The TVD Preview Week: The First Annual Power Pop-a-licious Festival w/ The Spectacles!

If you’re like us, you’re loading up the car this weekend and heading up I-95N to Asbury Park, NJ to bask in the hook-laden scrum that will be the first annual Power Pop-A-Licious Festival at Asbury Lanes.

As we told you during this morning’s chat with the Festival’s founder and curator Paul Collins, all week here at TVD we’ll be cheking in with a number of the bands you’ll hear this weekend, and first up are three guys/four eyes—Silver Spring, MD’s The Spectacles!

Vinyl Memories, from The Spectacles
In the early 1980s I was an undergraduate at the University of Maryland, playing drums in a power pop band called the Item and sharing an apartment with the band’s singer/guitarist, J.P. McDermott. Taking up nearly an entire wall of our apartment’s living room was a massive spring-loaded shelving unit. Along the bottom were our commingled LPs, an alphabetical vinyl monument to our musical tastes.

Nestled somewhere near the middle of the records was an interesting 10-inch disc. Its surface was totally smooth, not a single groove. It was a vinyl blank, of the sort a recording machine would cut into. These machines were once common in U.S. cities. (It’s what Elvis Presley made his first recording on, for his mama.) This particular empty disk was a placeholder, a reminder of where we’d put the Item record when it came out: after an Insect Surfers LP (on the local Wasp label) and before the heady triumvirate of Joe Jackson/the Jags/the Jam.

The Spectacles | All Torn Up Over Tina

One of us had picked up the strange artifact at a thrift shop, from whence many of our classic records came: scratchy Tamla 45s; Beatles singles, with the former owners’ names inked neatly on the swirly orange/yellow Capitol label; a “Frampton Comes Alive” double album, pot seeds still stuck in the gatefold between the two halves.

More modern music came from a tiny, poorly-stocked record store near our apartment. A guy named Greg used to come in every few weeks and try to sell the owner promotional copies of LPs he’d bought heap from hard-up DJs. You could always tell which ones had passed through Greg’s hands because there’d be a rectangular slice out of the cover, the place where he had razored out the embossed words “For radio station use only.” Sometimes he would try to hide the evidence behind a sticker that read “Factory sealed for your protection.” (I’m looking at one of those records now: The Greg Kihn Band’s “Glass House Rock,” on Beserkley.)

There was a whole constellation of vinyl emporia back then: Peaches, Waxie Maxies, The Wiz, Kemp Mill Records. You could get your Air Supply and your Queen, but you could also get your Elvis Costello and your Nick Lowe. Our tastes tended toward the latter.

For more esoteric fare we’d go to Yesterday & Today Records in Rockville. It was the sort of place where you might run into a Slickee Boy or a Teen Idle. The store was run by the legendary Skip Groff, founder of Limp Records, Washington’s answer to Stiff Records. At Yesterday & Today we’d find the audio output of such D.C. heroes as the Slickees, Razz, Tommy Keene, Johnny Bombay & the Reactions, Billy & the Shakes, D. Ceats …

To our everlasting sadness, the Item never did put out a record. Somehow we just couldn’t manage it. Our bass player went out of state for college. J.P. and I got serious girlfriends who became serious wives. After six years the record collection was split up—and so was the band.

But a few years ago J.P. and I formed another group, the Spectacles, with the addition of phenomenal bassist Chuck Dolan. We play the sort of music we listened to 30 years ago. We’ve been fortunate enough to open for such bands as Gentlemen Jesse, the Hall Monitors, the Crusaders of Love, the Ex-Humans and the Dirty Shames. We’ve even played with Paul Collins, whose Columbia Records debut we spun so much in our apartment that it nearly ended up like that 10-inch: blank. We’re delighted to say that we’ve recorded an Item song expressly for inclusion on the Power Pop-A-Licious compilation CD. Just a few more tracks and we’ll have enough to press a vinyl EP. I know exactly where we’ll put it. —John Kelly

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