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Bad Times Good Times

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Album Review

After the breakup of Beatles-obsessed power poppers the Poppees, guitarist Arthur Alexander and drummer Jett Harris formed a new band, Sorrows, and while their earlier group struggled to get noticed after releasing a pair of singles for Bomp Records, Sorrows quickly caught the ear of an A&R man at Pavilion Records, an affiliate of CBS Records. Sorrows' debut album, Teenage Heartbreak, arrived in 1980. Unfortunately, the record and its follow-up, 1981's Love Too Late, sank without a trace, thanks to poor promotion by CBS, and while they earned a small cult following among obsessive fans of skinny-tie pop, Sorrows' music has been out of print for decades, making it all but impossible for pop mavens to rediscover them. Bad Times Good Times finally gives Sorrows the second chance they've long deserved; while the liner notes are coy about the source of this material, this appears to be a remixed and reworked version of Teenage Heartbreak, featuring the same 12 songs (with the album's original producer, Mark Milchman, credited with recording) as well as two unreleased demos and a pair of live recordings. While Alexander's fascination with the Beatles had hardly worn off when he formed Sorrows, the new band boasted the sort of energy and attitude that gave their Merseybeat-influenced melodies a lot more life, and Harris, guitarist/singer Joey Cola, and bassist Ricky Street made for a much tighter and more imaginative band than the Poppees. Alexander and Harris wrote the bulk of the material on Bad Times Good Times, and they'd grown by leaps and bounds as tunesmiths since the Poppees breakup, and while that band's best songs recalled the Fab Four's middling efforts, Sorrows crafted tunes that tipped their hats to rock & roll's past while sounding fresh, lively, and original, and why "Lonely Girl," "Teenage Heartbreak," "I Want You Tonight," or "Bad Times, Good Times" didn't become hit singles can only be attributed to someone at CBS being very much asleep at the switch. The two demos confirm Sorrows had more good tunes left in them — the rockabilly-flavored "That's Your Problem" and the arty, slightly psychedelic "Silver Cloud" should have made the cut on Love Too Late — and the live covers of Rolling Stones and Carole King numbers confirm this band burned bright on-stage. For folks who've been wondering when Sorrows' Teenage Heartbreak would ever arrive on CD, Bad Times Good Times isn't the next best thing, it's an actual improvement over the already fine original, and rescues one of the better pop bands of the '80s from oblivion; folks who like their rhythms peppy, their guitars ringing, and their harmonies tight will find lots to love on this collection.

Customer Reviews

Another lost

Is there any genre with more lost classics than power pop? Maybe because 'power pop' is the lost genre. But that's a digression best left for the blog.

So some stuff about Sorrows that the excellent review above doesn't say.

In a nutshell, after the Knack gave power pop it's brief moment in the 70s commercial sun, record labels trampled each other signing every power pop/skinny tie band they could find. Then didn't promote any of them. (Read the book 'Hitmen' sometime for a glimpse into exactly how deeply effed up the industry was then.)

I first heard Sorrows on CBS' 'Exposed I' compilation. 'Exposed' was a two volume series of double albums featuring what a cokehead in a suit would have called New Wave, circa 1980. (Examples included Adam and the Ants, the Hitmen, Holly and the Italians...Billy Thorpe? Harlequin?? Yeah, anyway.) The two Sorrows tracks featured were 'I don't like it like that' from 'Teenage Heartbreak' (which, as pointed out above, this essentially and 'Christabelle' from their second album 'Love too late'. Melodies, harmonies, hooks and yet enough smarts and edge so you knew you weren't listening to the Bay City Rollers. (Though their later incarnation, as the Rollers, maybe the lost power pop band. But I digress. Again.)

In a word, Sorrows is brilliant. If you own music by Shoes, Dwight Twilley, (early) Cheap Trick, 20/20, the Raspberries, the Records, the Laughing Dogs, et al, you're probably reading this as you're downloading.

If those references don't mean much to you, think the Beatles, pre-1970 the Who, or even early Tom Petty. If you just want a dip a toe, start with 'Bad Times, Good times, 'I don't like it like that' or 'Teenage Heartbreak'. But, really, you'll be very happy with the whole thing. And then hoping, like I am, that a re-imagined/packaged 'Love too late' is next.

Rebirth of out-of-print early-80s power-pop

The New York City based Sorrows (not to be confused with the Don Fardon-fronted freakbeat band The Sorrows) was founded by Arthur Alexander (not to be confused with the R&B hit maker who recorded “You Better Move On,” “Soldier of Love” and “Anna”) following the dissolution of the Poppees. Unlike the Poppees die-hard Merseybeat inflections, Sorrows early ‘80s releases for CBS (1980’s Teenage Heartbreak and 1981’s Love Too Late) were more in line with the power pop sounds of 1970s bands such the Motors, Records, Plimsouls and Beat. You can still hear the early Beatles influences in their chiming pop, and the urgency of melodic punk rock (ala The Undertones) also made an impression, but it was the pure pop sounds of the Raspberries, Badfinger and others that really held sway.

The band played CBGB’s, Max’s Kansas City and other key New York clubs, bit their albums failed to break nationally, and by mid-decade, they’d broken up. Their official CBS-released albums remain unreissued to this day, which makes this collection so especially welcome. The sixteen tracks include resequenced versions of the twelve titles from their debut album, the non-LP originals “That’s Your Problem” and “Silver Cloud,” and live covers of the Rolling Stones’ “Off the Hook” and Goffin & King’s “Chains.” The liner notes are cagey as to whether these tracks are distinct performances from the album takes, mentioning tapes rescued from a demolition dumpster and advising “this is not a reissue of previously released tracks.”

What is novel is the sound, which is significantly better than the original vinyl. What was once thin on LP has a lot of muscle on this CD. Even with the mono introduction of “She Comes and Goes,” the abrupt cut to stereo at the 1:30 mark makes good on the band’s “ABBA meets the Sex Pistols” tag line. The collection’s non-LP demos are as good as the album tracks, and the live takes, particularly the punked-up arrangement of “Chains” gives a taste of how vital the band sounded on stage. This isn’t a replacement for a reissue of Teenage Heartbreak, but in many ways it’s actually better. Fans now have to hope that tapes of Love Too Late will be rescued from some other demolition dumpster. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]


Formed: 1977

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s

A tough but tuneful new wave pop band from New York City, Sorrows (no "the," please) were formed by guitarist and singer Arthur Alexander in 1977 a few months after the breakup of his influential power pop combo the Poppees. With tongue slightly in cheek, Alexander described his vision for Sorrows as "ABBA meets the Sex Pistols," and he recruited his former Poppees bandmate Jett Harris to play drums in the new group, along with guitarist Joey Cola and bassist Ricky Street. Sorrows soon made a name...
Full Bio
Bad Times Good Times, Sorrows
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  • $15.84
  • Genres: Rock, Music, Pop
  • Released: Oct 19, 2010

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