A great hard rock & power pop band that somehow fell through the cracks in the late ’70’s, Starz had all the ingredients to make it big– a band of seasoned professionals with a charismatic frontman, a big-name manager, and a record deal with Capitol Records… but while bands like Foreigner, Styx & Boston sold millions of records, Starz just couldn’t break thru to a larger audience.  Too bad, because these guys had some great rock tunes.  Here’s one of their power-pop tracks that serves as a great example of how to write a catchy, memorable song.

Special thanks to the RockNPod Expo for connecting me with the guys in the band.

“She” (Peter Sweval, Joe X. Dube, Michael Lee Smith, Brendan Harkin & Richie Ranno) Copyright 1978 Starzongo Music, Inc/Rock Steady Music, Inc/ASCAP

Aretha Franklin recorded over 40 albums during her career; this episode, we revisit a song from her breakthrough album, “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You” from 1967. This was actually her 11th album (!), but it was the first one recorded for Atlantic Records and it’s the one that made her a legend. Aretha Franklin was probably the single most influential singer of our time– just listen to any episode of American Idol for proof.

Aretha was not only a great vocalist, she was one of the greatest interpreters of songs in history. She didn’t just cover a song, she made it her own. “A Change Is Gonna Come” was Sam Cooke’s finest moment, but Aretha strips it down to its purest form and imbues it with pain, world-weariness, and hope – one of the greatest emotionally cathartic moments on record.

“A Change Is Gonna Come” (Sam Cooke) Copyright Kags, BMI

Who’s the greatest singer in rock history? You could make an argument that it’s Glenn Hughes. He’s played & recorded with Trapeze, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Gary Moore, KLF… and released a collection of great solo albums. He’s an amazing hard rock vocalist & bass player, but my favorite stuff is when he’s getting funky– real funky. This track combines the funk with the hard rock – the best combo since Reese’s put peanut butter in their chocolate. (Do you have to be a certain age to get that reference?) Regardless, Crank It Up! 

“Crave” (Glenn Hughes) Copyright 2008 Ponce Songs (BMI)

Every artist wants to pay tribute to the people who inspired them.  No one’s ever done it better than The Replacements’ tribute to Alex Chilton.  This song has a great hook and a chorus that stays with you… It’s stayed with me so long that I named this podcast after it.  

“Alex Chilton” (Paul Westerberg, Tommy Stinson & Chris Mars) Copyright 1987 Done To Death Music (ASCAP), Nah Music (ASCAP) and Chris Mars Publishing Inc.

Living under The Beatles’ shadow was a blessing and a curse for Badfinger.  One of the greatest Power Pop bands of all time, they crafted a catalog of great songs that defined the genre.  “Day After Day” is one of the greatest singles of all time, featuring a beautiful melody, great performances, and a guest appearance by a Beatle.  What more could you want?  This song deserves a place in history.

“Day After Day” (Pete Ham) Copyright 1971 Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

Adrian Belew is best known as a brilliant sideman & guitar foil (Frank Zappa, David Bowie, Talking Heads) and a member of King Crimson, but most people are unaware of his “band on the side”, The Bears.  The other 3 members are no slouches either– this was really a band of 4 equal members that could all write great songs.  The Bears blend Art-Rock and Power Pop in their own distinctive way.  This song features lead vocals by 3 members, and packs plenty of substance & meaning into a 4:53 pop song.  If you’re unfamiliar with The Bears, this song provides a great entry point.

“As You Are” (The Bears) Copyright 2001 Car Caught Fire Music/ASCAP

When a great soul singer meets a song by one of the great pop songwriting teams, magic ensues.  Al Green takes a song by the Bee Gees and turns it into one of the classic singles of all time.  Let’s nurse our broken hearts together as we dig into this amazing song.  Please take a minute to share this podcast, and thanks for spreading the word!

“How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” (Barry Gibb & Robin Gibb) Copyright 1971 Gibb Brothers Music

Writing a hit song about writing a hit song?  Genius!  This song has everything a great pop-rock song needs– a memorable melody, great chorus, smart lyrics and killer vocals.  This song always makes me smile.  Don’t forget to share & leave comments!

“Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)” (Eric Carmen) Copyright 1974 C.A.M. USA Inc.

Kiss was the band that turned a generation of kids — including me — into rock & roll obsessives.  Love ’em or hate ’em, Kiss became huge stars after the release of the “Destroyer” album in 1976.  This is one of my favorite songs on the album, and features some off-the-wall moments like circus instruments, odd time signatures and a mysterious guitar solo.  Your uniform is leather, your power is your age– set the world on fire, baby!

“Flaming Youth” (Ace Frehley/Paul Stanley/Gene Simmons/Bob Ezrin) Copyright 1976 Cafe Americana, Inc/Kiss Songs, Inc (ASCAP)/All By Myself Publishing Co Ltd. (BMI)

Utopia is back together for a reunion tour this Spring (2018), so there’s no better time to revisit one of their great songs. I think this era of Utopia pretty much invented “Progressive Pop” and this song is a great example of their songcraft and musical skills. See you on the road to Utopia! (And don’t forget to share this podcast with friends, leave comments on iTunes, etc. It really helps!) 

“The Road To Utopia” (Utopia) Copyright 1980 Fiction Music/Utopia (BMI)