BILL POPP AND THE TAPES
BILL POPP has had a dedicated cult following on the New York rock club scene for over 25 years … so far.
Tagged “the downtown Elton John” (Boston Phoenix) and “master songwriter” (New York Press), recent open-heart surgery has the power poppin’ garage rocker and City of New York plumber all tuned up to launch the next glorious chapter with The Tapes, the same original band he founded in 1981 whose performances at CBGBs were as legendary as the club itself.
Neither the closing last year of CBGB, the death of his friend and plumbing client, club owner Hilly Kristal, nor the open heart surgery have stopped BILL POPP AND THE TAPES from releasing My Lonely Mind – their fourth collection of songs written and produced by Bill Popp.
Regarded as well by the New York Daily News, New York Post, Village Voice and Newsday for both his relentless artistic and charitable achievements, Popp has amassed a song catalogue containing sensitive and introspective lyrics with melodies which reflect a keen sense for distinctive power pop melodies, and catchy hooks that simply rock.
My Lonely Mind continues that legacy, encapsulated by the song, “Old Grey Men,” which tells a poignant story of a group of old men who were on top of the world when they were young, but have let life pass them by. Unlike the author, these men would rather waste their time hanging in a bar and talking about the past than carry it forward with sustained urgency.
“The song touches on the fears of people’s hopes that they don’t end up like that as old age strikes,” says Popp.
Also included on My Lonely Mind is a rare cover of “Just a Little’ from the beloved ‘60s band, the Beau Brummels. Popp also updates his very first recording, “Love and Lust,” originally released as a vinyl 45.
Born in 1953 and raised in the working class section of Queens known as College Point, NY, BILL POPP (yes, it is his real name) was enthralled as a child by Elvis Presley and Rickie Nelson, and in his early teens by the sound of the 1960s British Invasion, in the immediate wake of the Beatles’ U.S. arrival.
The wave of British bands that followed — The Yardbirds, The Kinks, The Zombies — filled the New York radio airwaves, and engulfed young Popp with an exciting new passion and desire to create music.
The first songs Popp composed in his early teens reflected an innate sense for strong and energetic pop melodies. He continued to develop his craft as a composer through high school, and became aware — and influenced by — the punk and new wave sounds after seeing the Ramones at CBGBs in 1976.
“It was an exciting time in New York,” Popp recalls. “Rock clubs emerged like the Mudd Club and CBGBs, which got the attention of the world. I was finally at the age where I could actually participate and not just be on the sidelines as a spectator in this second wave of new music.”
And participate he did. One of the first bands Popp led was The Poppsicles, which featured then drummer Keith Streng, who later made a name for himself as guitarist for The Fleshtones.
Ever the realist, Popp could easily have succumbed to the lifestyle of the times – with drugs and the general decadence of the free-wheeling Studio 54 era of the late ‘70s. However, he always kept his day job as a plumber – a job which inspired his music, like the song “Sidewalk Dance” from his 1996 album, Insides.
“I remember when I was working in Brooklyn,” says Popp. “I had to go into some horrible, broken-down neighborhoods. But I saw 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 acquired a new appreciation for life in 2006. While in the midst of organizing his 20th annual benefit concert for the American Heart Association in the memory of his father – a victim of a heart attack in 1986 –Popp was diagnosed with heart disease and ordered to undergo quadruple bypass surgery.
“Facing ‘death’s door’ was an awakening,” says Popp. “It made me realize how important it is for me to leave my mark in the world with my music.”
BILL POPP AND THE TAPES are: Bill Popp on lead and backing vocals, keyboards, and percussion; Gerry Barnas on guitar, whistling, backing vocals, lead vocals on and composer of “I See Your Face”; Roger Foster on drums, percussion and backing vocals, and Mary Noecker on bass and “visuals.”