Above is from our show at the bandshell in Central Park May 24, 2017
Singer/songwriter Bill Popp is a veteran indie player on the New York City rock scene. He’s been performing live in NYC venues since the 1970s, and he has been leading his own band, Bill Popp & the Tapes, since 1981. Pop loves his classic 60’s rock influences and lets it show on Popp Hits The 60’s. This is a great EP that starts with the piano and guitar bounce of “ The World She Knows” and the very Badinger-ish ballad “In My Head” has a terrific slide guitar break toward the songs end.
And Popp doesn’t take himself too seriously either, as the hilarious kazoo-assisted “When I Was Stoned” is like a lost NRBQ track. Popp also has a new 2-song EP out called Popp’s Last Flush! which humorously chronicles his biography (and his day job) on “Flushing This Plumbing Job Down The Drain.” Great fun!
[article includes embedded SoundCloud clip to "Flushing This Plumbing Job Down the Drain"]
Bill Popp & the Tapes at Tompkins Square Park
Bill Popp was an adolescent in Queens, New York, when he first heard the Beatles, and the music inspired him to become a musician. Throughout the late 1970s, Popp worked days as a plumber for the municipal government and played nights in new wave bands like the Popsicles. He eventually returned to his first love, British Invasion pop, with Bill Popp & the Tapes in 1981. Although personnel changed in the early years, the band has performed live for 35 years. The band's most recent recording is a two-song CD called Popp's Last Flush, released on October 1, 2015, a humorous reflection on his retirement from his plumbing job. Now retired and still living in Queens, Popp and his band are playing Manhattan rock clubs and public parks with increased frequency.
At Tompkins Square Park today, a plastic bucket placed in front of the band read "for the love of music." Bill Popp & the Tapes played without a stage powered by a do-it-yourself sound system. Parents with children, adults with dogs, and people on bicycles stopped for a few songs, captivated by Popp's beautiful original songs and covers of the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby," the Rolling Stones' "Ruby Tuesday" and Robert Palmer's "Bad Case of Lovin' You." Popp zipped over the keys of his electric piano with speed and dexterity while he sang feel-good songs. His passion was indeed for the love of music, and this love permeated his performance and enchanted the passersby, who frequently dropped dollars into the bucket.
Queens offers a lot of ways to cool off with music during the summer months, from evenings under the stars in a city park, to rock bands cranking up the volume within sight of the Atlantic Ocean in the Rockways.
But Bill Popp and The Tapes have landed on an ingenious way to combine beating the heat with enjoying some original sounds. For the next two Wednesday nights, Aug. 10 and 17, the band will be in residence at a rather unusual location: Ralph’s Famous Italian Ices and Ice Cream at the Whitepoint Shopping Center at 32-07 14th Ave. in College Point. Playing three sets a night, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., the band will treat audiences to a mix of sounds that runs from the 1970s, when Popp got his start playing in venues around New York City, to the present day.
While Popp worked for many years as a plumber (even plying his trade at the legendary CBGB’s) before his recent retirement, he’s far from a stranger to the professional stage. Having played gigs in such far-flung locations as New Orleans, England and South Korea, Popp was on stage for the 50th anniversary of the legendary Max’s Kansas City and also played Gerde’s Folk City, which in its day hosted performers from Bob Dylan and Joan Baez to Steely Dan and Patti Smith.
However, the College Point musician has brought his distinctive musical persona to the stage without ever losing sight of the day job that paid his rent for many years. With a recent single entitled “Flushing His Plumbing Job Down the Drain” and a CD entitled “Popp’s Last Flush,” a wry sense of humor runs through his music, and while he never seems to take himself too seriously, the level of professonalism in his performances remains constant. The Aquarian Weekly has called his music “classic rock/indie at its finest.”
Popp’s mission goes beyond just music as well. Every year, he plays a show he calls the “Daddy Tapes” as both a salute to his late father, George L. Popp, and a charitable fundraiser. This year’s edition, the 30th, was held at the Bowery Electric in the East Village and benefited the American Heart Association.
While taking in Popp’s sounds with some frozen treats on the side might sound like the perfect way to spend an August evening, those who like to hear their classic rock in more familiar concert settings have several opportunities to do just that in the coming weeks. Bill Popp and the Tapes will be playing at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park on Aug. 16, and will take the stage at Astoria’s Irish Whiskey Bar, 28-48 31st St. on Sept. 17.
Bill Popp knew he wanted to sing since he was a five year old in Queens, New York. He became a musician as well when he received his first drum kit at age 11. After a few false starts and leaps into maturity, he began singing his songs in local clubs. It is now 35 years later, he has outlived the clubs (barely, but a quadruple bypass saved him) and he is still working parks and clubs. (Working can mean playing music or fixing pipes, as he is a plumber for the city's Department of Parks and Recreation.) Popp is Bill's real last name, and the surname is fitting in that pop music is his passion. The title of Bill Popp & the Tapes' most recent CD, a four-song EP from 2013 called Popp Hits the 60's, also has a clever double reference in that Popp turned 60 years old last year and he is still playing music from or influenced by the 1960s.
At Otto's Shrunken Head tonight, Bill Popp & the Tapes played original soft-rock weepers and party songs, as well as covers of 50-year-old songs including the Moody Blues' "Knights in White Satin." Popp’s tenor voice delivered warm and singable pop songs and poetic lyrics as his band sweetly combined tight harmony, bright melodic hooks and an occasional dance groove. The light and airy music was ideal for those whose musical tastes are nostalgic for the simplicity of the mid-1960s.
Bill Popp & the Tapes perform next at the bandshell in Central Park on July 24 and August 7.In the meantime, visit Bill Popp & the Tapes at www.billpopp.com.
Bill Popp & the Tapes Popp Hits the 60s Review by Alex Henderson 4.5 stars out of 5
October 5, 2013
Singer/songwriter Bill Popp is a fixture on the New York City rock scene. He has been performing live in NYC venues since the 1970s, and he has been leading his own band, Bill Popp & the Tapes, since 1981. There have been many different Tapes lineups over the years; the current lineup consists of Popp on lead vocals and keyboards, Gerry Barnas on guitar and background vocals, Mary Noecker on bass and background vocals and Roger Foster on drums and background vocals. And that lineup helps Popp achieve high-quality results on the 2013 release, Popp Hits the 60s.
Popp takes a very hands-on approach on this four-song, 14-minute EP. In addition to producing the album, serving as executive producer, writing all of the material, contributing to the arrangements (the arrangements are credited to the entire band) and doing all of the lead singing, Popp plays keyboards, some percussion and kazoo. Plus, he released Popp Hits the 60s on his own independent label, 121st Street Records, which has been active for many years. Bill Popp & the Tapes' first album, Popp This, was released on 121st Street Records in 1990 and was followed by Insides in 1996, Blind Love Sees Tears in 2001 and My Lonely Mind in 2008. And in 2011, Popp released a CD titled 25x30, which was essentially a best-of but contained some previously unreleased rarities.
The title Popp Hits the 60s can be taken different ways. The EP is a celebration of his 60th birthday (Popp, who was still in his 20s when he formed the original Bill Popp & the Tapes lineup back in 1981, turned 60 on June 5, 2013). But that title is also appropriate in light of the fact that Popp has a lot of British Invasion influences from the 1960s, including the Beatles, the Yardbirds, the Zombies and the Kinks. And those influences continue to serve him well on "The World She Knows, "When I Was Stoned," "I Love a Woman, But She Don't Love Me" and the introspective ballad "In My Head," all of which are memorable examples of British Invasion-style power pop. Although Popp was born and raised in New York City and has lived in the College Point section of Queens his entire life, there has long been a very British-like quality to his singing and songwriting. Popp lives and breathes the John Lennon/Paul McCartney songbook, and it shows. Yet Popp Hits the 60s is by no means a carbon copy of British Invasion recordings from 46 or 47 years ago. No one who listens to "The World She Knows," "In My Head," "When I Was Stoned" or "I Love a Woman, But She Don't Love Me" will think that they were actually recorded back then.
Post-1960s influences have long since entered Popp's music, including punk, new wave, alternative rock and 1980s/1990s indie rock. Some people have compared Bill Popp & the Tapes to Oasis and REM, two other bands that are part of alternative rock but also have a strong Beatles/British Invasion influence. But Popp was around long before the formation of Oasis, and he is a skillful power popster in his own right.
Popp has a history of recording fine ballads here and there. "The Sky Is Blue" from Insides and "Emily Lives in Ireland" from My Lonely Mind are examples of memorable ballads he recorded in the past. And on "In My Head," Popp once again reminds us how expressive he can be on a ballad. But most of the time, Popp expresses himself emotionally at faster tempos. And he does exactly that on "The World She Knows" (which has an attractive Yardbirds-tinged melody), "I Love a Woman, But She Don't Love Me" and "When I Was Stoned."
The infectious "I Love a Woman, But She Don't Love Me" is melancholy and humorous at the same time. The song is about unrequited love, and Popp equates loving someone who could care less about you (at least on a romantic level) with feeling "like a wino lying in the road."
"When I Was Stoned" is a bluesy, energetic offering that employs guest Dave McKeon (who engineered, mixed and mastered the EP and is listed as associate producer) on banjo. The New York City-based McKeon, a skillful musician, has a history of playing in bluegrass and country bands; he has a strong appreciation of roots music, and his banjo is perfect for the rootsy, bluesy ambiance that "When I Was Stoned" needed. With McKeon's appearance on "When I Was Stoned," Bill Popp & the Tapes become a quintet for almost three minutes.
Bill Popp & the Tapes have been providing state-of-the-art power pop for 32 years, and the band's excellence continues on Popp Hits the 60s.
Alex Henderson's work has appeared in the L.A. Weekly, Billboard, Spin, Creem, AlterNet, Salon, the Pasadena Weekly and many other publications.
Bill Popp And The Tapes
A true veteran in the music world, Bill Popp is a man who needs no introduction. Since he was a boy, he always knew that he wanted to grow up and be a musician. Joined by The Tapes, Popp sings and plays keyboards for the pop/rock band. Celebrating 25 years of the Daddy Tapes Benefit and 30 years of The Tapes, the collection 25X30 was released in Mar
A new song, “Sally Works In A Chinese Take Out” is the first listing. Like many of the tracks on here, this one is melodic, joyous and upbeat. While declaring his love for a girl, the romantic “Sure Hope She Shows,” features impressive acoustic guitar work from Gerry Barnas. Arguably the best song on the disc is “Paradise.” It contains an electric guitar, an extremely catchy melody and together, they go flawlessly with Popp’s talented vocals.
By calling a woman a liar and a “clueless bitch,” Bill gets a bit emotional on the longest track, “To Build A Wall.” If I heard the keyboard heavy “Stone To Throw” on the radio, I would swear that it was an R.E.M song. Simply put, it’s a phenomenal tune. Other noteworthy tracks included are “Just Say Love,” “Go With The Flow” and one of their first big hits, “Floating On A Tear Drop.” After a whopping 19 tracks, there are a few bonus listings such as “Bill Popp Interview: History Of The Tapes” and “Alone In The Moonlight (Live at Max’s Kansas City July 1981).”
If you’re looking for a cheerful, harmonious disc to listen to, look no further than this one. These guys can make you rock out and put a smile on your face.
The amazing story of Bill Popp can be summarized in three words: Perseverance, dedication and determination. “Living a split life is not easy,” Bill says. “At night, I’m a musician, singing and playing keyboard with my band, the Tapes. During the day, I’m a plumber for the New York City Department of Parks. I’m the joke among my co-workers because I’ll turn down overtime to go play for free at a club. For me, it’s important to do what I love.”
And that dedication has lasted decades, through the disco era, the hair bands, the grunge movement, and to the present day. “I know I’m a bit of a misfit in the current world of pop music,” laughs Bill. “I’m old, bald, and crusty, but I love what I do, and my fans have hung in there with me for all of these years.”
Just this year New York’s classic rock FM giant, Q104.3, named Bill Popp and The Tapes the winner of its Battle Of The Bands, to become the 2008 NASCAR Band Of The Year.Theband’snewCD,My Lonely Mind, their first since Bill’s return from open-heart surgery, is gaining critical acclaim, prompting Time Out New York to brand them “a local institution.” Powerpopaholic said Bill deserves to be placed “among the unsung heroes of power pop,” leading a band that’s “one of NYC’s best kept musical secrets.” The Boston Phoenix tagged Bill “the downtown Elton John” and the New York Press called him a “master songwriter” with a personality in total contrast to his music.
Bill’s story began with his earliest memories of childhood. “I always knew what I wanted to be a musician,” he says. “By the time I was five, I was singing Elvis’ ‘Hound Dog’ in the hallway. As a child, I was
into Ricky Nelson, Chubby Checker and Dion and the Belmonts. Then, in 1964, I started listening to the Beatles. I was 10 years old, and the group was bigger than life. Ringo owned a blue Ludwig drum kit, and I begged my parents for one. A couple of years later my parents caved. They bought me a sky blue set. Soon, I started my first band. We called ourselves the Tormenters and we lived up to our name; we were awful.
“My mother used to play piano by ear when she was a child. Since I had received drums, my father and sister decided to chip in and bought my mother a piano for Christmas. I thought the piano was silly —until I found out that John and Paul played it. In 1968, the Beatles released ‘Hey Jude’ and my friend Ralph taught me how to play it. One day I was sitting at the piano, when I started mumbling some words over the melody to ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ and, viola, I wrote my first song. Five years later, I submitted my first demo tapetoWarnerBros.Theysent me my first rejection letter.”
Bill and his group, which includes Gerry Barnas on lead guitar, Mary Noecker on bass, and Roger Foster on drums, soon became an institution at the legendary CBGB’s, and Bill became a personal confidant of owner and visionary Hilly Crystal. “My first time in the place was in 1976 to see the Ramones,” Bill recalls. “I went down with my drummer at the time, Keith Strange, and his friend Peter Zaremba, who would go on to start the Fleshtones together. I later saw the Dead Boys, the Dictators and Suicide there together, and I’ll never forget that first night. The place was packed and there were a lot of these intellectual hippie- looking guys just looking
around while the music was blasting. My first attempt at a punk song was titled ‘Dee Dee’s Got A D Cup’ and was inspired by seeing the Ramones.”
The Tapes got their own audition for the infamous CBGB’s in 1981. “We passed the audition the first night,” Bill remembers. “Hilly Crystal found out that I did plumbing work and the first job I did for him was replacing a smashed toilet on the wall in the men’s room. Over the years I became good friends with Hilly. When I did my first Christmas show at CBGB’s I came out in a full Santa Claus suit. He got the idea for me to play Santa Claus for his grandchildren, which I was more than happy to do. He was a club owner who truly cared about the bands that he had playing there. He was always a fan of our band’s music and my songwriting.”
The only thing that slowed Bill down, albeit temporarily, was a little thing called open quadruple heart bypass surgery. “Ironically, because of my heart surgery we had to postpone the 20th anniversary of a benefit I do every year for the American Heart Association in memory of my father, George L. Popp, aka Daddy Tapes. Our first return gig was at Crash Mansion, where we were interviewed by the Daily News, who ended up taking a picture for the paper of the band, and me showing off the scar on my chest, which all of New York got to see.”
Bill has traveled the world looking for opportunities to play his music; from Budapest to East Berlin, and Hong Kong to Vietnam, he has plied his trade. From a young punk to a 50s-plus popster, he has continued his quest. As he says, “What else should I do at this point? This is who I am. I have no intention of stopping. A number shouldn’t make you decide what you should do with your life—as long as you can do it. That’s what’s important. I’ll see you again, Hong Kong.”
You can find more information about Bill Popp and The Tapes at billpopp.com. The new CD is available via both the website and cdbaby.com.
The veteran musician, who has a new-found love of Asia, tells Dan Kadisonof of his early days on the New York punk scene and his dreams for the future.
THE DREAM Living a split life is not easy. At night, I'm a musician, singing and playing keyboard with my band, the Tapes. During the day, I'm a plumber for the New York City Department of Parks.
I'm the joke among my co-workers because I'll turn down overtime to go play for free at a club. For me, it's important to do what I love.
I was born in New York on June 5, 1953. I was raised in College Point, Queens, in the same house where I still live today. And I would be lying if I told you that I've given up on the hope of having a hit song.
THE REALITIES In 2005, I landed in Hong Kong to make a connecting flight to Vietnam. I remember looking out the window from the plane and falling in love with the beautiful mountains and the way the buildings looked on them. Until then, I had been playing in Europe from time to time. I thought why not try Asia. There might be more opportunities for me here; the market isn't as saturated.
I played solo shows in Vietnam, China and Thailand in 2005, and in India two years later. People are curious. Western music is starting to catch on. So when the opportunity came along to visit Hong Kong this summer, how could I refuse? I liked walking around the city, admiring the views -- and the women too. I really enjoyed playing [at The Wanch and The Cavern]. I look forward to returning.
THE BEGINNINGS I always knew what I wanted to be: a musician. By the time I was five, I was singing Elvis' Hound Dog in the hallway. As a child, I was into Ricky Nelson, Chubby Checker and Dion and the Belmonts.
Then, in 1964, I started listening to the Beatles. I was 10 years old, and the group was bigger than life. Ringo owned a blue Ludwig drum kit, and I begged my parents for one. A couple of years later my parents caved. They bought me a sky blue set.
Soon, I started my first band. We called ourselves the Tormenters and we lived up to our name; we were awful. My mother used to play piano by ear when she was a child. Since I had received drums that June of 1966, my father and sister decided to chip in and bought my mother a piano for Christmas.I thought the piano was silly until I found out that John and Paul played it.
In 1968, the Beatles released Hey Jude and my friend Ralph taught me how to play it. One day I was sitting at the piano, when I started mumbling some words over the melody to Don't Let Me Down and, voila, I wrote my first song. I called it It's You. It was for a girl named Diane.
Five years later, I submitted my first demo tape to Warner Bros. They sent me my first rejection letter.
THE MEMORIES I've played the New York clubs that are no longer there, including Gerde's Folk City, the Palladium, Max's Kansas City and CBGB's, the iconic club founded by the late Hilly Kristal.
I'll never forget my first time at Hilly's place. It was around 1976 and one day my friend Keith called me up to say there was this band called the Ramones playing at CBGB's. That night, the place was packed. I remember there were a lot of intellectual hippie-looking guys just looking around while this music was blasting. I didn't know whether to like the music or hate it. I was into Jethro Tull and disco music was holding six out of the top 10 spots on the radio. But I wanted to write something like the Ramones, so the next day I wrote a three-chord song to a fast beat. I called it Dee-Dee's Got a D-Cup.
CBGB's would eventually become my home. Now that it's gone, there's a hole in the New York music scene.
THE HURT AND THE HOPE My mother had cancer from the time I was 10. She beat it for 15 years. I promised her I would someday be a full-time musician. She died in our house a week after she was sent home from the hospital. That was August 14, 1978; She was 64. On November 1, 1986, I found my father unconscious on the floor. The paramedic worked on him for 45 minutes then said, "I'm sorry he's gone". He was 73.
My health? I recently had heart bypass surgery. The doctors said I had a half of a percent chance that I wasn't going to make it through the surgery, the odds weren't bad. I recovered.
As far as playing music, what else should I do at this point? This is who I am. I have no intention of stopping. A number shouldn't make you decide what you should do with your life Ð as long as you can do it. That's what's important.
I'll see you again, Hong Kong.
Review by William Ruhlmann
Most aspiring musicians found the music of the Beatles and the British Invasion they fostered inspiring; some found it defining. Among the latter is Bill Popp, who, with his group the Tapes, has now made four self-released albums, all of which reflect the influence of the British Invasion many decades after the fact. Actually, the group sounds like some of the American bands that arose in the wake of that invasion in the mid-'60s, bands like Los Bravos and the Beau Brummels that sometimes have been grouped under the "garage band" or "Nuggets" labels. Bill Popp & the Tapes cover the Beau Brummels' "Just a Little" on this album, just to make the connection obvious. The bandleader, who has a day job as a plumber, is now in his mid-fifties and pursues his musical career as an impassioned sideline. He has a clear tenor that is somewhat reminiscent of Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits and Gerry Marsden of Gerry & the Pacemakers, and he writes songs full of romantic longing and self-reflection set to catchy pop/rock tunes that his band plays sweetly. On this album, he remakes his 1982 debut single, "Love and Lust," and allows his guitarist, Gerry Barnas, to contribute a song and lead vocal of his own, "I See Your Face." For a change of pace, he tries an Irish-tinged closer, "Emily Lives in Ireland." Whatever the sources of the material, the music remains unfailingly tuneful and true to its heroes. As such, Bill Popp & the Tapes are to Queens, NY, what the Smithereens (with somewhat greater commercial success) are to Carteret, NJ, a local '60s rock tribute band moved to create original music in the manner of its idols and doing so effectively.
In the press release accompanying Bill Popp's new release with his band The Tapes, Bill talks about his recovery from a near fatal heart attack. His CD, My Lonely Mind, reflects his joyful attitude toward life. Bill plays keyboards and percussion as well as vocals. He is joined on this album by The Tapes consisting of Gerry Barnas playing an excellent guitar. He also whistles and provides some backing vocals as well as lead vocal and songwriting on I See Your Face. Roger Foster plays drums, percussion and backing vocals. Mary Noecker plays bass and according to the CD credits, provided visuals.
The Tapes' tight, hook-driven rhythms and sweet harmonies are a perfect setting for Popp's tenor voice. The songs are a celebration of life and love. The first cut, Paradise, recounts Popp's awakening to a new life after his near brush with death. In the second cut, Perfect Idiot, Barnas' driving guitar and the rhythm section of Foster and Noecker support Popp in a near perfect pop delight. The harmonies become almost Beatlesque as does the melody of Popp's composition, Heartbeat. Even Barnas' guitar is reminiscent of Harrison on this cut.
The first lines of Love And Lust reflect the energy of the entire project, "Give me lust and love and all of that stuff, I live my life only for the good times" The band rocks into high gear while Popp sings about girls who "don't wait all night before they take chances." Popp is the primary songwriter on the CD and his songs are hook rich both lyrically and melodically. The album finishes with Popp on piano accompanied by Martynas Svegzda Von Bekker's violin on Emily Lives In Ireland, a departure from the pop rock of the other songs. This sweet ballad has an Irish feel which is heightened by Popp's tenor vocal.
My Lonely Mind by Bill Popp and The Tapes is filled with bright, singable pop songs, tight harmonies and solid rhythms.
06/26/08 Article from Astoria Times Veteran College Pt. rocker going strong with new CD
By Morgan Rousseau Thursday, June 26, 2008 2:29 PM EDT
The College Point-based band Bill Popp and The Tapes, comprising guitarist Gerry Barnas (l. to r.), drummer Roger Foster, Popp and bassist Mary Noecker, recently released their fourth album, "My Lonely Mind."
On June 5, College Point native Bill Popp and his band The Tapes celebrated the release of their newest album, "My Lonely Mind," at Kenny's Castaways on Bleecker Street, a favorite venue of the band.
Popp's career took off when he began performing at CBGB in 1981. The club was a hot spot for underground rock until its close in October 2006. That same year, Popp started up The Tapes by recruiting musicians hip to the underground scene of the time, which was focused on punk rock.
For 27 years Popp has kept his day job as a plumber while maintaining a cult following as an old-school rocker. His down-to-earth nature, along with his following, helps explain why he is good at doing his own promotion. This newest album is a simple yet thoughtful collection of songs that exemplify his sense for power-pop melodies and catchy lyrics.
"My Lonely Mind," written and produced by Popp, is the band's fourth, preceded by "Blind Love Sees Tears" (2001), "Insides" (2000) and "Popp This" (1990).
Popp has a rather chipper and upbeat disposition, which would lead one to believe that his music would be the same. However, the tone of his tunes is quite bluesy. "I write sad tunes," said Popp.
When asked about the New York City club scene now vs. the 1980s and 1990s, Popp said the difference is that back then a lot of clubs had their own following.
"They didn't want anyone walking out back then, so they were concerned about what kind of music was played, not just who it is," said Popp. "Now they can put four to six bands on a night and they don't care how they sound, but they care about how many friends the band brings."
However, Popp said that at the end of one of his live songs, he and his band still snag applause. "People have heard of us, yet it doesn't always equate in numbers at the door Ñ but sometimes it does," he said.
The Beatles-, Kinks- and Yardbirds-influenced musician got into music at age 13, at a time when he was an avid follower of Ringo Starr. "I had a drum set, and played to Beatles records (by ear)" said Popp, who, along with his family, gave a piano to his mother, who was ill with cancer at the time. His mother also played by ear, but due to her illness was soon unable to continue with the instrument. That's when Popp took over.
"A friend showed me how to play 'Hey Jude.' From that I could learn how to compose a tune," said Popp. However, after playing for 10 years and relying on his own self-teachings, Popp decided to take a few lessons. "It was hard for me to go to block one after I've been playing for ten years," said Popp.
Some of The Tapes' members have come and gone since the band's formation in 1981, but currently Gerry Barnas is on guitar and vocals, Roger Foster is on drums and percussion and Mary Noecker is on bass.
Back in 1981, Popp came up with the name The Tapes because at the time there were names like The Ramones, The Talking Heads and The Dead Boys, so he wanted to follow the pattern. And since back then CDs were not yet invented, he wanted to keep it simple and call the band "The Tapes."
"People hear that [name] now and must want to put their fingers down their throat," laughed Popp. However, he has no plans to change it. Nor does he have any plans to move from the house in Queens that he's lived in his entire life. As for his College Point neighborhood, Popp said it has changed a lot over the years thanks to over-development.
"We've got the East River, Flushing Bay. As a kid I would go in boats and swim up the docks. Now a lot of it is destroyed. They ripped down the one- or two-family homes and stuck in four- or six-family ones." said Popp. "Also, there used to be plenty of parking."
The album is their first since Popp's return to the scene from open-heart surgery in 2006. His operation put the album on hiatus for a bit. "We had tracks down, then I had the operation," said Popp.
For 20 years Popp has been an avid supporter of the American Heart Association by organizing an annual music benefit to raise money and awareness for the foundation. Popp dedicates the event to the memory of his father, who died of a heart attack in 1986 and was supportive of Popp's pursuit of a career in music.
A full schedule of upcoming shows and information about The Tapes' albums are available at www.billpopp.com.
Bill Popp is among the unsung heroes of power pop. Popp is a music veteran of early 60's rock influences in the classic tradition of The Beatles, REM, and The Who. Popp and his band, The Tapes delivers melodic hooks, combined with dance grooves and poetic harmony, that have a timeless quality.
He compares well to Frank Royster, with more of a British Merseybeat flavor. The lyrics are personal and touching in all cases here, and fans who favor DIY artists like Chris Breetveld ("The Breetles") will go nuts for Bill Popp and seek out his music.
The new album starts with "Paradise," a "don't-worry-be-happy" mantra set to a nice guitar riff. It's got a nice Beatley vibe and just the right amount of mellow reassurance in the chorus.
The follow up "Perfect Idiot" is a wonderful fast paced diatribe of self-criticism and nervous conversation in under three minutes all set to a wonderful hook. "Love and Lust" is a very Pete Townshend-styled rocker with plenty of jangle and a sweet piano break in the middle of the song.
The song "Your Hero" is an perfect autobiographical snapshot of Popp at 50 years old - he'll literally tell you, "Yeah, I tend to drink a lot, but what else do I got?" in the song.
The Popp's wisdom continues in the song "Love Many Trust Few" - it has a little rap in the middle with guitars, that reminds me a little bit of 10cc.
A nice cover of The Beau Brummels "Just a Little" round out this release.
Its a shame that this band isn't bigger or more well known than they are. They are one of NYC's best kept musical secrets.
Article from All Music Guide Review of Bill Popp and The Tapes "My Lonely Mind" by William Ruhlmann
Most aspiring musicians found the music of the Beatles and the British Invasion they fostered inspiring; some found it defining. Among the latter is Bill Popp, who, with his group the Tapes, has now made four self-released albums, all of which reflect the influence of the British Invasion many decades after the fact.
Actually, the group sounds like some of the American bands that arose in the wake of that invasion in the mid-'60s, bands like Los Bravos and the Beau Brummels that sometimes have been grouped under the "garage band" or "Nuggets" labels. Popp and the Tapes cover the Beau Brummels' "Just a Little" on this album, just to make the connection obvious.
The bandleader, who has a day job as a plumber, is now in his mid-fifties and pursues his musical career as an impassioned sideline. He has a clear tenor that is somewhat reminiscent of Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits and Gerry Marsden of Gerry and the Pacemakers, and he writes songs full of romantic longing and self-reflection set to catchy pop/rock tunes that his band plays sweetly. On this album, he remakes his 1982 debut single, "Love and Lust," and allows his guitarist, Gerry Barnas, to contribute a song and lead vocal of his own, "I See Your Face." For a change of pace, he tries an Irish-tinged closer, "Emily Lives in Ireland."
05/06/2008 Article from ANTIMUSIC CBGB Plumber CD Release Party(Anti-Music News, 05/06/2008)
(PR) Celebrate the release of the new Bill Popp And The Tapes CD My Lonely Mind at Kenny's Castaways, 157 Bleecker Street (between Sullivan and Thompson Streets) on Thursday, June 5th from 6:30-9:00PM. There will be free food and drinks, and free copies of the new CD to the first 75 attendees.
The story of prolific composer Bill Popp can best be summarized with three words: Perseverance, dedication and determination. For over 25 years, power popster, garage rocker, City of New York plumber, and quadruple heart by-pass survivor Bill Popp has had a dedicated cult following in the New York rock club scene Ð especially for his legendary performances at CBGB from 1981 to its closing last year, where the Queens native also was venue owner Hilly Kristal's longtime plumber.
Popp has been tagged "the downtown Elton John" (Boston Phoenix) and a "master songwriter" (New York Press), with a personality in peculiar contrast to his music. Regarded as well by the New York Daily News, New York Post, Village Voice and Newsday for both his relentless artistic and charitable achievements, Popp has amassed a song catalogue containing sensitive and introspective lyrics with melodies reflecting a keen sense for distinctive power pop melodies, and catchy hooks which simply rock.
Bill Popp And The Tapes' long-awaited new CD, My Lonely Mind Ð their first since Popp's return from open-heart surgery Ð is the fourth collection of songs written and produced by Bill Popp. The band includes: Bill Popp on lead and backing vocals, keyboards, and percussion; Gerry Barnas on guitar, whistling, backing vocals, lead vocals on and composer of "I See Your Face"; Roger Foster on drums, percussion and backing vocals, and Mary Noecker on bass and "visuals."
12/07/07 Article from LIMEWIRE Off the Beatin' Path - Bill Popp & the Tapes Live @ Pianos 12/06 (Limewire Music, Blog December 07, 2007)
By Guest-Blogger Posted on December 07, 2007
I have heard dozens upon dozens of bands in NYC who claim the Beatles, Kinks, REM, and XTC as influences. Many of these groups have the sound down; Bill Popp & the Tapes have the sound and the songs.
The veteran NYC songwriter could make a living licensing his material out to younger, needy popsters. But Popp will never be pulled away from the stage and his live act is first rate.
My first Tapes experience was about a month ago; I had the unique pleasure of running the soundboard for them at the Sidewalk Cafe. Simply put, the set was astounding; song after song, the band kept churning out brilliantly composed 60s pop compositions that many bands I know would kill for.
Last night, the Tapes delivered another fantastic performance (and the set seemed almost completely different).
Popp is always front and center on keys, singing in his lovely, hint-of-Brit tenor. Jerry Barnas (guitar), Mary Noecker (bass) and Roger Foster (drums) all provided backing vocals at various times. I've seen Noecker play both upright and electric bass at this point and the latter is preferable; her tandem pogo jumps with Barnas are fantastic.
This is an NYC pop act that deserves a revival. Forget the latest hype. Bill Popp & the Tapes are RIYL* the real deal. *Recommended If You Like
Ben Kreiger is a musician, writer, and compulsive music collector.
Bill Popp shows his heart-surgery scar backstage and [...] plays with the Tapes at SoHo's Crash Mansion.
4/20/06 Article NY Daily News Pump it up!: Bill Popp unites rockers to support heart health By J.R. TAYLOR
Outside the Austin Convention Center on a brisk Texas morning, Bill Popp has a hard-luck story about life in a rock 'n' roll band. So do all the other musicians here for the SXSW festival. There are more than 1,000 bands taking over the city's nightclubs. Popp's in town to try to make some connections, but he's not like the other would-be rock stars.
For one thing, Popp is bragging about his dad.
"One time," Popp recalls, "we left a club and found that somebody had robbed the battery out of our van. My father comes driving into Manhattan at 69 years old, at 5 o'clock in the morning, in pouring rain, with a battery so we could get our equipment home. That was my old man, you know?"
Most musicians wouldn't risk being heard speaking fondly about their fathers - but Popp is a little more mature. The 52-year-old Brooklyn bachelor has more than 20 years of stories about performing as leader of Bill Popp & the Tapes. The act is now working on its fourth album of fairly rockin' guitar-pop.
But on May 24 and 25, Popp will reach a different kind of musical milestone, holding the 20th annual Daddy Tapes Benefit for the American Heart Association at Kenny's Castaways in Greenwich Village. The event honors the late George L. Popp - aka Daddy Tapes - who passed away in 1986 from a heart attack. It's become one of the more pleasant traditions in the New York City rock community, notable for its low-key atmosphere and gathering of minor rock stars/survivors of the local music scene.
Bill Popp remains grateful for the chance to do the ultimate uncool in rock - paying tribute to his father's sacrifices. "My dad could've moved to Florida," Popp explains, "but he kept the house in Brooklyn and his night watchman's job so that I would have a place to live cheaply. I could afford studio time because of him. And my dad always showed up at gigs. It was kind of rad to see some guy over 40 there, with his pipe and his cowboy shirt. I don't think he understood rock, but he enjoyed what I was doing."
The annual fund-raiser took the place of what had become a regular birthday party for Popp's father. In that spirit, the event has traditionally been held on George Popp's birth date of March 19. This year, however, the event was postponed for just about the best excuse a rock musician can offer.
"I had all the acts booked in January," says Popp, "and then I went in for my annual checkup."My doctor says, 'I hear some kind of murmur,' so I go to see a cardiologist. I'm thinking they'll find a blockage or something. I'd been feeling kind of weird, anyway, fatigued every now and then. When the cardiologist gets done, I'm told that I have to get bypass surgery.
"I go, 'Can it wait until April?'" Popp continues. "He says, 'Well, to be honest, you're a candidate for sudden death.'"
Popp laughs at the memory. "I find out [on Valentine's Day] that I got to get the surgery done, and I'm rolled into surgery on the 22nd. They wound up doing a quadruple bypass."
"So now the party's going to happen on May 24 and 25. I'm making it a two-day event, and I'm hoping everyone who agreed to do it before can make it this time."
With typical courtesy, Kenny's Castaways was quick to accommodate the change. "They've been so supportive over the years," says Popp. "Pat Kenny owned the bar, and he passed away last year. He'd always throw $200 into the box at the end of the night. Now we bill the show as 'in the spirit of Pat Kenny.'"
With the passing of Pat Kenny, this year's event also adds to the roster of sons honoring their fathers. "On a personal note," says Tommy Kenny - now running his father's bar - "the event's taken on a greater meaning this year. I can relate to Bill wanting to keep his father's memory alive."
"It's been the longest-running event we've ever had here, and I'd like to keep it that way," Kenny continues. "Bill's a good friend, and he was a good friend to my dad. And, in their own ways, our fathers both loved the music industry and wanted to be a part of it."
And since George Popp didn't know that much about rock music, he'd probably be impressed with a typical lineup for one of his benefit concerts. There have been a few big names and rising stars over the years - Nellie McKay, Danny Kalb of the Blues Project - but the Daddy Tapes fund-raisers remain a far cry from Live Aid.
"I'd wanted the 20th anniversary to be a bigger deal," says Popp, "and I started in December thinking of big names I could get to play for the 20th anniversary. I approached everyone from Yoko Ono to Lou Reed's management. Yoko's people even got back to me with a letter telling me she was going to be out of town. I was lucky enough to get [Patti Smith guitarist] Lenny Kaye, and lots of good local people." Other better-known acts on the bill include singer-songwriter David Poe, punk rockers Sea Monster and '80s power-pop icons Catholic Girls.
Even without megastars, Popp can be proud of what he's accomplished. "It may not seem like much," he says, "but there's been this $5 door charge that's raised over $11,000 for the American Heart Association - and that's only been from me doing it once a year. Last year made something like $835.
"If you get into bigger names and a bigger venue, then there's security, and then some people start wanting to get paid. It would've been nice if [the event] had really taken off, but I've got people playing and raising money, and the name of Daddy Tapes lives on."
"That's the sad thing," Popp adds. "I wanted this to become its own foundation. The reality is that it won't. It'll die when I do. That never hit me until this year. I've been raising money for the American Heart Association, and now I'm a candidate. I've been raising money for my own research." Popp has another good laugh in the cool Texas morning air. "If my father was alive, he'd be shaking his head over that."
More information on the Daddy Tapes benefit, including a list of the performers, is available on billpopp.com.
Do you know a New Yorker who's making a difference? E-mail Big Town Editor Dawn Eden: firstname.lastname@example.org ?
Originally published on April 20, 2006
Vietnamese article about Bill's show in Ho Chi Minh City, 9/22/05:
Feature article from the Whitestone Times Ledger: Boro Popp Sensation By Brian M. Rafferty 10/30/2003
College Point's Bill Popp
For nearly 30 years a plumber from College Point has been recording Rock 'n' Roll music his own way. Just don't call it pop, that could be a bit confusing...
Bill Popp was raised in a blue collar Queens family, and had been interested in music as a child. When he was a kid, the Beatles came to New York and played on the Ed Sullivan Show.
"I wanted to be the next Ringo," Popp said as he sat sipping coffee in a Bayside cafe last week. By the time I was 13 I bought a blue Ludwig drum kit, which I still have."
"The Beatles were such a huge influence on me", Popp said. My mother had a piano that we bought for her in 1963, and I would tinker, but I didn't start playing until a friend of mine showed me how to play "Hey Jude" on his Epstein organ.
By this time Popp was in ninth grade and had his heart broken for the first time by a girl with whom he was smitten. "That inspired the first song that I wrote, though I'll tell you ... any song I ever wrote for a girl has never gotten me anywhere with her.
With a couple of songs written, a desire to learn piano and his own drum kit, Popp joined a band in 10th grade that was looking for a drummer.
"At that point I was still only listening to Ringo, and the other guys in the band were listening to the big new band, Led Zeppelin", Popp said. "When I started playing drums they looked at me like I had three heads. I was quickly kicked out of the band, so I started to realize that perhaps I should bury myself in piano a bit more and not focus on the drums.
Popp started recording some of his music, and was under the misguided notion that anybody with a demo tape and a catchy tune would soon find themselves featured on American Bandstand. This was not the case.
"I had no reality of what the business was like," he said. "I thought I'd make a demo and get a recording contract."
So the budding musician and songwriter had to focus on just what life would be like after high school.
Popp had never been a good student in school, and had ended up in a plumbing course at Thomas Edison High School. By the time he graduated in 1972, he had already sent his demo off to Warner Brothers, who gave him a cold rejection letter.
"I was very half-assed about the music for a few years after that, but in 1978, when my mother died, I realized that the music had to be the center of what I was doing and that the plumbing had to be just a way to make ends meet", he said.
Between the demo and his mother dying, Popp played in a string of low-paying gigs at such Manhattan clubs as the Dugout, Folk City and CBGB's. But his mother's death spurred him on to make a serious commitment. Popp's new band, the Tapes, played their first show on March 3, 1981, at Folk City. Their first record came out in 1982.
After the murder of a band member and some other shake-ups, the band reformed in 1986 as Bill Popp and the Tapes. A few months later, Popp's father died.
"That was it," Popp said. "I was going to sell the friggin' house and move to Florida. I didn't know what I was going to do. Up until that point I lived with my dada and paid room and board. He paid all the bills."
"With my father alive, I was still a kid," Popp added. "I didnï¿½t even have a checking account until a year earlier. What did I need to write checks for?"
Popp suddenly grew up overnight.
"My dad was my best friend, and when he died he left me the house and about $20 after everything was all said and done. I figured I needed to do something for him."
"I came up with the idea of doing a benefit concert for the American Heart Association in his name," Popp said. "We had the first one on March 10, 1987 at CBGB's, and did one there every year until we moved it to Kenny's Castaway's in 1993. This coming year will be the 18th annual, and we have raised more than $8,000 in that time."
Bill Popp and the Tapes have released a few albums, including the most recent release, "Blind Love Sees Tears," which came out in 2001. The band has toured extensively throughout Europe, and Popp will be packing his bags after a Halloween show in College Point and a quick gig at Kenny's Castaways to fly out to Buenos Aires for that city's Beatlefest Nov. 5.
Like many actors who spend their lives waiting tables, Popp has spent most of his adult life as a plumber. He is currently employed by the city and works doing plumbing for the Department of Parks and Recreation.
"It's good because I go to work in the morning and I have all night to work on the music," Popp said. "I haven't been off the stage for more than three months at a time, and I still do at least one gig a month, if not three or four."
Popp will play a solo show on Halloween at the Five Corners Bar, 127th Street and 14th Avenue in College Point from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. He will play with the Tapes at Kenny's Castaways, 157 Bleecker St., Manhattan, at 9 p.m. Nov. 2, spend the next weekend in Buenos Aires and then return for shows Nov. 18 at the Lion's Den, 214 Sullivan St., Dec. 3 at CB's 313 Gallery, 313 Bowery St., and Dec. 11 at the Pussycat Lounge, 96 Greenwich St.
For more information, go to www.billpopp.com. Times Ledger 2003 Whitestone Times Ledger, October 31, 2003
03/25/02 Article about our show in Melle, Germany
...from Good Times Magazine, February 12-25, 2002: There's something about pop music that gets into Bill Popp's blood, because his newest release, "Blind Love Sees Tears," is an amalgamation of everything Beatles, Byrds, Split Enz and the like. And the result is something you'll like. Popp, who is lead vocalist and plays keyboards, wrote all but one of the songs that are on the disc. The one cover, the Bee Gees classic "New York Mining Disaster (1941)," is harder edged than the original, but comes across great, not bastardized. Of Popp's original material, with one exception, it all follows the pop theme. Beatles influences abound in nearly every track, and if not straight Beatles, then other Brit Pop influences of old. You can hear the essence of Split Enz in the opener, "Speaks Little English." The best of the Beatles-influenced tracks include "Cecelia Elizabeth," "Just Like in the Movies" and "My Only Child." The best cut of all is the only straight-ahead original rocker, the bitingly snarky "Better Than Nothing," which describes one night in a bar. Popp and his capable band of Gerry Barnas (guitar), Alex Craven (bass) and Rob Holm (drums) have made an intelligent, catchy-as-all-hell album. Beatle fans and Brit-pop fans, seek out "Blind Love Sees Tears." It's a winner.
Longtime New York musician Popp and company's latest work, Blind Love Sees Tears, is a fine '60s Brit-invasion inspired collection of powerpop that even includes a revved-up version of the Bee Gees' New York Mining Disaster (1941). They can be very proud of a long, fun ride.
-Village Voice Andrew Aber March 23, 2005
07/05/01 Article from Newsday, July 5, 2001:
The Artist: Bill Popp and the Tapes Hometown: College Point The Disc: "Blind Love Sees Tears" Performance: A Songwriting: A Sound Quality: A
"Blind Love Sees Tears" will drive lovers of power pop to tears of joy. It's only Bill Popp and the Tapes' third long-player since 1981, but Popp is clearly a believer in the "quality vs. quantity" adage. (You won't hear any cliches like that on the album.) Maybe this is what early GBV would've sounded like if Bob Pollard had access to more than four-track equipment (and liked keyboards and wrote songs about girls).
Popp's '60s influences aren't buried at the bottom of a well. Take, for example, the exuberance with which the band plays "Speaks Little English"; it's pure pop pleasure complete with Beatles-Beach Boys-Byrds holy trinity harmonies. And who would dare cover the Bee Gees? But Popp and the boys deliver a revved-up version of "New York Mining Disaster 1941."
"Better Than Nothing" takes a turn for low-down blues with the story of an almost encounter with the "queen of lonely love" -- a woman who, we presume, would have to be asked, "Who's walking whom?" if we saw her taking her dog for a stroll. Needless to say, there aren't any dogs on this one.
-- Kevin Amorim Newsday July 5, 2001
08/07/01 Article from New York Press, August 1-7, 2001: Finally, from another old-time New York rocker comes an album called Blind Love Sees Tears. That CD, on 121st Street Records, is by none other than Mr. Bill Popp and his band, the Tapes. Bill has been playing around CBGB and other places for about as long as I can remember. One Christmas he even dressed as Santa Claus (a drunk Santa Claus) and gave out presents from the Bleecker and Bowery Stage. Anyway, Bill is a master songwriter, and his tunes are both catchy and haunting. Just listen to "Closest Friend" and "Better Than Nothing" to hear what I mean. This guy rules. And of course, he's from New York and likes to hang around CBGB, so we all know what that means. He's got a huge penis! Yay!-- George Tabb New York Press August 1-7, 2001, Volume 14, Number 31
Singer/pianist Bill Popp -- his real name, I shit you not -- has been called the downtown Elton John. And, in truth, many of the cuts on this Manhattan outfit's latest have the sparkle of the John/Bernie Taupin gems from the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road days. "Stone To Throw" offers the clarity and the hallmarks -- harmonies, chorus modulations, clarion vocals, a solid hook -- of great classic pop. The winsome "When I Met You" sounds like the sort of thing Bread or Three Dog Night or Gary Lewis, or maybe even the Lovin' Spoonful in a brassier mood, would have written. There's even an unlikely cover of the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby," which proves that Popp and company have balls and what's more sounds terrific -- spiked with just enough edgy guitar and rhythmic thrust to acknowledge their awareness of the alterna-grunge (r)evolution. To hell with recyclers of Mantovani and lounge music, classic '60s/'70s vocal-driven pop is a frisky well that's largely untapped, and here Popp hits his own gusher. (Order from 121st Street, at 22-28 121st Street, College Point, New York 11356.)
-- Ted Drozdowski
*** MISCELLANEOUS QUOTES THRU THE YEARS ***
"...Infectious pop tunes" - Deborah Russell, Billboard
"...Doesn't ever lose its value or appeal. It just needs to be heard." - David Hinckley, NY Daily News
"...[has] a fine knack for hooks and tunes." - NY Daily News, Friday, October 02, 1998
"...An impressive collection of rock and pop-rock." - Alex Henderson, Cash Box
"...Popp (that's his real last name) and lives up to it . . . warm and appealing." - Pulse! (Tower Records)
"...Popp has written ten songs and deals them out in an earnest tenor that can light candles across the room." - Mark Keating, Sound View Magazine
"...Interesting combination of '60s pop without sounding dated." - Jim Monaghan, Traffic
"...Bill Popp and the Tapes are innovative artists who make things happen with their music." - The Island Ear
"...Popp This - guaranteeing listeners a boredom free album." - Valerie Lionel, NY Resident/" Nightlife"
"...Popp pop cultdom can be heard in ever sincere vocal." - Brad Balfour, The NY
121 STREET RECORDS 22-20 121 Street College Point, NY 11356 (718) 359-4110