Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thursday Essay Question: The Lovin' Spoonful's "You Didn't Have to Be So Nice"

Power pop: Yea or nay?

I have a reason for asking.

The Lovin' Spoonful - You Didn't Have To Be So Nice .mp3
Found at bee mp3 search engine
It has something to do with the foreword I'm writing to a certain book by a certain blogger I know, in case you were wondering.

The song, of course, is from late 1965, which means -- historically -- that it's a little ahead of its time, genre wise.

So where do I come down on the question? Hmm. Let's see.

Gloriously melodic? Check.

Angelic harmonies? Check.

Great guitar riff? Check.

The drummer is totally kicking it? Check.

Yep -- it's power pop.


Ken J Xenozar said...

Hmmm. Not sure I follow you on the guitar riff and drummer. They certainly have other songs in their book that qualify, but I am gonna have buzz in here with a "no". Nice song, but "no".

Dave said...

A big "yea" here.

Sal Nunziato said...

Taking nothing away from all the wonderful material by this wonderful band who I think are wonderful, I say no.

Most of their output, though boasting the melodies, harmonies and great guitar riffs, seems to be acoustic and folk based. I've never thought of the Spoonful as power pop.

I need to hear guitars that either jangle or crunch and heavier drums.

That's just me.

Faze said...

There's a good solid density to the production, great self-confidence and desire to please. The song doesn't look backward, declares itself with authority, and charms without ingratiating. That's power. That's power pop.

Edward said...


Summer In The City one would think is their real power pop. This song always seemed like something the Cowsills should have done. Has the pop, but not the power.

Michael said...

Using the word power in reference to this song is like using the word macho when describing Andy Dick.
I like the song for the melody and guitar, but power pop it ain't.
Folk pop, at bit twee.

fmcg said...

Nice song,but not power pop.

There is of course a huge crowd of terrific imports from our friendly neighbor to the north, and I think Zal Yanovsky was one of the best.

TMink said...

A fantastic song. It begs for a power pop version, but this is glorious pop. I think it approaches the power pop abyss, but remains safely on solid pop. YMMV.

DB said...

I say "nay".

Great stuff, but more pop than power.

My wife asked me once what power pop is. I came down to a short and simple statement:

"Rock instrumentation with a pop sensibility."


The music is usually dominated by guitars and drums;

There is usually vocal harmony;

There is a strong "hook" in either the music or the lyrics.

To your question, it seems to me that there are plenty of bands in other genres of rock -- say, folk rock -- who turn out an accidentally terrific piece of power pop.

I'm thinking of Barenaked Ladies' "It's All Been Done" as an example. You wouldn't call that band power pop, but that song is absolutely a great power pop tune.

The Spoonful tune above is glorious, summery pop, but it lacks the rock edge.

Kid Charlemagne said...


Ken J Xenozar said...

Steven, perhaps more important than this song in particular, you have provided the appropriate criteria.

Now I am thinking about other songs that may straddle that abyss from pop to power pop.

For example, Monkees "Daydream Believer" = Not. Monkees "I'm a Believer" = Yes. Difference being the guitar and drums, and a more ballsy melody.

I am wondering about the vocal harmonies requirement. Sure helps, but not sure it is necessary.

Mike said...

As great as the Spoonful were, I'll have to vote "no" on this one.

My extremely basic definition of power pop would be "a Beatles song as performed by the Who." It's a bit too mellow to qualify, I'm afraid.

steve simels said...

"A Beatles song performed by The Who" is actually the best definition of the genre term I've ever heard -- my hat's off to you.

I should add that my 80s skinny tie band used to do the song live; it was one of the first things we decided to cover when we got together and I absolutely loved playing it. Really aggressively, in point of fact.

So perhaps that's influenced my perception of it...

Noam Sane said...

I'm a yes, based on the powerful guitar-and-organ bridge and outro, but I'll admit to always having been cloudy on that term.

I'd prefer to see it as a black-and-white proposition: there's wan pop, and there's power pop. There's A-Ha, and there's the Spoonful. So I guess I'd define it per-band, rather than per-song.

I think it's a damn good song, regardless of what box you put it in.

Wendy said...

"A Beatles song performed by The Who"

Yeah, that's perfect.

I'll have to side with the majority on this one ... "Summer in the City", for sure, but I think this one is a bit too sweet.

Now, what about The Turtles' "Happy Together"?

Sal Nunziato said...

"She'd Rather Be With Me," yes.

"Elenore," very close.

"Happy Together," no.


I have no idea.

But may I also add my two cents about how perfect the "Beatles by The Who" description is.

Anonymous said...

Question: Is or is not folk rock part of the power pop genre? Ie, would Mr. Tambourine make the cut? Or Feel A Whole Lot Better?

If so... The Spoonful represent East Coast, non-Dylan based folk rock (they were more into Gus Cannon). But it's still folk rock. Plus I'm prejudiced. So I'm voting yes.


Sal Nunziato said...

Couldn't a band have a power pop song or two and not be power pop? I think Todd Rundgren, thanks to "Couldn't I Just Tell You" and "Open My Eyes" and some Utopia tracks gets that label occasionally, but he has more songs that don't sound like that than do.

Michael said...

Sal is right. The Who, especially early Who, practically define PP -
I Can't Explain, I Can See For Miles, The Kids are Alright (Penultimate PP), but went on produce more rock than PP.
Same with the Kinks, some great PP, but that's not all that they did.

Noam Sane said...

"a Beatles song as performed by the Who."

What about a Beatles song performed by the Beatles? "Paperback Writer" anyone? (among many others). Not so sure about that definition.

This is a real gray area.

Anonymous said...

Borderline. Very close but just not quite there as Power Pop.

This is a great debate. How would anybody define the Hollies "Look Through Any Window" & "I Can't Let Go"?
I feel Power Pop start with those two songs.


MBowen said...

I think the biggest problem here with calling this "power pop" isn't the instrumentation or any of that - it's the lack of urgency in the vocals. Sebastian is just too laid-back on this one to deserve the "power" part. "Do You Believe In Magic?" is less arguable, because it has that feeling that John Sebastian was actually leaning forward into the mike.

Either way, both of them are two of the greatest singles ever.

geor3ge said...

"Happy Together," no.

What about "Happy Together" as performed with the Mothers?

[word verification: "mantint"]

Mike said...

I wish I could take credit for the "a Beatles song as performed by the Who" definition, but I'm sure I copped that from somewhere else. I'm clever, but not *that* clever.

Maybe Eric Carmen came up with that.

While we're on the tangent, how far back can we define PP? Will Birch of The Records went as far back as 1964 when he included When You Walk In The Room by the Searchers in an article once ( Anybody got the Colbert balls to take it back to Buddy Holly?

Shriner said...

The tricky thing to get over is the folk-rock band label (as mentioned above).

When I think of the Spoonful (at least when I peruse the Anthology), I don't see Power-Pop beyond Summer in the City (and maybe Do You Believe In Magic).

YDHTBSN, is very close from a band you don't normally think as Power Pop.

As close as "Elenore", "Go Where You Wanna Go" (Mamas & Papas), "You Were On My Mind" by the We Five, "Laugh Laugh"

Personally, I think any song that has a key change in the middle (YWOMM, above) probably tips over the defining line (why isn't that used more these days?)

had a list of somebody's "100 best folk rock songs". The vast majority of them -- *not* PowerPop. A couple of them? "The Pied Piper"? Hmm...

Shriner said...

And what about some songs considered "Bubblegum"?

There's another fine line as to if any of them could be considered Power Pop.

Sugar Sugar? No.

I Woke Up In Love This Morning? Maybe.

Little Bit O' Soul? I'm a Believer? I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight? Gimme Gimme Good Lovin?

A case could be made for each of those...

Anonymous said...

Pop si...power no. The Spoonful undoubtedly are an important band in the context of '60's great radio rock and roll....but not power exception: in agreement with Michael's comment...Summer in the City is decidedly powerful...thanks to Joe Butler's percussion...

Anonymous said...

Sorry...that Summer in the City comment was not Michael, but Edward...I'm a stickler...what can I say?

dave™© said...

I remember hearing a bootleg of an early mix of "Paperback Writer" where the guitar break was heavily "phased" and the drums were placed WAY up front and echoed. Sounded like the Jam! Talk about "power pop"...

Anonymous said...

my favorite song in the world? check.

Anything Should Happen said...

It's hard to define Power Pop now because it's become such a wide circle.

The I Love You Yes I Do stuff it was perhaps originally as veered wildly.

Weightier lyrical stuff from the likes of Falkner and Penn is now bracketted with the three minute pop song.

I'd say yes to The Lovin' Spoonful just.

I saw the Beatles / Who comparison. I always thought that Power Pop had more in common with Merseybeat than The Beatles.

For me even though the genre is firmly rooted in The States and then Australia, the ultimate Power Pop band for me is Badfinger.

I remember saying to someone that us Brits gave the States Power Pop via The Beatles and Merseybeat, but the States gave it us back with balls on.

Shteeve said...

Awesome question and discussion. I love the Spoonful, but I've never thought of them in the context of power pop; they're a hippie folk bubblegum pop band, which is a slightly different ilk. :-) I could definitely hear some of their songs lending them to the power pop treatment, but it wasn't their metier.

Anonymous said...

I cant say I've ever heard anything by the Lovin' Spoonful that I would put a power pop label on.How about the beginnings with "A Beatles song done by the Stones"? Although "When you walk in the room" is a great power pop song,Will Birch has probably never heard the Stones doing "I wanna be your man" with it's drivin' Wyman bass.Or how about the Kinks'"You do something to me" or "All day and...". ASH-To me Australia bands seemed to drop the ball alittle in the power pop stakes.The Easybeats were supreme but that was it really.Badfinger was great but it should be the Rasberries that everyone looks up to!