Emitt Rhodes could probably make it on this list for his work in the late 60’s band The Merry-Go-Round alone. He served as frontman and principal songwriter in that group and created a dazzling series of rollicking post-Beatles pop gems such as “Live”, “Listen, Listen” and “Time Will Show The Wiser”. But it’s his second act as a one man band that solidifies his standing as one of the all time greats. Starting with his self-titled solo debut in 1970, Rhodes threw down a gauntlet to all self made musicians. Writing, engineering, producing and playing every instrument himself behind his parents’ home in Hawthorne, California, he anticipated an entire revolution of home recording, decades before it was considered acceptable to set up gear in one’s bedroom and go it alone.
That he was able to produce music on par with the finest of the time without having to enter an Abbey Road or a Sound City to do it is a testament to how thoughtful, confident and gifted the young man was. Songs like “Somebody Made For Me”, “Fresh As A Daisy” and “You Should Be Ashamed” sound like they were plucked directly from the greatest album Paul McCartney never made. His first, perfect album was followed by two more homemade efforts, 1971’s Mirror and 1973’s Farewell To Paradise (along with a compilation of Merry-Go-Round outtakes and early solo songs released as a contractual obligation to A&M, 1971’s The American Dream), that add deeper shades to his palette and allow him to stretch as an artist into exciting new territory. Tragically, his stratospheric level of creativity in those years was ultimately met with a perfect storm of commercial disappointment, label shenanigans and lawsuits that drove Rhodes away from his own music and into more of a behind-the-scenes role as a studio operator and occasional producer. Who knows what the intervening years between now and then could have produced if he kept making records? Over 40 years after his last statement as an artist, Rhodes now flirts with a potential third act, with a new album entitled Rainbow Ends. As a matter of full disclosure, I produced the new album for Emitt, and I’ve now seen firsthand his meticulous attention to detail in the studio, his passion for thoughtful, heartfelt songwriting, and his dynamite voice work it’s magic. The man makes it all look so easy. As a final note, I will concede that perhaps not all of his music can be classified as strictly Power Pop, due to the softer nature of some material, but his songs all carry a sturdy pop sensibility, right down to the most recent work, and his lyrics have an emotional economy and impact that can knock you back if they hit you just right. That’s real power, in my mind, and Emitt Rhodes should be on the Power Pop Mount Rushmore.
producer, engineer on Emitt Rhodes “Rainbow Ends” album