The Birth of Rock: Rock "Lite" - Bubblegum
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The Birth of Rock: Rock "Lite" - Bubblegum

Although Hippies and mainstream Rock listeners made up only a very small percentage of the “teen-oriented” record-buying public in the late 1960s, as Bubblegum made its way more and more into the Billboard Top 100, it was virtually impossible to follow mainstream Rock radio without encountering these silly little ditties sandwiched in-between soon-to-be-Rock legends like Strawberry Alarm Clock's “Incense and Peppermints” and early Who's “I Can See For Miles."

Often said to have been an East Coast reaction to the West Coast Monkees phenomenon--a band who capitalized on whimsical, often silly songs containing sexual overtones aimed at tweens--so-called “Bubblegum” was set into motion by the Music Explosion's "Little Bit O' Soul" in May of 1967 and The Ohio Express's "Beg, Borrow and Steal" in October of that year. 

(Note: Some music historians trace the genre to Tommy Roe and his 1962 hit, “Sheila”.)

Although Hippies and mainstream Rock listeners made up only a very small percentage of the “teen-oriented” record-buying public, as Bubblegum made its way more and more into the Billboard Top 100, it was virtually impossible to follow mainstream Rock radio without encountering these silly little ditties sandwiched in-between soon-to-be-Rock legends like Strawberry Alarm Clock's “Incense and Peppermints” and early Who's “I Can See For Miles."

One of the most successful of the Bubblegum bands was 1910 Fruitgum Company who, starting in 1967, released a long line of highly popular teen-sex-oriented songs including “Simon Says,” “1 . . . 2 . . . 3 Redlight,” and “Indian Giver.”

Close behind was Ohio Express who in 1967 had a huge hit with “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy.”  (This would be their last entry into the Top 10.)

In 1968, one of the strangest contributors to the Bubblegum Rock genre came in the form of four cartoon characters, Archie Andrews, Reggie Mantle, and Jughead Jones, a group of fictional teenage characters--essentially, the first “virtual” band--from the TV series, The Archie Show

Listed in Rock annals as one of the most successful bands of the era, this band released 11 Top-40 songs between 1967 and 1972 including the double-sided hits "Bang-Shang-a-Lang" / "Truck Driver” and "Feelin' so Good (S.k.o.o.b.y-D.o.o.)" / "Love Light," but is best known for their monstrous world-wide hit, “Sugar Sugar” which virtually dominated the airwaves throughout much of 1969.

But ultimately, the undisputed king of the Bubblegum genre was Tommy Roe, who had an unprecedented string of hits beginning in 1968 with “Sweat Pea” (which although only reaching #8 on Billboard went gold), “Dizzy” in 1969 (which hit #1 in both the US and Canada, and quickly went gold), and “Jack and Jill” in 1969 (which anyone who bought “Dizzy” bought as well).  Roe continued to release Bubblegum well into the 1970s--8 more major releases--having another significant hit in 1970 with “Jam Up and Jelly Tight” which also went gold.

Today, most Rock aficionados can only shake their heads and roll their eyes when reminded of the Bubblegum craze.  All-in-all, Bubblegum remains one of the most bizarre components of Rock music--especially the success of a “virtual” cartoon band that needn’t perform live nor gain a following through touring. 

Although like the Monkees in some basic regard (a band “produced” to compete with the enormous popularity of the Beatles), the comparison actually stops there.  The Monkees were backed by some of the most talented songwriters and musicians in America, two members were functioning Rock musicians separate and apart from the Monkees entity (Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork; and after the Monkees disbandment, Mickey and Davy did a fine job of perpetuating the band’s music and legacy), and in fact, as the group progressed, each member came to be a formidable musician in their own right.  (Each developed their craft when they weren't really required to.)  Although, perhaps, a reaction to the Monkees, you can't really compare the two genres nor should the Monkees ever be classified in the Bubblegum genre.

One other side note from the music history perspective, many historians believe Bubblegum ultimately resulted in the bane of every old-school Rock musician: Disco.

References:

Rock: A History of Change, T. C. Carr

The Rock Revolution, A. Shaw

Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth: The Dark History of Prepubescent Pop, From the Banana Splits to Britney Spears, K. Cooper

http://www.allmusic.com/explore/essay/bubblegum-t531

Thumb via: http://i161.photobucket.com/albums/t209/60SHOTWAX/191020Montage20web1.jpg with my appreciation

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Comments (10)

Well written. :)

A humorous look at rock history.

I remember the bubblegum music era well. That was when I was in elementary school and none of us listened to the hard rock on FM radio yet. Bubblegum music was huge on the Top-40 AM stations and I think in Casey Kasem's radio show.

Ranked #1 in Music

Thanks one and all for the comments and personal insight.

Really enjoyable read. Thanks Sir

Ranked #1 in Music

Thank you kindly, sir. Much appreciated!

Ranked #17 in Music

I'd put the Cowsills in there as well. Their "The Rain, the Park and Other Things" is a classic in the genre. I've watched it many times on YouTube. Ditto The Partridge Family, which was really David Cassidy and studio musicians. Look at old issues of Tiger Beat, 16, et al., and one can get a good feel of the Bubblegum music era.

There were so many songs back then constantly coming out on the radio. I heard one the other day from the bubblegum era I had not heard in a long while. My Belle Amie by Tee Set. Though I don't know if that would be considered bubblegum or not. Sad news about Davy Jones passing away today.

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Yeah, major bummer, Sam . . .

Ranked #1 in Music

I considered a few others, William, but didn't want to include David Cassidy, so I resolved to list just the classic radio Bubblers.

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