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I'm the co-host of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org).  As a freelance writer, I contributed to Goldmine magazine from 1986-2006, wrote liner notes for Rhino Records' compilation CD Poptopia!  Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, and for releases by The Flashcubes, The Finkers, Screen Test, 1.4.5., and Jack "Penetrator" Lipton.  I contributed to the books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, Lost In The Grooves, and MusicHound Rock, and to DISCoveries, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer's Guide, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Comics Collector, The Buffalo News, and The Syracuse New Times.  I also wrote the liner notes for the four THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO compilation CDs, because, well, who could stop me?  My standing offer to write liner notes for a Bay City Rollers compilation has remained criminally ignored.  Still intend to write and sell a Batman story someday.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

TIRnRR # 4, Track By Track: Popdudes, "She Is Funny (In That Way)"

This is part of a series of short pieces discussing each of the 29 tracks on our new compilation CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4The CD can be ordered at Kool Kat Musik.

14. POPDUDES: "She Is Funny (In That Way)"

Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans.

John M. Borack and I both started freelancing for Goldmine magazine at roughly the same time, in late 1986. In short order, we (along with Ken Sharp) became Goldmine's pop guys, then-editor Jeff Tamarkin's go-tos when he needed someone to write about Dwight Twilley or The Flamin' Groovies. John and I pestered Jeff for years to let us do an all-power pop issue of GM, a tabloid project which finally saw the light of day in the magazine's January 5, 1996 issue. We worked independently, and I betcha I can speak for John when I say that we were delighted with the final result. The issue sold well, letters of comment were positive and encouraging, and we took pride in a job well done.

(Few remember that John was, I'm pretty sure, the first writer to cover The Flashcubes in Goldmine, with a review of 'Cubes bassist Gary Frenay's cassette anthology The Gary Frenay Songbook. John reviewed the first Flashcubes CD Bright Lights after I recused myself from the task. In the late '90s, both of us were thinking of pitching a regular pure pop column to Goldmine, and we briefly discussed combining our efforts into a printed pop chat to be called The Jangling Conversation; the editor [Mike Metzger, I think?] expressed tentative interest, but he wasn't editor long enough for it to happen, and we let the matter drop.)

Although we've never collaborated directly on any writing project (at least in terms of actually co-writing something), John, Ken, and I did discuss the idea of working together to create a definitive book about power pop. We exchanged concepts and ideas, but the project sort of faded away. Ken, of course, is currently pursuing his own fab multi-volume pop book series Play On! Power Pop Heroes, in addition to many other fine tomes on the subject of KISS, Cheap Trick, David Bowie, and John & Yoko. John did his own pop book, Shake Some Action (to which I also contributed my own History Of Power Pop), as well as the wonderful book John Lennon: Life Is What Happens, with the eagerly-anticipated The Beatles: 100 Pivotal Moments That Shaped a Band And Its Music on its way.

Me? I got a blog. What's it to ya?

John's also a drummer. A writin' drummer! Or a drummin' writer--I can never keep the billing straight. John's combo Popdudes features a revolving and evolving cast of ace players, and they've recorded tracks for a number of compilations over the years. Robbie Rist sang lead on the two Popdudes tracks that have appeared on previous TIRnRR collections ("Desperation Time" on Volume 1, "High" on Volume 3), and there really oughtta be a full-length Popdudes album already. I'm told there will be such a thing soon, and I recommend you buy that when it happens.

In the mean time, John offered us an unreleased track for This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4. "She Is Funny (In That Way)" was written by guitarist and lead singer Torbjörn Petersson of the Swedish pop group Tor Guides, and originally recorded as a side project involving Tor, John, Karen Basset (of The Pandoras), and the lovably ubiquitous Keith Klingensmith. Man, YouTube gets all the great tracks! But that's a Popdudes kind of line-up right there, and John wisely deemed the track too essential to languish in anonymity. It will appear on the eventual Popdudes album, but we're thrilled to give it its first CD release right here.

With this track, John achieves what I believe to be an all-time TIRnRR disc MVP status, or really co-MVP with our Keith Klingensmith. I guess I'd have to check the records to really be sure, but what the hell fun is that? Hyperbole rules! John is the percussion stylist on three TIRnRR # 4 tracks, by The Slapbacks, Irene Peña, and Popdudes; Keith appears here with The Slapbacks, Popdudes, and The Legal Matters. So John and Keith are the first musicians to ever play on more than two tracks within a single TIRnRR disc. Yes, of course that's a milestone worthy of large bold type on their resumes--they're Popdudes! (If we count TIRnRR show bumpers, then John and Keith also need to share their virtual trophy with Bruce Gordon, who appears here with Pop Co-Op and Mr. Encrypto & the Cyphers, plus the "Harmony Cathedral" ID spot. I say they make Bruce an honorary Popdude--think of the great music that would come outta that!) 

John still writes for Goldmine. I stopped in 2006, feeling frustrated and increasingly disinterested in continuing. This had nothing to do with anyone at Goldmine; I have only good wishes for the magazine that meant so much to my development as a writer. But I never felt as comfortable in my role after Jeff Tamarkin left. It wasn't fun anymore, so I stopped doing it. I nearly stopped writing altogether, really only bothering with TIRnRR and the occasional liner-notes project. When I realized how much I missed writing, I began Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do) in 2016. The blog fulfills that need for me just like Goldmine used to.

And John keeps fighting the good fight on behalf of pop music. He keeps writing. He keeps playing. He keeps the faith. He does all this while maintaining his more important duties as husband and father, brother, manager, pundit, and--for all I know--the finest swordsman in all of France. Okay, maybe not that last one. Though, y'know, maybe. He balances his responsibilities and his passions, and makes things better. Pop, dude. This dude is still at it, and he's still got it. Thanks, John. Life is what happens. It's funny in that way.

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