Hanna-Barbera by Becky Ebenkamp

by Becky Ebenkamp

While the studio may not garner the type of respect reserved for animation behemoths Disney and Warner Brothers, indisputably, Hanna-Barbera rules the cartoon kingdom in one contest: the battle of the bands.   Sure, The Alvin Show may have technically invented the animated music video, and Filmation proved a worthy competitor in the ‘70s with The Brady Kids and The Archies.   But per cartoon capita, HB gave us the most rock ‘n’ roll bang for our buck, serving up more beat-crazed bands—both of the real and imaginary variety—than you could shake a tambourine at.   The result: instant bubblegum.

The Impossibles (1966) were HB’s first experiment with a full rock ‘n’ roll concept cartoon, although rarely was more than a line or two of lyric heard before these superheroes-masquerading-as-pop-stars were summoned to go fight crime via a TV monitor in Coil Man’s guitar.  The shaggy-haired trio married a jangly Rickenbacker-type sound with generic teenybopper lyrics, an effect that rendered them a less contemplative Beau Brummels.  Songs are hooky, but these snippets are unsatisfying, and one gets the sense that full songs were never penned.  Case in point, the lyrics to “Caesar’s Place”:

Let’s go to Caesar’s Place
Let’s go to Caesar’s Place
Let’s go to Caesar’s Place
Let’s go to Caesar’s Place

Get the picture?


A year after Gram Parsons introduced the Byrds to the pedal steel guitar, the Cattanooga Cats were busy adding some country flavor to Saturday morning TV.   Scoots, Country, Groove and go-go girl Kitty Jo didn’t solve any crimes, but as a band on constant tour they were presented with many a wacky adventure to sing their way out of.  But while the Cats’ look and accents clearly originated below the Mason-Dixon line, their music was pure pop, with song duties handled by singer/ songwriter Michael Lloyd, who headed psychedelic cult faves The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, Smoke and October Country.   Peggy Clinger  of recording group the Clinger Sisters handled Kitty Jo’s vocals and wrote material as well.  Producer of the project: Mike Curb.    Lloyd and Clinger didn’t need any help rattling off perfect three-minute pop songs in even less time, so HB’s relatively hands-off strategy paid off.   Furthermore, songs penned and performed by the youthful musicians—Lloyd was 17 at the time—instead of hacks trying to knock off Billboard hits lent the project a credible vibe and allowed for the dissemination of cryptic counter-culture messages like free love and non-conformity, as witnessed in the winning theme song:

The Cattanooga Cats don’t go meow
Wouldn’t try if they knew how
They’re doin’ their thing

The idea that this was going to be something special is relayed fully in the show opener, where the song is paired with animation master Iwao Takamoto‘s stroblelike series of op art images and shots of the kitty cat group playing their instruments to a psychedelic light show.   In the children’s-game-as-metaphor-for-love songwriting subgenre, the Cats’ “Mother May I” and “Alle Alle Oxen Free” stand up to “Simon Says,” “1-2-3 Red Light” or any other 1910 Fruitgum Company song for that matter.  In the latter, Lloyd’s breathy vocals imbue the lyrics and bouncy organ with a deliciously dangerous, dirty feel:

Hey little girl starin’ down at me
From your window can’t you see
It’s gonna be a groovy day
Why don’t you come out and play

Alle Alle Oxen Free
C’mon run on home with me
Just by nimble and be quick
We’re gonna jump the candlestick

Eleven tunes were released on a Forward Records LP, and many more were featured during the show’s psychedelic “videos,” where lyrics were visually interpreted with animation reminiscent of Yellow Submarine and Peter Max.

While the studio probably didn’t realize it at the time, the launch of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! (1969) signaled a new direction in cartooning and ignited a trend that would stampede the airwaves over the next decade.  With Scooby, HB laid out the plot and character archetypes  that would be trotted out again and again and again as the ‘70s dawned and animation became increasingly recyclable: the rockin’ sleuths.

Of course, the Scooby Gang never strapped on Stratocasters, but bubblegum music composed and sung by Danny Janssen accompanied the meddling teens as they took chase from ghouls, mummies and various villains in the show’s second season.  Not to mention a theme song (Written by David Mook/Ben Raleigh) so inherently swell that even a Third Eye Blind couldn’t wreck it. 

Highlights include “Tell Me, Tell Me,” with a great fakeout opening that steals its gospely strains from Joe Cocker’s version of “A Little Help From My Friends”  (something scarier than any Scooby episode).  Thankfully, the tune quickly shifts to a winning combo of longing-for-love lyrics, off-kilter time changes and Partridge Family structure, all reeled in with a catchy “Na-na-na-na-na-na-na” hook.   “Recipe for My Love” has the singer struggling with the issue of a how to concoct his girlfriend, although the reason why he needs to isn’t clear (Did they break up?  Is she out of town on a business trip?).  Ingredients include the bubblegum-friendly “cup full of sunshine,” “touch of a rainbow” and “a little bit from a song I know.” But, he adds wistfully, “All that couldn’t make up my baby and what my baby means to me.”  Janssen’s songs are available on Scooby-Doo’s Snack Tracks, released by Rhino in 1998.

1970 was a year that unleashed a pair of female-led musical trios that straddled the fine line between exploitation and feminism.  In Russ Meyer’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, the hedonistic Carry Nations slept and rocked their way to the top.  But considering its broader audience comprised of young, impressionable viewers, HB’s girl group had much more impact on our collective psyche.  Like the Carry Nations, Josie & the Pussycats played their own instruments.  Dressed in feline outfits that appeared to be lifted off the marquee of L.A.’s Pussycat Theater porn chain, these good girls chased the bad guys around the globe as their touring schedule allowed, and later they were blasted into outer space.  The show featured performances by the band, and songs also accompanied chase scenes.

For the recording of songs for the show and a companion LP, attractive female singers took on the roles of cartoon band members: Cathy Dougher as Josie, Patrice Holloway as Valerie and future Charlie’s chick Cheryl Ladd as ditzy drummer Melody.  This was no rush job: The tunes are laden with clever hooks, sophisticated harmonies and unique instrumentation that belie the throwaway nature of bubblegum.  Versions of current hits like Bread’s “It Don’t Matter to Me” and the J5’s “I’ll Be There” pale in comparison to Pussycat originals such as  “Inside Outside Upside Down and “Hand Clapping Song,” but vocal parts and other nuances on the cover songs imply that the project was approached with time and care. 

Butch Cassidy strove for rock n roll credibility in a teenybopper world, as did David Cassidy, his progenitor, doppelganger—and, one can assume— inspiration.  Vehemently resentful of his teen idol image, the Partridge Family star’s bio is so full of “I was into Hendrix, man!”-type outbursts, it seems as if the has been suffers from some rare rock substrain of Tourette’s syndrome.  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids (1973) professed their rock roots through a sound heavier than a lead zeppelin (and other poppy HB fare) and lyrical signposts that marked their Saturday morning slot as a wimp-free zone.  During performances, the band customarily got beeped to go fight crime via Butch’s mod ring, so we don’t often hear more than bits and pieces—a wailing guitar here, an overly dramatized lyric there.  But this axe-to-grind is evident in songs like “Just a Rock n’ Roll Song,” where the hip-huggered heartthrob sings, “You can call it dumb, or bubblegum, but you can’t help singin’ along,” adding the taunt, “Have some!” before launching into a masturbatory ‘70s guitar solo.  Okay, okay, we believe you!

Characters—including drummer Harvey, voiced by Micky Dolenz—spit out rock references at the drop of a hat.  When the group rescued a vaguely exotic prince who was a fan, rock ‘n’ roll trivia weeded out an imposter: The fake didn’t flinch when Butch said he’d be playing the “Rolling Tones’” song “Yesterday” at a concert.  When the prince correctly identified who wrote “Woodstock” and “Alice’s Restaurant,” the true royal was revealed.  The moniker of the gang’s obligatory pooch: Elvis.  Off screen, musicians were hired to tour the country as the Butch Cassidy band, but no album was ever released.

Confucius say, “The family who sleuths together, grooves together.”  At least that’s the M.O. of the Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan.  Blatantly mocking China’s one-child policy, the show revolves around legendary private eye Charlie Chan, here a cartoon widower raising ten Chan children (which may explain why Mrs.  Chan is no longer with us).  The junior Chans are also crime solvers, a job that, naturally, requires them to rock!

By 1972, HB’s animation had become pretty rote, and costs were cut by recycling not only backgrounds, but plots, characters and movements as well.   A single animated band sequence serves as the “video” for every song the Chans performed, noticeable from its familiar procession of group shot cutting away to sister Suzie playing the tambourine, cut to guitar fingerboard, cut to hulkazoid brother Henry, who hunches over his drum kit like a giant Chinese crab.  As the younger, non-musical Chans watch their siblings perform, it appears as if someone is yanking a common chain to activate their synchronized movements.  In one episode the singer/ guitarist Stanley’s head actually disappears for a few frames. 

What HB didn’t skimp on, thankfully, was the Chan band’s music, which flourished under the direction of Monkees’ creator Don Kirshner and Ron Dante, fresh out of his previous gig for Mr. K as lead singer of the Archies.  While Jeff Barry wrote most Archies’ tunes, Dante handled music-writing duties for the Clan and sang Howard Greenfield’s (“Love Will Keep Us Together,” “Calendar Girl”) lyrics.   Songs incorporated the most pleasing elements of Dante’s previous chart-topping project: soaring vocal melodies, hand claps and the participation of Hugh McCracken, David Spinoza and other Archies’ session players.  Creeping bass lines suited the show’s mystery theme.  

“I tried to use a little different sound for my vocal and not make it a copy of the Archies’ sound,” Dante recalls.  “The Archies’ sound was a little more hushed, and this was more full-out strong singing; more pop than bubblegum.”  Greenfield’s lyrics generally centered on an espionage theme, often as a metaphor for love.  “I’ve Got the Goods on You” details a cheating partner, while “Whodunnit” seeks to find the culprit of the protagonist’s lovesickness.  “I Got My Eye on You” requires no further explanation.   Additionally, the Clan’s songs introduce the Ugly American to the Chinese cultural condition, and lyrics showed a cliche-free sophistication and sensitivity relatively unheard of in the stereotype-friendly cartoon world.   “I’m the Number One Son” relays the culture’s respect for elders and tradition, a new concept for a viewership comprised of the tail end of the egocentric Baby Boom:

When I was just a boy
My daddy said to me
You know the apple shouldn’t fall
Too far from the family tree
Countless generations hang their hopes on you
Ages of tradition depend on what you do

Okay, that’s a pretty heavy trip to lay on a kid, but it’s a responsibility countered with pride:

The first born of my father
It makes me feel so glad
Whenever people tell me
You’re just like your dad
Out of all the fathers
I’m glad that I got mine
Out of all my brothers
I’m the first in line

I’m the number one son of the number one man
The number one hope of my family clan
Gonna be like my dad any way that I can
I am his number one son

Dante described HB’s approach as fairly hands off, which explain the range of quality from cartoon to cartoon.  “Howie and I believed this was a quality project and took the time to write the best songs we could,” he said.  “ We had very little contact with the producers of the show.  All our direction came from what we wanted to project with the music…” Failing to realize their potential, HB never released the Chan Clan songs on vinyl.

Jabberjaw (1976) featured a rock—and I use that term loosely—band called the Neptunes, whose Jaws-era albatross was an oversized shark channeling the spirit of Curly from the Three Stooges.  Painful to watch and listen to, the proto-disco songs, thankfully, went away as soon as a caper diverted the group’s attention.

HB’s influence on bubblegum cartoons lives on today as hip animators who grew up with these shows unleash their satires and tributes.  In an episode of Ralph Bakshi’s ‘80s series The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse , characters found themselves trapped in an HB world, escaping each toon only to wind up in another.  As they fled a Scooby set, a bubblegum song dropped references to mood rings and other ‘70s kitsch.  Arguably, Saturday Night Live’s sole funny recurring segment is Robert Smigel’s animated offering The Four Ex-Presidents, where a retired Ford, Reagan, Carter and Bush rescue Bill Clinton from space aliens, communists and other unsavories.  Each skit culminates with the former commanders-in-chief rocking out in an Archies-style band. 

In 1995, The Cartoon Network—a division of Warner Brothers, as is Hanna-Barbera today—aired Saturday Morning Cartoons, with alternative bands performing show themes and songs from musical episodes.  In the station’s Cartoon Cartoon original programming, the Powerpuff Girls break out into “Love Makes the World Go ‘Round” a dose of pop ecstasy so cheery it has the capacity to restore color to a city drained of it by an evil mime.  A Dexter’s Lab segment sees the protagonist being chased by a scary, Keane-eyed waif to the tune of a bubbly pop song.  The station even made the insufferable Jabberjaw digestible via an interstitial video where the show’s characters come to life off a lunchbox and jam with punk band Pain.


Music played a central role in the aforementioned TV shows, but many a Hanna-Barbera classic featured a rock-n-roll episode, a failproof plot device enlisted about as often as the perfunctory “trip to Hawaii” or “robot goes haywire.” Usually, these episodes centered around an accidental dance craze or an unlikely subject becoming a pop star and living out the hellish machinations and experiences detailed in the Byrds’ “So You Want to be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star?”  Must see ‘toon TV includes:

The Flintstones: Since the show was essentially a parody of modern American life, creators of the Flintstones never missed a chance to poke fun at pop culture’s disposable nature, and in particular, the star-making machine: Over its 1960-66 course, the series had six pop music-themed episodes.  In an early one, a Col. Tom caricature makes Fred over as Elvis impersonator Hi-Fi, a plan thwarted when fed-up Wilma convinces fickle teens that he’s actually a square.  During the post-payola/ pre-Beatle musical vacuum of 1960-63, the Flintstones managed to chronicle the most interesting genres in music: when singer Rock Roll (voiced by Hal Smith of Otis the Drunk fame) suffers an allergic reaction to pickled dodo eggs, Fred fills in to sing “The Bedrock Twitch,” a Twist-craze spoof.  Surfing is exploited in Surfin’ Fred, an episode where The Fantastic Baggys’ “Surfin’ Craze” plays on a radio and Jimmy Darrock croons “Wax Up Your Board.”

Once the Beatles were unleashed, their influence soon crept in to cartoonland.  When Pebbles and Bamm Bamm become famous with their song “ Let the Sunshine In”—no relation to Hair’s hippie anthem—the duo is discovered by Brit “Eppy Brianstone.” Extraterrestrial flavors-of-the-week the Way-Outs knock a group called the Beasties off the charts in another episode.  The Beau Brummels were an amazing electro-folk group in their own right, but a genius marketing ploy—their name—positioned them parasitically close to the Fab Four in record bins.  The band’s brief tenure under the pop spotlight was immortalized in an episode where the Beau Brummelstones performed their hit “Laugh, Laugh” on TV show Shinrock (Based on ABC’s Shindig!).  Episodes featuring a singing Ann Margrock and HBR recording artist Danny Hutton, who would later become one-third of Three Dog Night, are also worth mentioning. 

Magilla Gorilla: In one of his customary attempts to flee Peebles Pet Shop, Magilla spies a group of surfers en route to the beach and laments, “I wish I was a hotdog and could hang ten.” An attempt to return a  runaway board sets in motion a series of events that culminates in the primate shooting the pier.  Impressed by the hodad’s bravado, the clique performs the Martha & the Vandellas-sounding dance song “Makin With the Magilla” for their new king of surf.

The Hillbilly Bears: Incessant mutterer Pa Rugg, head of the bear clan and the spiritual father of King of the Hill’s indecipherable Boomhauer, gets discovered by a pair of slick record execs scouring “The Hill Country: Where the sound of today’s big tunes are born” for the Next Big Thing.  Pa appears on The Big Rockin’ Show, where he adds the occasional mumbled overlay and guitar twang to “Do the Bear” a Yeah- Yeah-Yeah tune performed by a trio of gals with long, back-combed hair and hip huggers. 

The Jetsons: Borrowing from Bye Bye Birdie, the Jet Screamer episode has Judy Jetson winning a date with the intergalactic pop star.  He performs “Eep Opp Ork Ah-Ah,” basically a rockabilly tune infused with “futuristic” keyboards and other electronic weirdo noises. 

Scooby-Doo: The gimmick for The New Scooby-Doo Movies (1972) franchise was its celebrity guests stars.  Musical walk-ons include Davy Jones, Mama Cass and Sonny & Cher.  Some sang, others didn’t.

Many thanks to Ronn Webb (http://w3.nai.net/~wingnut/Hanna_Barbera.html), Ron Dante, Michael Lloyd, Monica Bouldin (Warner Brothers), Laurie Goldberg (Cartoon Network), Johnny Bartlett, Kelly Kuvo and Anita Serwacki for their assistance.

Sunshine Pop by Chris Davidson

Sunshine Pop
by Chris Davidson

What can sunshine pop hope to prove in this evil, angry world?  Sunshine pop—the effervescent song of rampant happiness.  A thousand hummingbirds grooving to newly discovered nectar.  The virginal essence of pop, wispy and white and skimmed off a cool vanilla milkshake to be infused with gleeful melody.  The together timbre of the Association, the pleasing gum-snap of the Yellow Balloon, or—most perfectly—the dazzling choral layercake of the Cowsills.  What chance do these sun-drenched sounds have with us moderns?

Those with the faintest longing for purity know well the uplifting—nay the inspiring—power of this music.  At its most blinding it matches bubblegum’s oomph note for note.  But not for sunshine pop the sexual subtext or nasal bleating: where bubblegum says, “I got love in my tummy,” s-pop exclaims:  “I love the flower girl.”   A fine line, to be sure.  Over here one type of joyful noise, over there another.  But darn it if sunshine pop isn’t its own cheerful potpourri of twirling, exuberant arrangements and over-the-bra lovey-doveyness.  Baroque pop, you ask?  Not really, although the harpsichord features prominently at times, and an Old World flavor definitely pervades.  Folk rock, then?  Not quite, despite an acoustic drop cloth on which everything eventually lands.  The balance is precarious.  The peel of a harmonica or improper throaty vocal will snatch an otherwise frisky sunshine tune from your grasp and deposit it back into the standard 1960s pop camp.

Sunshine pop had a fling with the best-seller crowd in the mid-’60s—or, more correctly, light harmony pop did, for its lush harmonies and wistful themes approached but did not capture the oblique and melancholy X Factor of sunshine pop.  Radio staples like “Younger Girl” and “Love (Can Make You Happy)” came close.  Reams of sublime examples ducked beneath the charts.  Bubbling under, the likes of the Sunshine Company’s “I Just Want To Be Your Friend” the well documented “The Grooviest Girl In The World” and “California My Way” by the Committee turned us gay with AM delight.

Some b-gum stars straddled both camps—the Archies’ “Sugar and Spice” is sun-baked like Dennis Wilson’s split ends.  But sunshine pop is best discovered in the margins of bubblegum where the acknowledged luminaries took a backseat to a simplified (and remarkably moving) emotional milieu, an endless series of first dates and the blinding optimism of youth.  Hit and flop alike, speak softly, and behold sunshine pop’s gentle-hearted best and brightest:

The Beach Boys
Traced directly to these rapturous lads, the roots of sunshine pop reside not so much with the overplayed hits as with certain pre-Pet Sounds album cuts.  The trick is the rich B. Wilson production, which piles high the harmonies—a central facet and key differentiator between straight surf vocal disks and the true sunny stuff.  Sunshine pop is, after all, less about summer rock-and-roll and more about the evocation of summer shadiness, a delicate point.  A thousand harmony-laden masterpieces owe patent infringement damages to “In the Parking Lot” and especially “Let Him Run Wild.”

The Association
Too freshman-year earnest after their first hits to qualify as mainstays of the movement, the Association delivered a superb first album—And Then Along Comes The Association—overseen by producer Curt Boettcher and featuring tight bursts of harmony pop shrapnel.  Forgive the facial hair for their still-thrilling “Along Comes Mary.”

The Cowsills
Optimism rock—family division.  The vociferous Cowsill brood galvanized Rhode Island with the most gleaming pipes of all, a team of precision instruments tightly wound like a teenage Magnificent Seven.  After a few flop singles, the tribe exploded with towering, sun-basted material: “The Rain, The Park And Other Things” “Gray, Sunny Day” “We Can Fly” and, most euphoric of all, “All My Days” part of a Cowsills EP sponsored by the American Dairy Association (fully one-sixth of tiny R.I.’s milk supply is suspected to have been consumed by a Cowsill).

The Bee Gees
Happy in spurts amidst ever-present (but very welcome) pensiveness, the Bee Gees mastered the pop form while still teens.  The early Australian recordings point skyward while simultaneously staring down and come extremely close to sunshine pop without fully capitulating.  Still, brothers in lock-step harmony singing about butterflies says include them with an asterisk.  Said “Butterfly” is a good place to begin.  “Cherry Red” and “Spicks and Specks” receive extra points for overcoming the Euro-sunshine curse, as relatively few overseas pals convincingly linked up with this sound (is it even possible to be truly happy outside of the U.S.?).  Yes, the Hollies came a breadth away with “Everything Is Sunshine.”

Yellow Balloon
Gary Zekley, SoCal insider and one of many budding maestros orbiting the Wilson camp mid-decade, found chart fame producing the Clique’s “Sugar On Sunday” and writing hits for the Grass Roots.  Of his earlier work, this delicious ‘67 album typifies the airy and upbeat mini-Spector density found on the most atmospheric s-pop.  The Yellow B.’s self-titled theme song was also cut by a Jan-less Jan and Dean on the lost, but since rediscovered, Save For A Rainy Day LP.  No better full-length specimens of sunshine pop exist.

The Ballroom / Sagittarius / Millennium
Surfacing soon after his association with the “Along Comes Mary” crew, Curt Boettcher launched a harmony steamship with a trio of worthy vessels.  In quick succession, the Ballroom gave way to the Gary Usher-led Sagittarius which sired the stud-filled Millennium.  The constant?  Boettcher’s ability to wrest symphonic miracles on cut after cut of California vapor-pop.

The Vision
“Small Town Commotion” b/w “Keepin’ Your Eyes On The Sun” (UNI).  Top side, a complex weaving tale of a fiery municipal disaster.  The flip provides a luscious Gary Zekley artifact (produced under the nom du rock Yodar Critch), a perfectly realized distillation of July using girl backup, harps and a driving beat.  Zeke’s command: walk with me awhile and smile.

“Make Believe” b/w “Groovin’ With Mr. Bloe” (Life).  Uplifting melodious bubblegum masquerading as a 4 Seasons-like beat ballad.  Joey Levine involvement.  Slice off the harmful instrumental flip side, and a sun is born.

The Pleasure Fair
“Morning Glory Days” b/w “Fade In Fade Out” (UNI).  Add one more entry to David Gates’ long cool-guy resume.  Gee-whiz harmony with light orchestral fanfare, like a very white Fifth Dimension (perhaps the Fourth Dimension in disguise).

Hyle King Movement
“Flower Smile” b/w “Forever ‘N Ever” (Liberty).  Atmospheric swirl akin to Sergio Mendes harmonizing in a hot-house garden—plus decidedly hippie sentiments told in a deliciously un-hippie manner.

Black Bubblegum

by James Porter

The Jackson Five were pioneers in ways no one really thinks about. When the Motown label released “I Want You Back” in the waning months of the sixties, the group was probably regarded as nothing more than five cute kids whom Diana Ross supposedly discovered, just another one of those novelty child acts that pop up every few years. As it turned out, they wound up with a #1 hit, bringing “The Motown Sound” up-to-date for the seventies. They spawned a host of imitators

Candy Flavored Lipgloss: Glam & Gum

by David Smay

Pity the American child of the seventies, denied the spectacle of Marc Bolan on Top of the Pops, the Sweet lip-syncing on The Old Grey Whistle Test, and completely ignorant of Supersonic. The flashiest, trashiest, popcultiest of all rock genres, glam rock sparked more epiphanies on the telly than it ever did on Radio London. But television

Strawberry Studios

by Dave Thompson

Late in 1969, Kasenetz-Katz approached English songsmith Graham Gouldman with the offer of working for them. Gouldman was, after all, one of Britain’s most accomplished hitmakers, the name behind a string of hits by the Yardbirds, Jeff Beck, Herman’s Hermits, the Hollies… even Cher had recorded a Graham Gouldman number.

Over the last couple of years, though, Gouldman’s pen had fallen on hard times. His own attempts to break into the bubblegum market, first through the Graham Gouldman Orchestra’s lightweight versions of his own greatest hits, then via one-time chart heroes the Mindbenders, had signally failed to take off; and with the bulk of Gouldman’s income being plowed into the studios he was opening with fellow ‘bender Eric Stewart, Kasenetz-Katz’s offer came just at the right time.
Medium Image

In return for a generous advance, the deal didn

British Bubblegum: the Works of Tony Macaulay, Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway

by Derrick Bostrom

While most folks associate bubblegum music with American pop of the late ‘60s, quite a few of the genre’s most charming songs actually came from England.  And, like their U.S.  counterparts, many of these songs were recorded by bands that never existed.  Part of the fun of being a bubblegum fan, in fact, is discovering how the same people appeared on so many different records.  British singer Tony Burrows, for instance, sang on hits by four different fake bands in one year (Edison Lighthouse’s “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes),” White Plains’ “My Baby Loves Lovin’,” the Brotherhood of Man ‘s “United We Stand” and the Pipkins’ “Gimme Dat Ding”).  Burrows’ dubious accomplishment has won him a fan following, but many of the men who worked with him are also beginning to achieve cult status.

The records of Tony Macaulay, the writer/producer of Edison Lighthouse’s “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” and Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway, the team responsible for White Plains’ “My Baby Loves Lovin,” stand out particularly, evoking the high-gloss ersatz quality of British bubblegum at its finest.  Sounding at once completely unique and yet exactly like everyone else, contemporary yet commonplace, producers like Macaulay and Cook/Greenaway filled a badly-needed niche for radio programmers tired of the likes of Sinatra and Mantovani, yet not ready for Hendrix and Joplin.

Unlike most American bubblegum, the British variant owed less to garage rock than to more traditional show-biz products.  “Manufactured” artists under the tight control of their record labels were the norm.  Government controlled British radio didn’t even open up to rock until 1967, and this was only in response to the insurgence of "pirate" stations broadcasting from ships in international waters.  And even then, they preferred softer-edged, poppier sounds to the guitar groups spawned in the wake of the Beatles, still considered by some to be a fluke of little lasting consequence.

Tony Macaulay of Pye Records was one of the first wave of producers to benefit from the rise of BBC’s rock station, Radio One.  Macaulay (born Anthony Instone) worked as a song plugger for Essex Publishing in the early ‘60s.  By mid-decade, he had moved to Pye Records as a staff producer, where he was teamed with the Foundations.  Unenthusiastic about the project, Macaulay and arranger John MacLeod presented the group with an unused song they had written two years earlier.  

“Baby, Now That I’ve Found You” became Macaulay’s first hit, reaching the number one position in the U.K. and selling over 3 million copies worldwide.  It took months to reach the charts, however, taking off in the fall of 1967 only after Radio One added the record to its playlists.  The Foundations enjoyed a string of hits with Macaulay at the helm, including the proto-bubblegum “Build Me Up Buttercup” (co-written with Michael D’Abo).  All of them owed an obvious debt to The Motown Sound, particularly that of the Four Tops.  Ironically, in an interview from the period, Macaulay claimed, “We have managed to find a groove for the Foundations which is, we like to think, unique, and will continue to be developed and copied by other bands for a long time in the future.” Unfortunately for the Foundations, the band was forced to copy their sound all by themselves when Macaulay left Pye Records in 1969.  They struggled along for a couple more years before they disbanded.

During his tenure at Pye, Macaulay also worked with Long John Baldry.  A pivotal figure in the ‘60s British blues scene, by 1967 Baldry apparently hungered for mainstream acceptance.  Macaulay and MacLeod concocted a series of recordings for him very much in the Tom Jones mold.  “Let the Heartaches Begin” was Macaulay’s second U.K.  \chart topper.  Among their other notable records, the team also produced “Mexico (Underneath the Sun In)”, which was chosen as the official theme of the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.

In addition to his duties at Pye as a staff producer, Macaulay also wrote for Herman’s Hermits (“I Can Take or Leave Your Lovin’”) and Jefferson (“Baby Take Me In Your Arms”) with John MacLeod.  He also began to collaborate with Geoff Stephens (the guiding light behind the New Vaudeville Band’s “Winchester Cathedral” in 1965).  Together, they wrote Scott Walker’s “Lights of Cincinnati” and the Hollies’ “Sorry Suzanne”.

In early 1968, Macaulay began working with Pinkerton’s (Assorted) Colours.  He produced two singles for them, the Macaulay/MacLeod original “There’s Nobody I’d Sooner Love” and a cover of Neil Diamond’s “Kentucky Woman,” but neither record did much business.  The following year, the group, renamed The Flying Machine, released Macaulay and Stephens’ “Smile a Little Smile For Me.”  Though it initially flopped in Britain, the single took off in the U.S.  The LP that followed was a rush-job that relied heavily on studio musicians, helping fuel the impression that the Flying Machine didn’t actually exist.  Adding to the confusion, a long-defunct band also named Flying Machine (featuring a young James Taylor) seized the opportunity to release some of their early recordings.

In the meantime, Macaulay left Pye for Bell Records.  When the Flying Machine refused to follow him (choosing instead to honor their existing Pye contract), their collaboration ended and Macaulay found other artists to bestow his gifts upon.  One of these was Tony Burrows, a singer who’d been working with another up-and-coming production team, Cook and Greenaway.

Burrows first worked with Roger Greenaway and Roger Cook in the Kestrels, a singing group that mostly provided vocal backgrounds for other artists in the recording studio.  Though they never managed to score a hit of their own, they opened many tours with the Beatles, and hold the distinction of having taught the Fab Four how to bow in unison.  Cook and Greenaway struck up a songwriting partnership, and soon afterward they scored their first hit with “You’ve Got Your Troubles” for the Fortunes.  After the Kestrels disbanded, the two Rogers scored a hit of their own, a George Martin produced cover of the Beatles’ “Michelle,” under the names David and Jonathan.

The Cook/Greenaway songwriting partnership continued with Gary Lewis & the Playboys’ “Green Grass” and “I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman” by Whistlin’ Jack Smith.  “Batman” was actually recorded by the Mike Sammes Singers, but Decca Records decided to release it under a pseudonym.  After the record charted, a singer was quickly hired to portray Jack.  Cook and Greenaway also wrote material for Roger Cook’s group, Blue Mink (“Melting Pot”), and supplied Coca-Cola with the famous “It’s the Real Thing” jingle.

Meanwhile, Tony Burrows had joined John Carter and Ken Lewis’ Ivy League, later following them when they quit that group to form a studio project called the Flower Pot Men.  They scored one hit, “Let’s Go to San Francisco,” then disbanded shortly afterward.  Their record label, Decca, wanted to release a handful of unreleased Flower Pot Men tracks under the name White Plains, so they hired Cook and Greenaway to prepare an album.  Burrows signed on to supply lead vocals, and soon the group hit in 1970 with the Cook/Greenaway composition “My Baby Loves Lovin’.”

Burrows then teamed up with Tony Macaulay on the ultimate British bubblegum record, and perhaps the defining song of a generation, “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)”.  Macaulay and Barry Mason (who’d written “Delilah” for Tom Jones) wrote “Rosemary” in just under an hour, but Macaulay was certain it would be a hit.  So apparently was Burrows, who petitioned to have it released as a solo single under his own name.  Macaulay instead concocted a fake group, Edison Lighthouse, hiring different musicians to act as the touring band.  

Burrows agreed to do the television promotions, however, and soon he found himself appearing on the BBC’s Top of The Pops as not one but three of his four fake groups on the same night.  After the show’s producers discovered what was going on, they asked that Burrows not appear on the program again.  This informal blacklist helped stall his solo career.  He released two dynamite Macaulay penned/produced discs shortly thereafter, “Melanie Makes Me Smile” and “Every Little Move She Makes,” but neither record met with much success.  Burrows eventually went back to his studio work, reaching the Top 10 only once more, on 1974’s “Beach Baby” by yet another fake band, John Carter’s First Class.

Meanwhile, Macaulay supplied material for Pickettywitch, a group put together by John MacLeod to support singer Polly Brown.  They had a Top 10 hit with Macaulay and MacLeod’s “That Same Old Feeling,” a tune that more than a half dozen groups had released unsuccessfully, including the Foundations, the Flying Machine and the Fortunes.  They released several charting follow-ups, including Macaulay and MacLeod’s “Sad Old Kinda Movie,” before Polly Brown left the group for a solo career.

Macaulay also returned to his Motown style in 1970, with Johnny Johnson & the Bandwagon’s “Blame it on the Pony Express” (a Top 10 record in England, though Bobby Sherman got the hit in the U.S.), and “Something Old, Something New” by the Fantasticks in 1971.  Both songs were collaborations with Cook and Greenaway, as was 1971’s hit for the Fortunes, “Here Comes that Rainy Day Feeling Again,” and the Hollies’ “Gasoline Alley Bred.”

But much of Macaulay’s attention in the early ‘70s was diverted by a legal dispute with his publishers that dragged on in the courts for years.  He finally won his case on appeal in 1974, in a landmark decision which encouraged other artists (Elton John among them) to challenge the terms of their contracts.  By the time of his court victory, Macaulay had begun to write for musical theater.  He collaborated with playwright Ken Hill on Is Your Doctor Really Necessary? in 1973 and on Gentlemen Prefer Anything the following year.

While Macaulay took his lumps in court, Cook and Greenaway meanwhile, reached their zenith.  They were named Songwriters of the Year for both 1970 and 1971 by the British Songwriters Guild.  Their hits from the period included “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” for the Hollies and “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” for the New Seekers (originally another jingle for Coca-Cola).  In 1972, Roger Cook released the first of a series of solo albums, with songs like “Eating Peaches in the Sun” and “I’ll Bet Jesus was a Lonely Man” and began to steer a course completely unrelated to his pop work with Greenaway.

By mid-decade in fact, the partnership was all but over.  One of their last hits together was Carol Douglas’ “Doctor’s Orders,” which was originally written for the British singer Sunny.  They sold their publishing company, Cookaway Music, and Roger Cook moved to Nashville.  He began to contribute songs to country artists like Crystal Gayle (“Talking in Your Sleep”) and Don Williams (“I Believe in You,” “Love is On a Roll”).   In 1997, Cook was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Greenaway continued working with pop artists like David Dundas (“Jeans On”) and Our Kids (“You Just Might See Me Cry”).  He collaborated with Tony Macaulay on a series of hits with the Drifters (“You’re More Than a Number in My Little Red Book,” “Down on the Beach Tonight,” “Kissin’ in the Back Row of the Movies”) and wrote “It’s Like We Never Said Goodbye” for Crystal Gayle.  But increasingly, he became more involved in administration, serving as president of Britain’s Performing Rights Society.  In 1995, he was named Senior Vice President, International, of ASCAP.

For Macaulay, the mid-’70s found him writing for middle-of-the-road artists like Elvis (“If I Get Home on Christmas Day,” “Love Me, Love the Life I Lead”), Tom Jones (“Letter to Lucille”), Andy Williams (“Home Lovin’ Man”) and the Fifth Dimension (“Last Night I Couldn’t Get to Sleep at All”).  In 1976, he wrote and produced his best-known MOR hit, David Soul’s “Don’t Give Up On Us,” which reached #1 in both the U.S.  and the U.K.  Two follow-up singles written and produced by Macaulay, “Silver Lady” and “Going In With Both Eyes Open,” also topped the U.K. charts.

Also in 1976, Macaulay and Greenaway collaborated with Adam West on something called “The Story of Batman”.  But by the late 70s, the hits were becoming few and far between.  The Marmalade scored one with Macaulay’s “Falling Apart at the Seams,” as did Duane Eddy with “Play Me Like you Play Your Guitar.” In 1977, Macaulay produced an album for Saturday morning television stars the Hudson Brothers.  Though it garnered no hits, it did represent a passing of the torch of sorts, as Mark Hudson went on to work with the sticky sweet midwestern combo, Hanson.

Macaulay wound up the decade writing and producing tracks for Gladys Knight & the Pips, and his ballad “Can’t We Just Sit Down and Talk it Over” appeared on an album by Donna Summer, but by the end of the ‘70s, he had all but abandoned popular music for theater and film composition.  He scored only one pop hit during the entire decade, “Alibis” by Sergio Mendes.  His major musical project of the ‘80s was the theatrical production Windy City, which played over 300 performances in 1982.

Nowadays, Macaulay no longer makes his living as a songwriter, but the music world hasn’t forgotten him.  In 1995, singer Alison Krauss took a version of “Baby, Now That I’ve Found You” to the top of the country charts, and “Build Me Up Buttercup” was featured prominently in the hit film There’s Something About Mary.  His productions are readily available through reissue labels like Rhino (their Have a Nice Day series), Varèse Sarabande (the essential Bubblegum Classics CDs, one of which is entirely devoted to Tony Burrows), and Britain’s Castle Music’s Sequel imprint (a two-CD set of Pinkertons/ Flying Machine).

As the ‘60s and ‘70 recede further and further from view, interest in the kind of pop music produced by Macaulay and Cook/Greenaway continues to grow.  What was once dismissed as purely disposable hackwork takes on a greater luster with the continuing passage of time, finally emerging as indisputable pop classics.  Songs like “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” and “Smile A Little Smile For Me,” aside from their obvious kitsch appeal, can bring back memories and feelings that the more accepted “classic hits” are powerless to evoke.  Like all great bubblegum, these records need not merely be rescued from the ash can of obscurity, they deserve room on the top shelf with the greatest hits of all time.

Thanks to: Sonia Bovio, Ian Gilchrist, Steve Hammonds, Bruce Kimmel, Cary Mansfield, Bill Pitzonka, Gordon Pogoda, Al Cunniff, Tom Troccoli, Gregg Turkington