IÁ¢€â„¢m not scared Á¢€” IÁ¢€â„¢ll come right out and say it.
Rick Springfield is one of power popÁ¢€â„¢s unsung heroes and should be held up right next to your Eric Carmens, Matthew Sweets and Alex Chiltons.
While heÁ¢€â„¢s primarily known for his impressive string of hits in the Á¢€Ëœ80s, Springfield actually got started in the early Á¢€Ëœ70s, scoring his first Top 40 hit, Á¢€Å“Speak to the SkyÁ¢€, in 1972. Some lean years and a gig as an animated Saturday morning cartoon character on Á¢€Å“Mission MagicÁ¢€ followed, until Rick scored a gig on ABCÁ¢€â„¢s Á¢€Å“General HospitalÁ¢€ as Dr. Noah Drake. This just happened to coincide with the release of his Á¢€Å“Working Class DogÁ¢€ album, a record that front to back is packed with power pop classics, like Á¢€Å“JesseÁ¢€â„¢s GirlÁ¢€, Á¢€Å“IÁ¢€â„¢ve Done Everything For YouÁ¢€ (written by Sammy Hagar), and my favorite, Á¢€Å“Love Is Alright TonightÁ¢€.
“Love Is Alright Tonight” has some seriously evil lyrics, especially coming from a heavily promoted “teen idol”:
DonÁ¢€â„¢t worry daddy, IÁ¢€â„¢ll have her home at a respectable hour
Go to sleep daddy, you wonÁ¢€â„¢t think about tonight
With the night comes a feeling of incredible power
Gonna love her daddy, sheÁ¢€â„¢ll be feeling it tonight…
Oh, Rick. You scamp.
ThereÁ¢€â„¢s no Á¢€Å“guiltyÁ¢€ modifier to be added to the pleasure in these songs Á¢€” theyÁ¢€â„¢re three to three and a half minutes of well-composed, tightly played power pop. SpringfieldÁ¢€â„¢s fluffy teen idol image overshadowed the work at the time, but listen to these songs now and they hold up. Timeless. You can put on Á¢€Å“Love Is Alright TonightÁ¢€ and crank it, whether itÁ¢€â„¢s 1981 or 2005. In fact, I often do.
Now, if Rick made any mistakes in his career, it was jumping on the movie gravy train and getting a bit overexposed via his starring vehicle, Á¢€Å“Hard to Hold.Á¢€ And musically, he started to veer away from the four-piece guitar-based ensemble and experiment with synths. A LOT of synths. Songs like Á¢€Å“Human TouchÁ¢€, Á¢€Å“Celebrate YouthÁ¢€ and Á¢€Å“Rock of LifeÁ¢€ are oozing with dated swooshes, bleeps and bloops. But even in this keyboard-heavy later period, Rick could pull out a stunning, deceptively simple song like Á¢€Å“State of the HeartÁ¢€.
Rick is still recording today, and even had a sizeable Adult Contemporary hit last year called Á¢€Å“Beautiful YouÁ¢€. But track for track, you wonÁ¢€â„¢t find anything as powerful as the one-two punch of the Á¢€Å“Working Class DogÁ¢€ and Á¢€Å“Success HasnÁ¢€â„¢t Spoiled Me YetÁ¢€ albums. These two need some serious remastering and reissuing.
And power pop history needs to recognize Rick.
Á¢€Love Is Alright TonightÁ¢€ peaked at #20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1982.
Á¢€Å“State of the HeartÁ¢€ peaked at #22 on the Hot 100 chart in 1985.