The Records: “Starry Eyes”
It probably wasn’t until at some point in high school that I came to learn of, and understand, the term “power pop.” It’s not always completely clear-cut, but to me it basically means concise, energetic, melodic, mostly guitar-based songs springing from a deep devotion to the Beatles. It doesn’t always need to be Beatlesque, exactly, but you can almost guarantee that any musician playing power-pop loves the Beatles. You also need to mention Badfinger and Big Star in there somewhere, but they too are strongly defined by their Beatles influences. Nonetheless, you could also make a case that it goes back farther than the Beatles, specifically to Buddy Holly. His short, catchy pop nuggets most certainly laid the groundwork for a lot of what the Beatles did, and you can hear his influence very clearly in the music of many power-poppers, maybe most obviously in the songs of Marshall Crenshaw.
But back to high school: the song that was released my freshman year and taught me what power pop truly is (at which point I recognized that it’s also what the Cars had been doing on their first couple of albums) was “Starry Eyes,” by the Records. To this day I consider it to be the definition of pure, classic power pop. The Records were a British band that came out of the pub rock scene, from which also emerged the likes of power-poppers Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello. The Records didn’t stick around for all that long, sadly, but they did record three albums, at least two of which are fantastic. They will probably always be considered a one-hit wonder for “Starry Eyes,” but that’s an inaccurate label. I spent many hours listening to their 1979 debut album, The Records (originally titled Shades in Bed in the U.K.), and I can confirm that they had a lot more great stuff where “Starry Eyes” came from. It just didn’t all make it to the public consciousness, at least in the U.S. Nonetheless, it would be nearly impossible to truly match this song — it will always be one of the ultimate inspirations for any band wishing to play great power pop.