By Zach Collier
An L.A./Provo-based power pop band is releasing their debut album – forty years after their final recording session. The 16-track master tapes sat forgotten in a California bedroom closet until they were discovered in a filing cabinet during the pandemic.
The Bings’ Power Pop Planet – The Lost Tapes is a literal time capsule from the pre-MTV 1980s. A time when new wave, punk, and power pop were still underground genres that flourished mainly in New York and Hollywood clubs.
These aren’t rough garage demos from the lean streets of 1980s Provo – back when the Provo/Orem area had half a million fewer people kicking around. Most of the songs on the album were originally pitched to record labels and managers, but were never officially released. Two of the songs were featured on the band’s 1981 45-RPM single, which has gained popularity over the years among vinyl collectors, selling for $80 and more.
The recordings are remarkably clear and pristine. This is thanks to modern tech and a stroke of good luck.
“I never knew we had the actual multitrack masters,” says Bings’ bassist Mark Randle, who discovered the tapes. “I figured they got taped over. So when I realized what I had found, I knew we had to get these songs out there.”
Having the multitracks allowed the band to completely remix the tracks to modern standards. The brittle, 40-year-old tapes were restored by specialists and transferred to digital. Then the band took them to Rosewood Recording Studios in Provo and used Pro Tools to mix the album that never happened. Rosewood was where the original 1980s sessions took place, with Guy Randle as engineer – then and now.
Imagine tracking an album and mixing it 40 years later in the exact same studio. Wild.
“The songs have been brought back to life,” says Bings’ songwriter and guitarist Dave Chrenko. “I think music fans will be surprised at how well the songs have held up.”
Back in the ‘80s, the band played respected live clubs like The Troubadour and Madame Wong’s, as well as other events. “In towns like Anaheim and Riverside, nobody had heard new wave before – and the kids went wild, screaming and rushing the stage,” Chrenko says.
The single was featured on KROQ radio and had airplay on local college stations. One contemporary review called their music “Sunny, upbeat, ’60s/surfpop-infused power pop with rocking guitars in the style of some of the mellower Ramones tunes.”
This is a pretty solid description of their sound. To borrow music review tropes from today: they’re like The Ramones meets The Beach Boys or if The Cars were fronted by Elvis Costello. No matter what influences you want to mash together, they’re built on a combination of pop sensibilities with big beefy guitars and tight vocal harmonies.
Since the ’80s, band members have continued with full and part-time music careers. Drummer Chris Ralles has toured with Pat Benatar for years, along with other artists like Kenny Loggins and ex-Eagle Don Felder.
“We’re a lot older now,” says Bings’ guitarist Quint Randle, who now teaches advertising at BYU. “But we still love the songs we made in our 20s when the L.A. music scene was innovative and vibrant—and literally a lot more colorful.”
Power Pop Planet is now available on all major streaming platforms and ’80s-appropriate CDs. A special-edition vinyl LP is in the works. The track listing features eight never-before-heard tracks, the two songs on the vinyl single, and a bonus track. You can listen to “Don’t Stop Dancing” below.