Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Three Minute Treacle

Around 1968 the world would be an alien place if today's young people hopped on a time machine and spent a while there. You know, no computers, no cell phones, networking, or internet. Color TV had been around for a few years but most sets were still black and white. Hell, stereo systems were so much of a recent phenomena that record albums still boldly claimed to be ~Stereo!~ on the jacket front. But we all had transister radios. AM ruled the roost before it turned into a vile talkfest swamp, and technology still had to play catch up to superior FM quality.

So everybody listened to AM music and young people were about to endure probably the most vile, but thankfully short, episode in american popular music history - Bubblegum.

Sugar Sugar - The Archies

It was the fluffiest, most repetitive and noisome crap imaginable. It was an invented style cranked out in an assembly line process and aimed straight at ten to sixteen year olds. You see it was a marketing decision. Back then if you wanted music to play at home on your phonograph you basically had three choices of speeds, all records, and turntables allowed you to choose between them. Pubescent kids didn't have the cash to buy more expensive 33 1/3 albums from established bands but would go and buy a cheaper 45 with a song on each side, so these execrable bubblegum songs would be cranked out on 45s, lots of times just manufactured by studio musicians.

Yummy, Yummy, Yummy - Ohio Express

Truly simple, bouncy, childish music with those horrific melodies that make you wish you could wash your brain with bleach, these songs. I don't think for a second there was any groundswell of demand for them, rather they were forced on us all either as a vile social experiment or vicious pursuit of profit, probably both. The funny thing about these songs was that since youngish people were targeted the lyrics dripped with references to sugary food, I guess it worked. What compounded the agony was the tendency of pop/rock stations to do heavy rotation of their top 40 with these torture tunes liberally included, probably because some crook somewhere greased some palms to put them on the list.

Chewy Chewy - 1910 Fruitgum Company

To credit this contrived sludge as a a separate style a la acid, grunge, rockabilly or punk is wrong, oh so wrong in my opinion, and it's probably the only music you can say that about. It wasn't born from the ground up but forced into existence like a fat, constipated producer on the toilet. You can't really claim the "genre" left a legacy or influenced other styles, except perhaps later teeny idols mimicking the manipulative business aspect of the era, targeting the pimply crowd. I suppose one could make the case that it could be admired from afar as a case of successful hitmaking craft, but that would be damning it with faint praise anyway. The whole thing was constructed around the idea of selling records and churning the stuff out. Surf music, slightly older, was a brilliant gift to the world by comparison.

Fortunately the phenomena died a relatively quick death. The few bands that had actually formed to pump out this bilge were basically one hit wonders. The pubescents who got sucked into buying the 45s aged, bought drugs and started listened to the Dead. Society's mood changed and the taste for listening to chirpy nothingness over and over gratefully passed.
But of course, that void had to be filled. Then came Disco.

Bubble Gum Music - The Rock & Roll Dubble Bubble Trading Card Co. of Philadelphia - 19141


OpenID dad2059 said...

But of course, that void had to be filled. Then came Disco.

Aaarrgh! I hated that shit!

Mercifully, I was a malcontent in those days. While my fellow classmates were listening to that crap, I exorcised those demons with Sabbath, Priest, Iron Maiden, BTO, Who and Zeppelin.

Hardly Top 40, but I always had a job so I could affort the 33 1/3 vinyl to play on the barely 'stereo' stereo.

1/7/09 11:36 AM  
Blogger nolocontendere said...

You know dad, we're the last link between AT (ancient technology) and IT (internet technology).
Youngsters will venerate our knowledge after CMEs from the sun fry all circuitry shortly.

1/7/09 4:00 PM  
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