Yummy Strummy Gummy!
Not Lame Records Bursts the Pop Bubble
My multi-media friend Louis Fowler of Not Lame Records (pictured right) - who is also the award-winning host of DAMAGED Hearing (which airs Tuesdays at 1 PM, MST, on 88.9 KRFC-FM in Fort Collins, CO), the blogger behind Damaged 2.0, and the twisted mind behind the legendary zine Damaged - recently sent me a holiday care package of great compilation CDs, including one I now can't stop playing: Right To Chews: Bubblegum Classics Revisited.
This 2002 release features relatively unknown indie/powerpop groups covering bubblegum pop classics by the likes of The Archies ("Feelin' So Good (S.K.O.O.B.Y. D.O.O.)" and "Melody Hill"), The Osmonds ("Down By the Lazy River" and "Goin' Home"), The Banana Splits ("I Enjoy Being a Boy"), The 1910 Fruitgum Company ("1-2-3 Red Light," "Goodie Goodie Gumdrops," and "May I Take a Giant Step (Into Your Heart)"), Edison Lighthouse ("Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes"), The Ohio Express ("Yummy Yummy Yummy"), The Bay City Rollers ("Saturday Night"), The Partridge Family (I Woke Up in Love This Morning"), The Jackson 5 ("I Want You Back"), The Sweet ("Wig -Wam Bam"), The Music Explosion ("Little Bit O' Soul"), The Clique ("Superman"), Gilbert O'Sullivan ("Get Down"), Tommy Roe ("Dizzy"), and even one-hit wonders like Daniel Boone ("Beautiful Sunday"), Crazy Elephant ("Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'"), Sunny Four ("Goodie Goodie Ice Cream Man"), White Plains ("My Baby Loves Lovin'"),and The Flying Machine ("Smile a Little Smile for Me").
Even the cover itself (shown at top) is a "cover" of Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass' Whipped Cream and Other Delights album (arguably the most referenced/parodied cover of all time, after The Beatle's Sgt. Pepper's Lonelyhearts Club Band).
Quite simply, it's the best compilation of this sort since Pravda Record's 20 Supersonic Mega Explosive Hits! (pictured left, complete with K-Tel graphics style), a once extremely rare 1991 collection (originally limited to 1,000 LP copies but now, like everything else, reborn again on CD) that featured alternative bands like Smashing Pumpkins, Young Fresh Fellows, Material Issue, Mojo Nixon, and The Sneetches covering their favorite '70s Top 40 hits. Sometimes hearing a band on a tribute/cover album makes you appreciate their worth in a way you wouldn't realize otherwise. For one thing, you can see right away who their influences are and whether they have good taste. So when I heard The Sneetches "I Wanna Be With You" - which to this Raspberries fanatic's ears remains the best-ever cover of Eric Carmen's AM radio classic - I went right out and bought up everything I could by this San Francisco group. The same thing happened when I heard Fountains of Wayne reclaiming the forgotten Ray Davies nugget "Better Days" on the Kinks tribute record This Is Where I Belong.
Hearing the finger-snapping, toe-tapping, clap-happy pop ditties on Right To Chews struck me the same way. I wanted to know more about these bands I didn't know and I wanted to reclaim the originals they excavated from the storage bin of my memory. Of the former, the contempo artists that most impressed me were Chris von Sneidern (whose sincere cover of The Flying Machine's plaintive "Smile A Little Smile For Me," complete with John Lennon vocal intonations, may be the best thing on the record), Japan's Oranges (not to be confused with Baltimore's Oranges Band), Superstone, Stingray, The Lolas, Einstein's Sister, Walter Clevenger & The Dairy Kings, Marykate O'Neil, Jim Laspesa with Michael Querico, and Wonderboy (featuring the ubiquitous Robbie Rist, best known as "cousin Oliver" on the final season of The Brady Bunch, the much-maligned character who gave birth to the "jumping the shark" concept - as pictured above right). (Von Sneidern, Walter Clevenger and Wonderboy also turn up on another Not Lame production, the bonus CD included with Not Lame's powerpop book Shake Some Action, where Clevenger's "The Day I Found You" is a real standout track.)
And of the latter, I was surprised at how sophisticated the Archies tunes were for a studio group created by Don Kirshner to provide a soundtrack to CBS-TV's 1968 cartoon The Archie Show and whose records often graced the back of Post cereal boxes. Far from one-hit wonders (i.e., "Sugar Sugar," the tune famously turned down by The Monkees so that they could instead release their Neil Diamond-penned "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" single), The Archies released six albums and 11 singles between 1968 and 1972, a testament to the talents of songwriter-producer Jeff Barry and songwriter Andy Kim, who later went on to write their share of Monkees songs. Barry was a Brill Building vet (the Ronettes' "Baby, I Love You" and "Be My Baby," etc.) whose most famous writing partner was his wife Ellie Greenwich (pictured right), while Kim also enjoyed a solo singing career, including the 1974 #1 hit "Rock me Gently" (later used in a Jeep Liberty commercial). It's a further testament to the Barry/Kim partnership that the two songs covered here - "Feelin' So Good (S.K.O.O.B.Y. D.O.O.) and "Melody Hill" - aren't even their best stuff - "Feelin' So Good" didn't chart in the Top 40 and "Melody Hill" was a B-side throw-away assigned to the writing team of Mark Barkan and Ritchie Adams. (And yes, S.K.O.O.B.Y. D.O.O. pre-dates the Scooby Doo cartoon series and is about a girl, not a crime-solving canine.)
Together the Archies isolated the genetic strain of the perfect pop hit and replicated it like a honey-dipped virus.
- David Smay (Bubblegum Is the Naked Truth)
And I was blown away by how downright rocking the the Osmond Brothers (a real band!) are on "Down By the Lazy River" and "Goin' Home."
The Osmonds get down and bring it all back home
As David Smay writes in the essential guidebook Bubblegum Music Is the Naked Truth, "The Osmonds are sorely underated in today's pop market and...are ripe for a full hipster reevaluation." Smay and others cite The Plan - the Osmonds' "Apocalyptic Mormon Concept Album" on which "Goin' Home" appears - as perhaps their Sgt. Pepper; I really must check it out - unironically at that. I mean, if religious fanaticism inspired the Osmonds Bros to rock out like this, maybe there's something to Mormonism after all (beyond the obvious male fantasy appeal of polygamy, that is).
Listening to Right To Chews ultimately made me dig out all my K-Tel Record compilation LPs - you know, the ones with the incendiary titles (The Now Explosion! , 20 Explosive Hits!, Soul Explosion!) that promised 20 mega/super/power tracks "as advertised on TV!".
K-Tel comps are a real blast!
And I dug out my copy of Bubblegum Is the Naked Truth: The Dark History of Prepubescent Pop from the Banana Splits to Britney Spears (pictured at left), the definitive word on bubblegum music and one of the best pop music books ever written. If you want to read all about the studio svengali's behind the manufactured bubblegum groups, this is the only read you'll ever need. It even includes writings by Lester Bangs and Chuck Eddy, the only two "name" rock critics who ever gave bubblegum its due. Bangs famously described bubblegum as "the basic sound of rock 'n' roll - minus the rage, fear, violence and anomie that runs from Johnny Burnette to Sid Vicious." And although Eddy characterized bubblegum as "kiddiepap" written with "cynical condescension" and full of "ingratiating meaningless," he also recognized that it was totally honest. In his influential (to me at least!) 1987 Creem magazine article "Bubblegum NeverDied! It's Just That Nobody Ever Writes About It." Eddy wrote, "...Bubblegum laid all its cards out, not disguising itself as anything (i.e., "smart") it wasn't" with songs "so blatantly cute on the surface you just wanted to tickle 'em under the chin ." Which was OK in his book because, rock's not supposed to require much thought. "You're supposed to use it up and throw it away, just like everything else in this culture, right?"
Yes, it's true: a lot of bubblegum songs were crap, every bit as disposable as the diva dross today's pre-teens and Tweeners digest every week by the likes of Britney, Ashley, Hannah Montana, and company. And many of the artists performing the songs weren't even real.
"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!"
- The Wizard of Oz
Some were obviously fake, like the aforementioned cartoon group The Archies (Jeff Barry/Andy Kim with vocalist Ron Dante) and The Banana Splits. Others were in-name-only (or photo-op-only) groups that were really the studio creations of behind-the-scenes record producers. Like Edison Lighthouse, a studio concoction of Brit bubblegum writer/producer Tony Macauley featuring singer Tony Burrows, who holds the distinction of singing on hits by four different fake bands in the same year: Edison Lighthouse's "Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes," White Plains' "My Baby Loves Lovin'" - both of which are covered on Right To Chews - as well as the Brotherhood of Man's "United We Stand," and the Pipkins "Gimme Dat Ding." (BTW, the Pipkins were the forerunners of Damon Alburn's Gorillaz, a cartoon band never meant to exist in the flesh, taking shape only on vinyl.) Burrows is also in the record books as the only person to appear on BBC Television's Top Of The Pops fronting three different acts in one show: Edison Lighthouse, White Plains, and Brotherhood of Man. Afterwards he was told that he would be unofficially blacklisted from the show since viewers might think his frequent appearances amounted to a "fix"; undeterred, he returned to the show a few weeks later as one member of the duo The Pipkins (the other member being his fellow ex-Kestrel bandmate Roger Greenaway). Burrows' accomplishment even trumps singer Ron Dante, who scored two hits in the same year, singing "Sugar Sugar" for The Archies and "Tracy" for The Cuff Links in 1968 - though it can't trump Dante's later career feat of taking over as editor of The Paris Review. The aforementioned White Plains were, of course, a nom de nonsense for Limey producers Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway, the Jolly Rogers behind the Coca-Cola jingle "It's the Real Thing."
Tony! Tony! Tony!: The many faces of Tony Burrows
And while the 1910 Fruitgum Company - a new Jersey quintet comprised of Mark Gitkowski, Floyd Marcus, Pat Karwan, Steve Morthowitz and Frank Jeckyl - and Music Explosion (helmed by singer Jamie Lyons) may have been real bands, all their songs were written by prolific producers Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz for Buddha Records. (Did I say prolific? K 'n' K's work with the 1910 Fruitgum Co. and Ohio Express is represented by four tunes on Right To Chews : "Yummy, Yummy, Yummy," "1, 2, 3 Red Light," "May I Take a Giant Step (Into Your Heart)" and "Goody Goody Gumdrops.") Kasenetz and Katz also produced the Ohio Express, whose songs were sung and written by Joey Levine (who, word has it, later did voiceover work for Baltimore's Trahan, Burden & Charles advertising agency). And before Mike Nesmith started writing songs, even the "real" fake band The Monkees were merely the writing outlet for the West Coast's answer to Goffin-King, hitmakers Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart ("(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone," "Last Train to Clarksville," "Valleri," "She," "I Wonder What's She's Doing Tonite").
But regardless of who or what they were "Behind the Music," I defy anyone to debate the brilliance of songs like Edison Lighthouse's "Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes" (a song whose pedigree is so admired, the Not Lame liner notes here refer to it as "the song everybody wanted to cover"!), The Partridge Family's "I Woke Up in Love This Morning, or The Bay City Rollers' fist-pumping stadium rock anthem "Saturday Night." No less a fan than Joey Ramone weighed in on the side of the Tartan Horde:
I hate to blow the mystique, but at the time we really liked bubblegum music, and we really liked the Bay City Rollers. Their song "Saturday Night" had a great chant in it, so we wanted a song with a chant in it: "Hey! Ho! Let's Go!" on "Blitzkreig Bop" was our "Saturday Night."
- Joey Ramone (quoted in Bubblegum Music Is the Naked Truth, Kim Cooper & David Smay, eds)
Joey Ramone definitely loved bubblegum, even convincing the Ramones to later cover the 1910 Fruitgum Company's "Indian Giver" on the B-side of their 1988 UK single "A Real Cool Time." The Ramones also covered The Music Explosion's "Little Bit O'Soul" on their 1983 album Subterranean Jungle.
Gum on the Tracks: A Chomp-by-Chomp Review of RIGHT TO CHEWS
All I know is this music makes me really happy and pumped up, especially when I'm commuting to work. In fact, it may be the perfect drive time music. The feel-good nature of these songs really struck home to me after a kid at at work gave me his personal CD burn of what he considered the "Best Indie Rock of 2007"; I couldn't get through it. It was all this self-indulgent emo shit - you know, the kind of meandering, listless soft-rock melodies that never seem to get started in any one direction, the kind of background buzz you hear in coffee shops that sounds really important but when you listen to the words is about nothing much at all. In other words, they ring hollow with a kind of false promise and pretention. By contrast, there's a certain honesty in listening to these heartfelt disposable bubblegum songs about the old boy-meets-girl dynamic (school crushes, petting, a date on Saturday night) that makes you think they're singing about the most important thing in the world. And they are - for their intended audience of teens 'n' tweens (and even aging hipsters like myself).
So here's a track-by-track look at the goodies on Not To Chews in an attempt to understand why. Be forewarned that Robbie Rist, like Elvis, is everywhere.
1. THE RUBINOOS--- "Bubblegum Music"
originally performed by the Rock & Roll Dubble Bubble Trading Card Company of Philiadelphia 19141 (Bob Feldman-Jerry Goldstein)
Official Rubinoos Website: www.rubinoos.com
Give me more, more, more of that bubble gum music
Makes me feel so good, oh, I never want to lose it!
This perfect opening track sets the stage as powerpop vet Jon Rubin and his San Fran-based Rubinoos ("I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend" - later ripped off by Avril Lavigne in "Girlfriend") rev up the Rock & Roll Dubble Bubble Trading Card Co. of Philadelphia's tune, which manages to name-check several gum stars and songs ("Yummy Yummy Yummy," "Chewy Chewy Chewy," "Down at Lulu's") - and slam Herb Alpert and the Grateful Dead at the same time ("the Grateful Dead just leave me cold and Herbie Alpert makes me feel too old").
Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart
Wonder what she's doin'
While the Monkees are singing for Valleri
Simon says take you down to LuLu's
You're gonna feel yummy, yummy, yummy
Speaking of which...
2. TEEN MACHINE---"Yummy, Yummy, Yummy"
originally performed by The Ohio Express (#4 1968)
Ohio Express @ Wikipedia
Teen Machine info: see Cue Factory MySpace Page
Gnarling guitars with power chord riffing turn the stickly sweet Kasenetz-Katz original into a grungy garage rock workout, making this easily the most subversive interpretation of the song since The Residents deconstructed it as a Gregorian chant on The Third Reich and Roll (1976).
According to CD Baby's description from their album After School Special, TEEN MACHINE is "a group of 4 guys(the band) and 3 girls(the backup/sometimes lead singers) who live in Hollywood and all share an affinity for 70's pop/rock and pop culture." Their sound is described as "70s style glitter bubblegum boogie powerpop," or a puree blend of The Sweet, T. Rex, Cheap Trick, KISS and The Partridge Family. Guitarist El Diablo (Jim Bacchi) is also a member of the Long Island, NY band Fuzzbubble (who were on Sean "Puffy" Combs' Bad Boy Entertainment label for a spell and even backed P-Diddy on a version of his "It's All About the Benjamins" and Cue Factory), bassist The Commander(Johnny Cornwell) is a former Dig band member and Mandy (aka Amanda Foreman) was a cast member of the hit TV series Felicity (not surprisingly, Fuzzbubble also turned up on Felicity's soundtrack, backing Susanna Hoffs on the song "Ordinary").
The lean mean Teen Machine
3. CHRIS VON SNEIDERN---"Smile A Little Smile For Me"
originally performed by The Flying Machine (#5 1969)
Official CvS Website: www.cvbsmusic.com
What a beautiful song! This ballad by Brits Tony Macauley and Geoff Stephen could easily have fit on a John Lennon '80s solo album. And in the hands of Chris von Sneidern (pictured left), this song about a girl who's been hurt so bad by a guy who went away, is turned from simplistic tear-jerker to plaintive pathos as CvS replaces the cheesy mellotron intro of the original with moving 12-string guitars as he convinces the lovestruck Rosemarie to "dry your eyes" 'cuz "So many other guys/Would give the world I'm sure/To wear the shoes he wore." And I get a twinge when I hear the lines "I guess you're lonely now/Love's comin' to an end/But, darling, only now/Are you free to try again" as it reminds me of a heartbroken time when I considered self-negation before realizing the zen-like wisdom of those profound bubblegum sentiments.
One can only imagine what Alex Chilton would have done with this song in his Big Star days...Flying Machine previously flew under the banner Pinkerton's Assorted Colours - interested parties should check out their double CD anthology Flight Recorder.
Watch The Flying Machine - "Smile a Little Smile for Me"
4. THE ANDERSONS!---"Goodie Good Ice Cream Man"
originally performed by The Sunny Four (1969)
I know nuttin' about The Andersons beyond what All Music Guide's Steve Huey says: "Led by bassist/songwriter Derrick Anderson (also of Chewy Marble) and guitarist/singer Robbie Rist (of Martin Luther Lennon and Wonderboy), the Andersons specialize in jangly, guitar-driven power pop. Their album Separated at Birth was released in early 2000."
Actually, digging further I found a Pop Matters review of their 2001 album Family Secrets that contains the most info you're likely to find on the Net about 'em. Jason Damas observed:
It seems fitting that Robbie Rist would be in a band that is built around a somewhat cheeky concept, and the Andersons are just that. The joke is that three of the four band members (recent addition Marcos Anderson on drums was excluded) are brothers, but -- ha! They don't look alike. Frontman Derrick Anderson (the only real Anderson in the batch, he's also bassist for Chewy Marble) is black, Bill Anderson is a skinny, brown-haired white kid, and Robbie Rist (credited here as is Bob Anderson), well, he looks just like he did on The Brady Bunch.
Despite the joke-name, Damas called the Andersons "one of the high points of the power-pop underground. In a scene so vast with so many acts and few clear leaders, I frequently point to the Andersons as the quintessential L.A.-area power-pop act of the late '90s and early '00s. And Family Secrets, their sophomore disc, may not be a phenomenally great rock record, but, to quote Cheap Trick, they've found all the parts."
5. sparkle*jets u.k.---"I Want You Back"
originally performed by The Jackson 5 (#1 1969)
The Jackson 5 (Wikipedia)
Official sparkle*jets u.k. Website: www.sparklejetsuk.com
I don't know why I can't get into this one - maybe because it's so close to the original I don't really see the point. But it's good and syncopated-funky and would be a standout track on any UK Northern Soul comp, and even has a chick singer approximating Jacko's helium balloon vocals. That would be frontwoman Susan West, who writes, sings and plays guitar for the band from Orange County, California - yes, they'tre not from the UK despite their name! - that also includes guitarist Robbie Rist (Wonderboy), guitarist Michael Simmons, bassist (and High School Librarian) Jamie "Mr." Knight, and "phantom" keyboardist Rob Tucker.
Oh, and about the name? According to the sparkle*jets u.k. press clippings page at crabapplerecords.com, "The sparkle*jet name came from a visit we made to our local guitar store," Susan remembers. "I think the 'u.k.' was helped along with beer. Beer is good. We like beer. And shiny guitars."
Watch the Jackson 5 sing "I Want You Back."
6. CLIFF HILLIS---"Dizzy"
originally performed by Tommy Roe (#1 1969)
Cliff Hillis Official Website: www.cliffhillis.com
Cliff Hills MySpace Page
Great production number, especially the drums, with driving, layered grunge-guitar power chording, synth flavoring, and a clever sort of anti-drumroll drum roll between verses.
Thank God for giving me an older sister who loved Tommy Roe records. While my older brother was handing down his well-worn Beatles albums to me and sis as he moved into progressive rock, my sister was wearing the grooves out of "Sheila," "Sweet Pea" and "Dizzy." Spin after spin, it never got old.
Cliff Hillis is a band from Phoenixville,PA, comprised of the titular guitarist Cliff Hillis with Ken Herblin on guitar, Greg Maragos on bass and Ritchie Rubino on drums. Their MySpace "Sounds like" box includes Fountains of Wayne, Matthew Sweet, Michael Penn and (of course!) The Beatles - which I'd say is just about spot on. Before going solo, Cliff Hillis was in Starbelly and John Faye Powertrip. Fans of Cliff Hillis might also enjoy his former bandmate John Faye's Philly pop band, Ike.
The original, written by Tommy Roe with Freddy Weller (of Paul Revere & The Raiders), is still hard to top. To read more, see The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits.
Watch Tommy Roe back in the day singing "Dizzy"
7. THE MITCH EASTER SOUND!---"Gimme Gimme Good Lovin`"
originally performed by Crazy Elephant (#12 1969)
Official Mitch Easter Website: www.mitcheaster.com
Mitch Easter's MySpace Page
Legendary North Carolina musician/producer wizard Mitch Easter (Game Theory, Let's Active, R.E.M.) throws everything plus the kitchen sink into this mega-production number, a revamping of Crazy Elephant's 1969 hit (#12 on both the U.S. Hot 100 Billboard and UK Singles Charts).
Crazy Elephant was yet another studio concoction created by Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz. Wikipedia reports: "Ex-Cadillac member Robert Spencer was widely utilised on lead vocals, though future 10cc member Kevin Godley took lead vocals on "There Ain't No Umbopo", recorded at Strawberry Studios in Stockport, England, and released on the Bell label in May 1970. A touring group was formed later for promotional purposes."
In Bubblegum is the Naked Truth, James Porter calls "Gimme Gimme Some Lovin'" K-K's finest moment, describing it as "a head-on rock-n-soul collision from start to fade," and adding:
"...the vocal chorus that shouts "gimme gimme good lovin' every night!" sounds like a group of happy-hour drunks. That hillbilly guffaw ("ha-huh-ha-huh-ha..."), at the end of each chorus, makes it tuff to staty in a bad mood for long. Lead singer Robert Spencer (a former doo-wopper with the Cadillacs, in addition to being the author of Millie Small's ska hit, "My Boy Lollipop") holler like a man with a week-old erection. And you should hear that wolf-howl he does at the end of the inept, fumble-fingered guitar solo. The lyrical demands are all in the title" "Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'." None of that Tyrone Davis "pretty please" shit! This is clearly a feel-good number, the type of song that makes you do 60 in a 45 zone."
Gimme Gimme more picture sleeves!
8. LINUS OF HOLLYWOOD---"I Enjoy Being A Boy (In Love With You)"
originally performed by The Banana Splits
Official Linus of Hollywood Website: www.linusofhollwood.com
Linus of Hollywood's MySpace Page
I live in a purple plum mansion/In the midst of a strawberry stream
And mellifluous bells ring out softly/From a hill of vanilla fudge cream
I enjoy being a boy in love with you
I grew up with Fleagle, Drooper, Bingo and Snorky, known collectively as The Banana Splits, but I don't ever remember hearing this Buddy Scott-Jimmy Radcliffe-penned slice of psychedelic rock ("I live in a cucumber castle/On the bank of a cranberry sea") during their 1968-1970 Saturday morning series run. Everyone knows the "Tra La La" theme, which Bob Marley cited as the influence for the bridge of the Wailers' "Buffalo Soldiers," but the Splits, being a collection of studio musicians/writers - among them Joey Levine (who sings "I Enjoy Being a Boy"), Al Kooper, Barry White and Gene Pitney - covered a lot of musical territory in terms of styles.
"I Enjoy Being a Boy" was previously covered by They Might Be Giants in their first podcast and John Linnel sometimes incorporates a short solo rendition of this song during the instrumental break of "Dr. Worm." The Queers also covered the song on their Punk Rock Confidential album.
Linus of Hollywood is Kevin Dotson, an Air Force brat born in Omaha, Nebraska, but whose heart and early musical influences came from Los Angeles, which provided the Hollywood part of his band name. In many ways, according to his website bio, he's "the embodiment of the Californian dream that probably only exists in our imaginations," with songs that "evoke the unmistakable spirit of the West Coast."
Kevin got his Linus moniker from his fashion at the time: "I was wearing a lot of striped shirts (I suppose I was copying the Beach Boys and Jellyfish)...Some guy was making fun of me and said I looked like I was dressing like someone in the Peanuts cartoon. So he started calling me Linus and introduced me to a bunch of people as such. At first it was annoying, but it stuck."
Kevin moved to LA where he briefly fronted a band called Size 14 (after his shoe size) and then got his big break when Linus was asked to add guitar to the rock remix of Puff Daddy's "It's All About The Benjamins." Further remix sessions with Puff Diddy/Daddy followed over the next couple of years, including the "P.E. 2000 Rock Remix" (Linus even appeared in the video, alongside Public Enemy's Chuck D and Run DMC's Jam Master Jay). He also played on the Lil' Kim track "Single Black Female" and on the remixes of Smashing Pumpkins singles "Adore" and "Perfect". He even guested on the Ol' Dirty Bastard track "Dirty and Stinkin".
Watch the Banana Splits playing "I Enjoy Being a Boy (in Love with You)."
9. BEAGLE---"Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)"
originally performed by Edison Lighthouse (#5 Billboard Hot 100, #1 UK Hit Charts, 1970)
Edison Lighthouse's MySpace Page
Official Beagle Website: www.beaglesounds.com
Ah, yes, the song everyone wants to cover. And why not - it's a great rocker that only gets better with time. Here-There-and-Everywhere singer Tony Burrows handled the lead in the original composition by Tony Macauley/Barry Mason, backed by musicians who were originally part of a band called Greenfield Hammer before they became an anonymous studio hit-making group.
In the hands of Beagle (not to be confused with the 1966-1968 TV cartoon group The Beagles - Stringer and Tubby - pictured at right) - the pure pop pedigree of the original is kept intact, and then some. Beagle appear to be an early "fun in the Midnight sun" Swedish pop group lead by Magnus Borjeson, who later formed Favorita. "I've always been a big fan of bubblegum and when I heard that Not Lame was putting together a tribute I knew I had to be on it", says Magnus Borjeson on the Beagle website. (Also appearing on the track is another bubblegum fan, Ola Främby, singer and songwriter from the same town as Borjeson, who earlier played in The Girls.)
Beagle unleashed live
According to the blog Sounds Like Sugar, "Beagle was a Swedish band who in 1991 helped usher a new wave of jangly guitar power pop on through the airwaves. These days, rock radio wouldn't go anywhere near music this poppy, and while there are many, many indie bands carrying a bright torch for this sound, few can claim to have been as big in their country as Beagle. They were even nominated for a Swedish Grammy." The blogger compares them favorably to Jellyfish and solo Paul McCartney.
Beagle begat Favorita, above
And according to the All Music Guide's Steve Huey:
Beagle was a Swedish guitar pop quintet led by vocalist/songwriter Magnus Borjeson and guitarist Calle Hakansson. Officially formed in 1991 after its members met in school, Beagle secured a record deal on the strength of the first two demo songs it recorded. Sound on Sound was released in 1992 and helped kick start the Swedish guitar pop scene, but after its follow-up, 1993's harder-edged Within, the band broke up due mostly to a loss of cohesion. Borjeson and another Beagle member formed a new band called Favorita.
But back to the song...What a girl that Rosemary must have been! "She ain't got no money, Her clothes are kinda funny, Her hair is kinda wild and free," a woman who "talks kinda lazy, and people say she's crazy, and her life's a mystery." Blogger rant-a-matt has even deconstructed this song as a confession of murder because the "nobody knows but me" line means "without evidence of a person, body, murder, motive or even any crime at all the Police are powerless to act against this madman...After destroying Rosemary's character in public, her disappearance would not of raised any suspicion as she was 'crazy' and a 'mystery' - a perfect crime. One day we can hope to bring Tony Burrows to justice, but that day doesn't look like it will happen soon."
Watch the music video of Edison Lighthouse playing "Love Grows."
Watch Edison Lighthouse on Top of the Pops in 1970.
10. RECEIVER---"Goody Goody Gumdrops"
originally performed by The 1910 Fruitgum Company (#37 1968)
1910 Fruitgum Co. Website: www.1910fruitgumcompany.com
The Reciever MySpace Page
I'm gettin' weaker, weaker/Every time I hear your name
Oh she's gettin sweeter, sweeter/This girls' drivin' me insane
Goody, goody gumdrops/My heart is doing flip flops
Gee what love can do/I'm gonnna shout it from the rooftops
Goody, goody gumdrops/With a girl like you
Another sugar-coated confectionary from the Kasenetz-Katz team under the Fruitgum imprimatur. The Top 40 original didn't do anything for me, but in the hands of Receiver, it's turned into a tale of sexual obsession that rocks harder than Hugh Hefner at the Playboy Mansion with a handful of Viagra.
Receiver's Inspiration Overload CD (Not Lame) garnered the following reviews:
"Filled with warm power pop tunes that bring to mind the thick jangle of Teenage Fanclub while adding a dose of get up and go"
- David Bash, International Pop Overthrow.
"Chiming Teenage Fanclub guitars and Greenberry Woods arrangements. "A fine tribute to Scottish pop...meaning you will divine clear references to Teenage Fanclub, BMBX Bandits and Eugenius in this well-constructed debut...pristine power pop"
-Power Of Pop.
"This CD sounds like a lost gem from 80`s, while paradoxically sounding very fresh and exciting"
11. DOUG POWELL---"I Woke Up In Love This Morning"
originally performed by The Partridge Family (#13 1971)
Unofficial Partridge Family Website: www.cmongethappy.com
Doug Powell Official Website: www.dougpowell.com
The family that rocks together, stays together
On the heels of The Monkees, ABC Screen Gems television decided to launch another show centered around a fabricated rock group, this time one modeled after a real-life musical family, The Cowsills. Producer Wes Farrell was recruited to produce a series of singles and album tie-ins featuring the creme of West Coast studio musicians (including pianists Mike Melvoin and Larry Knechtel, guitarists Dennis Budimir and Louie Shelton, drummer Hal Blaine and backups singers John Bahler, Tom Bahler, Jackie Ward and Ron Hicklin), who informally became known as the Ron Hicklin Singers and Wrecking Crew. As everyone knows, only David Cassidy and his stepmom Shirley Jones were allowed to sing on the recordings. But Keith Partridge's charisma and Wes Farrell's perky pop productions were enough to give the fictitious Partridge Family a number of chart hits, including a #1 in 1970 with "I Think I Love You" (written by Tony Romeo, who, coincidentally, also penned a number of tunes for the Cowsills). Though Irwin Levine and L. Russell Brown's "I Woke Up in Love This Morning" only reached as high as #13, it's still a solid rocker with an infectious chorus and was even referenced in Spike Lee's 1994 film Crooklyn (in a scene where the kids watch The Partridge Family while singing along with "I Woke Up In Love This Morning"). The song also appeared on The Partridge Family Sound Magazine certified-gold album, which reached #9 and stayed on the charts for 22 weeks in 1971.
His All Music Guide bio calls Doug Powell (pictured left) a protege of Todd Rundgren (his all-time fave album is A Wizard A True Star), who grew up listening to XTC, Rundgren, Elvis Costello, the Beatles, Brian Wilson, and Jules Shear (who shopped Powell's demo tape around and landed him a contract with Elecktra Records). A common thread with those artists is great production work on their albums, and Powell proves himself worthy of inclusion in their ranks. Along with Mitch Easter's track, this is perhaps the best production job on Right To Chews, a showcase of what studio engineering techniques can do to add ooomph and sheen to a pop song.
Powell released his first album Ballad of the Tin Men on Mercury in 1996 and Not Lame released his second album Curiouser in 1998. CCM compares his music favorably with Jellyfish, Beatles, Badfinger, and early Ambrosia. Powell's side projects include Swag, a band whose roster includes Cheap Trick's Tom Petersson and Wilco's Ken Coomer. Powell's latest release in 2006's Four Seasons (Paisley Pop).
Watch the Partridge Family play "I Woke Up In Love This Morning."
12. MICHAEL CARPENTER---"Time To Change"
originally performed by The Brady Bunch
Official Michael Carpenter Website: www.mcarp.com
Wacka-wacka guitars and cascading ice rink organs propel this pre-fab tune from the Brady Six's 2nd LP Meet the Brady Bunch (1972), which was written to coincide with the broadcast of the episode where Peter's voice changes right when the kids are ready to make a record. By 1972, the real-life Brady Bunch (Barry Williams, Chris Knight, Eve Plum, Maureen McCormick, Mike Lookinland, Susan Olsen) were a touring band performing covers of "Me and You and Dog named Boo" and "American Pie" alongside chirpy originals like "Sunshine Day" and "We Can Make the World a Whole Lot Brighter" all over the state fair circuit; fortunately, their musical atrocities ended following their disco phase performance of "Shake Your Booty" on 1974's Brady Bunch Variety Hour.
About MC, from his Website bio: "Michael Carpenter wears many hats. He is a well respected producer in Sydney, Australia, who co-owns and runs the successful LOVE HZ STUDIOS; he is a multi-instrumentalist who plays in various Sydney bands; and a successful singer/songwriter with 8 albums under his belt." (from www.mcrap.com bio)
MC's influences: Byrds, Beatles, Raspberries and Elvis Costello.
13. STINGRAY GREEN---"Goin` Home"
originally performed by The Osmonds (#36 1973)
Official Osmonds Website: www.osmond.com
Official Stingray Green Website: www.stingraygreen.com
Stingray Green MySpace Page
Minneapolis' Stingray Green turn the Osmonds' Tabernacle toe-tapper into a raucous Slade beerhall brawl as they shout "I've gotta FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT all day (alright!), all day (alright!)!" Singer/songwriter Dan Sarka, lead guitarist Kent Militzer and bassist Jim Holgate were formerly in late '90s Minneapolis powerpop cartoon band The Vandalias; Robb Burnham completes the line-up on drums.
Stingray Green list their heroes as The Raspberries, The Who, .38 Special, Thin Lizzy, Small Faces, Bee Gees, Faces, Buzzcocks, Eddie and the Hot Rods, Curtis Mayfield, ELO, Frank Zappa, Elvis Costello - and of course Slade!
Watch the Osmonds play "Goin' Home."
14. THE LOLAS---"Feelin` So Good (S.K.O.O.B.Y. D.O.O.)"
originally performed by The Archies (1968)
Lolas Official Website
Lolas MySpace Page
What do you call a girl who can make you laugh in a minute and a half, who's full of style and always makes you smile? Skooby Doo, obviously! The Lolas blow the roof off this sucka with the best track on the compilation, a real cracker. Great production job as well, with layered guitars crisp and blaring, the snare drum cracking and the bass a thumpin'. I could see the Ramones covering this ditty, as it's another call-and-response spelling bee: "I said S, K, oh oh, B, Y, D, oh oh...oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh!" And of course there's that great outro of "Whompa bow bow, whompa bow bow, my Skooby-Doo, feelin' so good, so good!" But my fave lines are "Sunday after mass, picnic in the grass/Diggin' Mama Cass with Skooby-Doo." What a strange rhyme scheme of mass, grass and Mama Cass Elliott! Too bad the song didn't even crack Billboard's Top 50 in 1968 - it certainly was worthy.
And who are the Lolas? According to All Music Guide's Johnny Loftus: "Alabama-based power pop/bubblegum combo the Lolas formed in 1998 around vocalist/guitarist Tim Boykin (ex-Shame Idols), drummer Mark Reynolds, and bassist Walon Smith. They debuted with the Ballerina Breakout LP a year later, and followed it with Silver Dollar Sunday in 2001. Both albums were issued through the indie Jam! Between albums the Lolas did some touring, and recorded a blisteringly faithful version of "Color Me Impressed" for the 2001 Replacements tribute on Facedown entitled Left of the Dial. 2004 saw the release of Something You Oughta Know, again on Jam!."
15. JOYRIDE---"1, 2, 3, Red Light"
originally performed by The 1910 Fruitgum Company (#5 1968)
1910 Fruitgum Co. Website: www.1910fruitgumcompany.com
A schoolyard recess-style singalong so catchy it was even sung by David Byrne, whose Talking Heads included it as part of their live set in the late '70s. (It appears on a bootleg of the Talking Heads' December 3, 1977 show at San Francisco's Old Waldorf Theater.) But listening to Joyride (who are they?) reprise those lines "Everytime I try to love you, 1-2-3- Red Light/Baby you ain't right to stop me, 1-2-3- Red Light" makes me think again and wonder if maybe this song was really about a potential date-rape. Creepy vibe, that. And it's not just me. Kim Cooper, co-author of Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth observes:
The 1910 Fruitgum Co.'s "1, 2, 3 Red Light" was clearly about the timeworn American hobby of getting into an unwilling pair of panties, by whatever means - psychological in this case - necessary. This theme was blatantly celebrated on the album cover.
"Every time I try to prove my love/1, 2, 3 Red Light/You stop me...if you stop me again/That's when we might end/So please don't refuse." He's threatening to break up with her if she doesn't put out; what a doll. And what a lovely message for the pre-sexual kiddies listening to this happy hit.
Cooper points out that another 1910 Fruitgum single, "9, 10 Let's Do It Again" was even more blatantly sexual (e.g., "3, 4, I'm shutting the door, gee this is so much fun/5, 6, I'm getting my kicks, doing what I love to do").
Watch the 1910 Fruitgum Company play "1, 2, 3 Red Light."
16. THE ORANGES---"Saturday Night"
originally performed by The Bay City Rollers (#1 1976)
Oranges Official Website
Oranges Myspace Page
Chuck Eddy called the Rollers original "a brogue spelling lesson from Tartan-clad Scottish lads who've got a date and just can't wait." In the hands of Tokyo's Oranges (who formed in 1997, taking their name from the Anthony Burgess novel and Stanley Kubrick film A Clockwork Orange) it becomes a phonetically chanted battle cry by Power Rangers jumpsuit-clad Japanese lads who are late for a date with '60s Western Pop Culture. It was also the first Billboard #1 of the US Bicentennial year, reaching the top spot on January 3, 1976.
Like the Ramones, the Oranges (pictured right) use cartoon family monikers, namely: lead singer/guitarist Jeff Orange, bassist Robin Orange, lead guitarist/vocalist Nelo Orange, and drummer Pea Orange (a name that would have me seeking medical attention!). Despite the dark subject matter of the book/film that inspired their name, the Oranges play a a perky blend of glam and bubblegum ("bubbleglum"? "glubblegum"?) pop music belying the influence of the Rollers, Beatles, Monkees, and, naturally, Japan's own "Group Sound" or "GS" bands (a blend of traditional Japanese pop tunes and Western standards from the 1960s). And founder Jeff Orange formerly fronted a successful neo-Mod band called The Shamrock, who released the hard-to-find The Mods Are Alright on Not Lame.
According to All Music Guide's Bryan Thomas:
Jeff Orange's last band, a Japanese power pop Who-influenced band called the Shamrocks, had released six albums and 11 EPs (on two different record labels, Epic/Sony and Pony Canyon) in Japan, in fact; and bassist Robin was a former member of Kusu Kusu, who were big enough of a group that they sold out the Budokan Hall. The Oranges recorded a seven-song EP, Balloon, for Glam Rock Records, before issuing two EPs and two full-length albums for Rabbit Records in 1999-2000. Afterwards, they came to the attention of the newly formed Smile Records, a pop label formed in L.A. by Tony Valenziano (of the Stand). For their American debut, Smile - which is distributed by Image Entertainment, one of the leading distributors of videos/DVDs - re-released the Oranges' Young Now! in the USA on June 25, 2002.
17. EINSTEINS SISTER---"My Baby Loves Lovin`"
originally performed by White Plains (#13 Billboard Hot 100, #9 UK Hit Charts, 1970)
White Plains Web page: www.alexgitlin.com/whipl.htm
Official Einstein's Sister Website: www. einsteinssister.com
Einster's Sister @ CD Baby
As previously mentioned, this was another manufactured British studio band whose songs were mainly written and produced by the jolly Rogers - Roger Greenaway and Roger Cook - and whose biggest hit (this one) was sung by larynx-for-hire Tony Burrows, who was never really a member of the band and who left after recording four tracks at an October 1969 recording session. What I didn't know was that the "White Plains" brand was formed from the remnants of a late '60s/psychedelic band called The Flower Pot Men (best known for the hippy anthem "Let's Go to San Francisco") - pianist Pete Nelson, bassist Robin Shaw, organist Ron Reynolds, lead guitarist Robin Box and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Ricky Wolff - who went on to score UK hits with "I've Got You On My Mind" (#17 1970), "Julie Do Ya Love Me" (#8 1970), "When You Are a King" (#13 1971) and "Step Into a Dream" (#21 1973). They also released a self-titled album. (For more info, see Billboard's White Plains bio.)
"Temporary Tony" Burrows and White Plains
I don't know much about the cover band, but Goldmine's John Borack describes Einstein's Sister thusly: "Like early Elvis Costello taking tea with Squeeze's Glenn Tilbrook, while Lennon and McCartney fuss over the scones in the kitchen. Fans of Crowded House, Jellyfish, Squeeze, and XTC, take note."
That works for me and after hearing them inject some kick-ass ooomph into the White Plains original, I'll always prefer their version.
Einstein's Sister rocks the Troubadour
Watch the contractual entity known as White Plains play "My Baby Loves Lovin'."
18. WALTER CLEVENGER & THE DAIRY KINGS---"Little Bit O`Soul" originally performed by The Music Explosion (#2 1967)
Official Walter Clevenger Website: www.walterclevenger.com (under construction)
Walter Clevenger runs Brewery Records: www.mypspace.com/breweryrecords
Brewery Records Website: www.brewertyrecords.com
Now when you're feelin' low and the fish won't bite/You need a little bit o' soul to put you right...and when your party falls 'cause ain't nobody groovin'/a little bit of soul and it really starts movin'
Never to be confused with Bon Jovi's lame-ass song of the same name, this Kasenatz-Katz and Elloit Chiprut production (written by John Carter and Ken Lewis, who also penned tunes for The Ivy League and Herman's Hermits) was a million seller for Ohio-based garage rockers The Music Explosion on Laurie Records (who had a great label design and were best known for the Royal Guardsmen's "Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron" singles). The Music Explosion were helmed by singer Jamie Lyons (whose solo release "Soul Struttin'" was a regional soul hit in the Northeast) and included guitarist Donald Atkins and Richard Nesta, bassist Burton Stahl and drummer Richard Avery. Avery later played with Crazy Elephant.
"Little Bit O'Soul" was covered by a number of bands, including The Ramones in 1983 and 2 Live Crew (who sampled the melody), but it remained the Music Explosion's lone chart success. Asked why in an interview years later, bass player Burton Stahl commented:
"Soul” was a great tune because of tones and rhythm. When we recorded “Little Bit O’ Soul”, Rick and Tudor had matching Gretch Chet Atkins guitars. They were both orange. I think it was Elliot Chiprut that had all the talent; he asked Rick and Tudor to turn their settings to all bass. That really give that boinky bass sound, and with my Jazz Bass, it seem to level the sound. The engineer added reverb, which took care of the rest of the audio spectrum. We separate when we get into the chorus and the drummer takes over. He was a studio drummer named Scotty. The song was a simple four-chord tune, but what happened to us in the studio was magical. Richey Cordell was the B-3 player (organ) and did some percussion. It was four days from its inception to the finished product. In those days hearing yourself play was a matter of a Wollensac tape recorder that none of us had. So hearing a production like “Soul” really did something to everyone involved. Jamie came in and put his lead vocal on after we did background vocals. Dave Webster, who was our original drummer, Jamie, Elliot Chiprut and did the background vocals. The only way we could have had a great follow-up was to have a monster song.
And who's Walter Clevenger you (and I) ask?
Walter & the Dairy Kings, milking it live
Well, according to All Music Guide:
Los Angeles power pop singer/songwriter/guitarist Walter Clevenger (pictured at right) has a rootsy, laid-back sound highly reminiscent of Nick Lowe and Rockpile. Clevenger grew up listening to country music and discovered the Beatles in fourth grade, later branching into power pop and forming a band in high school. But it was Nick Lowe's fusion of the two sounds that inspired Clevenger to pick up his pen and guitar in earnest. A home-recorded cassette, PoPgOeStHeMuSiC (no longer in print), made its way out of a circle of family and friends and got Clevenger signed to Not Lame Records. Clevenger recorded a proper album, The Man With the X-Ray Eyes, with his backing band the Dairy Kings (guitarist Steve Bancroft, bassist Henry Clift, and drummer Mike Fernandez) in 1997. Love Songs to Myself followed two years later. ~ Steve Huey, All Music Guide
The Nick Lowe influence is rampant as Clevenger's Brewery Records label released a double-disc tribute to "The Jesus of Cool" purveyor of pure pop for now people called LOWE PROFILE. Other influences are clearly American, like Marshall Crenshaw, the Jayhawks, John Fogerty and Buddy Holly.
19. MARYKATE O`NEIL---"Get Down"
originally performed by Gilbert O'Sullivan (#1 Billboard Hot 100, 1972)
Official Marykate O'Neill Website: www.marykateoneill.com
Marykate O covers Gilbert O and "O, O, O, it's magic." What a great song, and O'Neill's version ups the original's rock factor by subbing snarky guitars for piano! I don't know anything about MaryKate-O, but Amplifier mag called her the "Carole King of the New Millenium," so that augers well. And apparently the Brooklyn, NY native released a critically acclaimed record called 1-800 Bankrupt that featured her Brooklyn pals Jill Sobule and Josh Rouse. Before becoming a NYC-based solo artist, Marykate was the singer/songwriter/guitarist for Boston indie-poppers Piewackit, who were contemporaries of Elliott Smith.
Now most people remember only Raymond Edward O'Sullivan (Gilbert O'Sullivan was a play on the Gilbert & Sullivan opera boys) as the guy who wore the varsity sweaters with the big G on 'em and who sang 1972's #1 ballad "Alone Again (Naturally)." But in his day, Gilbert O. had a string of hits that had him rivaling Paul McCartney for melodies and Elton John for UK/USA chart supremacy. During his heyday of 1970-1974, O'Sullivan enjoyed 14 international hit singles and four Top 10 albums.
Watch Gilbert O'Sullivan singing "Get Down" with Lulu!
20. JIM LASPESA WITH MICHAEL QUERCIO---"May I Take A Giant Step (Into Your Heart)"
Originally performed by the 1910 Fruitgum Company (#63 1968)
The Three O'Clock MySpace Fansite
May I take a giant step into your heart
May I give you love and sweet affection
May I take a giant step into your heart
So that you will look in my direction
All-star rhythm section Jim Laspesa and Michael Querico seem to be channeling The Cowsills heavenly harmonies (a good thing!) on this driving, fast-tempo, melodic slice of sunshine pop highlighted by precision drumming and snarlin' guitar strumming.
Jim LaSpesa formerly played drums in The Muffs (as pictured at right) and the heavy metal/punk/comedy group Green Jelly (as Marshall Stack); he also toured and recorded with Kinks guitarist Dave Davies' solo band.
Jim LaSpesa of The Muffs
And singer/bass player Michael Querico formerly fronted L.A.'s legendary '80s psychedelic revivalists The Three O'Clock (nee The Salvation Army).
Michael Querico of The Three O'Clock
Querico is also credited with coining the term "Paisley Underground" to describe the retro '60s look and sound of '80s L.A. bands like The Three O'Clock, Dream Syndicate, Rain Parade, Green on Red and The Bangles. The Three O'Clock released their EP Baroque Hoedown in 1982 and a full-length LP called Sixteen Tambourines in 1983 - both produced by Concrete Blonde 's Earle Mankey; they even released a record, Vermillion, on Prince's Paisley Park label (how appropriate!) in 1988. When the O'Clock broke up, Quercio played briefly in Game Theory in 1990 before founding Permanent Green Light and later The Jupiter Affect.
Listen to the 1910 Fruitgum Co.'s original version of "May I Take a Giant Step."
21. WONDERBOY---"Down By The Lazy River"
originally performed by The Osmonds (#4 1972)
Official Osmonds Website: www.osmonds.com
Wonderboy Official Website
Wonderboy MySpace Page
Great tune, great performance, great lyrical celebration of the joys of taking a crap. I mean, what else can the line "We got plenty of room/Come and take a boom boom boom" mean?
It's Robbie Rist again, and boy does he rip this up with fellow Wonderboys Dave Brow (bass and vocals), Paul Presson (drums and vocals), and Pat McGrath (guitar and vocals). I figured he took the band's name from the Ray Davies song, but it also might be a reference to a popular Sega video game. Either way, it's all good.
Rist has been described as "A towheaded, round-faced, sometimes bespectacled child performer who grew up to front a 1990s punk rock band, Robbie Rist appeared in over 100 TV shows as a child.
He is perhaps best-recalled for his recurring roles as Cousin Oliver on ABC's The Brady Bunch and as the adopted son of Ted Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Rist had a featured role as a neighbor on the NBC drama Lucas Tanner (1974-75) and co-starred with Herb Edelman in the children's series Big John, Little John (NBC, 1976-77)."
Today Robbie looks more like a cross between Slickee Boys singer Mark Noone and dearly departed guitar whiz Mark Harp (R.I.P.) than Cousin Oliver (as pictured at right). And that's a good thing.
Watch the Osmonds play "Down By the Lazy River" at the 1972 Ohio State Fair.
22. THE POPDUDES---"Beautiful Sunday"
originally performed by Daniel Boone (#15 US, #21 UK, 1972)
Popdudes MySpace Page
Daniel Boone (aka Peter Lee Stirling, born 31 July 1942, Birmingham, England) is a British pop musician who became a one-hit wonder with the single, "Beautiful Sunday", in 1972. Before his Top 40 success, Peter Sterling was in Rumplestiltskin, a British heavy rock band that was the brainchild of American producer Shel Talmy, who envisioned them as a rival to Status Quo and Led Zeppelin. Here's a worthless fact: "Beautiful Sunday" remains the biggest selling single by an international artist on the Japanese Oricon chart. (I know, fascinating!)
According to their MySpace page, the 'Dudes are John Borack (drums, attitude), Mike Simmons (guitar, vox, complaints), Jamie Knight (bass) and Mr. Kenny Howes (guitar, vox, good vibes). Other members have included the ubiquitous pop lover Robbie Rist, W. Resnick, K. Chicoine, K. West, R. Wills, Walter Clevenger, J. Morris, B. Curtis, M. Jarvis and "various and sundry other pop geeks."
Main 'Dude John Borack is also the author of Not Lame's wonderful book Shake Some Action: The Ultimate Powerpop Guide, so he knows his bubblegum and it shows, as this savvy production job on Daniel Boone's saccharine sweet ditty sounds back-in-the-day vintage.
Watch Daniel Boone perform "Beautiful Sunday."
23. THE BEATIFICS---"Superman"
originally performed by The Clique
Beatifics Official Website:
Beatifics MySpace Page
Having previously been resurrected by R.E.M. (it was the last of two singles from 1986's Life's Rich Pageant), The Beatifics slow down this song about the uber-mensch who's faster than a speeding bullet and drench it in psychedelic reverb. But it still sounds too much like R.E.M.'s version to my ears. Apparently Moby Grape also covered the song, but I've never heard that rendition. Originally released as the B-side to the Clique's single "Sugar on Sunday" (a cover of the Tommy James & The Shondells song), it was not a chart success and never rose above cult status.
"Superman" was written by Gary Zekely - a contemporary of songwriter/producers like Brian Wilson, Gary Usher, Dean Torrance and P.F. Sloane and a devotee of their West Coast Sound - and Mitchell Bottler. Zekely wrote hits for a number of artists, from Don Grady (best known as Robbie on TV sitcom My Three Sons) to The Grass Roots ("I'd Wait a Million Years" and "Sooner Or Later"). In Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth, he described how he came to pen "Superman" for The Clique: "Mitch Bottler was at the piano and started playing that 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club band' riff, and I went 'I am, I am Superman, and I know what's happening.' He struck the descending chords, and it just happened."
Though the Clique played on "Superman," the rest of their Sugar on Sunday album tracks were studio productions by Zekley recorded without them. Still, the album yielded four singles; in addition to "Superman," "Sugar on Sunday," "Halleluah" and "I'll Hold Out My hand" charted, with Zekely enjoying having two of his compositions on the charts at the same time (The Clique's "Sugar on Sunday" and the Grass Roots' "I'd Wait a Million Years").
Thanks to R.E.M., Gary Zekley's name resurfaced in the '80s and Gary even joined R.E.M. on stage during a performance at Northern Illinois University in De Kalb, Illinois, on October 21, 1986. All things considered, I think I prefer R.E.M.'s version better, even though according to Wikipedia R.E.M. didn't care too much for it: "For a time the band refused to play the song. In one notorious incident, when one concert goer yelled his request of the song, Michael Stipe responded approaching the microphone and saying, 'Shut up, we hate that song.'"
That didn't stop indie rockers The Academy from covering it anew on their 2007 album Sound of Superman, which coincided with the release of Warner Bros.'s film Superman Returns.
24. TAMMY AND THE LORDS OF MISRULE---"Wig-Wam Bam"
originally performed by The Sweet (#4 UK and US, #1 Germany, 1972)
Official Sweet Website: www.thesweet.com
Tammy & The Lords of Misrule MySpace Page
According to Wikipedia, glam bubblegum rockers The Sweet are now known (yes, they still tour!) simply as Sweet, their official post-1975 moniker. Whatever they called their collective sum, we all know the individual parts thanks to singer Brian Connelly's roll-call in 1973's smash hit "Ballroom Blitz": "Ready Steve?" (Bassist Steve Priest.) "Uh, huh." "Andy?" (Guitarist Andy Scott.) "Yeah." "Mick?" (Drummer Mick Tucker.) "OK." "Alright fellows, let's go!"
But before that clarion call, The Sweet (as they were known on LP up to 1974 and singles up to 1975), had eight previous Top 20 hits, including a UK #1 with "Blockbuster" (1973) and this #4 UK/USA hit that, surprisingly, was #1 in Germany, where The Sweet apparently reigned (also scoring #1's with 1971's "Co-Co," 1972's "Little Willy," 1973's "Hell Raiser," 1974's "Teenage Rampage" and 1975's "Fox on the Run"). They would have many more after that, as well, thanks to the writing and production skills of their benefactors Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, the Gilbert & Sullivan of glam/bubblegum pop.
"Wig Wam Bam" tells the politically incorrect story of wigwam-bam-thankyou-mam love trysts between Hiawatha and Minnie Ha-Ha and Running Bear and his tender love Little White Dove down by the silver stream. Or, as The Sweet put it in nursery rhyme sing-a-long chorus:
Wig-wam bam, gonnna make you my man
Wam bam bam, gonna get you if I can
Wig-wam bam, wanna make you understand
Try a little touch, try a little too much
Just try a little Wig-wam bam
Bubblegum Goes Native
So in other words, if the typee's a rockin', ya better be a knockin'. Good grief - the only comparable song for political incorrectiveness would have to be the 1910 Fruitgum Co.'s "Indian Giver" (pictured above).
I don't know Jack about Tammy (pictured at left) and her Lords of Misrule, other than they're yet another pop ensemble from Southern California. But here's a review of their album King Maker from the website In Music We Trust that might provide some guidance:
If there's a rougher, tougher, 1-2-3-4 opening punch than "Kind Of Girl," "Radiate," "This Time" and "What Baby Wants" out there, then I wanna know about it! Coz not since your favorite late-period Kinks long-player has a record launched itself so deliciously decadently --yet with one charmingly curt smirk invitingly hanging upon its every note.
Tammy Ferranti and her trio of misruling lords, in other words, have herein produced one hard-popping Southern California comer (meaning heavy on the guitars and Bonham-sized rhythmic method, but with hooks 'n' harmonies draped from every single killing chorus). Why, "Careful" should even be crowned the very next 7-11 jingle --and I do mean that as a compliment! Then this particular party even ends with a song called "Clockwork," which absolutely puts to proper shame such similarly syncopated rave-ups as those of, um, No Doubt et al. But as always, Tammy does it best and better, you bet.
But another critic writing for Pop Matters described Tammy and her Lordships as the kind of "plastic" band the kids on Saved By the Bell would form. Who knows? Since this cover sounds pretty much like the original, it's hard to tell what they really sound like. But one thing's for sure, there's no mistaking a Sweet song and, no, they sure don't write 'em like this anymore (and that's probably a good thing!).
Watch The Sweet play "Wig-Wam Bam."
25. SUPERSTONE---"Melody Hill"
originally performed by The Archies
Ron Dante's Archies Website: www.rondante.com/The_Archies.html
Superstone Official Website: www.superstone.ca/
Superstone MySpace Page
The sun shines down on flowers and we can kiss for hours on Melody Hill
Melody Hill" was the flipside of The Archies' smash hit (and 1969 Song of the Year) "Sugar Sugar." While the A-side was a Jeff Barry-Andy Kim collaboration, the flip was credited to Mark Barkan and Ritchie Adams. Whoever they were, they liked to experiment and deviate from the bubblegum norm, as this track sounds more in the electric-folk mold of The Byrds or Hollies, propelled by Archies studio strummer Mark McCracken's stellar guitar work.
The song was also the second track on the second LP, Everything's Archie. And, as you can see in the picture sleeves below, Kirschner and company like to use the same branding for Archie products, alternating between the classic comic and TV cartoon iconography and stock photos of clean-cut flesh-and-blood teens dancing, as shown below for the Everything's Archie album cover and the "Sugar Sugar" and "Feelin' So Good (S.K.O.O.B.Y. D.O.O.)" singles.
The Flesh-and-blood Archies
Hey, doesn't this party ever end?
Superstone is a group from Ontario, Canada, comprised of singer Kelly Heenan, guitarist Marc Muir, bass/keyboard player Jason Graveley and drummer Ron Bard. They formed in 2003, taking their name from a costumed superhero character in an episode of The Flintstones (who always announced his arrival with his signature cry of "Bee-hee-hee-HAWW-HAWW!"), and released their debut CD Say Something..Anything in 2006.
Superstone: They could be heroes
Their ringing, jingle-jangle guitars make this sound like something from the Bangles repetoire and elevate this bubblegum album track obscurity to melodic heights - kind of like Melody Hill itself, that sylvan utopia where the sky is always blue, the grass green and everybody sings this happy song. Along with "Smile a Little Smile for Me" and "Feelin' So Good (S.K.O.O.B.Y. D.O.O.)" and the two Osmonds covers, this is one of the best tracks on the compilation and a fitting conclusion to this great compilation.
Forever Blowing Bubbles
By the way, some guy named Andy has a good review of all the various bubblegum pop compilations on the market at his Classic Bubblegum Music Page.
Not Lame Records
Bubblegum Music Is the Naked Truth: The Dark History of Prepubescent Pop from the Banana Splits to Britney Spears (Kim Cooper & David Smay, eds.)
Classic Bubblegum Music Page
Tony Burrows' musical family tree (this is pretty cool!)