I’m not scared – I’ll come right out and say it.
Rick Springfield is one of power pop’s unsung heroes and should be held up right next to your Eric Carmens, Matthew Sweets and Alex Chiltons.
While he’s primarily known for his impressive string of hits in the ‘80s, Springfield actually got started in the early ‘70s, scoring his first Top 40 hit, “Speak to the Sky”, in 1972. Some lean years and a gig as an animated Saturday morning cartoon character on “Mission Magic” followed, until Rick scored a gig on ABC’s “General Hospital” as Dr. Noah Drake. This just happened to coincide with the release of his “Working Class Dog” album, a record that front to back is packed with power pop classics, like “Jesse’s Girl”, “I’ve Done Everything For You” (written by Sammy Hagar), and my favorite, “Love Is Alright Tonight”.
"Love Is Alright Tonight" has some seriously evil lyrics, especially coming from a heavily promoted "teen idol":Don’t worry daddy, I’ll have her home at a respectable hour
Go to sleep daddy, you won’t think about tonight
With the night comes a feeling of incredible power
Gonna love her daddy, she’ll be feeling it tonight...
Oh, Rick. You scamp.
There’s no “guilty” modifier to be added to the pleasure in these songs – they’re three to three and a half minutes of well-composed, tightly played power pop. Springfield’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 “Love Is Alright Tonight” and crank it, whether it’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, “Hard to Hold.” And musically, he started to veer away from the four-piece guitar-based ensemble and experiment with synths. A LOT of synths. Songs like “Human Touch”, “Celebrate Youth” and “Rock of Life” 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 “State of the Heart”.
Rick is still recording today, and even had a sizeable Adult Contemporary hit last year called “Beautiful You”. But track for track, you won’t find anything as powerful as the one-two punch of the “Working Class Dog” and “Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet” albums. These two need some serious remastering and reissuing.
And power pop history needs to recognize Rick.
Download “Love Is Alright Tonight”.
Download “State of the Heart”.Buy Rick Springfield CDs here.”Love Is Alright Tonight” peaked at #20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1982.
“State of the Heart” peaked at #22 on the Hot 100 chart in 1985.