Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth
by Kim Cooper
If you do not wish to have your illusions about bubblegum destroyed, you should read no further than this paragraph. The chapter that follows is an exploration of the dark side of a genre which, to all appearances, dwelt entirely in the light. If you still cling to the notion of a happy world composed of sugarcone hills and chocolate milk streams, where cotton candy robins pluck gummy worms from shredded-coconut lawns (and then kiss them kindly and return them to the soil), and the wind blows a lovely scent of peppermint and spice, well, I don’t want to be the one to take that away from you. Don’t worry, your happy candy world is still there, and there are no shadows on the lawns. Now turn the page, quick, before you’re ensnared by my evil heresies.
Bubblegum music was much maligned in its brief heyday (I968-69), and is pretty much ignored or despised today. A Los Angeles oldies station was recently launched with the slogan “No bubblegum, and no weird stuff.” (To which I responded, “In that case, I’m tuning out!”) Such derision is a pity, for the oddball recordings of the 1910 Fruitgum Co., Archies, Ohio Express, Lemon Pipers, Banana Splits, et al. are quite fascinating, in addition to being catchier than a huge yawn. Emerging out of a producer-driven system that makes Phil Spector look laid-back, bubblegum was made and marketed for a powerful new demographic: the pre-adolescent with cash to burn. Someone should tell Arrow-93 that these kids are all growed up and listening to oldies radio today.
In the late Sixties the American economy was in great shape, and for the first time a whole generation existed that knew nothing of deprivation. Their parents remembered WW2 and perhaps the Depression, and wished to spare their own progeny such pangs. And in direct response to this economic force emerged a startling variety of kiddie-driven commodities: comic books and skateboards, goofy plastic paraphernalia, half-length lovebeads, Sea Monkeys, and a whole new kind of rock and roll.
Bubblegum, however, was meant from the start to appeal to the eight-year-old of the house. It was the rare bubblegum album that had an accurate track-listing on the jacket