Iâ€™m not scared â€“ Iâ€™ll come right out and say it.
Rick Springfield is one of power popâ€™s unsung heroes and should be held up right next to your Eric Carmens, Matthew Sweets and Alex Chiltons.
While heâ€™s primarily known for his impressive string of hits in the â€˜80s, Springfield actually got started in the early â€˜70s, scoring his first Top 40 hit, â€œSpeak to the Skyâ€, in 1972. Some lean years and a gig as an animated Saturday morning cartoon character on â€œMission Magicâ€ followed, until Rick scored a gig on ABCâ€™s â€œGeneral Hospitalâ€ as Dr. Noah Drake. This just happened to coincide with the release of his â€œWorking Class Dogâ€ album, a record that front to back is packed with power pop classics, like â€œJesseâ€™s Girlâ€, â€œIâ€™ve Done Everything For Youâ€ (written by Sammy Hagar), and my favorite, â€œLove Is Alright Tonightâ€.
“Love Is Alright Tonight” has some seriously evil lyrics, especially coming from a heavily promoted “teen idol”:
Donâ€™t worry daddy, Iâ€™ll have her home at a respectable hour
Go to sleep daddy, you wonâ€™t think about tonight
With the night comes a feeling of incredible power
Gonna love her daddy, sheâ€™ll be feeling it tonight…
Oh, Rick. You scamp.
Thereâ€™s no â€œguiltyâ€ modifier to be added to the pleasure in these songs â€“ theyâ€™re three to three and a half minutes of well-composed, tightly played power pop. Springfieldâ€™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 â€œLove Is Alright Tonightâ€ and crank it, whether itâ€™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, â€œHard to Hold.â€ And musically, he started to veer away from the four-piece guitar-based ensemble and experiment with synths. A LOT of synths. Songs like â€œHuman Touchâ€, â€œCelebrate Youthâ€ and â€œRock of Lifeâ€ 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 â€œState of the Heartâ€.
Rick is still recording today, and even had a sizeable Adult Contemporary hit last year called â€œBeautiful Youâ€. But track for track, you wonâ€™t find anything as powerful as the one-two punch of the â€œWorking Class Dogâ€ and â€œSuccess Hasnâ€™t Spoiled Me Yetâ€ albums. These two need some serious remastering and reissuing.
And power pop history needs to recognize Rick.
â€Love Is Alright Tonightâ€ peaked at #20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1982.
â€œState of the Heartâ€ peaked at #22 on the Hot 100 chart in 1985.