Monday, September 29, 2014

"barely left a singe mark" - late Seventies pomp pop

Massive for a moment, but barely left a singe mark on Rock-Pop history


The Motors - formed by former members of Ducks Deluxe  and Bram Tchaikovsky - got to #4 with "Airport" in 1978

They were sort of considered New Wave (two John Peel sessions) but they weren't really - more like pub rock, bloating slightly into pomp pop, like a less studio-savvy, less witty 10 c.c.


City Boy -  " moderately successful English rock band in the late 1970s, characterised by complex vocal arrangements and heavy guitars", often accused of leaning too heavily on Queen and 10 c.c. for inspiration

This was their big hit.

This was their small hit.


Sniff 'n' the Tears - okay, not really Massive, but Radio One deejays supported this one quite heavily. And it was a hit in other territories, including the US where it got to #15. 

Sniff 'n' the Tears specialised in sexist and sometimes creepily disturbing record covers.  

It's coming from the same place  - late 1970s adult pop, cleverly arranged, cleanly produced, keyboard-hooky -- as things like Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street" and Manfred Mann Earth Band's "Blinded By The Light", both of which are genuinely splendid, whereas you feel a bit wet for half-liking "Driver's Seat"


Sad Cafe - this lot are just cloying 

Sad Cafe made me think of Cafe Society, who weren't massive, but whose Tom Robinson went on to be a bit massive as TRB

On the Kinks's ill-fated label Konk

Here Tom drops the New Wave for a moment and reverts to pre-76 self, with a song co-written with Elton John

""The song appeared on Elton's 1980 album "21 at 33", but this is actually the original version! Sung and released as a single by Tom Robinson (famous for "Glad to be Gay") already in 1979. Robinson's version is openly gay, using only male pronouns, while Elton's version surprisingly disguises the orientation by using "she".

6/ Bethnal - not massive at all but they got a lot of press at the time, signed to a major label - considered New Wave but really more like The Who - the Seventies Who, mind, not the Who that inspired Jam and mod revival

I mean, just look at their album artwork - the whiff of Old Wave fair comes off it. Looks like it might have been done by someone on work experience at Hypgnosis

And they had a violinist in the band for Christ's sake

That barrel-chested Daltrey-esque vocal...

The clincher - a cover of "Baby O' Reilly"

7/ Fischer-Z

Their one hit, "The Worker" -  in the genre of  "Mr Jones", gently-mocking-the-office-drone-suburban-conformist type songs. Perhaps related to "What A Waste" by Ian Dury, "The British Way of Life" by The Chords, and, tenuously, "The Diary of Horace Wimp" by ELO and "Making Plans for Nigel" by XTC.

Not pomp pop, but clever-clever.

8/ And finally... the biggest of all the late Seventies pomp pop bands who have left barely a singe mark on history - THE BOOMTOWN RATS

Springsteen-retooled-as-New-Wave, keyboard-dominated.... they had two number ones, a whole bunch of other big hits....  yet few groups are less remembered, spawned smaller. 

Barefaced attempt to follow up "I Don't Like Mondays" with another song based on a real-life story of nihilistic youth tragedy 

Where they copping UB40 at this point? Minds blown by "King" and Signing Off? Or perhaps "Dreadlock Holiday"....


  1. Maybe they were just "Dust in the wind"? I mean, wouldn´t Kansas be considered also "pomp pop"? Hey, they also had a violinist!

  2. Kansas are coming out of prog, though, aren't they? They're sort of prog-pop, like Genesis towards the end of the 70s.

    With pomp pop I'm gesturing at groups that come from another direction, but end up quite maximalist with the arrangements and studio trickery

    maybe 10cc are the forebears.... like you would never think of them coming from prog, they reached their ornate, gateau-like sound from a different direction

    ELO too, in a way

  3. Ok, just sayin, i really don´t know that much. Interesting stuff anyways

  4. Oh i welcome your thoughts - i just think what i'm gesturing at - admittedly somewhat vaguely, but then this blog is called Hardly Baked - is a different thing than crossover prog of the late 70s and early 80s.

    Maybe Supertramp belong in the 'pomp pop' category, now i think of it!

    Feels like there are these zones of music history that don't quite fit in the established genre divisions but are nonetheless real

    Another one that interests me is all the groups that went New Wave but before that they were prog, or pub rock, or late-glam, or soft rock, or country rock -- basically they started Old Wave and then changed their style (and their clothes and hair!) pretty quickly. Like Split Enz is a good example, and possibly Squeeze. Punishment of Luxury.

    The groups that existed before punk and then adjusted their sound/image are different from the groups that formed because of punk -- but they tended to be all lumped together as New Wave. But if you listen closely you can see their origins.

  5. Nite Flights sounds kind of pomp; the Scott songs get the critical attention but the other guys pull their weight (Death of Romance, Child in Flames). A bit of a Mike Post element, maybe.
    Some album for a Contractual Obligation

  6. Fischer-Z seemed to get more New Wave with their second album. This one later showed up on Rhino's "New Wave Hits of the '80s" series; the arrangement sounds a bit Cars-y, who, come to think of it, would fit into the "Old Wave and then changed their style" sub-genre.
    --Ted Wilkinson

  7. The Cars totally fit - you listen and you can tell that before punk they were probably a pretty slick blues-rock combo.

    Another one sort of in this vein (not pomp-pop but the New Wave make-over) is Huey Lewis & the News -- didn't some of them actually serve as Costello's backing group on his first album?

    Then J. Geils Band who were (by repute) a smokin' Stonesy bar band in the 70s and had the Noo Wave skinny-tie spray-job circa "Centerfold" and "Freeze Frame"