I’ve often written about the power pop genre on this blog, and I want to recommend a fantastic book on the subject by the prolific author Ken Sharp. Mr. Sharp has previously written some fantastic books on Cheap Trick, Elvis, John Lennon and many other musical subjects. PLAY ON! Power Pop Heroes, Volume 1 may be his best yet. It’s a comprehensive work featuring in depth interviews with the architects of the genre, as well as later bands who were inspired by them. The first volume of this three part series features artists such as The Beatles, The Who, The Bee Gees, The Turtles, The Knickerbockers and many more. If you’re a fan, you’ll love these fascinating, incisive and revealing interviews.
The style of the interviews is informal & accessible, and you’ll feel like you’re sitting in the room with Ken & his subjects, hearing great (and in some cases, no holds barred) stories from members of The Beach Boys, The Left Banke, The Byrds & The Small Faces. The interviews also include comments from the geniuses behind the scenes, like producers George Martin & John Fry and songwriters Tony Asher & Graham Gouldman, among others. In addition, there’s track-by-track analysis of such classic albums as Pet Sounds, There Are But Four Small Faces, and Nazz, as well as other influential & fondly remembered songs by the featured artists. It’s a treasure trove of information, and even if you know your rock & pop history, I guarantee you’ll learn some new things about these artists after reading these in depth profiles.
The bad news is that PLAY ON! Power Pop Heroes, Volume 1 is currently out of print, though a reprint of the first volume is hopefully coming soon. You may be able to find a used copy online, but I can’t make any promises. The good news is that Volume 2 of the series is coming out soon, and you can pre-order a copy here: http://popgeek.highwire.com/products?search=play+on. This second book in the series will feature artists like The Flamin’ Groovies, Cheap Trick & The Babys, and will be a whopping 765 pages. I suggest ordering this book now, if you're a fan of the genre. If you pre-order before March 31, there are some cool digital bonuses included. A third volume that completes the series will follow later this year.
This is one of the best and most enjoyable books on power pop and rock & roll history I've ever read. I highly recommend checking out the PLAY ON! series, and while you’re at it, look for some of Ken’s other great books, including his history of the early days of KISS, Nothin' to Lose: The Making of KISS (1972-1975), which he co-authored with Paul Stanley & Gene Simmons. By the way, Ken's a musician himself with several fine albums to his credit, as well as a diehard music fan, so he knows both sides of the world he's writing about in these excellent books. If you’re a rock music aficionado, you won't regret checking out the work of the talented Mr. Sharp.