Monday, March 10, 2008

Guilty Pleasures Part Four - The Curse of Being "Beatlesque"

UPDATE: Welcome to visitors from; appreciate you stopping by.

When you consider popular music for the last 40-50 years, it would be difficult to find an act that is more universally loved and understood than the Beatles. My daughter was born fully 30 years after the Beatles completed their last recordings, but she knows their music. No other band has been able to match the combination of melodicism, intelligence and 50,000 watt personality that the Fab Four gave the world. There was something magic about them and about their moment, which became all too clear as the four went on to solo careers that rarely matched the excitement that the boys managed together.

Because the Beatles were so good, and so influential, many acts that have exhibited some of the hallmarks of the Beatles sound have suffered for the comparison. One band that had the tag was Badfinger, which signed with Apple Records, had a number of hit singles, but despite notable success never approached the fame of their patrons and later suffered a series of misfortunes, including the suicide of two members.

Another band that got tagged Beatlesque is one of our contestants today, the Raspberries, who came cruising out of Ohio in 1970 with matching suits, tight harmonies and sprightly guitar. They had a charismatic frontman in Eric Carmen and managed to get a number of hits in the mid 70s. But they never quite hit it big, either. Carmen later went on to have a highly successful (and irritating) solo career as an overwrought balladeer. But back in the day, the Raspberries were awfully good.

Ten years later, an all-girl band emerged from the "Paisley Underground" scene in Los Angeles and also got the Beatlesque tag. This would be our other contestant, the Bangles. The Bangles had a lot going for them - they were attractive, they could play and they could sing tight harmonies that reminded many of the Fab Four. But they were a lot like the Raspberries in one crucial way -- maddeningly inconsistent. When I listen to the Bangles today, some of their stuff is flat-out brilliant, but they are probably best remembered for their hit single "Manic Monday," which is a trifle.

Neither of these bands were ever close to being the Beatles, but for a few fleeting moments, there was some magic in their performances. Which brings us to tonight's contest.

In this corner,

"Go All the Way," by the Raspberries from a late 1973 appearance on the "Mike Douglas Show."

And in this corner,

"Hero Takes a Fall" by the Bangles from late 1984; you'll have to ignore the clowns who introduce the video.

Give us your winner and, if you feel like it, tell us who has better hair - Eric Carmen or Bangles frontwoman Susannah Hoffs. The ballot box is open.


Anonymous said...

I'd have to vote The Raspberries out of that selection, but prefer Big Star's Ballad of El Goodo, THE great American power pop band formed by Alex Chilton and Chris Bell, that came out of Memphis, of all places, and wanted to sound like the Beatles when disco and punk were all the rage. Like the Velvet Underground, I guess they probably sold about 4,000 copies of their excellent debut album, though I don't know if everyone who bought it formed a band.

I would have to put the word in for Klaatu's "Subrosa Subway," but perhaps you can't vote them as a Beatle sound alike when there are still conspiracy theorists out there who think they were the Beatles. I would not put a word in for The Carpenter's Klaatu cover, "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Space."

A. Truck Driver

Gino said...

amazing. a cold frontier boy knows the paisley underground.
i was abig fan of 'salvation army', before they became 'three o'clock.', back when they were part of the south bay hardcore scene.
used to watch them regularly before they even cut there first single. i have a more personal conection that i wont go into here, but...
it was the frontman of salvation who coined the term paisly underground. wiki it.
and then go to myspace and look up 'salvation army'. you'll get a taste of who they were and then myspace 'three o'clock', and see who they became.

i love salvation army, and STILL play their music (on CD now). imagine if the ramones and the monkees had a love child: THAT child is salvation army.

Gino said...

oh, my pick...
the raspberries. the bangles are just too chickish for me.

Strolling Amok said...

Gino - the Bangles are too chickish? I think you might want to check out that Raspberries video again - Eric Carmen looks like he's auditioning to replace Jaclyn Smith in Charlie's Angels.
Bangles all the way - gawd I had a crush on Susanna Hoffs.

Mr. D said...

You weren't alone in having a crush on Susannah Hoffs, good sir.

Gino said...

SA: i mean the music was too chickish. not the band.
yeah, the raspberries do look rather gay,though.

Anonymous said...

I am going with the Raspberries. You gotta love that Raspberries album cover. It is so awesomely bad. They look like they just walked out of a Century 21 Realtors convention.

Anonymous said...

Eric Carmen 'Irritating'?

The man is a genius, with or without The Raspberries. The only unfortunate thing about The Raspberries is they happened to come along at a time when the Beatles left a huge void to fill.

And might I add, they filled it very nicely. Today they are back and beter then ever. The world missed them the first time around, I only hope it doesn't make the same mistake twice. They are that good.

skint & slab said...

having seen 2 of the Raspberries reunion shows this past year, i'm here to confirm these guys dug in & basically established the roots & the trunk of the power pop family tree as we know it today. btw, Eric Carmen's hair beats Susannah Hoff's on songwriting merit alone - EC never had to have Prince write him a hit song!

Anonymous said... contest......raspberries win big with their tight, massively powerful-pop confections........i wouldn't even include the bangles in the same conversation............