|That'll Be the Day: A Power Pop Heist|
On the other side of the dial is punk rock, the world that author S.W. Lauden traverses in his Gary Salem punk PI trilogy of novels. Lauden switches stations and embraces the best of rock's most melancholy medium in his newly released novelette, That'll Be the Day: A Power Pop Heist. It's a tale of rock 'n' roll redemption, a crime story that explores power pop's yearning and burning while cranking up the suspense.
Brothers (and bandmates) Jack and Jamie Sharp's heist of $100,000-worth of vintage guitars would've been a success if Jack hadn't stopped to strum a sweet '59 Les Paul Standard. Instead, Jack got busted, Jamie got the guitars, and their band is tossed in the dollar bin indefinitely. That'll Be the Day: A Power Pop Heist opens three years later as Jack steps out of the Oklahoma State Pen on parole, looking to get his $50,000 cut of the burglary. He's packing heat in case anyone, including family, stands in his way.
Jack is too much of a badass to admit it, but he's also bugged that neither Jamie nor his little sister Jenna came to visit him while he was locked up. This familial diss picks at a long-festering wound in Jack's soul: Jack's father abandoned the family, without explanation, when Jack was twelve.
|S.W. Lauden dares you to say no to more cowbell.|
Power pop, a passion for both brothers, is a non-stop topic of conversation for the Sharps. It's a way the brothers (and the reader, if you remember the '70s) can reference their common past. It's also the novelette's perpetual, handcrafted soundtrack. Unlike the mindless hedonism of the worst of arena rock (there's more than one way to rock, Sammy-a lot more), power pop often invokes yearning, loss, and melancholy. The music plays out-loud the feelings that Jack, forced since childhood to be tough-as-nails, can never openly express. It's a brilliant device, like a Greek chorus amplified through a Fender Bassman.
|20/20's debut album|
Fans of power pop, reading to see to see if their fav bands are mentioned, won't be disappointed.
How about the highly underrated 20/20, who had a minor hit with "My Yellow Pills"?
The tragically doomed Bad Finger?
Big Star, adored by critics, ruined by their record label?
|The Bob's Big Boy Beatle Booth plaque.|
From The Maddox Archives
I feel That'll Be the Day: A Power Pop Heist was tailor-made for me. I've been in bands, slowed down vinyl to learn guitar solos, and consider Lester Bangs a twentieth century giant. I still get a pang of excitement when I'm seated at the Beatles Booth at the Toluca Lake Bob's Big Boy, a corner section where John, Paul, George and Ringo (power-pop godfathers) sat in the summer of '65.
|Raspberries give you one of rock's greatest 45s.|
I love crime fiction where bad deeds are just a shadow play of bigger issues at work; issues like personal reckoning and, as is the case here, family reconciliation (or lack thereof). Ross McDonald made a brilliant career of this, and his best work reads like mini-Greek tragedies. Lauden offers an alternative, a song of hope for the broken and abandoned. Jack may never get the payback he wants, but you'll root for him to get the family he deserves. Easily a one-sitting read, That'll Be the Day: A Power Pop Heist is power pop with a bullet, and will shoot to the top of your playlist.
Two of my favorite topics of conversation are rock music and crime fiction. S.W. Lauden lives and breathes both, so naturally I had a few questions.
Lawrence Maddox: Punk is key to your Greg Salem PI trilogy. Greg is a detective by day, and in a punk band by night. Was it hard going from punk to power pop?
|The Greg Salem punk PI trilogy|
Then, in the midst of doing research on the history of power pop, I read about this super rare single by the pre-Beatles band called The Quarrymen (featuring Paul McCartney, George Harrison and John Lennon–among others–covering the Buddy Holly song). That's when my crime writer brain kicked in.
LM: Your fictional band Bad Citizens Corporation (from the Greg Salem trilogy) also began as a band of brothers. Why is brotherhood an important theme for you?
|The original line-up of The Kinks in 1965.|
Pete Quaife, Dave Davies, Ray Davies, Mick Avory.
Secondly, I had older brothers growing up who were musicians (a bass player and a guitarist) who started a heavy metal band when they were in high school (and I was in elementary school). The original reason I chose drums as an instrument was so I could join their band one day (never happened–single tear).
Third, the brothers in the Greg Salem punk rock PI novels and Jack and Jamie in That'll Be the Day: A Power Pop Heist are their own characters, but they're also two extremes of my own personality–one is more self-loathing/self-destructive and the other is more of an egomaniac.
I feel emotionally drained. Happy now?
|Keith Morris' autobiography My Damage.|
SWL: How much time do you have?
Speaking of The Kinks, I just read Ray Davies' batshit crazy autobiography from the 90s, X-Ray. I loved it. I also recently read Boys Don't Lie about the Zion, Illinois power pop band The Shoes (power pop royalty and a band featuring brothers!), and A Man Called Destruction about Alex Chilton. I loved Trouble Boys about The Replacements (the Stinson brothers!), as well as John Doe and Tom DeSavia's book about the original LA punk scene, Under the Big Black Sun. What else?
The Closer You Are, about Robert Pollard and Guided By Voices, was pretty great. So was The Beastie Boys Book, and the 33 1/3 book about Big Star's Radio City. A super weird one that I highly recommend is Supernatural Strategies for Making a Rock 'n' Roll Group by Ian Svenonius. That one's in a category all its own.
|S.W. Lauden recording for The Brothers Steve.|
That's a Murder & Mayhem t-shirt btw.
SWL:Well, they say write what you know...
I just played drums on an album with an LA-based garage rock/power pop band called The Brothers Steve. It's the first full-length album I've played on in a few years. The self-released vinyl comes out in late July, but a few songs will pop up here and there before then. And we're playing at Molly Malone's in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 27, as part of the International Pop Overthrow festival. Good times.
That'll Be the Day: A Power Pop Heist is available on Amazon. As mentioned earlier, S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk PI trilogy (Bad Citizen Corporation, Grizzly Season and Hang Time). His Tommy & Shayna novellas include Crosswise and Crossbones. S.W. Lauden is the pen name for Steve Coulter, drummer for Tsar and The Brothers Steve. Check him out at swlauden.com.
I'm the author of Fast Bang Booze (Shotgun Honey). Publishers Weekly said "Fans of offbeat noir will have fun." I'm currently working on the sequel.
Want to discuss power pop to punk? The secret behind Bob's Chili Spaghetti? Come hang out at the Beatles Booth or find me on Twitter, LawrenceMaddox@madxbooks.