles’ Wake Up to Music!, we present the first entry in a new series: a wonderful list of favorite songs that Dan prepared exclusively for Pure Pop Radio. Enjoy!) — Alan Haber
Ten Favorite Songs
by Dan Pavelich
Instead of doing a standard interview about my album Wake Up to Music, Alan Haber asked me to pick 10 of my favorite songs and write a little something about them. This is far from being a complete list of the favorites that have stayed with me over the years, but these 10 really informed my future musical taste, songwriting style and musicianship. They are the few that have been absorbed on a molecular level. Though I only list one song by The Beatles, the instrumental influence that Paul McCartney and George Harrison have on me can’t be overstated. Whenever I’m stuck for a bass line or a guitar part, I imagine what they would have done, and something generally comes to me. It’s easy to forget the golden rule when you’re recording solo: “Serve the song.” That’s something those two guys and their band mates were masters at.
“It’s So Easy” – Buddy Holly
I found Buddy Holly by way of The Beatles, around the time that I got my first acoustic guitar. “It’s So Easy,” from the Buddy Holly Lives greatest hits album, was unlike any hook I’d ever heard, even before I knew what a hook was. I just could not get the melody out of my head. I could manage Buddy’s three-chord arrangement (plus a B7 on the turnaround), and it was pure joy to play along with him. It’s probably the first song I’d say I ever became obsessed with. I played it over and over.
“You Won’t See Me” – The Beatles
It’s impossible to pick a favorite Beatles song, but this one inches ahead of a few others like “Getting Better” and “Paperback Writer.” The bass line (one of McCartney’s absolute best) and drums carry the tune, which also sports a stellar Brian Wilson-inspired vocal arrangement. Everything about it just feels perfect.
“If You Want My Love” – Cheap Trick
Even with the chord charts for this song, it was beyond my feeble guitar skills in 1982. I wanted so desperately to play along with it, but every time I tried, I was over my skis. I knew that Cheap Trick was paying tribute to The Beatles, which is where my love of pop music really began (along with The Monkees), but this was like “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on steroids. To this day, when I hear it, it’s still as exciting to me as it was the day teenage me first heard it. It’s got a unique staying power. When Robin gets to “It’s a hole in my heart, in my heart…” it’s like a roller coaster getting to the top of the hill, right before the drop. You could probably count on one hand the number of bands that have a song this big.
“Walking on Sunshine” – Katrina and the Waves
In spite of its more recent merciless soundtrack flogging, “Walking on Sunshine” sounded like nothing else being played on the radio in 1983. Mixing a shake-up of The Troggs’ “Louie Louie” with a Motown beat and horns was sheer brilliance. Katrina Leskanich’s vocal deftly see-saws between sweet enticement and full-on rock belting, providing a similar give-and-take to what Robin Zander is doing in “If You Want My Love.” This is also one of the songs that got me seriously wanting to write my own tunes.
“You Might Think” – The Cars
To my ears, The Cars were simply Buddy Holly with new wave keyboards. You can take almost any Buddy Holly song, add the decade-correct synth and drum sounds, and you’d have a new wave hit on your hands. The reverse is also true. Ric Ocasek’s songs would be just as wonderfully catchy filtered through a rockabilly Texas trio. Structurally, “You Might Think” pretty much follows the Lennon/McCartney method. I had started to take guitar lessons around the time that this came out, so I was accidentally noticing little things like that. I also noticed what keyboardist Greg Hawkes was bringing to the mix, in the way of perfectly placed blips and beeps. A lot of his placement ideas have made their way into the way that I approach using keyboards.
“Life In A Northern Town” – The Dream Academy
I was driving around with a high school friend of mine when he popped this cassette in and said, “Listen to this.” The line “In winter 1963, it felt like the world would freeze, with John F. Kennedy and The Beatles” (screaming girls) sent chills down my spine then and still does today. Though this was the only real hit by the band, they made some of the most beautiful pop of the 80s. In addition, they really taught me how important atmosphere could be in a recording. This song just feels like winter. The Dream Academy only made three long players. I wish they’d have continued on.
“Behind the Wall of Sleep” – The Smithereens
I bought the Especially for You album for two reasons: I dug the cover art and the band’s name had a 1960s ring to it. Little did I know that I was about to discover one of my favorite bands ever. As you can probably tell from the other songs on this list, I tend to gravitate towards uptempo pop singles. The Smithereens were different, though. Sure, they had the peppy “Strangers When We Meet” and “Groovy Tuesday,” but they also had a certain darkness that I’d never really heard in pop music, and I liked it. Singer Pat DiNizio’s impossibly low baritone, in combination with the band’s guitars being tuned a half-step down to a sinister E flat, really made me reconsider the “pop” label. Years later, Smithereens Jimmy Babjak and Dennis Diken would both contribute songs to my charity Christmas CDs. Don’t you love it when your heroes turn out to be as cool as you’d always hoped they’d be?
“Roll to Me” – Del Amitri
These dudes always struck me as a modern-day Badfinger. Beautiful vocals over 70s guitar figures and thoughtful lyrics. Clocking in at just over two minutes, Del Amitri manages to squeeze in three choruses and one of the best middle 8s ever written. This will always be on my short list of songs that I wish I could’ve written. Though they flirted with chart success a few times, their strength was in recording albums that were brilliant from top to bottom. I’m always surprised that more Badfinger fans aren’t into them. Why is that?
“Your Imagination” – Brian Wilson
I was working a really horrible, soul-crushing job at an electronics factory when I first heard this song over the company loudspeaker. What can only be described as a serene calm fell over me as I listened. It was like an angel tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Don’t worry. You won’t be here forever.” For the next few years, “Your Imagination” would continue to help get me through the monotony of being a second-shift machinist, and it would also make me a Brian Wilson fan. I wonder how many millions of other people have had a similar experience with this song. It really is something special. Those stacked backing vocals are absolute bliss. Someday I will own this on vinyl.
“That Thing You Do!” – The Wonders
Well, not really The Wonders, but Mike Viola and Adam Schlesinger. I think this just might be one of the best pop singles ever written. Adam Schlesinger conducts a master class in songwriting, aided by Mike Viola’s pleading vocal. The true measure of how great this song is, is that you hear parts of it continuously throughout the movie, yet your ears never show the slightest sign of getting tired of it. When The Wonders perform “That Thing You Do!” on The Hollywood Showcase at the end of the movie, it’s still a thrilling listen. The actual chords are really interesting too, with major chords moving to minor, and a few suspended 7th’s sprinkled here and there. Not too many writers use 7th chords these days, which is a nice way to throw a little grit into an otherwise poppy mix.
Which Song Would You Like to Have Written?
Alan also asked, “If you could have written any song from any decade, what would it be and why?” That’s easy. “White Christmas” by the great Irving Berlin. For me, there are two top-tier versions of that tune. Bing Crosby’s original will always be unbeatable, but Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops holds a close second with their instrumental version. Both perfectly express the complete joy we feel only at Christmas time.
(And now, it’s contest time! We have one of the last remaining physical copies of The Click Beetles’ Wake Up to Music! to give away. We’ve also got a download code, and one of the two can be yours if you fill out the form below by Monday, September 15 at 12 noon ET. One lucky person will win the CD; the other will win the download code. Only one entry per person. Good luck!)

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Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes
Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

Our Two-Week-Long Explosion of New-to-Pure Pop Radio Melodic Pop Songs is in the Penultimate Stage! Today Only! And then there’s…

…Tomorrow! Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah! And next week and the week after, too. We’ll be adding new, recent and heritage music to the Pure Pop Radio playlist on a regular basis from now on, so check back here frequently and help us keep the melodic pop spirit alive by listening to Pure Pop Radio (simply click on the handy listen links below)!

So what’s on the new-to-the-playlist docket? Today, we’re going to put the spotlight on three major melodic pop releases. You’ve probably been waiting for the first for awhile…

Linus of Hollywood's Something GoodLinus of Hollywood – Something Good. Fifteen years ago, a voice ushered in a new sound–a fresh, clean approach to the melodic pop song. “A-one, two three…one…” The mellow, hopeful voice quickly trailed off into the  fabric of “Say Hello to Another Goodbye,” the first track of an album called Your Favorite Record. That was pretty cheeky of the new artist named Linus of Hollywood. What if this album wasn’t our favorite record? Linus was rolling the dice, but not without an ace in his pocket–an album that was his entree into a career that has been going strong ever since. Linus is all about the song, all about the melody, all about the harmonies, and absolutely without question about how all of that, tied up with a neat little bow, affects his listeners. Just as they swooned as the 12 songs on Your Favorite Record played out, they will swoon, dip, nod their heads, get weak in their knees and most importantly smile, smile, smile as the 11 songs on this brand-new album surround them with the kind of mostly upbeat melodic pop that has become Linus’s trademark. You will love songs like “Ready for Something Good,” a classic, clever, catchy mix of faux-reggae and barreling-straight-ahead sweet pop; and “Biography,” an intoxicating, melodic, acoustic-based cautionary tale of separation–of love dying for no good reason. “No one will ever love you, the way I used to love you,” Linus sings as ghostly backing vocals chill the air. Don’t miss the cover of the year: Linus’s fantastic version of Kiss’s “Beth,” which Linus now owns. Factor in a great-as-usual guest vocal performance from the luminous Kelly Jones, a co-write with pop music producer Wyatt Funderburk and sterling production and you have what may well have to be renamed Another of Your Favorite Records, or Maybe Even the Record of the Year in 2014. We’ve added 10 of the songs on Something Good to the Pure Pop Radio playlist. Tune in now to hear them playing in rotation. Welcome back, Linus of Hollywood. We really missed you.

Edward O'Connell's Vanishing ActEdward O’Connell – Vanishing Act. We’re thinking that this may well be the year where we will have to, for the very first time, compile a list of favorite melodic pop records–the reason being that there are just so many of them and, well, that’s what we probably should have been doing all along. And near the top of that list will have to sit Vanishing Act, the followup to 2010’s Our Little Secret, a pretty nifty record that started it all, “it all” being the thirst for more Edward O’Connell music. Consider your thirst satisfied. Vanishing Act is everything a great melodic pop album should be and then some. The straight-ahead popper “Severance Kiss,” jangly guitars in the spotlight, is an instant classic with an equally classic melody. Sumptuous slide guitar lines kick off  the hooky opener “My Dumb Luck.” The lovely ballad and title track, “Vanishing Act,” serves as the album’s centerpiece. O’Connell’s wondrous vocal is a joy to hear. Really, here is another hall-of-fame kind of album, one that will stay with you all the way down whichever line you walk. O’Connell, a Washington, D.C. songwriter and performer, is a local, should-be national, treasure. And his sense of humor is sharp and tickles the funny bone–the paper bag gag from Our Little Secret is carried over to a photo inside the new album’s package. We’ve added the whole of Vanishing Act, which is now playing in rotation on our air. You rock, Edward O’Connell. And, as ABBA once sang, “Thank you for the music!”

The Click Beetles' Wake Up to MusicThe Click Beetles – Wake Up to Music! The cleverly-named Click Beetles emerge with a powerhouse debut that melodic pop and power pop fans will happily devour. Head Beetle Dan Pavelich, who also runs Vandalay Records and writes and draws the funny, online comic strip Just Say Uncle, is right on target with 10 originals (one co-written with the wonderful singer-songwriter Lisa Mychols) and two delectable covers, nicely done: Marshall Crenshaw’s classic “Cynical Girl” and the Beatles standard “Do You Want to Know a Secret.” “Try Girl” is a Merseybeat-styled medium-paced ballad that, if you close your eyes, could have been performed on the stage of the original Cavern in Liverpool. “I Never Said Goodbye,” the aforementioned co-write with Mychols, is a melodic stomper with an ultra-catchy chorus. “Glad” is a great pop song that would be comfortable nestled in the Shoes catalog. All of these tunes, plus the glorious “Bubblegum” and the short-but-sweet closer “The Changes,” are now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio. Dig these wonderful sounds!

There you go! That’s three more top-shelf albums now gracing our airwaves and feeding into your Internet radio machines. Enjoy ’em all, and we’ll see you back here tomorrow for our final new-adds-to-the-Pure-Pop-Radio-playlist report.


Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes
Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes