Monday, July 20, 2009

The more things seem to change, the more they stay the same

24 Badfinger, ‘Without You’; 25 The Raspberries, ‘I Can Remember’

Although powerpop is a commercial construct, it does evoke a certain kind of song. As a sub-genre, it’s often linked to its parent - the Beatles. In reality powerpop’s only one facet of the Beatles and that’s the Paul McCartney Back In The USSR pop song facet. Macca, and The Beatles, were/are always much more than that. Nevertheless, I love the bands and songs that are often market under the ‘powerpop’ tag, even though there are often some weird groups shoehorned onto powerpop compilations – The Kinks? The Proclaimers? Buzzcocks? Joe Jackson? That would be – no, no, no, and no. But The Motors? The Cars? Electric Light Orchestra? The Records? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. What makes the difference – songs with beefy guitars, McCartney hooks, fuzzed up guitars, harmony vocals, scuzzed up multi-tracked guitars, a Ringo like drummer, riffy chords, they last about 3 minutes, no longer, and, oh, there are lots of guitars. Think Wings circa Band On The Run as the template.

All kidding aside, it is probably true that without McCartney a lot of these bands would have gone in very different directions and I wouldn’t be writing about Badfinger and The Raspberries right now. The Beatle comparisons don’t end there though.

The Beatles, Badfinger and The Raspberries were four piece bands whose resident genius was their rhythm guitarist (John Lennon, Pete Ham and Eric Carmen respectively). Both Badfinger/Raspberries recorded for Beatle related labels (The Raspberries for Capitol, but Badfinger win this battle as they were on Apple Records).

Even aside from Apple, Badfinger continue the Beatles comparison through McCartney’s (and later – Harrison’s) direct involvement. Badfinger started life as The Iveys (chosen to echo The Hollies). They were signed to Apple by Beatle roadie, Mal Evans, and were allowed to grow slowly. This was handy coz their Maybe Tomorrow album doesn’t give many hints of the greatness to come. Nor is it powerpop.

But then, along came Macca. He donated Come And Get It as a sure-fire single and Badfinger copied his lead note for note . Unfortunately, the rest of Magic Christian Music is only slightly better than The Iveys album, mainly because they rework many of the Ivey’s songs.

No Dice, however, is another thing altogether, and the first real Badfinger album on which Pete Ham shines. It contains his classics, No Matter What, Midnight Caller, We’re For The Dark and the great Without You.

In contrast, The Raspberries were one of those bands like Coldplay, Led Zeppelin and The Doors who arrived, album 1, fully formed. Who or what were they before they put out their first album? I’ve no idea. But their respective first albums –The Raspberries, Parachute, Led Zeppelin, The Doors – hit the ground running with a trademark sound. There are no awkward first albums to get the sound right as many have done, such as David Gray, Deep Purple, and Jefferson Airplane. Amazingly, The Raspberries even included an eight minutes long opus on their debut – I Can Remember.

I’ve linked these classic powerpop songs, Without You and I Can Remember, for this post because both songs deal with love withdrawn, denied or goneburger; a common theme within the powerpop world. They are great for when you want to wallow in self-pity. I even made a self-pity mix tape many moons ago and these were automatic choices. Eric Carmen has seldom done better. All By Myself is a great weepie but I Can Remember is CINERAMA in comparison.

Without You begins with I’m- resigned-to-this news that she’s left him and now he can’t live if he has to live without her. We know nothing else – apart from he let her go and she’s sad to go. It’s a little less fleshed out than Romeo and Juliet then. But this lack of information isn’t an issue in the song, because the music is so damned good. I just listen for those guitar bits that go ‘jerhuumm’ and who cares if the lyric is basically meaningless. I know, I know – I told you earlier that I’m a lyric man but Without You is a great example of the ‘less is more’ principle in the lyric department.

I Can Remember is much more expressive in comparison and things are more strung out time wise. Eric remembers the fun they had in summer, going into autumn (when she said goodbye and took off with another guy) and he’s looking forward to spring and a possible rebirth with the reappearance of the sun. But in the meantime the protagonist hurts so much he thinks he’ll die. Things get worse – he hurts more and more each day. It's still not Shakespeare though is it. No, stupid, it’s powerpop. Classic powerpop. If I wanted Shakespeare I’d listen to Aimee Mann.


  1. Enjoyed the Badfinger Raspberries comparison, I've always been a fan of both bands. If you want to learn more about my experiences meeting most of the members of Badfinger, go to (search 1977 and/or 1980). For Paul McCartney pictures and other famous musicians, go to

  2. Thanks Rockitz - I will do so, and thanks for the comment.