Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Aaaaaa, Chewy, Chewy, Chewy, Chewy Chewy, Chewy, Chewy, baby always got a mouthful of such sweet things to say

Songs Everyone Should Know  - Bubblegum Music

I was listening to this excellent compilation called Nuggets “Original Artyfacts from the Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968)” the other day. Rolling Stone (Magazine) calls this one of the 50 great albums of all time.  The CD collection is a wall-to-wall attack of garage bands of the era. It is quite brilliant really. It includes songs that are quite well known and were one-hit wonders such as ‘Woolly Bully’ to much more obscure, but still great songs like the Electric Prunes’ “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night”, or “Pushin’ Too Hard” by The Seeds.

The thing that hits you here is that this music was not deep, and mainly directed at the teen audience who were buying music one song at a time in the format of 45s. It was very raw, minimally produced and primarily 3-chord songs.  Keeping it simple was good.

In 1967 a sort of sub-genre rose from this type of music called ‘Bubblegum’. The difference here was that this was simple music often talking about candy, honey, jelly, or some other sweet confection. The subjects here were often a girl, and they hinted or implied sexual undertones, which when you were 10 you really did not fully grasp.

Primarily focused on the pre-teen and teen age-groups, the songs were short, simple, cheaply made, and put out only as singles (with few exceptions).   Most of the time these were not even bands per se, but studio musicians or very loose affiliations of musicians who assembled to produce one song.  The idea was that the teens had little money to buy record albums but could afford a single 45 – bubble gum pop met that need. Cross-marketing with cereal and bubblegum was also done in the late sixties, even including records on the back of cereal boxes such as the Archies, Monkees, Jackson 5, H.R. Pufenstuff, etc.  

When I listen to ‘Sugar and Spice’ by the Cryan Shames on 'Nuggets' (or ‘Hanky, Panky’ by Tommy James and the Shondells) to me sound like bubblegum songs, but the historians suggest that possibly “Iko, Iko” by the the Dixie Cups was one of the first bubblegum songs. You know: “My grand-ma and your grand-ma were sit-tin’ by the fire. - my grand-ma told your grand-ma: "I’m gon-na set your flag on fire”. This song interestingly enough was written in 1953 by a James ‘Sugar-Boy’ Crawford about Mardi Gras Indians. Not really very innocent, commercial or simple. I think where they get the idea this is a bubblegum song was more the fact that the Dixie Cups did this impromptu in a studio when they did not know they were being recorded. The result was stark and remarkable.

Everyone has heard ‘Sugar, Sugar’ by the Archies which is the archetype bubblegum song.  There are many others that I have enjoyed over the years including: ‘Yummy, Yummy, Yummy’ and ‘Chewy, Chewy’  by The Ohio express, ‘Tracy’  by the Cufflinks, ‘Bang Shang–a-Lang’  by the Archies, ‘Simon Says’ by 1910 Fruitgum Company and ‘Dizzy’ by Tommy Roe..

There came a point in the early ‘70’s where the influence of the commercial success of bubblegum music really spawned groups like The Osmond Brothers, The Jackson 5,  and the DeFranco family, all looking a lot like precursors to boy bands like New Kids on The Block and even The Backstreet Boys.. It is also argued that Glam Rock borrowed from bubblegum music - but I will let you figure that one out! 
Chew on that!

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