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Old 08-02-2013, 10:56 AM   #3 (permalink)
Lord Larehip
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Join Date: Jun 2013
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Sometime apparently in early or mid ’67, a Buddah employee heard a finished demo of a song with music by Paul Leka and lyrics by Shelley Pinz. It was called “Green Tambourine.” The demo was produced by Leka. The band, out of Oxford, Ohio, didn’t like the song. Buddah had signed this psychedelic unit and Bogart wanted to find them a song with big hit potential—their own material being too rocking and esoteric for teenyboppers. That band—Ivan Browne (vocals), Bill Bartlett (guitar), Steve Walmsley (bass), Reg Nave (keyboards), and Bill Albaugh (drums)—was originally Tony & the Bandits until Ivan Browne replaced Tony in 1966. The band then became the Lemon Pipers (Browne stated that the idea was not his and that he never liked the name).

Supposedly, the band had attracted the attention of Super K who put them under the direction of Leka and Pinz but this is not likely (Ivan Browne stated that neither of the K's had anything to do with the career of the Lemon Pipers, even stating that he had never met them). The employee told Bogart about the recording saying it seemed to be perfect for the band and they were about to trash it. Bogart listened to the demo and intervened telling the band that “Green Tambourine” was going to be a hit and they needed a hit. The Pipers resisted and Bogart told them point blank that they either record it and release it or they would be dropped from the label. They recorded and released it in the fall of ’67 along with an album of the same name. It immediately caught on in the teen market. Within a short while, the single went #1 on the charts, a first for Buddah.


There is some debate about whether the “Green Tambourine” is bubblegum or psychedelia. Ivan Browne stated unequivocally that the song was not bubblegum. Whatever, Bogart liked it when he heard it—psychedelic enough for a band like the Lemon Pipers but with enough hooks to catch themselves entire schools of adolescents and you couldn’t match that cool Gypsy tambourine tag at the end which was rather ungummy. Certainly Leka and Pinz considered “Green Tambourine” both gum and psychedelia as they had the Decca band Peppermint Rainbow cut their own version in 1969 even borrowing the Lemon Pipers’ original instrument tracks and having the band simply sing over them. Rumor has it that the employee who had brought the song to Bogart’s attention was Gary Katz (no relation to Jeff Katz of Super K), who would produce all of Steely Dan’s material as well as signing up some of the most influential acts in contemporary music (I can find no evidence that Gary Katz ever worked for Neil Bogart or Buddah Records).

Super K were also interested in another Ohio garage band Rare Breed (apparently also called Sir Timothy & the Royals) who were signed to CamPark Records before Super K’s departure. CamPark released their single “Beg, Borrow and Steal” written by producer/singer/songwriter Joey Levine which was pure garage and built out of “Louie Louie.” CamPark had renamed the band the Ohio Express and “Beg, Borrow and Steal” would be one of the last of that label’s hits. Levine had also written songs for the Standells. He had formed a band in 1967 called Third Rail along with another producer and songwriter, Artie Resnick and his wife Kris who also wrote songs (Artie and Kris had written “I Need You Girl” covered by the Royal Guardsmen). They had a minor proto-gum hit called “Run, Run, Run” (which was actually disguised social commentary). Now all three rails were at Buddah and looking to put something out. So Super K simply created a new Ohio Express composed of Dale Powers (lead guitar), Doug Grassel (rhythm guitar), Dean Kastran (bass), Jim Pflayer (keyboards) and Tim Corwin (drums). Levine would handle vocals. Super K, Levine and the Resnicks would act as writers, arrangers and producers of the material (according to Kastran, the band lineup was the same since “Beg, Borrow and Steal” back at CamPark and was the original lineup from the Sir Timothy days with the exception of Levine and continued to exist with this lineup unaltered after Levine’s departure in ‘69).

One of the songs the newly constituted Ohio Express recorded for Buddah was the 1968 smash single “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy” written by Levine and Artie Resnick (allegedly for Jay & the Techniques, who turned it down as too pigeon-holing). Backing vocals were supplied by Jim Sohns, leader of the now-defunct Shadows of Knight. He would sing backup on most of their songs. As Buddah’s follow-up to “Simon Says” (which Sohns also sang backup on) the kids ate it up like ice cream and bubblegum was on the musical map.

Ohio Express - Yummy Yummy Yummy [Lyrics] - YouTube

Bubblegum bands were faceless for the most part. No one knew what the Ohio Express looked like, for example, and it didn’t matter. The band wasn’t the important thing—the music was because that was the commodity being sold. However, a face, a pitchman, for bubblegum began to emerge in the late 60s. An orange-haired, freckled boy who played guitar and sang with a sweet voice. What made him perfect for the role was that he was a cartoon and his name was Archibald Andrews but the world knew him simply as Archie. That Archie came to personify bubblegum music is a little strange when we realize that Archie comix made their debut in 1941! A creation of 21-year-old cartoonist Bob Montana who based the characters on real people he had known while attending high school in Haverhill, Massachusetts in the late 30s, Archie debuted in Pep Comics #22 two weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Pep Comics were published by MLJ Comics which started in 1939. Archie was a huge, immediate hit with teens. An Archie radio show was next (television was only getting started then). So heavy was the demand for Archie comix that, in 1946, MLJ Comics changed their named to Archie Comics. In the 50s, Montana and Archie Comics brought in cartoonist Dan DeCarlo to help update the characters and he would update them again in the 60s. DeCarlo would then draw two Archie spin-offs—Sabrina the Teenaged Witch and Josie and the Pussycats, both huge hits among the teen girl crowd. Montana would continue to draw Archie until his death in 1975.

When Archie became a television cartoon in 1968, the makers of the series wanted to make the central characters into a band featuring Archibald “Archie” Andrews (guitar, lead vocals), Elizabeth “Betty” Cooper (percussion, backing vocal), Veronica “Ronnie/Ron” Lodge (organ, backing vocal), Reginald “Reggie” Mantle (bass, backing vocal) and Forsythe Pendleton “Jughead” Jones III (drums). Studio executives at the Calendar label put Don Kirshner in charge of overseeing the project. Kirshner hired producer/songwriter Jeff Barry to come up with a trademark song for the Archies. Barry wrote “Bang-Shang-A-Lang” and singer Ron Dante was brought in to sing it. To promote the song, Kirshner even had the record grooves of the song embossed on the backs of cereal boxes so that kids could cut out the record from the box and play it on a turntable--an ingenious and tremendously successful marketing ploy (the first time I had heard “Bang-Shang-A-Lang” was when my kid brother and I cut it from the back of a cereal box and, in fact, everybody my age says the same thing). The song made the charts quite admirably.

The Archies Bang-Shang-A-Lang - YouTube

With the encouraging success of “Bang-Shang-A-Lang,” in ’68, Kirshner and Calendar were ready to do a follow-up hit for the now highly popular cartoon group. This time a Lebanese-Canadian gum artist named Andrew Youakim (Andy Kim) was brought in to assist Barry in writing a new song. Kim’s 1969 hit, “Baby, I Love You” was a Ronettes number co-written by Barry, Ellie Greenwich (Barry’s wife) and Phil Spector. Dante was brought in once again to do the vocals with back up vocals by Toni Wine. The result was “Sugar, Sugar” which became a #1 hit in 1969 and RIAA Record of the Year. Dante’s earlier effort that year, “Tracy,” was recorded on Decca under the name the Cuff Links was already peaking at #9 so it was a good year for Dante. “Sugar, Sugar” became arguably the most typical bubblegum song of the entire genre and hence did Archie become the face of the bubblegum industry despite the fact that Super K and Buddah Records had started the whole thing and Archie had actually preceded bubblegum by about 25 years or more.

The Cuff Links - Tracy - YouTube

What constitutes bubblegum is open to question. But essentially, we’re talking simplistic lyrics often based on popular children rhymes. Games are often mentioned in the lyrics or titles and are often used metaphorically for adolescent sexual exploration and hanky-panky. Candy and gum themes are also present in the title or lyrics and often as metaphors for the…uh…“charms” of a female (and a 12-year-old female at that). This is nothing new—rockabilly had made a name for itself in the 50s doing this same thing using nursery rhymes and saccharine-sweet innuendo such as Eddie Cochran’s line from “Completely Sweet”: “Sugar in my coffee/Sugar in my tea/ They both taste better with a little sugar on my knee.” But rockabilly was aimed at an older audience employing the innocent metaphors to thwart the mores of the 50s, which were certainly stricter than in the 60s. Gum songs often employed a straight 8-count beat—the Wooly bully beat—as it provides younger kids with a very simple yet energetic, hopping dance beat they can relate to.

The background vocals were usually more prominent in gum songs and were the equal of the lead vocalist rather than a mere vocal embellishment. Another prime ingredient to a bubblegum was the presence of the Farfisa organ. The Farfisa had a shrill, thin tone—a “toy” sound like a peanut whistle—that came across as childlike and sexually non-threatening. When even a Farfisa seemed a bit too heavy-handed, bubblegum sometimes switched to the harpsichord (“Wait Till Tomorrow,” “I Think I Love You”). Hard to imagine “Simon Says,” “Chewy, Chewy” or “Little Bit O’ Soul” without a Farfisa. There are exceptions such as “Sugar Sugar” which uses a Rhodes and vibraphone instead of a Farfisa. “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy” doesn’t appear to have utilized a keyboard at all (although some say it has one but that it is very faint). So, while many gum tunes shared common ground, not all of them did and yet were undoubtedly still bubblegum. Perhaps the only common denominator between various gum songs was excellent bass-playing.

Salt Water Taffy - Finders Keepers

In fact, even the term “bubblegum music” was contrived by Super K. Neil Bogart wanted this music to be given a name so that kids could identify it and identify with it. When Super K suggested “bubblegum,” Bogart loved it and so that was how the name started. Bogart later stated, “Bubblegum music is pure entertainment. It's about sunshine and going places and falling in love and dancing for the fun of it. It's not about war and poverty and disease and rioting, and frustration and making money and lying and all the things that 'really' matter. It's not about these things and that is why it is so popular. It's about the good things in life... that sometimes (you) lose sight of ... but can find again.”

What musicians and writers found was a little extra money on the side writing and playing bubblegum. How many people know that Barry White had earlier been a songwriter for the Banana Splits? Ron Dante wanted to expand on the Archies as a band instead of a mere studio/cartoon creation with Archie as the only voice. Dante wanted to continue to sing as Archie but wanted to feature more songs sung by Betty and Veronica. Perhaps Reggie could sing some of the more hard-edged numbers. Dante even envisioned Jughead as a grunge rocker and wanted to do a Jughead solo project that was gum/grunge/garage numbers heavy on the drums but totally accessible by teen girls. Dante even went to Archie Comics to demand control of all recorded Archie material which, at the time of this writing, he expects to receive. Dante apparently doesn’t see the music of the Archies as being separate from him.

This doesn’t mean, however, that all the bands that played bubblegum liked it. Most of them hated it. Their reasons have more to do with their own creativity being stifled by being forced to perform studio crap rather than any highbrow notions about music in general. Ohio Express was a manic rock band that electrified their fans with their live performances and were highly popular in central Ohio. By contrast, their studio presence was extremely watered-down and barely noteworthy beyond being a famous bubblegum vehicle for Joey Levine. The 1910 Fruitgum Company toured during the height of their fame as the original band Super K had come to see in New Jersey. After launching into a bubblegum song to start the show, they would stop after a couple of bars while Gutkowski blew his nose on the sheet music, wadded it up and threw it off the stage. The band would then launch into the high-energy rock music they loved and had played before Buddah turned them into a bubblegum hit factory and would play that way for the rest of the show whether the audience liked it or not.
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