The beat has been an integral part of music since primitive man first began banging together bones of animals he hunted for food -- and of pop music since Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock" and "Shake, Rattle and Roll" took the world by storm.
In 1963 the Beatles fused the best elements of beat and pop and the new sounds that erupted with Beatlemania became the shot in the arm that pop music, previously presonified by Bobby Vee and Chubby Checker, sorely needed.
By 1967, however, confusion and uncertainty permeated the pop sounds: Pop music was losing the excitement of the British invasion. The Beatles, so instrumental in pop's rise, helped its decline: They ceased touring, renounced worldly obligations and plunged into Eastern religious and transcendental meditation.
As the '70s came into focus, the outlook for pop music went from bad to worse. Pop lost spontaneity and evolved into an "art form" in which producers, arrangers, composers and technicians conspired to create polished, calculated sounds without the simple catchy feel of the Merseybeat groups.
Meanwhile, the record industry had become more of a corporate entity, taking fewer chances with new acts, pushing the old workhorses to their limits while fostering the myth of the superstar. All these forces eventually disrupted the tide of the industry and forced pop sounds back to the streets, the basements and the garages. Only now are they reappearing with the power of the heyday of the British invasion.
The new pop sounds have awakened a jaded music industry. Pop music has been like an engine waiting for its batteries to be re-charged and two groups have emerged this year to serve this function. Those groups -- aptly named -- are The Beat and The Pop.
The Beat, fronted by Paul Collins (formerly a member of the New Wave group, the Nerves), has released an album full of catchy, extremely accessible tunes. This is straight-ahead rock'n'roll, unpretentious and wary of studio gimmickry.
The first side begins with "Rock & Roll Girl," which seems distined to be the new pop anthem.This song characterizes the trouble plaguing the modern, sensitive 20-year-old male who yearns to meet the perfect rock'n'roll girl without compromising his ideals in a disco world. "A Different Kind of Girl" is reminiscent of a Beach Boys lullaby, with standout harmonies and a powerful guitar solo by Larry Whitman exhibiting flash as well as subtlety. aAll the songs on the first side of the Beat album are characterized by hard, fast, driving choruses, charging to the edge but never losing control.
The second side begins with "Workaday World," a song verging on heavy metal but saved by the change of pace and Collin's distinct vocal style. "Let Me Into Your Life" may well be the hit single from this LP: It sounds like early Buddy Holly crossed with Del Shannon and rocks from start to finish.
If The Beat characterizes crisp, bright rock sounds, The Pop LP has a more densely produced sound with progressive overtones. The album is characterized by a dense drum and 12-string guitar meshing with drums and vocals.
The Pop originated in Los Angeles, and before signing with Arista, realeased their own LP and a few singles on the Automatic label. The Pop LP was produced by Earle Mankey, former member of the L.A. group Sparkes, and a well-known West Coast rock producer.
The Pop LP opens with "Under the Microscope," a Talking Heads-ish tune, but leaning toward the progressive Anglophile approach to pop typified by the Move, or more currently the Radio Stars.
"Shakeaway" is poppy to the point of sounding like the bubblegum sounds of long-gone groups like the Ohio Express and the 1910 Fruitgum Company. "I Want To Touch You," the last song on the first side, is hauntingly Bowie-esque, with a hypnotic riff repeating under the chorus. "I Want To Touch You" is sensual pop for modern teens.
"Waiting for the Night" is possibly the best song on the album, a powerful rocker building up to a tidal wave chorus emphasized by the Pop's dense drum sound. This song could be an AM radio smash.
The 1980s promise to be a new era for rock music. If the industry lacks the presence of a new leader of the caliber of Presley or the Beatles, there is no reason why groups like the Beat and the Pop cannot restore a sense of purpose and direction into the wild cross-currents of modern day pop.