by Jordan Oakes
Poptopia - 70's (CD liner notes) , February 10, 1997
Perhaps due to the band's Beatles connections, most fans consider Badfinger's classic Apple recordings ("No Matter What," "Baby Blue," and "Day After Day") to be their definitive music. In fact, much of their core following prefers the later Warner Bros. records, specifically 1974's Wish You Were Here. That was the album on which Badfinger perfected their group identity (despite minimal contributions from member Tommy Evans), rocking with a sense of majesty that was unmistakably British -- only by this time you'd never mistake them for The Beatles.
"Just A Chance," the album's opener is a surging blend of raucous guitars, cool harmonies, and one of Ham's most passionate vocals. Best of all, the song showed off what a no-nonsense rock 'n' roll band Badfinger was -- they could simultaneously be hard as nails and sweetly melodic. "Just A Chance" glowed with hopefulness, providing no clue that Ham was a man who would shortly take his own life.
Still, we have the great, undying music. Like other groups who saw the '70s' lack of melody as a malady, Badfinger made Apple juice out of the competition. In the tuneless days of excessive, postpsychedelic rock, they were a beautiful voice of dissension.
The Iveys were a local rock 'n' roll blues band from South Wales that moved to London in '67/'68. After their move to London, their music became more and more poppy. When I joined them in '69, they had changed their name to Badfinger and were, like a lot of bands in those days, trying to get back to their rock 'n' roll roots. I think the result of that desire to rock -- more of an attitude than anything else -- led to what's known today as "power pop." (Joey Molland)
Big Star's belated popularity has gone far beyond the power-pop world. Alex Chilton and Chris Bell painted their masterpieces with brush strokes of pain (listening to Chilton's Sister Lovers is like eavesdropping on a nervous breakdown), which has made them appeal to fans of everything from goth-rock to punk. However, one song forever guarantees Big Star's spot on this volume and any other that hopes to present an accurate overview of power pop. Its lyrics barely discernible, "September Gurls" somehow conveys the fragile sound of a breaking heart. And spelling "Gurls" with a curvaceous "u" was the icing on Chilton's cake (as opposed to the fly on his sherbet).
By 1970, the "cutting edge" of rock music was no longer proscribed by the tight, burnished pop sheen of Mssrs. John, Paul, George, and Ringo, but by a longer, improvisational, free-form jamming style that quickly became the staple at FM radio. To be sure, this music had its followers, but artists like Todd Rundgren, Eric Carmen, and the members of Badfinger weren't among them. Instead, each of these artists, and many others of similar pop bent, blazed their own trail -- they took the music they cherished (Beatlesque pop), distilled it down to its basic elements (rhythm, melody, harmonies), and started churning out three-minute pop songs like the future of humanity depended on it. And since they lived in an era where "heavy" meant "good," they played their new music harder, tighter, with a boost of power, so that the songs would reach the back rows of the stadiums and auditoriums they dreamed of playing.
Thus power pop was born.
In many ways, Raspberries' 1971 #5 hit "Go All The Way," the band's second single, was the power pop apotheosis. The Raspberries weren't the first power popsters (Rundgren's Nazz was chasing down the same dream in the late '60s), but "Go All The Way" was the first hit, and it set the standard for all that followed. With its explosive, infectious hook, and angelic harmonies propelled by an undeniable steamroller rhythm, it was a revelation. And it timed in at an AM radio-friendly 3:21.
The Raspberries were not alone. The Beatles' Apple Records labelmates Badfinger soon chimed into the new revolution, with such early-'70s chestnuts as "Just A Chance" and "No Matter What." Todd Rundgren re-joined the party with such singles as "Couldn't I Just Tell You" and "I Saw The Light," Blue Ash released their one hit, "Abracadabra (Have You Seen Her?)," and Big Star, toiling in relative obscurity, churned out such power pop masterpieces as the immortal "September Gurls."