Friday, February 15, 2019

TEENSVILLE RECORDS: Excursions into Sunshine Pop!

If you aren’t familiar with the term Sunshine Pop, chances are you’ve experienced a dose of it without being aware you were listening to it. The genre itself is carefree, breezy, and upbeat – feel-good music that would most certainly brighten up your day. While the name may conjure up images of The Beach Boys or itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikinis, Sunshine Pop is something different. With lush harmony vocals (inspired by Brian Wilson & Co.) and light musical arrangements akin to Folk Rock, Sunshine Pop has also been referred to as Soft Pop but shouldn’t be confused with the sillier (but equally delicious) Bubblegum Pop.

In many ways, Sunshine Pop was more than just a ‘sound’ – it was all about the feeling you got from listening to the music. Generally, the harmonies were massive but there are plenty of songs that convey the Sunshine Pop ethos without the wonderful wall of voices. Sometimes, a gentle melody is all it took to sweep you off of your feet and take you on a three-minute joyful journey to wherever your heart desired. Some 50 years on, the music still does. This is the kind of music that makes you FEEL like you are in love!

The genre’s commercial heyday may have been the mid-to-late ‘60s but Sunshine Pop never really went away. Many of the songwriters, producers and artists carried on into the early ‘70s and they continue to influence and inspire artists and fans to this very day. Some of the better known original Sunshine Poppers include The Association, Peppermint Trolley Company, Harpers Bizarre, The Mamas & The Papas, Spanky & Our Gang, The 5th Dimension and other like-minded bands. The lesser known acts – The Millennium, Sagittarius, The Collage and any band associated with singer/songwriter/producer Curt Boettcher – are also beloved by Sunshine Pop fans.

Like any genre, there are also hundreds of records that get released that go unnoticed by the general public. In many cases, these records are just as good as anything that made it all the way to the Top 40 but they often end up as forgotten 45s in dark basements and storage units. Thankfully, the folks at Teensville Records (Ash Wells and Kyle Schwarz) are roaming the planet and saving these rare releases from obscurity. So far, the label has released THREE Sunshine Pop compilation filled with rare releases that will surely lift your spirits in these trying times. One can only imagine how wonderful radio would have sounded had these songs been played side by side with the more popular Sunshine Pop classics we know and love. Thankfully, you can purchase these CDs and create your own playlists. 

Imagine being transported 50 years in the past and hanging out at a neighborhood park, watching kids play baseball, couples canoodling in the shade of a tree, and kites ducking and diving in the blue sky. Every track on this compilation would provide the perfect soundtrack – TAKE A MIND EXCURSION is an audio diary of simpler, happier times. The sweet and wonderful melodies of tracks by Bob Dileo, Pebbles & Shells, The Bottom Line, The Golden Horizon, Proctor Amusement Company, The Game, The Californians and many others are wonderfully crafted. Whether or not you’ve heard these songs before, they will bath you in melancholy and nostalgia. They don’t make music like this anymore. Highlight: Paul Vigrass’ “Stop” features one of the most beautiful melodies released during the era with Paul’s earnest voice penetrating the heart of the listener. (NOTE: Thanks to this compilation, it has become one of my absolute favorite songs of all-time!). A wonderfully warm and loving collection.

Like the previous collection, MY WORLD OF MAKE BELIEVE features 32 slices of Sunshine and Soft Pop that never bothered the Billboard charts. But alas, in our world of make believe, these were all hits! Barry Darvell opens the set with the Poptastic song that gives this collection it’s title. At times, his voice sounds like Sunshine Pop legend Curt Boettcher but most of the time, he sounds like Barry Darvell. Bob Dileo makes another appearance here (he is on MIND EXCURSION), providing an incredible vocal performance on “Jessica.” MY THREE SONS star and Yellow Balloon member Don Grady serves up a slice of gooey Pop with “Let It Happen.” Future Bread leader David Gates offers up a demo version of “Thru Spray Colored Glasses.” The collection also includes tracks by Pop legends The Tokens plus tasty gems by Yellow Brick Road, Joey Paige, Margo, Margo, Medress & Siegel, Fairchild, The Seagulls and many more. HIGHLIGHT: The Robbs’ “I Don’t Feel Alone” is Pop perfection, the kind of song you want to snuggle with at night.


Teensville’s third volume of Sunshine and Soft Pop is overflowing with more great music. At this point, you’d think that they would have run out of top tier tunes but that is the furthest thing from the truth. Alongside the rare singles, you’ll find previously unreleased tracks by Bobby Vee produced by David Gates plus a previously unreleased track by The Searchers. Throw in fantastic tracks by The Montanas, The Twilights, Horizon, Ritchie Luvworth, April Fool, The Rainy Day Friends, The Family Album and many others. Jam packed with 31 songs, THE SUN SHINES ON MY STREET is the audio equivalent of a refreshing drink on a warm summer day with your best gal by your side and a stack of new records ready to be played. Life doesn’t get better than that, my friends. HIGHLIGHT: The Outcasts’ “I Gotta Find Cupid” is a ‘50s-inspired pop gem with a falsetto hook that sticks in your head for days (Gary Lewis & The Playboys also recorded a fairly popular version of this gem)

The Australia-based Teensville Records has an incredible track record so far. They have been marveling music collectors with their GIRLS ON 45, GUYS ON 45 and GUYS GO POP series alongside compilations devoted to songwriters (Neil Sedaka, Tony Macaulay) and artists (Paul & Barry Ryan, Marty Wilde, Graham Bonney, Lesley Gore, Paul Peterson, Brian Hyland, etc.). They’ve even released an amazing compilation of artists inspired by The Four Seasons (A SOUND FOR ALL [FOUR] SEASONS)! During your CD shopping excursions in the wild or online, just know that seeing the Teensville Records logo is a sign of quality. Much like the Now Sounds label, it is highly recommended that you collect Teensville’s entire catalog! Just remember that not everything stays in print so make sure you track down Teensville’s releases before they are deleted forever!

Keep on truckin’,
Stephen SPAZ Schnee

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