Bob Lefsetz: Welcome To My World - "Bubblegum Primer"

Friday, August 15, 2014
Bob Lefsetz: Welcome To My World - "Bubblegum Primer"

"Simon Says"
1910 Fruitgum Company

The first bubblegum hit and I absolutely HATED IT!

This was '68, "Disraeli Gears" was making an impact, as was underground FM radio, and we were subjected to this drivel on AM radio? We were going BACKWARDS!

Come on, Simon Says was made for first graders, everybody soon outgrew it, now there's a song about the stupid game? And at this time no one had an FM radio in the car.

Utter drivel.

But it's funny, it's got no legs, people don't remember this as the first bubblegum hit, it's faded into obscurity.

"Green Tambourine"
The Lemon Pipers

Okay, it was the first number one hit for Buddah Records, the home of bubblegum, but despite Wikipedia and the rest of the web crediting this as the first bubblegum hit, I don't think so, I LOVED IT!

And my point is not my reaction, it's just that it sounded like what was happening, it was mildly psychedelic, with effects, and sure, playing your green tambourine might be stupid, but not like playing Simon Says. Furthermore, hippies, eighteen months before Woodstock, were famous for playing tambourines and other musical instruments. Actually, that was what was different from today, we got together and played instruments, sang along, although I don't remember anybody singing "Green Tambourine," because its magic was in its production, its arrangement, it's anthemic, it's better than most of the chart-topping hits of today!

"Yummy, Yummy, Yummy"
The Ohio Express

It's this hit that is trotted out as the number one exponent of bubblegum, and it was a gigantic hit, but I bought the single, I was infected.

That's the true mark of a great record, you've got to hear it again and again.

And I always thought the lyrics were tongue-in-cheek. And the changes are infectious, and the emotion borders on honesty.

I know, I know, people see "Yummy, Yummy, Yummy" as lowest common denominator, but the truth is it's rooted in rock more than pop and it just sounds GOOD!

The Archies

This track has been completely forgotten, everyone remembers "Sugar Sugar," which I found unlistenable back then and refuse to inject into this playlist today. But this, the initial Archies hit, is palatable.

Archie Andrews was still a hero. If we had the Monkees, maybe the Archies could be a reasonable production, alas, it was not, but we didn't know it at this point, so we gave the track a break.

"My Baby Loves Lovin'"
White Plains

The Buddah bands, the 1910 Fruitgum Company and the Ohio Express, were the definitive bubblegum acts, lowest common denominator enterprises whose singles exploited and extorted money from young children. Sure, I was a fan of "Yummy, Yummy, Yummy," but the Ohio Express's follow-up track was just dreck. "Chewy Chewy" was not only dumb, it played on the same paradigm as the original hit, as if originality was out of the question. Whereas the 1910 Fruitgum Company's subsequent hits were much better, although not great. "1,2,3 Red Light" was stupid, but less stupid than "Simon Says," but although listenable, it's forgettable. "Indian Giver" was a step up, but not a giant one.

And here begins the problem. What else do we call bubblegum music? Online you'll see Tommy James' "I Think We're Alone Now," but that's just a rewrite of history. James was a legitimate act, just because something appealed to the youth and was upbeat and catchy, that did not mean it was bubblegum. And just because Kasenetz and Katz, the bubblegum progenitors, were behind the Music Explosion's "Little Bit O' Soul," that does not make it bubblegum either, most people I knew considered the track to be legitimate, as did I. Bubblegum was seen as illegitimate, like stealing candy, from a baby.

And White Plains was English, but they sounded like they came from the New York hit factory, the track was light and just a bit more sophisticated than the Buddah hits, was it bubblegum? Like I said, the line of demarcation is subjective. It certainly had that sound.

"Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)"
Edison Lighthouse

The same lead singer as White Plains, Tony Burrows, this is a step up from the White Plains track, it chugs along, you didn't push the AM button when it came on, at least at first.

v"Smile A Little Smile For Me"
The Flying Machine

Classified as bubblegum by many, this English act was certainly shooting for a young demo, but I love this cut to this day. The changes, the sincerity, the singability, I can remember where I was when I heard it, driving back to our ski house, after a long day at Bromley. This is great.

"Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'"
Crazy Elephant

Another Kasenetz and Katz production, I can see how some classify this as bubblegum, but to me it rocked too much, in a BTO kind of way, to be categorized as such, come on, it's only a short hop to "Takin' Care Of Business," never mind so many Grand Funk hits, most especially "We're An American Band"...hell, one could argue Todd Rundgren understood and digested bubblegum music and served it back up to those who decried it the same way bands long after the seventies mixed in disco elements and those who wanted to blow up the dance records suddenly loved the sound.

Crazy Elephant is just too big, or crazy, to be on Spotify, you can hear "Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'" on YouTube here:

The Cuff Links

I guess we've got to call this one bubblegum, since it features the same lead singer as the Archies, Ron Dante.

I liked this more back then.

Now I wouldn't call the Partridge Family bubblegum, that was manufactured TV stuff, and it came later.

The Osmonds were more of a boy band, a white rip-off of the Jackson 5.

Yes, one could argue true bubblegum lasted a very short period of time, from late '67 until...the seventies and the burgeoning FM album format killed it.

But for a while there, it was the rage, everybody was talking about it, hipsters hated it and oldsters tapped their feet to it and kids ate it up.

Kind of like today. Yup, that's what Max Martin specializes in, Dr. Luke too, Katy Perry is nothing so much as a bubblegum artist, following in the footsteps of bubblegum boy groups like Backstreet boys and 'N Sync.

You see the kids need the sound.

And in an ever more complicated world, that which is simple triumphs.