Today is the birthday of the man with the 12 string bass, Cheap Trick’s Tom Petersson. Before he even started playing that special bass, Petersson’s presence as a player was obvious. On Cheap Trick’s debut album, his bass playing on songs like “He’s a Whore” and “Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace” showed that he was already a master of the instrument. He finally unleashed his signature instrument (designed by Hamer Guitars) on the band’s third album “Heaven Tonight”. His style truly fit the power pop style, as he has such a strong rock presence, but can play as melodically as needed. Tom had a hiatus from the band as he tried to start a solo career, but eventually came back and still rocks out at shows all over, getting his turn in the spotlight on his one Cheap Trick lead vocal, “I Know What I Want”. In Tom’s honor, please grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 songs that come up.
Rose Elinor Dougall – Carry On (Without Why): This was the single from the debut album from this former member of The Pipettes. There is a great melancholy ‘60s pop quality throughout the album, but this song is more propulsive and rocking, yet fitting the torchy tone of the LP. Her second album is due out later this year, and I’m really looking forward to it.
Portishead – Humming (Portishead): This is from Portishead’s second studio album, where they recorded music to cut up and sample. And the result of this novel technique was a fine follow up to their first album, as the band found a way to keep their familiar style with some new challenges. This is basically Trip Hop 101 as Beth Gibbons sounds as anguished as ever.
Aton – Yellow Ribbon (Home Schooled: The ABCs of Kid Soul): This is from a Numero Group compilation of ‘60s and ‘70s pre-teen and teen soul bands. This starts off as a funk based ballad and then blends in Dawn’s “Tie A Yellow Ribbon” with a Latin-funk arrangement. Truly original.
Trees – Midnight In America (Sleep Convention): Dane Conover only made one album as Trees, but it is a gem of ‘80s synth-rock. This has a bit of a spy movie feel to it (so maybe it should have followed the Portishead track). It’s not as poppy as some songs, but it has a dramatic flair that works.
The Byrds – The World Turns All Around Her (Turn! Turn! Turn!): Early folk rock majesty from a band that seems to be overlooked nowadays. The jangly guitars, the stately melodies and wonderful harmony vocals – this is proto-Fleet Foxes!
Maxine Darren – Don’t You Know (You Can Be Wrong About the Boys – Volume 1): Hey, another song from a compilation of British girl pop. And this really girlish, a mid-tempo song that mixes some twang guitar, British Invasion Dave Clark Five style pop with a girl group-y middle eight.
Todd Rundgren – Breathless (Something/Anything?): An early use of a drum machine and vocoder on this track from Todd’s classic double album. The song has almost a lounge music vibe to it, but Rundgren throws in some keyboard lines that have his melodic stamp. This had to sound very futuristic back in the day.
The Who – Pictures of Lily (BBC Sessions): A fine version of this Who single that winkingly took on masturbation. If anything, this BBC recording is a bit more twee than the studio original.
Tavares – She’s Gone (The Best of Tavares): Tavares had a big R & B hit with this Hall & Oates tune. In fact, this charted well before H & O made it to Billboard. The song is a great fit for this underrated ‘70s vocal group. A wise choice was made to just use the original arrangement. The Hall & Oates version only became a pop hit when it was re-released after the success of “Sara Smile”.
Fools Face – Two Hands (Fools Face): This is from the fine reunion album from this ‘80s power pop band from Springfield, Missouri. This song starts off with a crunchy guitar riff and underneath the brawn, this is very much a late ‘70s skinny tie power pop song, even in the lyric, which has a certain innocence about it. After the first chorus, there is a harmony vocal interlude to die for. I wish these guys had made many more records.