Bill Popp & The Tapes

THE BILL POPP STORY: From The Beatles To Punk By Alex Henderson Inspired by the British Invasion rock of the 1960s as well as the punk rock and new wave of the 1970s and 1980s, Bill Popp is a distinctive singer and prolific composer whose music is as melodic as it is energetic. In fact, the native New Yorker’s CDs “POPP THIS,” “INSIDES” and “BLIND LOVE SEES TEARS” (all of which are available on Popp’s own label, 121st Street Records) are so British-influenced that if you never heard Popp speak with a strong Queens accent, you’d swear he was British himself. Popp (who grew up in the working class section of Queens known as College Point), had yet to reach adolescence when he fell in love with the music of The Beatles. The singer was also drawn to fellow British Invasion icons like The Yardbirds, The Kinks and The Zombies, and the songs he began composing as a teen-ager clearly reflected his passion for strong melodies as well as rockin’ aggression. After graduating from high school in the 1970s, Popp became aware of punk and new wave—in fact, one of the bands Popp led, The Popsicles, included guitarist Keith Streng, who went on to enjoy recognition as a member of The Fleshtones. “I think that what really made me start working hard at my music was my mother’s death from cancer in 1978," stresses Popp, who has toured Europe extensively as a solo artist and has performed in Germany, Denmark, Holland and Switzerland as well as England, Ireland and Spain. “I had told her I’d try to become a full-time musician, and I felt I owed it to her memory to really pursue a career in music. So I started burying myself in my music. A day after my mother died, I wrote ‘She’s In The Sky’ for her—and I still do that song to this day.” It was in 1981 that Popp founded his band, The Tapes, whose main focus was his own material. Songs Popp had written in the late 1970s—including "She’s In The Sky" and the passionate "Don’t Hold It Against Me"—became a permanent part of his band’s repertoire. “The Tapes wanted to combine the raw energy of punk and new wave with the pop melodies of British Invasion rock,” Popp notes. “I had played new wave in various bands I was in before The Tapes, but The Beatles were still my main influence.” Popp’s first single, “Love And Lust”/”Floating On A Teardrop,” was released in 1982—followed by the quirky “Too Many Stars” and its B side ”Just Like In The Movies” in 1984. Popp recalls: “’Too Many Stars’ was inspired by seeing so many people walking around clubs like they were stars. None of these guys were known at all, but they thought they were stars.” Along the way, Popp received a great deal of encouragement from his father George L. Popp, a.k.a. “Daddy Tapes.” After his father’s death from a heart attack in 1986, Popp began honoring his memory with annual benefit concerts for the American Heart Association. Ironically, Popp was in the process of organizing his American Heart Association benefit concert for 2006 when he was diagnosed with the very thing that had claimed his father’s life twenty years earlier—heart disease--but after undergoing quadruple bypass surgery, Popp made a full recovery and continued to write material for his fourth album with the Tapes (due out sometime in 2007). The Tapes went through their share of personnel changes over the years, but the band always reflected the leader’s knack for warm melodies and strong hooks. In 2007, The Tapes’ lineup includes Popp on lead vocals and keyboards, Jerry Barnas on guitar, Mary Noecker on electric bass and Roger Foster on drums. Many of the songs that Popp had been performing regularly in the 1980s—including the reflective “One Door Slams” and the gutsy “Punk Girls”—found their way to his debut album of 1990, “POPP THIS,” which enjoyed a great deal of favorable press. BILLBOARD praised his “infectious pop tunes” and stated, “Popp knows his way around a hook,” while CASH BOX noted his “definite knack for haunting melodies and harmonies” and Tower Records’ PULSE! felt that his songs were “warm and appealing.” THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS said, “In truth, a tune like ‘She’s In The Sky’ doesn’t ever lose its value or appeal—it just needs to be heard.” Released in 1996, Popp’s second album, “INSIDES,” received equally enthusiastic reviews. The highly respected ALL MUSIC GUIDE exalted “INSIDES” as “one of the most honest and captivating rock releases of 1996,” while THE MANHATTAN MIRROR described Popp as having “a sound that begins where The Beatles left off,” and THE BOSTON PHOENIX called Popp “The Elton John of Downtown Manhattan.” THE ALL MUSIC GUIDE had nothing but praise for songs ranging from the poetic “Zippora” (an ode to a dancer for the New York Ballet) to the insistent “Stone To Throw.” The rave reviews continued in 2001, when Popp’s album, “BLIND LOVE SEES TEARS,” was released. THE NEW YORK PRESS enthused, “Bill is a master songwriter, and his tunes are both catchy and haunting,” while NEW YORK NEWS DAY said, “Blind Love Sees Tears will drive lovers of power pop to tears of joy.” THE VILLAGE VOICE described “BLIND LOVE SEES TEARS” as “a fine, ‘60s Brit-Invasion-inspired collection of power pop,” and GOOD TIMES MAGAZINE called it an “intelligent, catchy-as-all-hell album.” Playing live, Popp has found the most popular song from “INSIDES” to be the infectious “Sidewalk Dance.” Written in the 1980s, “Sidewalk Dance” was inspired by the hip-hop break dancers he had seen when his “day gig” as a plumber for the City Of New York brought him to poor inner-city neighborhoods. “When I was working in Brooklyn,” Popp remembers, “I had to go into some horrible, broken-down neighborhoods. But I saw that some of the kids who were into break dancing seemed happy even though they were surrounded by poverty and abandoned, burned-out buildings. As bad as their neighborhoods were, these kids were dancing in the streets.” Popp does so much composing that he’s fully prepared to begin writing for other artists. In fact, some of his songs wouldn’t be out of place on an Oasis album. His third album with The Tapes, “ As much songwriting as I do, I know I’ll end up giving some of my material to other artists,” Popp asserts. “Writing melodic rock and roll songs with hooks is something that comes naturally to me.” Alex Henderson’s articles and reviews have appeared in Spin, Billboard, the All Music Guide and many other national publications.

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