Big Star – “Back Of A Car” (1974)
“Unfortunately, during those formative years I never heard – or even knew about – Big Star until years afterward. (Countdown didn’t played them, and neither did any of the radio stations I listened to.) As a result, the Holy Trinity of power pop (The Raspberries/Big Star/Cheap Trick) was incomplete for me because I hadn’t bonded with Big Star as a teenager (i.e., the music becoming virtually a part of your DNA as your personality forms) as I did with the other bands. I have to admit, though, that even after becoming well acquainted with Big Star, I’m still not much of a fan. This’ll probably sound like sacrilege, and instantly revoke any power pop credentials I may have had up until now, but… I generally find a lot of their lyrics a bit too maudlin (e.g., “Thirteen“), their musicianship painfully sloppy (e.g., “Don’t Lie To Me“), and their melodies not terribly strong (e.g., “Stroke It Noel“), to fully enjoy them. You can call me a heretic now if you like. Maybe I needed to have been an American teenager when I was growing up.”
As you can see, I’m not the ideal guy to give an appraisal of a Big Star song. But “Back Of A Car” sounds like a typical Big Star song to me: lots of treble on the Stratocaster; high tenor singing; sounds like The Byrds playing rock songs etc.
I’m actually thinking about putting this one on the blog*, but it’s not Australian and it’s not power pop. (I know, I know: that’s never stopped me before.) However, if I do put it on the blog (I probably will), I’ll mention how sublime the harmonies are, and how the guitar part is incredibly similar to the guitar part in “This Boy“.
(*Note to self: it’s on the blog now.)
But back to your suggestions, Frank…
Brinsley Schwarz – “The Ugly Things” (1974)
I received this with the artist listed as Nick Lowe. Nick is singing on it but it ain’t a Nick Lowe song. I’d never heard the song before so it took a little while to find out that the artist was actually Brinsley Schwarz (the band Nick was in). With that akwardness out of the way, I had another listen to the song and came to the conclusion that it was nice. A little Beatle-y and pleasant, but not much more. The first time I listened to the song (thinking it was Nick), I had rather hoped to get more out of the song than I did. I’m used to the Nick Lowe of Jesus Of Cool. (Which reminds me to listen to it again sometime. I haven’t heard it in ages.) That album has so much variety on it that I think of it as Nick Lowe’s Revolver, where every song is completely different but each song is highly enjoyable. The second time I listened to “The Ugly Things” (knowing it was Brinsley Schwarz), I had pretty much the same reaction as the first time: a little Beatle-y and pleasant, but not much more. For me, “The Ugly Things” is the sound of Nick Lowe as a budding songwriter.
Billy Satellite – “Satisfy Me” (1984)
This came on after I’d heard the other three songs, and it was a shock. This is the kind of 80’s rock that, whenever I heard it, was one big generic blur to me. There was so much of it around at the time, and it all sounded so similar, that my ears couldn’t tell who was playing what. Was it Ratt, Poison, Warrant, Cinderella? My ears weren’t attuned enough to the subtleties of differences in any of those bands, so back then it felt like I was being inundated by what sounded like one band releasing way too many records. Nevertheless, I duly listened to “Satisfy Me”, and the only thing I enjoyed was the singer’s yelp at 3:18. I thought it was hilarious. Incidentally, I just found out (courtesy of the Wikipedia link) that Billy Satellite is a band, not a person. Who knew? (Not me.)