The Pooh Sticks were one of the most confounding bands of the 90s. The Welsh group, led by Huw Williams, came out of the C86 scene with their own brand of power pop; or maybe bubblegum to use a genre title from the 60s. But be careful what you read about them because they famously fed the media fabrications about their background. (One story, still found all over the internet, claims that Williams is the son of drummer Terry Williams (Man/Rockpile/Dire Straits). Hmmm?
The band openly and unapologetically lifted song/album titles, lyrics, melodies and even solos and recycled them into something all their own. They didn’t “sample” them, they reproduced them, note for note. At the time, people were puzzled by their approach. One group thought it was a stupid gimmick and sneered at their twee notions. Others felt like they were in on an elaborate private joke and embraced the whole concept. I was in the latter group and bought three of the (now out of print) albums.
Let me explain a little further. The group was a sort of make believe band like many of the 60s bubblegum acts – The 1910 Fruitgum Company (“1, 2, 3 Red Light”, “Simon Says”), The Ohio Express (“Yummy, Yummy, Yummy”), The Archies (“Sugar, Sugar”). In fact, on their Great White Wonder album, the artwork was drawn by Hanna-Barbera’s Alan Forbes. (The title of the album was itself homage to the first commercially successful bootleg of the rock era – the unauthorized release of Dylan and The Band’s basement tapes.)
Song titles on the album include “Sweet Baby James”, “Pandora’s Box, “Desperado” and “I’m In You.” Sound familiar?
The SotW is “Rhythm of Love.” This a little different than most of the songs on the album since it is a cover of The Strangeloves song that was the B-side to their 1965 release, “Night Time.”
But this is no straight up cover – it’s done the Pooh Sticks way. It opens with the motif from Smokey Robinson’s “Tracks of My Tears.” It adds a little more power pop crunch than the original. Then at about a minute and a half in, they slip in the guitar intro from Neil Young’s “Powderfinger.” You’ll recognize it when you hear it.
Unfortunately, very little of the Pooh Sticks repertoire is available on either Spotify or YouTube. But if you want to understand a little more, check out this link to a website posted by band member Trudi Tangerine that is running down The Pooh Sticks Top 50 Songs. The list is so new that she hasn’t even finished it yet – she’s just getting to the top 10.
Just about every song on this list has made its way into a Pooh Sticks recording in some fashion. It’s a strange, eclectic and crazy fun list.
Enjoy… until next week.