Back to table of Contents

Power pop has been a commercially viable style since the late 1960s. It is a retro genre built around the merger of a hard rock sound with mainstream pop music sensibilities. The emphasis is on melodic songs, uncluttered studio arrangements, and a straightforward vocal (often featuring group harmonies) delivery. Perhaps the most notable instrumental features consists of ringing guitar chords along the lines of the catchy riff opening the Searchers' "Needles and Pins" (1964).

The chief influences behind power pop were (1) classic American rock 'n' roll as exemplified by Buddy Holly and the Crickets, Eddie Cochran, and the Everly Brothers; (2) the British Invasion bands from the 1964-1965 period, particularly the Beatles; and (3) the more melodic offerings of seminal heavy metal groups such as Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. Virtuosity is never a desirable end here; rather, the goal is tight, tuneful ensemble playing where the whole equals something far greater than the separate parts.

The style originated during the early days of progressive rock and heavy metal primarily as a nostalgic throw-back to the lighter pop sounds of the Beatles, the Kinks, and other mid-1960s hit- making bands. Early pioneers such as Badfinger and the Raspberries achieved a considerable degree of success with their singles releases. However, later waves of power pop bands found this market to be increasingly marginalized. Practitioners during the late 1970s and early 1980s found refuge under the new wave moniker; from the mid-1980s onward, they have tended to be lumped together with the alternative bands.


Top Artists and Their Recordings

Aztec Camera--High Land, Hard Rain (1983); Knife (1984); Aztec Camera (1985)

The Babys--The Babys (1977); Broken Heart (1977); Head First (1979); Union Jacks (1980); On the Edge (1980)

Badfinger--Magic Christian Music (1970); No Dice (1970); Straight Up (1971); Ass (1973); Badfinger (1974); Wish You Were Here (1974); Airwaves (1979); Say No More (1981)

Big Star--Radio City (1971); Big Star (1972); Third Album (1978)

The Bluebells--Sisters (1984)

The Bongos--Drums Along the Hudson (1982); Numbers With Wings (1983); Beat Hotel (1984)

Chameleons U.K.--Strange Times (1986)

Cheap Trick--In Color (1977); Heaven Tonight (1978); Cheap Trick at Budokan (1979); Dream Police (1979); Found All the Parts (1980); All Shook Up (1980); One On One (1982); Next Position Please (1983); Standing On the Edge (1985); The Doctor (1986); Lap of Luxury (1988); Busted (1990)

Marshall Crenshaw--Marshall Crenshaw (1982); Field Day (1983); Downtown (1985)

Ian Gomm--Gomm With the Wind (1979)

The Inmates--First Offence (1979)

The Knack--Get the Knack (1979); But the Little Girls Understand (1980); Round Trip (1981)

Nick Lowe--Pure Pop For Now People (1978); Labour of Lust (1979); Nick the Knife (1982); The Abominable Showman (1983); Nick Lowe and his Cowboy Outfit (1984); The Rose of England (1985); Party of One (1990)

The Members--At the Chelsea Nightclub (1979); 1980: The Choice Is Yours (1980)

The Plimsouls--The Plimsouls (1981); Everywhere at Once (1983)

The Raspberries--The Raspberries (1972); Fresh (1972); Side 3 (1973); Starting Over (1974)

The Records--The Records (1979)

The Revillos/The Rezillos--Can't Stand the Rezillos (1978); Mission Accomplished (1979); Rev Up (1980)

Rockpile--Seconds of Pleasure (1980)

The Romantics--The Romantics (1979); National Breakout (1980); Strictly Personal (1981); In Heat (1983); Rhythm Romance (1985)

The Rubinoos--The Rubinoos (1977); Back to the Drawing Board (1979)

Phil Seymour--Phil Seymour (1981)

The Shirts--The Shirts (1978); Street Light Shine (1979); Inner Sleeve (1980)

The Shoes--Black Vinyl Shoes (1978); Present Tense (1979); Tongue Twister (1980)

Smokie/Smokey--Midnight Cafe (1976); Bright Lights and Back Alleys (1977); Montreux Album (1978)

Sneaker--Sneaker (1981)

Translator--Heartbeats and Triggers (1982); No Time Like Now (1983); Evening of the Harvest (1984)

20/20--20/20 (1979); Look Out! (1981)

Dwight Twilley (Band)--Sincerely (1976); Twilley Don't Mind (1977); Twilley (1979); Scuba Divers (1982); Jungle (1984)

The Undertones--The Undertones (1980)