This charmingly goofy post, from back in 2019, is (justifiably) one of our “greatest hits.” In the middle of relentlessly difficult news cycles, this seems a perfect time to revisit it and enjoy the respite.
Bubblegum Music: songs sprinkled with catchy choruses and lighter than air melodies, backed by exuberant instrumentation and production. It’s a genre that’s often maligned by purists as lightweight and disposable. After all, some of these records were available on the back of cereal boxes (!) during the genre’s heyday in the late 1960s and early 1970s. But many of these tunes are memorable examples of pop songcraft at its best. Bubblegum music made a significant impact on both the charts and the airwaves, despite the fact that many of its key bands (like The Archies) never actually existed outside the studio, where top session musicians, songwriters, and producers created the songs. Other artists (The Monkees, Tommy James & The Shondells, Herman’s Hermits) visited the genre but weren’t permanent residents within its confines. Here are ten examples of the chewiest, sunniest pop confections ever committed to vinyl.
Related: “Appreciating Michael Nesmith”
10. I Enjoy Being A Boy (In Love with You)
This slice of psychedelic bubblegum by The Banana Splits truly needs to be heard to be believed, with lyrics like “I live in a cucumber castle on the bank of a cranberry sea.” The Banana Splits were the costumed hosts of a Saturday morning kids show. The “group” performed songs every week, written by such music luminaries as Al Kooper and Barry White. This one is by Joey Levine, whose legend looms large in the annals of bubblegum.
9. Simon Says
The 1910 Fruitgum Company started out as Jeckell and the Hydes, a New Jersey-based band featuring Frank Jeckell and Mark Gutowski. “Simon Says,” with lead vocals by Gutowksi, was written by Elliot Chiprut, who also co-produced the track with Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz. The nursery rhyme based ditty was one of the first (and biggest) bubblegum hits. The band also scored on the charts with “1,2,3 Red Light” and “Goody Goody Gumdrops.” Do you sense a theme here?
8. Yummy Yummy Yummy
Credited to the Ohio Express, this Kasenetz-Katz project was a renamed version of Joey Levine’s previous group, the Rare Breed. The version of the song released as a single was actually Levine’s vocal demo, which featured backing by studio musicians. The Ohio Express also scored hits with “Chewy Chewy,” and “Beg, Borrow or Steal.”
Ron Dante, who also sang for The Archies, provided all of the vocals on this summery pop confection, which was credited to The Cuff Links. Written by Lee Pockriss and Paul Vance, the song was originally released in 1969, and it was an AM radio staple for many years.
6. Gimme Gimme Good Lovin’
Crazy Elephant was yet another “group” from Kasentez-Katz, who promoted this band as being a group of Welsh coal miners (please note: they weren’t coal miners at all). It’s a bit more rock-oriented than some of the other tunes in the bubblegum canon. The Kasenetz-Katz partnership was one of the most prolific production teams during the genre’s heyday, notching a dozen top 40 hits.
5 Saturday Night
This foot-stomping entry by the Scottish band The Bay City Rollers was a late entry in the genre. It was a number one hit in the US in 1976. Joey Ramone has stated in interviews that The Ramones were fans of the band and bubblegum music in general. Apparently, they really liked the idea of short, punchy songs with chant-able choruses. “Hey ho! It’s Saturday Night!”
Related: “16 Songs That Prove Dee Dee Ramone Was A Kick-Ass Songwriter”
4. Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)
Tony Burrows, who sang lead on this irresistible tune by the non-existent Edison Lighthouse, also provided vocals for the faux pop groups White Plains, First Class, and The Brotherhood of Man, all of whom had hits during the 1970s. Burrows was sort of a one-hit wonder vocal maestro, appearing on the charts as the lead singer of five different groups!
3. Little Willy
While the Sweet later morphed into glam rock icons with songs like “Fox On The Run” they sure sounded pop-tastic on this earlier single, a guitar-drenched number written by Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, who also provided hits for Suzi Quatro and Smokie.
2. I Think I Love You
The Partridge Family was a band (fronted by David Cassidy and Shirley Jones) created for a TV series which was initially based on the real-life pop group The Cowsills. Featured on their debut LP, The Partridge Family Album, this infectious song helped cement Cassidy’s status as a teen idol. Produced by Wes Farrell and written by Tony Romeo, it went all the way to number one in 1970.
1. Sugar, Sugar
“Sugar, Sugar” was written by Andy Kim and Jeff Barry for The Archies, a “band” comprised of characters from the long-running comic book series, and featured on a Saturday morning animated show. This delightful earworm showcases vocals by Ron Dante and Toni Wine, who sang on many other recordings for the group, including “Bang-Shang-A-Lang,” and “Sunshine.” According to Billboard, “Sugar, Sugar” was the number one song of 1969. The iconic bubblegum classic was later covered by Wilson Pickett and Tom Jones.
Photo Credit: Screaming girls at a Bay City Rollers concert – 1975-80 – Photographer: Rudolf Dietrich – Vintage property of ullstein bild (Photo by Rudolf Dietrich/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
It pains me to see yet another example of inaccurate information about my band, the 1910 Fruitgum Company. You imply we were not a real band. You also credit Joey Levine with singing some of our songs. Both could not be farther from the truth. My band, Jeckell and the Hydes, was signed by Buddha Records in October 1967. We were given a version of Simon Says by Jeff Katz who had previously recorded it with another band and asked us to improve it. We restylized it after Wooly Bully and we recorded it and it was released in December 1967. Only the members of our band played on the record and the ensuing Simon Says album. If you check the album you’ll find that many of the cuts were penned by band members including Magic Windmill which was written and sung by me. I was also co-writer of the flip side of Simon Says. Mark Gutkowski was an original band member along with me, Floyd Marcus, Steve Mortkowitz and Pat Karwan. Joey Levine never sang on any of our records. They were all sung by Mark. The Wikipedia article about the band is very accurate if you want more info. You can also PM me on Facebook if you still need convincing.
Original founding member of
The 1910 Fruitgum Company
PS we’re still active with a show coming up on March 23 2019 at the Patchogue Theater in Patchogue NY.
Thanks for clarifying the history of “Simon Says.” There’s lot of of mis-information out there on the web, and no disrespect to your & your bandmates was intended. I’ve sent a corrected version of the copy along, and it will be posted soon.
Why leave out the obvious Jackson 5?
Because they are authentic soul
I saw Ron Dante in Orlando fronting for a psychedelic outfit named ‘Plant Life’. 1967…
Wow! I didn’t know Plant Life played any live shows. Becky, Bubblegum OD
I cant believe “Playground in my mind”, ( Clint Holmes) did not make this list.
Did you have a prejudice re: giving a band more than one song on your list? “I Enjoy Being a Boy” never cracked the Top 40. “Love Grows” may be pop, but it doesn’t have anything resembling a bubblegum beat. “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'” is more rock than bubblegum. And “Little Willy” is, at best borderline. The 1910 Fruitgum Co. also had “123 Red Light” and “Indian Giver,” both of which reached #5 on Billboard.”Chewy Chewy” reached #15 for the Ohio Express. How about “Happy Together…3 weeks at #1 and Red Rubber Ball (#2)? You had so many better choices.
You should put those on your Top 10 list. ; ) These things are subjective. “Best” is a matter of personal taste, so there is no “right” answer here. Your picks look good, too. Perhaps the story was intended to present an array of songs/bands to the uninitiated. Also, Bubblegum overlaps with tons of genres, so saying a song is one thing doesn’t mean it is not gum.
I would have liked to see the Jackson Five (or Globetrotters or whomever) on this list because there is a ton of great Bubblesoul, and, the basic Bubblegum sound borrowed heavily from the Soul genre, Becky, Bubblegum OD, WFMU
Becky, you’re absolutely right that my intent was to offer an overview of the genre, and that everyone’s favorites are quite different. I did think about including the Jackson Five, as well as several other favorites from the classic bubblegum era. Many of the songs I did include are (rightly or wrongly) considered part of that genre, despite the fact that they may not specifically sound like bubblegum pop. And I agree that there are some great “bubblesoul” songs out there! Thanks for reading!
Frank Jeckell is spot on! Why not consult the original founding members of some of these bands to get the whole truth and nothing but the truth. For example Dale Powers, Tim Corwin, and I (Dean Kastran) started the band soon after to be known as the Ohio Express. We are the only surviving members of the band, and still live and perform in and around Mansfield, Ohio. We originally founded a band called Sir Timothy and the Royals in 1965, only to have that name changed in 1967 to the Ohio Express by Kasenetz & Katz, similar to the testimony that Frank presented. There is so much more to the saga that should be told, but don’t go to Wikipedia to find that out. There are so many inaccuracies.
Dean, I’m glad to hear you, Dale and Tim are still performing together. I know there’s a lot of misinformation out there, even on reputable music history sites, much less Wikipedia. The Kasenetz & Katz story in particular has a lot of twists and turns. In some cases it features multiple versions of a band from whom they issued singles or albums. I think it would make a fascinating oral history of the bubblegum genre if the story were told by musicians like you, Dale Tim, Frank and others who were there as the music was created. Thanks for the comments.
Wow, that Banana Splits song is well psychedelic maaaan! Great stuff. By the way I was in a band that covered “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin” and we would have been mortified to think of it as a bubblegum song 🙂
What is the story behind Mark Gutkowski leaving the 1910 fruit gum company. Does he ever sing with them sometime? Did he ever sing again with another group?
What about Sweet Pea or Dizzy by Tommy Roe? Pop bubblegum at its best