Sweet Honey

The Whizz Kidds Sweet Honey b/w Big Teaser 45 (Highland, 1977)

When punk broke in the UK in 1977, a funny thing happened in the US. Other than a few signings which should be considered statistical anomalies, the music industry ignored it and, because the major labels weren't signing punk bands, those musicians who wanted to crash the music industry as part of "The Next Big Thing" were stymied. While many of these guys certainly knew how to play, they didn't have the thousands of dollars worth of gear in order to fuel a big touring act, and besides no one toured without a label, roadies, support, etc. The average schmoe was limited to playing at clubs. Most clubs booked cover bands and no one made it big as a cover band. In the UK, the clubs were being taken over by punk and new wave bands. Sure, there were a few clubs in LA, New York, and San Francisco that booked punk bands, but that wasn't a way to make a career. To the rescue came power pop.

One can trace power pop back to LA sunshine pop and UK Merseybeat of the 1960s and follow its progression through bubblegum to Midwest icons like the Raspberries and West Coasters the Flaming Groovies. Back to England, power pop was often the product of the fusion of punk and pub rock, its most noted practitioner being Nick Lowe. Power pop was as compact as punk and had similar pep, but it didn't have the "negative" attitude and perhaps because of that gained a certain amount of legitimacy among club owners, labels, and, hence, musicians. Certainly, the influence of the Beatles on the genre helped sell it. And it didn't hurt that you didn't have ditch your day job because you hacked off all your hair and were now going by the name Johnny Barf. Nah, that skinny tie you bought for Friday night's show could also be worn at work. In the late 70s, power pop was seen as a way to make it big, or at least pay the bills playing music. However, with a few brief exceptions, it didn't catch on (which begs the question: Would we have been spared "80s classic rock" if The Knacks' second album didn't stiff?).

While power pop never really broke, it did generate an amazing amount of records. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of 7"s were produced by bands. These records were used as calling cards to get gigs and hopefully major label attention. Some were sold to fans at shows or in a local record store. Few made their way out of wherever they were produced. For the fan of the genre, there was one reliable source for power pop and that was Greg Shaw's Bomp! label and mail order. Shaw was convinced power pop was going to take over the country. A few punk collectors took note and picked up the records as they were being released. However, at the end of the record, power pop was not only ignored by the majors but it was snuffed by the punks. When hardcore captured White middle class suburban youth, those skinny ties were shunted off to the thrift store and the guys wearing them...

Because we are dealing with vinyl, no music really goes away. When a trend it over the records find their way into used bins waiting to be rediscovered by a new set of music freaks. People go back and read old issues of fanzines and start searching out forgotten bands. Someone sees a record in a used bin of a band she saw in some club years ago and picks it up on a whim. A record is pulled out of a collection by a "weird" uncle who was in a band and he plays his one record for his nephew who is now in a band. A collector runs out of rare Mongolian goat herding songs to snatch up and turns his mania onto some "new" genre. And then someone makes a comp of rare songs. In the 90s, power pop was revived thanks to three people: Whoever compiled the two American power pop volumes in Rhino's DIY series, the anonymous person behind the Power Pearls bootleg series of rare power pop singles and Chuck Warner and his Teenline series of CDRs. I am sure there are probably a few more factors but lets just agree that DIY: American Power Pop, Power Pearls and Teenline were many people's reintroduction to power pop. Since then, finding the once plentiful power pop gem is hard work. But it does happen.

I found the Whizz Kidds obscurity about a year ago. It was sitting in a pile of records at a thrift store and it was a buck. I had no idea what it was, but thought it foolish to pass up anything by a band that not only had two "z"s in their name but also two "d"s. Got it home and was treated with two very strong Raspberries/Big Star influenced American power pop songs. These two have that sort of pre-punk laid back sound to them, but there is still enough rock in the pop to keep these at the top of my record stacks.

My research on the Whizz Kidds brought me to Syracuse, NY and a guy named Frank Simes. A 14 year old musical "whizz," he made his first record with the band Sunshine at 14. When he was old enough to get the hell out of Upstate New York, he wound up in LA and formed the Whizz Kidds. They did one record and broke up. He became a session man and songwriter. In 2000, he won a Grammy with Don Henley. He currently plays in an acoustic duo called Crimson Crowbar. Who the other Whizz Kidds where and where they are now, I don't know.

Great post, Scott.
Yeah... I don't think there's any other genre with so many truly great local one-shots. Thank you so much for sharing this one with us.

Highland was one of Kim Fowley's labels on and off throughout the sixties and seventies; it had a hit with Rosie & The Originals' "Angel Baby" as early as 1960, and is also famous for issuing a very rare single by The 'N Betweens, mid-sixties precedessors of Slade.
The "other" Whizz Kidds are from Liverpool, NY (just outside of Syracuse), and had quite a following in the late 70's and early 80's. Band was lead by brother and sister Gary (vocals, bass) & Denise (vocals) Weeks. Other members include Fred Hart (keyboard), Scott Vargas (guitar, vocals), PZ (guitar, vocals) and Tim Cooney (drums).
For the record: these L.A. WHIZZ KIDDS also had one song, "Get Your Hooks Off Me" on a really obscure, promo-only comp. 2-LP called L.A. RADIO on Harvey Kubernik's Freeway Records from '79. It's silly powerpop too, but silly's fine by me.
My brother Ron Abramovitz was the drummer of the Whizz Kidds w/Frank Simes. He thrilled his kid sister by sending a large bus to my high school to bus all my friends to see the Whizz Kidds at a taping of the Midnight Special with Wolfman Jack.

They headlined frequently at the Whisky a Go Go, and Gazzari's (sp?) I thought I heard my brother say that Van Halen was a warm up band for them once. :P They were so talented, and everywhere they went the people would go crazy.

Oh, and that song, "Big Teaser" was originally called "Prick Teaser" but it got them banned from Magic Mountain :( and they were persuaded to change it. It was some good times!!

Ron's kidd sis, Leah McLaughlin
Regarding the L.A. Whizz Kidds; the drummer was Ron Abramovitz (a landscaper now), the piano player was Mike Hammond (I heard English Prof. in England), and the base guitarist was Dave (not sure of last name).
My brother was 'Ron' the drummer; they performed on the midnight special, and were frequent headliners at the Whiskey a go-go and Gazzari's (sp). They're song Big Teaser was originally Prick Teaser, but they had to change it to something more 'g' rated.
Hopefully this one will post this time, for all the old Whizz Kidds fans out there :)
I would love to hear this single, but I'm sure like many others I didn't know about this blog in time to "score" this as MP3's. Bummer!
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