While rock and roll may have been the first form of popular music to divide and conquer the masses, punk rock seems to be the one that permanently fractured the musical landscape. By the late 1970s, post-punk, goth, new wave, psychobilly, power pop and a host of other sub genres were helping to create a nearly endless array of musical subcultures.
Smack in the midst of this turmoil arrived a southern California band called The Quick. The name comes across like The Knack, but unlike that band, The Quick weren’t one-hit wonders. One could even claim that The Quick were no-hit wonders, despite their fervent fanbase and cheerleaders like KROQ’s Rodney Bingenheimer.
Even though The Quick were talented and charismatic, they never became big stars. Part of this is likely because no one could figure out exactly how to categorize them. Were they power pop or punk or something in between? Nearly 30 years later, there’s still no definitive answer to that question, but the recent CD reissue of their 1976 release Mondo Deco proves that if anyone deserved to be a massive success, it was The Quick.
Although tracks like “Hillary” raised the eyebrows of Sparks fans (by 1976, the L.A. band had admittedly moved on from that particular aesthetic), The Quick are not Mael brothers clones. For one, their lyrics are not filled with arch humor or double entendres. For another, The Quick rely more on traditional pop melodies and jagged guitar riffs than Sparks. (Never mind that ex-Sparks member Earle Mankey was the engineer on Mondo Deco.)
Take, for example, album opener “It Won’t Be Long,” an ingenious reworking of The Beatles’ 1963 hit. The Quick takes it apart and puts it back together in a way that is completely unexpected, yet somehow perfect. (And unlike Sparks’ similarly radical approach to The Beatles’ “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” it doesn’t feel even slightly ironic.)
There is a raw quality to songs like “No No Girl” (particularly lines like “little girl lost who wants to be hurt / she was a bad girl to play in the dirt”) and the raucous “Anybody” which seems like the kind of song that could bring down the house in a live setting. “Last In Line” defies categorization, shifting back and forth between different tempos and offering an addictive chorus that won’t leave one’s brain. “My Purgatory Years” is a mini pop-rock operetta, all teenage angst and audacity.
On an album full of amazing tunes, “Hi Lo” might actually be the finest example of The Quick’s brilliance. Opening with a yearning guitar riff and bittersweet tinkling piano, the song shows off the dynamite vocal talents of Danny Wilde (who would go on to form The Rembrandts and provide Friends with its iconic theme song). It also reveals that when brooding lyrics (courtesy of Steven Hufsteter) are combined with glittering melodies, the result is frequently awe-inspiring.
Perhaps the biggest reason that The Quick should not be thought of as Sparks-lite appears as one of the extra tracks on this CD. “Pretty Please” is a flat-out rocker that still manages to hit many of the marks that define pure pop. It opens with a ridiculously catchy guitar riff and doesn’t let up for four and a half minutes, boasting a charismatic chorus, a breakdown that slays and a build up to an absolutely electric finish.
Although their debut album was released on Mercury Records with the help of svengali Kim Fowley, The Quick went on to record several more songs in 1978 with Elektra Records’ David Campbell (Beck’s father). These songs, which appear on a 2003 Burger Records release called Untold Rock Stories, show that The Quick were only just beginning to come into their own. Yet by that point, things were falling apart. The band broke up just two years after their debut was released.
It’s hard not to listen to The Quick’s output and wonder, wistfully, what could have been. We’ll always have Mondo Deco, though, a shining example of pop perfection that time has not diminished one iota.
Mondo Deco Expanded Edition was reissued on CD by Real Gone Music. The release contains liner notes from drummer Danny Benair and the president of The Quick’s fan club, Lisa Fancher.
Leslie Hatton (@popshifter) is a Fannibal, an animal lover, a music maven and a horror movie junkie. She created and managed Popshifter from 2007 – 2017, and also contributes to Biff Bam Pop, Diabolique Magazine, Everything Is Scary, Modern Horrors, Rue Morgue and more.