Okay, this isn't exactly news, but one of the nicest things about having the opportunity to vent here on a daily basis is that readers -- people I've never met, for heaven's sake -- frequently are kind enough to turn me on to all sorts of wonderful music I would have otherwise missed; it's no exaggeration to say that much of it has genuinely enriched my life, for which I'm eternally grateful.
But what you're about to hear is...well, words fail me.
The short version: The Kit Kats were a hugely popular live act in the Philadelphia/South Jersey area for several years (roughly from the mid-60s through 1971) and they had a couple of regional hits (the best of which they wrote themselves) before packing it in.
This one -- "That's the Way" -- came out in early 1966. It's a turbo-charged Phil Spector-influenced production mounted at a breakneck speed, with a punk don't-tread-on-me attitude in the lyrics, but it also has a soulful yet otherworldly quality quite unlike anything I've ever encountered. Listen to it and be changed.
Seriously -- at a breathless two minutes and fifteen seconds, that's as concise, exciting and musically sophisticated a record as could be heard in pop music's annis mirabilis, and I can't believe that I had to wait four decades to encounter it.
This one from three years later-- "Won't Find Better (Than Me)" (like it's predecessor, self-penned) -- is also a head turner, if not quite as viscerally overwhelming. It's a remake of the b-side of "That's the Way" (with the band briefly billed as The New Hope) and it was all over the radio in Philly in the winter of '69 and early '70.
I think you'll agree that a very young Bruce Springsteen must have been listening very, very hard to it on his car radio that season; in fact, just about every piano idea on his first three albums sounds to me like it was derived from the first half of the record. And the second half, where you can hear the band copping to their doo-wop roots, is merely gorgeous.
For more on the Kit Kats history, check out this terrific career retrospective; it's an amazing story on a number of levels.
And speaking of amazing, more or less their complete recorded outfit has been lovingly restored and remixed on a two CD set (with video) that you can still get over at Amazon here.
Oh -- and a coveted PowerPop No-Prize in Excelsis goes out to reader William Keen, who thought I might dig this stuff and kindly sent me the audio clips. Dig, of course, doesn't quite get it; the first time I listened to "That's the Way" I felt like somebody had just smacked me upside the head with a 2 X 4.