BUBBLEGUM MUSIC

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Bubblegum music--the basic sound of rock minus the thread of rage, fear, and violence that has run through it since the early hits of Elvis Presley and Bill Haley--assured the spread of rock consciousness to the preteen audience. The genre appropriated the calculated innocence and (sometimes) authentic tenderness of the teen idols, adding a slice of garage band rock and the flavor of pop rock novelties (e.g., Johnny Thunder's "Loop De Loop," the Dixie Cups' "Iko Iko," and Shirley Ellis's "The Name Game"). The songs typically consisted of nursery rhymes set to simple, repetitious music. Many of the artists were fictitious entities employed as a front for a core collection of session musicians.

The immediate ancestors of bubblegum included Tommy James and the Shondells and the television sitcom stars, the Monkees. In 1966, both acts reached number one with their initial singles releases by projecting a youthful sense of fun poised at the brink of teenage angst. These successes inspired Neil Bogert, then president of Buddah Records, to employ the production team of Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz, who had attracted attention for their work with the Rare Breed ("Beg, Borrow and Steal," "Come on Down to My Boat") and the Music Explosion ("Little Bit O' Soul").

Kasenetz and Katz quickly established Buddah as a leader of the genre with hit recordings by a series of studio-only groups, including the Ohio Express, the 1910 Fruitgum Company, Crazy Elephant, the Rock and Roll Dubble Bubble Trading Card Co. of Philadelphia 19141, and Captain Groovy and His Bubblegum Army. Despite Buddah's success, the top bubblegum act--another fictitious entity called the Archies--was masterminded by Brill Building songwriter/producer Jeff Barry. The Archies, featuring the lead vocals of sessionman Ron Dante, pioneered the Saturday morning cartoon series tie-in (a concept which would be frequently imitated).

During its prime the genre also featured a string one-shot hits by the likes of the Cuff Links (again featuring Ron Dante), Daddy Dewdrop, and the Pipkins. A number of established rock performers milked bubblegum for hit recordings, including Tommy Roe ("Dizzy," "Jam Up Jelly Tight") and the Troggs ("Hip Hip Hooray").

In the 1970s, bubblegum essentially was absorbed into the mainstream. Notable exponents included the Partridge Family, Bobby Sherman, Shaun Cassidy, Leif Garrett, and Abba. Kasenetz and Katz continued to mine the genre with success as late as 1977 with Ram Jam's "Black Betty," a fusion of bubblegum, heavy metal, and Leadbelly-styled folk-blues. The concept has remained viable up through the 1990s as was proved by the chart topping run of "Mmmbop," written and recorded by Hansen, a trio of teenaged brothers, as well as a string of hits by the likes of Brittany Spears, Monica, and Brandy.

 

Top Artists and Their Recordings

The Archies--""Bang-Shang-A-Lang" (1968); "Sugar Sugar" (1969); "Jingle Jangle" (1969/70);""Who's Your Baby?" (1970)

The Banana Splits--"The Tra La La Song (One Banana, Two Banana)" (1960)

Crazy Elephant--"Gimme Gimme Good Lovin' (1969)

The Cuff Links--"Tracy" (1969)

Daddy Dewdrop--"Chick-A-Boom" (1971)

1910 Fruitgum Co.--"Simon Says" (1968); "1, 2, 3, Red Light" (1968); "Goody Goody Gundrops" (1968); "Indian Giver" (1969); "Special Delivery" (1969)

Ohio Express--"Beg, Borrow and Steal" (1967); Yummy Yummy Yummy" (1968); "Down at Lulu's" (1968); "Chewy Chewy" (1968); "Mercy" (1969)

The Pipkins--"Gimme Dat Ding" (1970)

Rock and Roll Dubble Bubble Trading Card Co. of Philadelphia-19141--Bubble Gum Music (1969)