An Informal History of Bubblegum Pop

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An lnlC8MAL PlS1C8? Cl 8u88LLCuM MuSlC bv Carl Cafarelll hLLp:// "When 8uddah 8ecords was formed Lwo vears aao, mosL sonas were abouL crlme and war and depresslon. AL Lhe Llme we felL Lhere was a place for a new klnd of muslc LhaL would make people feel happv. So we aoL LoaeLher wlLh Lwo LalenLed vouna producers named !errv kaseneLz and !eff kaLz who had an ldea for muslc LhaL would make vou smlle. lL was called 'bubbleaum muslc.'" 1he above quoLe, Laken from Lhe llner noLes Lo a clrca-l969 sampler L called 8uddah's 360 uearee ulal-A-PlL, alves us boLh a succlncL sLaLemenL of lnLenL for Lhe crlLlcallv revlled '60s pop muslc phenomenon called bubbleaum and an equallv-succlncL recap of Lhe aenre's orlaln. AlLhouah bubbleaum has aalned a cerLaln cacheL of cool ln some clrcles over Lhe pasL few decades (whlle remalnlna a pop parlah ln oLher clrcles), durlna lLs orlalnal hevdav lL was vlewed sLrlcLlv as fodder for [uvenlle LasLes, pure pabulum for pre-Leen people. lurLhermore, Lhe muslc was blaLanLlv commerclal aL a Llme when such maLerlallsLlc aoals were deemed unaccepLable bv an emeralna counLerculLure. 8ubbleaum muslc held no deluslons of arandeur, nor anv lnLenL Lo expand vour mlnd or alLer vour percepLlons. 8ubbleaum producers onlv wanLed vou Lo fork over Lhe douah and ao home Lo plav vour new acqulslLlon over and over Lo vour hearL's conLenL (and, no doubL, Lo vour older broLher's consLernaLlon). 8ubbleaum ls absolved of anv percelved counLer-revoluLlonarv senLlmenLs because lL was so damn caLchv. Cnce !?ummv, ?ummv, ?ummv,! !Suaar, Suaar,! !Clmme Clmme Cood Lovln'! or !Coodv Coodv Cumdrops! lmbedded lLs sweeL plnk hooks lnLo vour mlnd, lL was llkelv Lo remaln sLuck Lhere llke lLs suaarv namesake would sLlck Lo Lhe underslde of a classroom desk. More Lhan LhlrLv vears afLer Lhe openlna salvos of Lhe bubbleaum revoluLlon, Lhe besL bubbleaum records sLlll sLand up as sLerllna examples of hlLmaklna crafL, characLerlzed bv slna-a-lona choruses, seemlnalv chlldllke Lhemes and a conLrlved buL beaulllna lnnocence, occaslonallv comblned wlLh an undercurrenL of sexual double enLendre. And oh veah!dld we menLlon Lhe hooks? 1here were hooks a-plenLv. As wlLh manv aenres, from punk Lo funk Lo power pop, lL's dlfflculL Lo preclselv deflne Lhe parameLers of bubbleaum, Lo sav wlLh auLhorlLv LhaL Lhls record ls bubbleaum and LhaL record ls someLhlna else aaaln. Accordlna Lo wrlLer 8lll lLzonka, a bubbleaum hlsLorlan and auLhor of Lhe llner noLes for var!se vlnLaae's brllllanL 8ubbleaum Classlcs serles, "1he whole Lhlna LhaL reallv makes a record bubbleaum ls [usL an lnherenLlv conLrlved lnnocence LhaL somehow Lranscends LhaL. lL Lranscends Lhe conLrlvance. 8ecause Lhere were a loL of records LhaL were reallv conLrlved and sound lL. And Lhose Lo me are noL Lrue bubbleaum. lL has Lo sound llke Lhev mean lL." WrlLlna ln Mo[o maaazlne, wrlLer uawn Lden puL a flner polnL on her descrlpLlon of bubbleaum muslc. "lrom Lhe aeL-ao, bubbleaum was a purelv commerclal aenre. roducers llke [kaseneLz and kaLz] had no hlaher asplraLlon Lhan Lo make a qulck buck and aeL ouL. ?eL, wlLh Lhe help of LalenLs llke !oev Levlne, Lhev propaaaLed a muslcal form LhaL conLlnues Lo lnfluence acLs Lhe world over." urawlna a dlsLlncLlon beLween bubbleaum and power pop, Lden wenL on Lo noLe, "ower pop alms for vour hearL and vour feeL. 8ubbleaum alms for anv parL of vour bodv lL can aeL, as lona as vou buv Lhe damn record." Whlle we're aolna here wlLh a worklna noLlon of bubbleaum as deflned bv Lhe upLempo confecLlons perfecLed bv kaseneLz & kaLz's Super k roducLlons, our lnLenL lsn'L reallv Lo dlsabuse vou of vour bellef LhaL, sav, Lhe arLrldae lamllv was Lhe slne qua non of bubbleaumdom. Conslder Lhls as slmplv as a verv lnformal hlsLorv lesson. Chew awav! 8L-PlS1C8?: 1PL 8lC 8u88LL 1PLC8? AlLhouah Lhe blrLh of bubbleaum as a aenre ls aenerallv daLed from Lhe success of Lhe 1910 lrulLaum Companv's !Slmon Savs! and Lhe Chlo Lxpress' !?ummv ?ummv ?ummv! ln 1968, Lhere are lmporLanL anLecedenLs Lo conslder ln Lraclna bubbleaum's hlsLorv. ln facL, Lhere are Loo manv anLecedenLs Lo adequaLelv cover here. ?ou could concelvablv Lhlnk of vlrLuallv everv cuLe novelLv hlL, from pre-rock dlLLles llke !Pow Much ls 1haL uoaale ln 1he Wlndow! Lo LranscendenL rock-era sLaples llke !lko lko,! as a lealLlmaLe precursor Lo bubbleaum's avowedlv ephemeral Lhemes. Movlna awav from mere novelLles, Lhe fleld of aaraae punk served as a swaaaerlna, canLankerous and (perhaps) lnconaruous breedlna around for some of bubbleaum's sonlc aLLack. no one ln hls rlahL mlnd would call Lhe 13Lh lloor LlevaLors or Lhe ChocolaLe WaLchband bubbleaum aroups, buL Lhere were undenlable llnks beLween Lhe Lwo aenres. 1he mosL obvlous such llnk would be Lhe overrldlna slmpllclLv prlzed equallv bv aaraae and bubbleaum aroups, boLh of whom recoanlzed Lhe exclLemenL Lo be aeneraLed bv Lhree chords and an aLLlLude. Moreover, aaraae and bubbleaum aroups were aenerallv slnales acLs. 1here were excepLlons, buL few aaraae or bubbleaum acLs were capable of creaLlna full albums LhaL susLalned Lhe compacL punch of Lhelr essenLlal 43s. And Lhe slnales, concerned as Lhev were wlLh qulcklv hlLLlna Lhe hook and hlLLlna Lhe road, were noL as far aparL sLvllsLlcallv as one mlahL Lhlnk. Chlcaao's proLoLvplcal punks Lhe Shadows of knlahL, famed for Lhelr hlL Lake on 1hem's !Clorla,! would evenLuallv make a record for Super k. And bubblemelsLers Lhe Chlo Lxpress scored Lhelr flrsL Lwo charL slnales wlLh punk-rooLed Lunes: Lhe 8are 8reed's awesome !8ea, 8orrow and SLeal! and Lhe SLandells' banned-ln-a-nelahborhood-near-vou !1rv lL.! lalllna somewhere beLween aaraae and bubbleaum was an Ccala, llorlda aroup called Lhe 8oval Cuardsmen. 1hev manaaed a #2 hlL ln 1966 wlLh !Snoopv vs. 1he 8ed 8aron,! a novelLv Lune based on Lhe funnv-looklna doa wlLh Lhe bla black nose ln Lhe eanuLs comlc sLrlp. 1he slnale comblned a campv kld's appeal wlLh a punkv brldae nlcked wlLhouL apoloav from !Loule, Loule.! AlLhouah !Snoopv vs. 1he 8ed 8aron! and lLs lower-charLlna sequels were cerLalnlv precursors Lo Lhe recoanlzed bubbleaum sound, 8lll lLzonka lnslsLs Lhe 8oval Cuardsmen were noL a bona flde bubbleaum aroup. "1he 8oval Cuardsmen klnd of came ouL of LhaL whole '20s-revlvallsL klnd of Lhlna," lLzonka savs. "1haL was Lhelr camp. 8uL, vou know, [usL because Lhev were on Laurle and Lhev dld Lhe !Snoopv vs. 1he 8ed 8aron! sona, whlch some people conslder bubbleaum... LhaL's a frlnae Lo me. 1haL's polnLlna ln Lhe rlahL dlrecLlon, buL lL's noL qulLe Lhere veL. "8uL Lhe 8oval Cuardsmen deflnlLelv conLrlbuLed," lLzonka conLlnues. "lL was almed aL klds, and unforLunaLelv Lhev couldn'L rlse above Lhelr 'Snoopv' lmaae. 8v Lhe same Loken, a SLamford, ConnecLlcuL aroup called Lhe llfLh LsLaLe scored a #11 hlL ln 1967 wlLh !ulna, uona! 1he WlLch ls uead.! 1he aroup Look a sona from 1he Wlzard of Cz and redld lL as a pop sona, repleLe wlLh a 8enalssance muslc underplnnlna. 1houah consldered a novelLv Lune, lLs muslcal accompllshmenL Lranscended novelLv value. unforLunaLelv, lL was Lhe aroup's onlv hlL. And, of course, Lhere was no shorLaae of acLs ln Lhe mld-'60s acLlvelv culLlvaLlna some aspecL of Lhe adolescenL markeL. Perman's PermlLs had a sLrlna of cuddlv hlLs, wlLh !l'm Penrv vlll, l Am! veerlna Lhe closesL Lo bubbleaum, buL Lhev were never qulLe a bubbleaum aroup. 1he Lovln' Spoonful had a aoofv, aoodLlme vlbe all abouL Lhem, buL Lhev were far Loo... well, auLhenLlc-soundlna Lo be called bubbleaum. And aul 8evere & Lhe 8alders had funnv cosLumes and loLs of 1v exposure, buL Lhev slmplv rocked Loo hard for bubbleaum!lf Lhev were bubbleaum, Lhen so were Lhe 8olllna SLones. 8v 1967 Lhe era of full-fledaed bubbleaum was nearlv upon us, and a new label called 8uddah was looklna Lo score some hlLs. A brllllanL promoLlon husLler named nell 8oaarL was coaxed from Cameo arkwav Lo helm 8uddah, and 8oaarL had some deflnlLe ldeas abouL Lhe klnd of hlLs Lhe label was aolna Lo make. 1he usherlna ln of Lhls new era was lnlLlallv accompllshed wlLh !Creen 1ambourlne! bv Lhe Lemon lpers, whlch enLered Lhe 8lllboard PoL 100 aL Lhe end of '67 and hlL #1 ln lebruarv 1968. 8ubbleaum was now Lhls close Lo explodlna. !Creen 1ambourlne! was a perfecL, alddv bubbleaum slnale, and Lwo follow-up hlLs, !8lce ls nlce! and !!ellv !unale (Cf Cranae Marmalade)! were cuL from Lhe same chewv cloLh, buL Lhe Lemon lpers Lhemselves had llLLle lnLeresL ln becomlna bubbleaum's favorlLe sons. "1he Lemon lpers l never consldered reallv bubbleaum," lLzonka savs. "1hev were acld. 1helr slnales are bubbleaum, Lhev do have real sLrona rooLs Lhere. l [usL never LhouahL LhaL lL carrled over as lnLenselv as lL dld wlLh Lhe aroups LhaL dldn'L exlsL. 8ecause Lhev haLed LhaL sLuff." 1o be sure, Lhe Lemon lpers onlv recorded !Creen 1ambourlne! because Lhev knew Lhev'd be dropped bv 8uddah lf Lhev dldn'L record Lhls Lune, whlch 8oaarL saw as a sureflre hlL. 1hus, Lhe Lemon lpers scored Lhe flrsL bubbleaum #1, buL lL was clear LhaL Lhelr hearLs were noL ln lL. So, wlLh !Creen 1ambourlne,! 8uddah had Lhe rlahL sona aL Lhe rlahL Llme Lo snap Lhe bubble heard 'round Lhe world. now, bubbleaum [usL needed Lhe rlahL people. 1wo producers from Lona lsland, !errv kaseneLz and !eff kaLz, would be Lhe auvs. As 8uddah!s 1910 lrulLaum Companv and Lhe Chlo Lxpress sLarLed en[ovlna hlLs, 8oaarL knew he needed a name under whlch Lo markeL Lhls new, sweeL 'n' bouncv sLuff. kaseneLz and kaLz qulcklv obllaed. "Well, we were Lhe ones," kaseneLz and kaLz recall, "when we were Lalklna abouL dlfferenL Lhlnas, we would aear 'em Loward a cerLaln audlence, and we flaured lL was Lhe Leenaaers, Lhe vouna klds. And aL Lhe Llme we used Lo be chewlna bubbleaum and LhaL, and mv parLner and l used Lo look aL lL and lauah and sav, 'Ah, Lhls ls llke bubbleaum muslc.'" 8oaarL loved Lhe Lerm and selzed upon lL lmmedlaLelv. 1haL's when bubbleaum acLuallv crvsLalllzed lnLo an acLual camp," 8lll lLzonka savs. "1here was a loL of sLuff leadlna up Lo lL, comlna ouL of aaraae and novelLv records, baslcallv. And l Lhlnk kaseneLz and kaLz reallv crvsLalllzed lL when Lhev came up wlLh Lhe Lerm Lhemselves, and Lhev came up wlLh LhaL nlce llLLle analoav. And nell 8oaarL, of course, belna Lhe markeLlna person he was, [usL crammed lL down Lhe LhroaLs of people. And l Lhlnk LhaL's reallv Lhe polnL aL whlch bubbleaum Look off." "We were looklna Lo sorL of do someLhlna LhaL nobodv else was dolna on a sLeadv basls," sav kaseneLz and kaLz. "8ubbleaum muslc, ln Lhe real sense of klddle records, was around for qulLe a whlle, llke varlous arLlsLs dolna varlous sonas. 8uL Lhere were verv few LhaL were dolna lL wlLh some sorL of conLlnulLv where lL was Lhe same Lvpe of sLvle. We were aearlna wlLh all our wrlLers for a speclflc klds' appeal. We wanL hlLs, obvlouslv, buL we wanL Lhese Lvpes of Lhlnas, and we wanL our arLlsLs Lo be known for Lhem. And LhaL's whaL we were knocklna ouL." "lL was [usL baslcallv vouna muslc," adds Levlne. l Lhlnk Lhe lnherenL quallLv of a bubbleaum band ls a non-exlsLence facLor," lLzonka explalns wlLh a lauah. "A conLrlvance. 1he Lovln' Spoonful was a band, Lhev unlLed. 1he Muslc Lxploslon was puL LoaeLher, Lhe Chlo Lxpress was puL LoaeLher, vou know, Lhere's LhaL prefabrlcaLlon quallLv whlch l Lhlnk deflnlLelv even exLends Lo bands Lodav llke Lhe Splce Clrls and 1ake 1haL, whlch are bullL around Lhe ldea of selllna records. And LhaL's Lhe whole ldea behlnd bubbleaum. lL wasn'L Lo creaLe arL!kaseneLz and kaLz don'L even remember half Lhe records Lhev worked on. 1hev were [usL Lrvlna Lo aeL sLuff ouL. "kaseneLz and kaLz klnd of dld Lhe mud-aaalnsL-Lhe-wall Lhlna," lLzonka conLlnues. "1hev [usL hlred people and had Lhem do sLuff. 1hev were more llke conLracLors Lhan producers. 1here's verv much a sub-conLracLor quallLv abouL bubbleaum." WlLh Lhelr sLable of wrlLers and arowlna rosLer of flcLlonal recordlna aroups ("We made up all Lhe names for Lhe varlous aroups," sav kaseneLz and kaLz, "and we own all Lhe names, even Lo Lhls dav"), Super k soon developed lLs own hlL facLorv, llke a chewv [unlor MoLown. "Well, MoLown was klnda LhaL wav," Levlne savs. "Cuvs would wrlLe Lhelr sonas, Lhev'd ao ln and cuL Lhelr Lracks and Lhev'd flaure ouL whlch arLlsLs were aonna do 'em. lL was a facLorv of muslc. "lL was llke, vou're hoL and Lhere were around Lhree or four or flve aroups of wrlLers and Lhev would all aeL Lhelr sLudlo Llme and lL was booked ln a cerLaln wav. ?ou'd do vour wrlLlna ln one or Lwo davs, vou'd do vour Lracklna on Lhls dav, vou'd do vour overdubblna anoLher dav, vou'd do vour vocals anoLher dav. ?ou had vour sLudlo Llme and vour wrlLlna Llme. ln oLher words, Lhose were vour davs, LhaL was vour deadllne: Wednesdav we ao ln and do Lracks. And l'm sure a loL of companles work llke LhaL Lodav, companles LhaL become bla producLlon companles." "And we [usL used Lo wrlLe everv week. We had lL so all Lhe wrlLers were verv compeLlLlve. We sald, '1hls ls whaL we wanL, whoever comes up wlLh Lhe Lune aeLs Lhe nexL Chlo Lxpress record, or Lhe nexL lrulLaum record, dependlna on whaL we were dolna. And we were [usL knocklna Lhem ouL. 1he funnv Lhlna ls, lf vou look aL all Lhe hlLs, when Lhe 1910 lrulLaum Companv had a mllllon seller, Lhe Chlo Lxpress had a half a mllllon seller. And Lhen Lhe Chlo Lxpress would have a mllllon seller and Lhe lrulLaum Companv would have a half-mllllon seller. lL was reallv welrd, buL we knew we needed a smash for Lhe aroup afLer Lhev dldn'L aeL LhaL mllllon seller, so lL swlLched everv oLher record. "l mean, we were looklna Lo have hlLs and we were looklna for upbeaL, fun danceable sonas. 1hev weren'L reallv dance records ln Lhe sense LhaL vou have dance now, buL vou could cerLalnlv dance Lo 'em, Lhev were all happv-ao-luckv Lvpe of Lhlnas. Some of Lhe lvrlcs, lL was llke a double-enLendre Lvpe of Lhlna. And lf vou reallv aoL lnLo lL!l mean, people overlooked some of Lhe lvrlcs, Lhlnklna LhaL, 'Ch, lL's [usL happv-ao-luckv'!and some of Lhem were nlLLv-arlLLv. "We used Lo lauah abouL LhaL. !?ummv, ?ummv, ?ummv! was acLuallv a knock-off of !leels So llne.! LvervLhlna was sorL of knock-offs of oLher Lhlnas, [usL Lurned around wlLh dlfferenL lvrlcs. l mean, !?ummv, ?ummv, ?ummv,! evervbodv sald, 'Ch, whaL a areaL bubbleaum record, lnnocenL.' 8uL lf vou llsLen Lo Lhe lvrlcs, lL wasn'L so lnnocenL." "l don'L know," Levlne savs. "lL was a vouna muslc, lL wasn'L deep and heavv, Lhouah a loL of Lhlnas probablv people would sav Lhere was a loL of sLuff hldden wlLhln lL." So, were Lhe double enLendres lnLenLlonal? "Cf course, veah," he replles. And Lhe Super k machlne rolled on, concocLlna aroups and pumplna ouL chewv chunks o' pop bllss. kaseneLz and kaLz recall LhaL Lhere were speclflc elemenLs Lhev wanLed ln Lhe aroups Lhev creaLed. "We were alwavs looklna more for, more Lhan an acLual aroup, lf we found a slnaer LhaL we felL had a unlque volce, we would bulld a aroup...