Oct 152012

Cheap Trick‘s “Surrender” is the greatest late-’70s pure power pop/new wave song ever. This from someone who also believes it’s possibly the “Secretariat’s 30-length Belmont Stakes victory” relative to any other song in any band’s career. This is a testament to the song’s strength as much as it is my lukewarm appreciation for anything else Cheap Trick has released. But that’s another story. There’s nothing I’d like least than to distract you with my thoughts on Cheap Trick.

I would guess we’re all pretty much in agreement that The Records‘ “Starry Eyes” is the second-best late-’70s pure power pop/new wave song that made a dent in the US charts. (An important distinction for purposes of this discussion that rules out some of our personal favorites, such as my favorite song of this genre ever, The dB’s’ “Big Brown Eyes.”) That point settled, the time is long overdue that we settle—once and for all—a related topic that’s long stumped deep thinkers in the world of rock:

Excluding anything by The Rockpile crew (eg, Nick Lowe’s “Cruel to Be Kind,” Dave Edmunds’ “Girls Talk”) what’s the third-best 1979-era pure power pop/new wave song that made a dent in the US charts?

Is it Bram Tchaikovsky‘s “Girl of My Dreams”?

Is it The Beat‘s “Different Kind of Girl”? [Disqualified for not having charted – pince nez courtesy of Townsman Al.]

Is it something I’m forgetting?

I look forward to settling the question of who wins the bronze—once and for all.


  103 Responses to “Once and for All: Excluding Anything by the Rockpile Crew, What’s the Third-Best Late-’70s Pure Power Pop/New Wave Song That Made a Dent in the US Charts?”

  1. hrrundivbakshi

    Come ON. The answer to this one is plain to see: “Good Girls Don’t” by the Knack. “My Sharona” is number two.

  2. “My Sharona” sucks. I call that song out.

    “Meet me after school – you know where, ‘My Sharona’ – and I’ll kick your ass!”

    To the main point of this thread, because surely that’s my main concern and I would never want to distract anyone with side comments, “Good Girls Don’t” is a fine suggestion for the #3 slot.

  3. trigmogigmo

    Boy, this topic and those songs are right in my wheelhouse. (A term I learned on RTH 🙂 ). I have The Records on vinyl and re-acquired it as a “best of” on CD a while ago. That song is their best, though “Teenarama” is a close second.

    More to say when I have more time.

  4. Define “dent”. “Girl Of My Dreams” peaked at 37. “Starry Eyes” peaked at 56. “Different Kind Of Girl” isn’t showing up in my copy of Whitburn.

    I’ll throw The Romantics “What I Like About You” into the ring; it peaked at 49.

  5. “Shake Some Action.” Now, granted, 1976 is not really late-70s. And according to Wikipedia, it was not released as a single in the U.S., and the album only reached #142. But at least it’s on the charts! And that song’s just perfect, the only real competitor to “Surrender” that I can think of right now. “My Sharona” and even “Starry Eyes” are too fucking long.

  6. I was afraid that “Girl of My Dreams” wouldn’t qualify. Thanks for verifying.

    “What I Like About You” isn’t really a power pop song. It’s a ’60s-style garage rave-up done by a power pop band. Great single, though.

  7. “Shake Some Action” comes in at 4:27, about the exact length of “Starry Eyes” and more than 20 seconds longer than “My Sharona.” ! Am I missing a 3-minute Manzarek solo on my “single edit” of “Starry Eyes”?

    I never get the strong appeal of the song “Shake Some Action.” It’s got too much jangly guitar set-up before any core part of the song gets underway, and it’s one of the worst-recorded power pop songs on the planet. It sounds like wet cardboard. The song itself it not terrible, but it takes forever to get to the payoff moments. I don’t think that will be the song that we agree on – once and for all – as the third-best late-’70s power pop/new wave song not involving members of Rockpile ever.

  8. machinery

    Fox on the Run.

  9. Great song, but it’s from 1974-75, a little too early for the time constraints of this burning question.

  10. Oh all right. And I forgot: Dave Edmunds produced it. Still, it’s probably tied for number one in my heart.

  11. I’m calling BS on Mr Mod! The Romantics are DEFINITELY a power pop band. Not even a judgement call. When was the last time you listened to that record. Jeez.

    Is this going to be one of those threads that Mr Mod disqualifies every entry until the only ones left standing are what he wants to see anyway?

    Having griped all that, I’ll vote for “Turning Japanese” – The Vapors.

  12. machinery

    Or if you want more Pop in your Power … Love is like oxygen.

    Sethro will back me on these 🙂

  13. machinery

    Turning Japanese was 1980, if my high school recollection is correct.

  14. machinery

    Where does early Joe Jackson fit on the Power Pop scale?

  15. Re-read my comments, my friend! I said the SONG is not a power pop song; I said the band IS a power pop band. You, of all people, should have appreciated what I was getting at.

    I heard “Turning Japanese” for the first time in years a couple of weeks ago, when I was in Michigan. I don’t like that song, but I don’t think it’s my personal tastes that will keep it out of the #3 slot. The People will reach consensus.

    I am pleased, so far, by the the general agreement displayed regarding the top 2 songs in this genre/within the query’s limitations.

  16. Which song? It’s all about the songs, as I understand the query on the table.

  17. No objections to that entry!

  18. misterioso

    “The song itself it not terrible”–what brand of crack are you on today? Ok, the production is iffy at best (the drums, what is wrong with the mix on the drums?), but c’mon. The song is sublime. The fact is, though, that beyond not really charting I think the song is too great to be shoehorned into the box of “power pop/new wave.”

  19. misterioso

    “Is this going to be one of those threads that Mr Mod disqualifies every entry until the only ones left standing are what he wants to see anyway?” High five!

  20. misterioso

    BTW, “Starry Eyes” is great but that Bram Tchaikovsky song and the Beat song are weak.

    My inclination is to disregard the release dates and say “Go All the Way” by the Raspberries or “I’m on Fire” by Dwight Twilley.

    But I’ll play along and offer up “Driver’s Seat” by Sniff ‘n’ the Tears.

  21. At the risk of getting us off topic, because that’s the LAST thing I desire in our effort to settle the query at hand…once and for all, here are some of the issues I have with “Shake Some Action”:

    1. A 30-second jangly guitar intro – not an opening solo, mind you, but a series of 2 or 3 (depending on how you look at it) little figures that fail to get me excited. I’m typically not a big fan of any intro that takes longer than a few measures before the song kicks in. Songs with long intros that I like build some tension or state some crucial themes.

    2. For all the time it takes to get to the chorus proper the (barely) “pre-chorus” is nothing special. It’s a slight variation on the verse. Compare it with the pre-chorus on the similarly themed “Starry Eyes.” That song’s pre-chorus takes the song to a new plane and truly sets up the chorus.

    3. The chorus doesn’t really go anywhere after the initial stomp, then it just fizzles out as the guitarists run out of variations on their twinkly guitar patterns.

    4. The guitar solo is twice as long as it needs to be.

    5. The takeout guitar solo continues in the same restrained vein as the one in the middle, then the curtain comes down awkwardly with another one of those twinkly riffs. The guitar solo should have kicked ass, and the song should have faded out on a high note.

    Blah! This song is OK, but to me it defines the mediocrity any one of us who’s ever chased the Power & Glory of Power Pop has faced. The payoff for a great power pop song is fantastic, but I find so many of our collective efforts at finding and appreciating these songs to fall way short.

  22. I love “Driver’s Seat” and hadn’t considered that – so there: do you and andyr want to take back the mean stuff you’ve said about me?

  23. A shame it never charted because That’s What the Little Girls Do by the Knack wipes floor with most of the competition:

    I was greatly disappointed to see that not only did the Plimsouls fail to chart with Million Miles Away but the Jags did not chart with Back of My Hand (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUlU105lkgs)

    So at the risk of ruining the sausage party, I submit Dreaming by Blondie: http://youtu.be/zjGvAI8eji0

  24. I was going to suggest Marshall Crenshaw’s “Someday Someway” but see where that peaked at 36 on 7/10/82.

    Depending on your strictness on the time frame, the Romantics peaked on 2/16/80 and may be out.

  25. misterioso

    “Million Miles Away” was the first thing that came to mind, but it charted in 1983. “Back of My Hand” was the second that came to mind but I was pretty sure it never charted. I also wasn’t sure if it was recorded in the 70s. There’s also the fact that although I kinda love it it is to Elvis Costello what Herman’s Hermits were to the Beatles. Cute, but long way from the real deal.

    “Dreaming,” on the other hand: can’t argue with that one.

  26. misterioso

    Yes, you aren’t as bad as I had thought. I thought I’d shown great restraint in not commenting on your Pere Ubu thread. I’d like a high five for that.

  27. Back of my Hand was recorded in ’79 and charted in the UK. I’m glad were seeing eye to eye on most of this but due to your opinion that BOMH is somehow a lesser song because it doesn’t favorably measure up to Elvis Costello, I am unable to give you more than a high three.

  28. “Dreaming” is one of 2 songs I have been considering for this slot! Now, to be clear, that song and another one that has not yet been submitted, are only song I was personally considering. I am in no way rigging this thread to make MY choice shine. I do sense, however, strong support among Townspeople for this song’s consideration for the #3 slot.

    I would have thought “Back of My Hand” made the charts. That’s right up their with that Beat song in my teenage memories.

  29. I am willing to consider songs in this vein released prior to 1983. I will accept the Crenshaw song, for instance, even though I think it’s lacking in power pop reach. It’s solid.

  30. “Shake Some Action” is the best thing up here. Leaving “Surrender” and “Starry Eyes” to battle for 2 & 3. If want a new entrant how about “Yellow Pills” by 20/20? The album charted at #138.

  31. I was going to suggest The Only Ones, “Another Girl/Another Planet” , but realized that never charted in the USA. Did Shoes chart with either “Too Late” or “Tomorrow Night”?

  32. I had no idea that record charted. I considered the title track, “Yellow Pills.” That’s a good one, but is it better than “Dreaming”?

    I’m curious to know if anyone agrees with me that “Shake Some Action” is merely a “nice” song. Please don’t get distracted by the main topic at hand, but if you can fit in your thoughts on that song along the way of tackling the larger question at hand I would appreciate it.

  33. I’m pretty sure at least one of those Shoes songs charted. The songs I love from the first album did not chart, however.

    I thought of that Only Ones song as one of the good ones that would not be eligible.

  34. Dwight Twilly , I’m On Fire I would offer as a potential choice.

  35. misterioso

    Is “Dreaming” Blondie’s greatest song? I think in all likelihood. Yes?

  36. machinery

    You can’t change the rules midway through the thread. What are you, a replacement ref?

  37. Fair enough! I’m sending myself to the Penalty Box for 2 minutes.

  38. Yeah, out of the current crop, I say this or “Dreaming.”

    Not “What I Like About You,” that’s for sure. Ugh– Bennigan’s Rock.

  39. OK, I’m going to suggest a possible contender from a not-necessarily “power pop” artist: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “American Girl”. Is that essentially a pure power pop song? Is that worth our consideration for the #3 spot? I think it is, but my sole vote is worth only a little more than yours, or so some of you nasty people would like to think!

  40. Barely past the cusp of demarcation yet well within the revisionist consideration of Mr. Mod, I humbly submit my fave “power pop” jam of all time (and the first song I stole from Napster):

    “This Beat Goes On/Switching to Glide” by The Kings


  41. I cannot believe it took this long for Tom Petty to enter into the conversation. Really, people.

  42. Does “Dancing with Myself” by Gen-X/Billy Idol count as Power Pop? I can see arguments for and against.

  43. misterioso

    Love it. But, released in 1980, if that matters within Mod’s ever-changing rules.

  44. misterioso

    Great record, obviously, but surely in the long view Petty is too squarely in the mainstream rock tradition to be put in what seems like fundamentally a sub-genre? I mean, unless your evolving criteria is simply “catchy guitar-based song released in some vaguely defined period including the late 70s and maybe the early 80s, subject to further change”?

  45. Absolutely.

  46. If the Gen X version falls within my STRICT (are you reading this, misterioso) time limits, yes, I think so, although I don’t know how “pure” a power pop song it would be. For the same reason I am NOT submitting XTC’s “Life Begins at the Hop.”

  47. Shake Some Action is a Great song. The arrangement is solid and the playing is deece. Dave Edmunds should be brought up before a Rock Crime tribunal for that production/engineering though. With all that reverb and delay, it sounds like an underwater fart.

  48. trigmogigmo

    The song sure seems to qualify to me, even if TP himself didn’t stay in the genre.

  49. Only songs released from 1976-1979 count. I’m gonna be really firm about this.

  50. As I’ve said all along, this is about the SONGS. Let’s not hold people’s popularity or breadth of material against them. Bigger man that, not necessarily, I am but that this examination requires, I don’t care if a Foreigner song qualifies for consideration. Despite my occasional lapses in holding to the timeframe, THAT’S the kind of moderator I am.

  51. I submit Nobody Hurts You or Discovering Japan, both of which were on Squeezing Out Sparks an album which rose to number 40 in 1979.

  52. I’d be interested in hearing a pro-Dancing With Myself argument because I can only think of the cons.

  53. trigmogigmo

    On second thought, what about the single from TP’s second album? As a power pop song, “I Need to Know” pushes the power needle into the red and at 2:24 is all muscle and no fat. I’m not sure if any of these other songs can measure up on that scale.

  54. >loooow five<


  55. I think these songs may be too muscular and rocking to count as “pure power pop/new wave.” To me they are GREAT rock ‘n roll songs. I think some jangle and flowing blond hair (or the sense thereof) need to be involved with the entrants, no?

  56. Oh, if there ever was an RTH thread that cried out for the clarifying, exacting standards of LINKS LINKERSON!

  57. mockcarr

    American Girl is #1 to me if it’s in the mix. I would guess it’s a bit anthemic to be power pop however.

    I suspect any good song I posit will be declared not “of the genre” too, but what about the Cars? It’s been overplayed like crazy but – Just What I Needed?

  58. Too Late made it to 75; Tomorrow Night didn’t chart.

  59. I’ve been waiting for someone to submit JUST THAT CARS SONG! Jeez, that’s WAY better than friggin’ “Shake Some Action,” “Girl of My Dreams,” and other songs suggested. THAT’S the kind of clear-headed thinking this inquiry requires. I’d say it falls just a little short of “Dreaming,” but it’s up there with “American Girl” and some of the other stronger selections.

  60. alexmagic

    If I’m not mistaken, there’s still a song out there that Mod is thinking of (but is, of course, in no way bending and inventing rules to force us towards) that we need to identify and discuss, so let me get that off the table: Suzi Quatro’s “Stumblin’ In”.

  61. mockcarr

    Dreaming is pretty great, but I wonder how much I’d like it without that amazing drumming.

  62. trigmogigmo

    OK, I’m sneaking time in between so far terrible conference sessions. No loss…, hence consolidation several comments into one.

    I’ll have to look at my old vinyl but I suspect there’s a candidate from Greg Kihn. However, I think he may not have charted his early, enter power pop stuff. Later stuff not so good.

    Hey, what abou The Cars “just What I Needed”? I think it’s a super strong contender.

    I love 20/20’s “Yellow Pills” but wonder if “Cheri” from the same album is perhaps the stronger of the two because it seems higher up on the Pop axis.

  63. mockcarr

    Maybe he’s looking for Hrrundi to say Do Ya.

  64. machinery

    Woah … if we’re going to say it’s cool to include American Girl in this category … and we’re just thinking about “the song” then I gotta throw in The Boys are Back in Town.

    Same difference as far as rockin’ power pop, imo.

  65. cliff sovinsanity

    Dang, I’m really late to the conversation and this topic is completely in my wheelhouse. All GREAT submissions so far Romantics,Twilley, Crenshaw, The Beat,20/20,Plimsouls, but if I had to pick one I’d go with…

    Greg Khin’s “The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em),” which was a top 20 hit.

  66. cliff sovinsanity

    I read so many comments that by the time I got to the bottom I unwittingly stole trigmogigmo “wheelhouse” line.

  67. “Dreaming is pretty great, but I wonder how much I’d like it without that amazing drumming.”

    The drumming is amazing and the Koobas drummer should check out that link I posted above to learn a thing or two about pretending to play drums for a video.

  68. cliff sovinsanity

    How about the Go’Go’s – Our Lips Are Sealed or We Got The Beat?

    You just can’t argue against those ones.

  69. I will have no problem at all if “Dreaming” is the winner, but I want to mention “Union City Blue.” Not as big of a hit for Blondie, I don’t think, but also amazing power-pop with fantastic drums.

  70. Very timely! I’ll see if their readers want to help us determine this question, which has been bugging folks for years.

  71. mockcarr’s attempt to exclude “Dreaming” because the drumming is too good is even dumber than one of my exclusions!

  72. misterioso

    ‘cept that they came out in the 80s.

  73. misterioso

    Yeah, and that Debbie Harry was too attractive.

  74. misterioso

    Not to start at the beginning, but is not what is needed here a working definition of what is being considered?

  75. 1. “Pure” power pop/new wave song, ie, a song any young musician badly desiring to hold someone’s hand can play, not something quirky with hidden “jazz” chords, like XTC’s “Life Begins at the Hop,” not something verging on Stonesy rock ‘n roll, like Graham Parker & the Rumour’s Squeezing Out Sparks
    2. NOT involving Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, Billy Bremmer, or Terry Williams as musicians (it’s OK if they produced the record, as Edmunds did some Flamin’ Groovies records)
    3. Released from 1976 through 1979
    4. Charted in the US
    5. Song must be at least pretty great yet not quite as great as “Surrender” and “Starry Eyes”

    What’s so hard to grasp about that?

  76. “Girl of My Dreams” still comes closest, though I suppose if we’re counting “Dreaming” as a power pop song, which it isn’t.

    Now, “I’m Always Touched By Your Presence Dear” is a power pop song…

  77. underthefloat

    I like this topic.
    What about Rundgren: Couldn’t I just tell you

  78. “Ebony Eyes” Bob Welch.

    REM copped this riff for “Begin the Begin”, no?


  79. cherguevara

    If you’re going back to 1976, then consider Hanging On the Telephone – or did that not chart?

    I LIKE “My Sharona.” It is a stupid song in the best possible way. It oozes attitude, it sounds great and it’s such a silly detail, but I really love the way the crash cymbal rings all by itself at the end. It’s got a lot more muscle then most songs by bands consisting of four skinny guys with Rickenbackers. I’m learning toward rating it higher than “Surrender.”

  80. That’s a few years before the timeframe of this query, but that’s a tremendous song!

  81. ladymisskirroyale

    I’m kickin’ out the jams here and nominating THE WINNER:

    The Rubinoos “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend”

    There. Perfect. 1979.

  82. Slim Jade

    Here’s my chance to play To Turn You On, and throw in the little-known Van Duren, who was once part of Big Star’s scene in Memphis.

  83. Saw Paul Collins at World Cafe Live last night, and a ton of his tunes are all-time power pop faves. “Different Kind of Girl” (which he didn’t play), “Rock ‘N’ Roll Girl,” “You Won’t Be Happy,” “Walking Out on Love,” “Don’t Wait Up for Me.” None of them made the charts, unfortunately.

    Blondie’s remake of the Nerves’ “Hanging on the Telephone” made the charts, though, right? Like that slightly better than “Dreaming,” but they’re both great.

  84. I’ve always had a soft spot for this one–“New Romance” by Spider. It made it to #39 in 1980. Guess that’s beyond the paramaters.

    By the way, that is Anton Fig on drums:


  85. BigSteve

    Mod, your arpeggiophobia is showing.

  86. BigSteve

    Someone mentioned Joe Jackson. “Is She Really Going Out with Him?” I believe counts as power pop, and it hit #21 on the Billboard Hot 100.

  87. BigSteve

    And I think I Want You To Want Me is a better example of power pop than Surrender. Surrender has that cheesy synthy thing happening, and it’s not really about a gurl is it?

  88. trigmogigmo

    All great songs, cdm.

    There is something flawlessly calculating and perhaps smarmy about the Knack that makes one want to knock them, but that debut album is pure gold. Right down to the closer, “Frustrated”, and its drum part with pounding floor tom and flammed snare during the fade that makes my foot tap involuntarily.

  89. trigmogigmo

    I was looking for an excuse to use it.

    I just pulled the slices of Greg Kihn Band records out. Slightly water damaged sleeves after all these years. Being a bay area kid at the time, they were a favorite. Here’s a couple of good ones. Not much on Youtube.

    “Museum” would be a candidate if it had charted:

    “Hurt So Bad”, you have to stick it out past the 30 second intro:

  90. trigmogigmo

    Good pick! I’d forgotten about that one.

  91. I with BigSteve on I Want You To Want Me over Surrender.

  92. misterioso

    I don’t know, someone will have to tell me if there are some hidden jazz chords in there….

  93. cherguevara

    Me also with BigSteve on “I Want You…” – and I and I with BigSteve on the Joe Jackson tune. But me also feel that dismissing My Sharona outright invalidates this entire discussion. Of course, this puts me in the position of defending Sharona, which is not really where I want to be. But… bear in mind that it was a monster hit, instantly memorable, it’s actually a long song but doesn’t feel long, it rides pretty much the dumbest riff but does so muscularly and proudly. The whole song throbs with sexual tension. It’s a big dumb song – and “Surrender” isn’t exactly high art either.

  94. With Tom Petty and Thin Lizzy (!) playing in the power pop sandbox, I guess now is the time to submit that unheralded power pop masterpiece “More Than a Feeling”.

    I am truly alone on this one.

  95. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! That song definitely merits consideration. I hate Boston, but they were great.

  96. There are few things I desire less than to make anyone feel the need to defend “My Sharona.” Let it be considered for the #3 slot!

    I don’t think I said anything on the subject until now, but whichever Joe Jackson song BigSteve suggested was fine by me. Just none of that stuff past the second album.

  97. Wow, XTC fans and guitarists who struggle with figuring out weird chords, look at what I just found online!


  98. Yeah, save that for “Once & For All: The Third Best Jump Song of the Early ’80s” thread…

  99. alexmagic

    Re: The Cars and “Just What I Needed”, both “My Best Friend’s Girl” and “Good Times Roll” charted from that same album, and “Let’s Go” charted a year laterm, but still within the window we’re talking. (“Moving In Stereo” and “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight”, despite having earned full entrenching in classic rock playlists, don’t appear to have been released to have been able to chart, so we’ll disqualify them.)

    I can see Let’s Go getting eliminated, but I think My Best Friend’s Girl is at least as good as Just What I Needed, and I’d personally rate it as being better.

  100. cliff sovinsanity

    Lush did a fantastic cover of that song. If Avril Lavigne had to pony up money to the Rubinoos, some of it should have gone to Lush.

  101. trigmogigmo

    Cooooool. I find it impossible to figure out those non-basic chord voicings by ear.

  102. 2000 Man

    I really wish I could nominate some Artful Dodger, but they never charted, so far as I know. But Wayside, Think, Think and Scream are suchgreat songs! It’s too bad no one outside of Cleveland seemed to care.

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