The 1910 Fruitgum Company (The truth)

First, I’d like to thank Kim Cooper and BU for this opportunity to speak out here. I actually wrote to her and asked for this opportunity for a few reasons which I will explain in this blog, and I hope to continue the discussion with old fans, new fans, the curious, anti-fans, and anyone else who wants to get involved or add to this.

My name is Floyd Marcus and I am the original drummer of The 1910 Fruitgum Company, and after being involved in many other musical projects over the years, I and Frank Jeckell, my long time friend and original guitarist and member got together with a friend Mick Mansueto who convinced us to get the band back together.We decided that it was the right time to do it, and that It would be fun again. We reformed over 5 years ago, and have had a great time playing and meeting fans ever since.

Over the years, I personally had not paid any attention to what was going on or what was being said about The Fruitgum Company. The more I was involved the more I realized how many lies, mistruths, misunderstandings, purposely concocted stories were out here on the net, in books, etc. There were and are writers (and I use that term loosely ; very loosely) that spew all kinds of garbage under the guise that it’s the truth, that they have some special attachment, whether fan or anti-fan, to the information pipeline about what occured with not only The Fruitgum Company, but other bands.

I mean a myth or two is okay. It’s fine for everyone, because it spices things up. I’m talking about morons who claim there was never a real band. Fortunately, there were 5 really talented musicians who became the Fruitgum Company. Unfortunately, after a few of us left, there were replacements (some not so talented) and things became watered down. I played on the first two albums. even when a new drummer was brought in, I was in asked to come in and play on the tracks.

Anyone with the slightest inclination to get to the truth can find it. For example: we five original members were on the road when we were asked about our new single (our third), and when Mark answered knowingly, the rest of us were suddenly aware that something was rotten, and one of us had been in collusion with the producer-managers. This was not because the band was incapable of doing a great job on those records or any others.There were a lot of reasons to record singles at that point while the band was on the road. I mean, why take the band off the road when it was earning and promoting.

Also, there was dissention by members as in most bands, as to what to do and it was obviously more practical business-wise to deal with a group of young musicians by sabotaging that dissent. Anyway, to set that straight, there were 5 talented musicians name Frank, Pat, Floyd, Steve and Mark that were the the actual original 1910.

Another thing is although the first album cover was tiny pictures off of film strips taken during the first photo shoot. If someone looked just a little further they’d find first the picture of me leaning on the gum machine, and Frank dressed as a "fortune-teller" with a turban and sunglasses, and the same guys on the front of Kasenetz and Katz singing Orchestral Circus album. In fact, although through the years the truth has been perverted to show second and third members on re-issue covers, there are hundreds of examples of the original 5 members on covers from, Japan, Italy, England etc. Plus, our names are listed inside the first album. Any questions?

Now, as to the question of talent. How many of the old fans who saw us remember what kind of music we performed in our shows. I recall a show where we arrived and were to replace the cancelled Vanilla Fudge. Well, rightfully so, the audience was very unhappy, felt ripped off, and were pretty vocal about it. There was a local DJ there whose name I can’t recall who calmed the audience down and said something to the effect of "These guys are not to blame for what’s happened here, so how about at least giving them a chance!". Well, we decided the best strategy to take was to perform "You Keep Me hanging On", the Fudges signature hit. By the end of the song we won over the audience. We also did great covers of Hendrix, Cream, The Beatles, the Stones, The Young Rascals, The Yardbyrds, The Animals, Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops, Mitch Ryder and others. And we’d do our hits, Simon Says, May I take A giant Step and 1,2,3 Red light.

And you know what? We were extremely capable of pulling all that stuff off. There were studio guys, but they came later. There was Joey Levine, and he was with the Ohio Express. They were a different band. No knocking any of those guys. Some of us are in touch with them even now planning jobs together.

I will be keeping you all up to date on our new projects through this blog. We have a studio CD being re-released, we have a live CD coming out, and I personally am going to get out our recordings we did during the period we were rehearsing, playing out before, and during our incarnation as The 1910. You know, the band that didn’t exist, according to some. Oh, by the way. I’ll be posting pictures of the original guys, the new, older incarnation of the band.

1910 Fruitgum Co. – The Best of CD (Repertoire)

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Not to be confused with the similarly-titled BMG collection for which I wrote the notes in 2001 (see below). If you’re seeking the most of this splendid bubblegum band you’ll need to pick up both discs, as there are six songs on the earlier release not on this mainly singles selection, among them the essential "1910 Cotton Candy Castle." But if only one Fruitgum comp is in your future, it’d be hard to compete with this 28-track behemoth. I wish BMG had been as ambitious with their own vault artists as Germany’s Repertoire label! You’d have to dig through a lot of scuffy vinyl to assemble a comparable analog collection spanning the short, delicious career of this most infantile of semi-imaginary Buddah combos. Kicking off with the schoolyard earworm hits (including "Simon Says," "Indian Giver" and "1-2-3 Red Light"), the disc also spotlights the band (or its studio doppelgangers) in its jazzy, psychedelic and garagey manifestations. The b-sides are highlights (and a rare chance to enjoy band-penned compositions), like the growling bad girl raver "No Good Annie," and the Chinese psych-out "Reflections from the Looking Glass." Equally great are the retarded (in a good way) "Sticky Sticky" and the Link-Wray-in-orbit stylings of "Baby Bret." The comp closes with several scarce Italian-language tracks, from the Fruitgums’ late, barely-noticed Continental phase, including the exquisitely spooky "C’e Qualcosa Che Non Picardo Piu." The booklet includes notes from John Tracy and a selection of colorful 45 sleeves, sheet music covers and oddities.

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 Read Kim Cooper’s notes from The Best of the 1910 Fruitgum Company. 

Producers and Impresarios

Bubblegum is the story of songwriter-producers—makers of shiny sounds.  The villains in many rock legends, these are people who saved their innocence for their musical sentiments and never did anything so stupid as to sign away their publishing.  Firing inept drummers, replacing lead singers, they ruthlessly worked the system to make it pop.  But here we also find gentle studio geeks with a genius for engineering, child prodigies, cheerful tunesmiths in love with the game, the insane pace, the charts.

We’re conscious of legendary recording sessions with Phil Spector and Brian Wilson, George Martin facilitating Sgt. Pepper, Aretha’s first epochal piano chord in Memphis or Hendrix pulling together layers of sonic strata on Electric Ladyland.  Still, our sense of the studio’s place in Rock Mythology remains peripheral.  Only serious music fans know the names James Jamerson or Hal Blaine, while even the most casual listener knows their work.  Bubblegum, like Disco, like Motown, like much of Nashville today, exists primarily within a studio culture of session players and songwriter-producers.  This particular hyphenate ought to be better known than singer-songwriters—it’s the economic trigger for the whole recording industry.  Why?  Because both songwriters and producers collect royalties, and if you double up your credits on a hit record you’re raking in some serious chump change.  

Reading these interviews we’re struck by the canniness and audacity of non-writers Kasenetz and Katz piggybacking bizarre studio goofs onto the b-sides of sure hits to collect songwriting checks.  Or Jonathan King’s shameless talent for converting fads into pop hits.  But we also delight in Jeff Barry building up the drum track for “Be My Baby” one mallet tap at a time, or Mike Batt living in a Womble suit for a week before setting those characters in song.

Here you find tricksters and hipsters, songwriters and songbirds, studio tans and golden ears.
West Coast Pop anticipated bubblegum’s methods, blurred the lines between music for sale and music that sells, influenced the sound of bubblegum and provided the pool of creators that presided over its cartooniest era.

As the man who squeezed Brian Wilson’s vision into an LP’s worth of slot-car racing songs and gave voice to Big Daddy Roth’s model kits, Gary Usher’s influence can’t be overstated.  Bubblegum’s splendid tradition of completely fictitious bands starts at the Brill Building, but achieves a cheesy genius in the Weird-Ohs, the Super Stocks, the Hondells, and the Revells.  Though his busiest period predates bubblegum’s onset by several years, Gary Usher laid out the entire bubblegum blueprint before it had a name.  He recorded musically and lyrically upbeat music with a steady core of studio musicians under a variety of ghost band names, commissioned for a visual medium (substitute Beach Movies for TV here).  Whereas most bubblegum makers went into commercial jingles after their bubblegum careers, Usher brazenly turned a Honda promotion into a masterstroke of pop genius (“Little Honda”).

Gary Zekley perfectly encapsulates the West Coast studio scene, swallowing not-so-disparate sub-genres like surf, sunshine pop, bubblegum and psych pop in one gulp.  Most of his East Coast peers simply considered themselves pop songwriters with little concern for marketing categories.  Zekley’s fluid career cautions against leaning too heavily on genre distinctions.  You can assign the Fun and Games, Yellow Balloon and the Clique to different bins, but the same talent clearly penned “The Grooviest Girl in the World,” “How Can I Be Down” and “Superman.”

Oftentimes the supporting players provide a better window into a scene than the big names.  Carol Connors found a niche in the L.A. scene, fronting Beach Bunny bands for Gary Usher and co-writing some tunes.  Carol’s “Yum Yum Yamaha” does more to clarify the seamless fusion of surf, bubblegum and commercial jingles that defined west coast pop than any five books about the Beach Boys.