The story goes that, for some years now, The Dirtbombs’ frontman Mick Collins has been threatening to release a bubblegum album. And now, with ‘Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-Blooey’, the Detroit garage-rockers have only gone and made that dream a reality.
No strangers to the covers LP – their last, 2011’s ‘Party Store’, was just that, featuring songs originally by Innerzone Orchestra and Inner City – one might leap to the conclusion that ‘Ooey Gooey…’ simply reworks cuts from the existing catalogue of bubblegum pop.
Nah. Instead, Collins wrote 10 new songs paying homage to the sound of the late-‘60s and early-‘70s, one pioneered by bands, both virtual and real, like The Archies and The Ohio Express.
And to mark the new album’s release – ‘Ooey Gooey…’ is out now on In The Red (listen to 'Crazy For You' below) – Collins put Clash together a little bubblegum playlist. Which was ever so nice of him. Over to Mick…
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“I’m not a musicologist, I’m just a guy who likes to make records. So I’m no authority on bubblegum or any other kind of music. But I know what I like, and since I’ve been asked to make a list of top bubblegum songs, you have to understand the subjectivity of the thing. Here, then, in no order, are what I think are the 10 best classic bubblegum recordings…”
The Archies – ‘Sugar, Sugar’
Well, of course ‘Sugar, Sugar’ would be on this list. Don Kirshner and Jeff Barry owned the world in the summer of 1969 with this thunderbolt of audio Godhead. Harnessing atypical close harmonies to a basic bubblegum shimmy, the best-selling single of 1969 marked the apotheosis of bubblegum pop. Nothing would ever be the same.
Tommy James And The Shondells – ‘Mony Mony’
After recording this track, James would (rightfully) bristle at the “bubblegum” sobriquet, but 1968’s ‘Mony Mony’ could serve as an archetype for the genre. A stomping rhythm sets up a catchy lyric melody, and then the chorus blasts you into orbit.
The Banana Splits – ‘Gonna Find A Cave’
While Barry White may have written ‘Doin’ The Banana Split’, this fuzz-and-Farfisa drenched track delivers more sonic thrills, in my book. You could almost mistake its savage thump for Steppenwolf, as long as you weren't actually looking at them.
The Bay City Rollers – ‘Saturday Night’
The Bay City Rollers were rather late to the game, coming as they did in 1975 (I am aware that the Rollers were a huge noise in the UK well before 1975, but that's when they broke out in America), and ‘Saturday Night’ could arguably mark the last great bubblegum hit record. But man, is it ever a classic! Proper thump, sing-along chorus and chanting that will embed itself in you forever.
The Partridge Family – ‘C’mon Get Happy’
Created for a television show based on real-life quasi-bubblegum family act The Cowsills, the theme song ‘C’mon Get Happy’ carried sunshine pop into the ‘70s, and is occasionally cited as a prime inspiration for cuddlecore: a kind of bubblegum-like, super-twee jangle pop lacking the rhythmic kick, sexuality, and humour of bubblegum.
The DeFranco Family – ‘Heartbeat (It’s A Lovebeat)’
While changing musical tastes dictated dwindling days for sunshine-y bubblegum pop, summer 1973 throbbed with the soaring harmonies and pounding drums of this record.
Denby Williams and Joseph Roland – ‘Theme From Josie & The Pussycats’
While not released as a record, the opening credits to this 1970 cartoon nonetheless deserves a spot on this list for sheer awesomeness, and is probably responsible for more of my life decisions than I care to contemplate.
The Lemon Pipers – ‘Green Tambourine’
‘Green Tambourine’ is credited as the first bubblegum hit, going to number one in February 1968. While lacking the goofball lyrics and propulsive thump that would characterise most bubblegum music until the advent of ‘Sugar, Sugar’, its shimmery, sunshine-y sound nonetheless suggested an alternative to the heavy rock that was beginning to dominate the airwaves. The sitar lead, swirling strings, and stabs of heavy echo make ‘Green Tambourine’ notable for being something of a psychedelic classic as well as a bubblegum classic.
The Sugar Bears – ‘You Are The One’
Easily the most obscure record on this list, the Sugar Bears – based on the breakfast cereals of Post Super Sugar Crisp (don’t look at me, I don't make this stuff up) – managed to record an entire LP for Big Tree Records. While usually only notable for being the first recording of singer Kim Carnes (‘Bette Davis Eyes’), 1971’s ‘Presenting the Sugar Bears’ LP is a solid slab of sunshine pop in the Archies mould, with ‘You Are The One’ the standout track. I bought this LP new, and the rolling kettledrums and no-holds-barred production of ‘You Are The One’ delivered the goods like nothing else that year. Forty years later, it’s still a welcome jolt of sunshine. In my opinion, one of the greatest records ever.
The Ohio Express – ‘Yummy Yummy Yummy’
A demo recording by songwriter Joey Levine meant for The Ohio Express, ‘Yummy Yummy Yummy’ was released as a single without telling either Levine or the band, and muted any protest by either party by promptly installing itself at number four in the US in spring 1968.
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Listen to ‘Ooey Gooey…’ via Deezer, below…