how the tapes got rolling
1969 COLLEGE POINT, QUEENS
The death of his mother in 1978 was a wake up call for Popp and he realized that to get somewhere in the music business, he would have to make music the center of his life.
He asked Triangle bassist Paul Reilly and drummer Steve Baltunis, who had just auditioned for Triangle, to join. Paul had a high school guitar player friend named Joe Canale, who auditioned and got the gig.
The band kicked around names and came up with The Tapes. At the time it was considered a good name because most bands had the word THE before their name and all recordings were done at that time on magnetic recording tape.
the tapes first show 1981
But tragedy hit the band with the death of Joe Canale, and the momentum came to an abrupt halt. On a routine bank errand, the eighteen-year-old Joe Canale was abducted, robbed, and found murdered. "This was probably the worst thing I ever lived through," said Popp. "It was hard for me to play my own songs knowing how Joe had played on them. Part of me wanted my music to die with him, but I knew we had to live on."
THE RETURN OF THE TAPES WITH DAN COOPER
THE BIRTH OF BILL POPP AND THE TAPES
THE BEGINNING OF THE "POPP THIS" ERA
THE BEGINNING OF THE DADDY TAPES BENEFIT
But on November 1, 1986 Popp’s life got turned upside down when his father died from a heart attack. Daddy Tapes' dream had been to one day sell the house and move to Florida. But he knew that if he did that, it would most likely be the end for his son’s band. So instead, he remained in New York and kept his night watchman job till the day he died at age 73.
At the funeral Popp said he wanted to do something to keep his father’s spirit alive, so to honor his memory, he came up with the idea of doing a benefit in his father's name and donating the money to The American Heart Association.
At the end of December 1986, Clair Pushay left the band and Emily Shane became the new bass player. The group continued to gig. On March 10th 1987 the band played the first of what has become known as The Daddy Tapes Benefit, at CBGB‘s, on the late George L. Popp’s (Daddy Tapes') Birthday.
March 8, 2020 marked the 34th benefit in a row.
These songs and six others would eventually be the full length album POPP THIS, which would be released in 1990.
Their first performance in this line up was on March 10 1988, at the 2nd Annual Daddy Tapes Benefit at CBGB’s.
Starting in May 1988, and throughout the summer of 1989, the band continued recording their ten song debut album Popp THIS, which was released in January 1990. It got rave reviews from both The New York Daily News and Billboard. Stephanie played on 6 tracks of Popp This, then went on to form Blue Number Nine and was replaced by Pat McGraw.
1. Everything is Thin2, Too Many Stars3. I'll Never Change4. Don't Hold It Against Me5. Satisfied6. 'Til Nowhere7. Go With the Flow8. Punk Girls9. She's in the Sky10. One Door Slams
Recorded at Sammy Fields in Sugar Hill, Omega Mix, and West Westside Music Produced by Bill PoppRecording Engineer, Associate Producer, and mixed by Alan Douches Bill Popp - lead vocals and keyboards Gerry Barnas - guitar and backing vocals Stefanie Seskin - bass, flute, and backing vocals Anne Husick - guitar and backing vocals Emily Shane - bass and backing vocals Bobby Reyes - drums and backing vocals
Years later, Stephanie formed her own band, Blue Number 9.
In the beginning of 1990, Bobby Reyes left the band and was replaced by drummer Rob Holm. After a few fill-in bass players, bassist Mike Gellman joined in the fall of 1990, and this line up remained with the same members until 1997.
1. Stone to Throw2. Eleanor Rigby3. Rapline4. Just Say Love5. Sidewalk Dance6. Freedom's Blood7. When I Met You8. Walk in Circles9. Zippora10. The Sky is Blue Recorded at West Westside Music Produced by Bill PoppRecording Engineer, Associate Producer, and mixed by Alan DouchesBill Popp - lead vocals and keyboards Gerry Barnas - guitar and backing vocals Mike Gellman - bass and backing vocalsRob Holm - drums and backing vocalsTo read reviews of this album, please visit our Press page
THE SONY MANAGEMENT DEAL
Popp was going on 44 at the time, and figured his chances of getting signed to a major label were next to impossible, so this might be a great opportunity. Unfortunately, the Sony reps wanted to make their agreement only with Bill, and not the band. This divided the group and ultimately caused Mike Gellman to leave.
Popp signed a ten month letter of intent, but in the end, nothing came of it. Two months after the deal was signed, he requested a progress report to see where the managers were generating airplay for the CD. They told him they were instead trying to get a major deal first, but the labels wouldn’t bite when they heard Popp was 43. This approach was a total flip flop from what he was told when he signed the deal.
1997 - 2001
Luckily, during the first week of holding auditions, drummer Roger Foster showed up. Roger’s drumming style was a shoe in for the band's sound, as well as his vocal ability, which blended well with Gerry to produce the band‘s three-part harmonies. Roger also offered his computer skills to setup and maintain the Tapes’ web page, and has done the graphic design on all the CD‘s, starting with Blind Love Sees Tears.
Shortly after Roger joined the band, bassist Everett Henry joined, and stayed long enough to play on the upcoming album. On May 10th, 2001, Bill Popp and the Tapes released their third album, "Blind Love See’s Tears."
The release party was held at CB's Gallery and, halfway through the evening, the band marched their guests next door to CBGB’s main room, where they played a 20th anniversary show (exactly, for it happened to be May 10th, 1981 when The Tapes first played CBGB’s). By the end of July 2001, Everett Henry quit the band and moved to Florida to take a new job.
BLIND LOVE SEES TEARS
Though Bill had been performing solo in Europe for years, Mary encouraged him to take the whole band there. They've since done five European tours. Bill has also performed solo shows in Asia and South America.
From 2001 to the present time, the band has reached a harmony within itself which has allowed their sound to go in different directions, while staying true to their Brit pop roots.
2003 fifty years of popp!
MY LONELY MIND
1. Paradise2. Perfect Idiot3. Heart Beat4. Love and Lust5. Your Hero6. Garden Wall7. Love Many Trust Few8. Glass9. I See Your Face10. Just a Little11. Old Grey Men12. Emily Lives in Ireland Recorded at Wats On Studios, New Milford, NJ Produced by Bill PoppRecording Engineer Steve WatsonMixed by Steve Watson Executive Producer Bill Popp Associate Producer Steve Watson
Bill Popp - vocals and keyboards Gerry Barnas - guitar and backing vocals Mary Noecker - bass Roger Foster - drums and backing vocals
To read reviews of this album, please visit our Press page
New Tracks:1. Sally Works in a Chinese Takeout2. Sure Hope She Show3. Love Takes So Long
from My Lonely Mind:4. Paradise5. Love Many Trust Few6. Your Hero
from Blind Love Sees Tears:7. To Build a Wall8. Speaks Little English9. Cecelia Elizabeth
from Insides:10. Stone to Throw11. Just Say Love12. Sidewalk Dance
from Popp This:13. Everything is Thin14. Til Nowhere15. Go With the Flow16. Too Many Stars
Early Singles:17. Just Like in the Movies18. Love and Lust19. Floating on a Tear Drop
Extras:20. Bill Popp Interview History of the Tapes21. Alone in the Moonlight (Live at Max's Kansas City July 1981)22. The Tapes first air play23. Glass intro - Daddy Tapes' voice New tracks recorded and mixed by Jon Altschuler at Seaside Lounge Studios, Brooklyn, NYProduced by Bill Popp Associate Producer Jon Altschuler To read reviews of this album, please visit our Press page
POPP HITS THE 60'S
Released in 2013
1. The World She Knows2. In My Head3. I Love a Woman But She Don't Love Me4. When I Was Stoned Recorded, Mixed, and Mastered by Dave McKeon at Astor Audio Produced by Bill Popp Associate Producer Dave McKeon Executive Producer Bill Popp Arranged by Bill Popp and the Tapes CD booklet designed by Roger Foster Cover designed by Jonathan Krosky Photos by Pat Ossa and Roger Foster
Bill Popp - lead and backing vocals, keyboards, percussion, kazoo Gerry Barnas - guitar, backing vocals Mary Noecker - bass, backing vocals Roger Foster - drums, percussion, backing vocals Dave McKeon - Banjo (When I Was Stoned)
To read reviews of this album, please visit our Press page
POPP'S LAST FLUSH
It’s no secret to anyone on the New York music scene that Popp survived financially through the years doing plumbing. He even used his trade to earn brownie points at many New York night spots, including the “legendary” bathrooms at CBGB’s, right up until the closing days of the club. “The first job I did for Hilly (the owner) was in 1981, replacing the toilet that was smashed off the wall in the men’s room. As I opened the door, a rat jumped out of the garbage can and ran across my feet! The last thing I did for Hilly was removing the bathroom fixtures, including the famous urinals. One of them was put on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex.” Popp was shown in the final scenes of Mandy Stein's 2009 documentary "Burning Down the House: The Story of CBGB," kicking the flush valve, flooding the floor.
In the early days, while showcasing his newly formed band, The Tapes, Popp worked for a non-union plumbing shop, where he often found himself close to being fired. He’d work through lunch breaks to get out on time to make it for sound checks. He would get home in the wee hours, set the alarm and wake up to a ringing phone and the foreman’s voice saying “Willy, are you coming to work? Move your ass!” Popp found his way to the plumbing trade because of his flunking attitude towards school. His guidance counselor got him enrolled in Thomas Edison Vocational and Technical High School, where he majored in plumbing. “The last thing I ever wanted to be was a plumber,” Popp says “but taking a trade was the easiest way out of high school.” Like many artists, Popp was hoping for that record deal that would propel him into stardom. Despite the favorable press, occasional airplay, TV spots and years of performing live, the break never came.
In 1988 a friend coaxed Popp to take a job working as a plumber for the city of New York and for the last 24 years has worked as a plumber for New York City Parks and Recreation. Now 62, he is able to receive a city pension and is finally, “Flushing His Plumbing Job Down The Drain." To commemorate the occasion, Popp is threw a good riddance to plumbing party at The Park Side Lounge located at 317 East Houston NYC, on Thursday October 1st, 2015.
Guests received, at the door, a free copy of Bill Popp and The Tapes' new CD, titled “Popp’s Last Flush,” and were invited to eat, drink and be merry, complements of the host Bill Popp. This event was open to the public and kicked off at 6:30 PM. A live performance by the band “Bill Popp and The Tapes” was set for 8:00 PM, followed by two special guest bands. Sea Monster at 9 PM and The Bowery Boys at 10 PM. There was no cover charge. A splendid time was guaranteed for all.
Bill Popp and The Tapes have been a New York music institution for over 34 years and counting. Over the years the band received praise from publications such as Billboard, NY Daily News, NY Post, The Village Voice, The All Music Guide and many others.
121 Street Records 718-359-4110
BILL POPP SOLO
All through the years, besides performing with The Tapes, Popp would do an occasional solo performance. In recent years, he performed solo shows more frequently, as well as touring on his own. When it came to selling CD’s at his solo shows, the only ones he had to sell were with the band, which was not representing what he was doing solo. So it became apparent he should record a solo album with just Popp at the piano singing --- BILL POPP SOLO
1. In My Head2. Cecilia Elizabeth3. Sucker for Pretty Face4. To Build a Wall5. One Door Slams6. Rock to My Roll7. My Little World8. Garden Wall9. Love and Lust10. Rosemary Sweet Dream11. Old Gray Men12. When I Was Stoned13. A Girl No One Loves
2022 melt my heart and then my brains
Popp said the EP, titled “Melt My Heart and Then My Brains,” features five new songs. While The Tapes have undergone personnel changes in the past, the existing lineup of Popp on lead vocals, keyboards and percussion, Gerry Barnas on guitar, Mary Noecker on bass and Roger Foster on drums has been together for more than two decades.
“It’s been seven years since the last album,” Popp told the Chronicle. “The songs have been around. ‘Irish Whiskey Bar’ I wrote back before the pandemic. I probably wrote that in 2019. The last song, ‘Claim on Your Love,’ was probably March 2021. I had five songs ready to go, I didn’t want to make a whole album. It would just take too long and we had to get something out. We had these five tracks and I thought they were all strong.”
And yes, the ballad “Irish Whiskey Bar” is about the watering hole where the record launch will take place.
Popp is a retired plumber with the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation.
“I’ve always had a day gig,” he said. “That was the best move I ever made.”
The release marks Popp’s 12th album either with the Tapes or as a solo performer. His first, in 1982, came out on vinyl. His second, in 1984, was produced by David Lichtenstein, a recording engineer and the son of pop artist Roy Lichtenstein.
On one album they did a cover of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby”
“I did pay the licensing fee — I know Paul [McCartney] needs the money,” he joked.
He said the creative process can come any time, anywhere and could be inspired by anything.
“Sometimes I’ll get something in my head,” he said. “What I do now is I talk it into my phone. I’ve got loads of blips and bloops on my phone. If somebody got a hold of it they might think it belongs to a mental patient. I might be sitting in a bar having a beer and something will come into my head or something triggers it. I’ll record something or say a line into my phone. Then I get home and sometimes it’s good. And sometimes ...
“You never know. I’m never writing enough. I want to write songs that people like. I like to think that I could play one of my songs after playing a good cover and people will like it.”
And he admits that some of the tracks on the new album are, like many of his other original songs, the stories of and salutes to the lovelorn.
“I’ve always been a romanticist,” he said. “That’s always been my weak point. Or my strong point. It depends on who you ask.” Queens Chronicle by Michael Gannon, Senior News Editor, 2/17/22