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Top 11 Bubblegum Pop Songs
“The average lifespan of a teen idol is five years. You have to change musically. Bubblegum pop was good for the first time you have sex.”
– Leif Garrett
- “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'” by Crazy Elephant
Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz of Super K Productions were major players in bubblegum music. The pair teamed with singer Robert Spencer of the doo-wop group the Cadillacs to record “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'” as Crazy Elephant, a No. 12 hit in 1969. The imaginary band was promoted by Kasenetz and Katz as a group of Welsh coal miners.
“Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'” was written by Joey Levine and Ritchie Cordell. As the record climbed the charts, Super K put together a group of young musicians to perform the song in concert and record enough songs to fill out a Crazy Elephant album. Cordell told The Rockasteria that this was not unusual for Kasenetz and Katz. They would “send five bands [with the same name] out on the road. They’d stick them in a room with the album and have them learn all the songs.”
“Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'” by Crazy Elephant
- “Simon Says” by the 1910 Fruitgum Company
Like “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin’,” “Simon Says” was a product of the Kasenetz and Katz bubblegum hit factory. Written by Elliot Chiprut, the catchy tune was the first hit for the 1910 Fruitgum Company, a band from New Jersey. “When it was presented to us, it was presented almost like ‘The Calypso Song,’ believe it or not,” drummer Floyd Marcus told Songfacts. “And we thought, what the heck is this? You know, Simon Says. And we were kind of goofing around with it in the studio at the time.
“Somehow one of us kind of said, ‘Let’s do it like “Wooly Bully.”‘ And we wound up counting it off and doing that whole intro to ‘Wooly Bully’ – ‘It’s time to play Simon Says.’ Over the talkback speakers they scream, ‘That’s it, that’s it, they love the idea.’ So we went on and recorded that day.”
The song reached No. 4 in 1968, one of the early bubblegum hits. “There wasn’t really a genre at that time,” said Marcus. “I guess it partially came as a rebellion against the music. There was so much social commentary in music back then. There was a lot of sexual innuendo. There was so much serious content in the years of the Vietnam War – all the rebellion, all the drug culture that was going on. People wanted a rest from all that.”
- “Lay a Little Lovin’ on Me” by Robin McNamara
Robin McNamara was a performer in a touring company of Hair when producer Jeff Barry signed him to his Steed Records. Barry, McNamara and childhood friend Jim Cretecos wrote “Lay a Little Lovin’ on Me,” a No. 11 hit in 1970. McNamara told Classic Bands that the song’s gospel flavor was intentional.
“Well, I love gospel music and Jeff Barry, if you know anything about his productions and recordings, they all have big hooks. We hired a bunch of girls for the background. I tried to get a little gospel feel into it.”
Once the song became a hit, McNamara needed a backing band for concerts. “Paramount Records, which was the parent company of Steed Records, sent me on promotional tours around the country. I’d go to major markets and minor markets and do local radio and local TV interviews. I would go and perform in certain cities. I’d sent my material ahead of time. There’d be a local band that would learn my songs and I would perform with them. But not all the time.”
“Lay a Little Lovin’ on Me” by Robin McNamara
- “Smile a Little Smile for Me” by the Flying Machine
“Smile a Little Smile” was written, produced and performed by British hitmakers Tony Macaulay and Geoff Stephens before the Flying Machine existed. Macaulay sang lead with harmonies by Stephens backed by a studio band. When the song was released, it was credited to the Flying Machine. The tune’s success was a surprise to Macaulay and Stephens; when it reached No. 5 on the charts in 1969 the duo had to hustle up a band to tour with the song.
Members of the UK band Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours were chosen to become the Flying Machine. “Smile a Little Smile” was their only success and after a few releases and an album, they disbanded.
“Smile a Little Smile for Me” by the Flying Machine
- “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” by Edison Lighthouse
Tony Macaulay, with co-writer Barry Mason, struck gold again in 1970 with “Love Grows.” Macaulay recorded the song with prolific bubblegum voice Tony Burrows backed by session musicians.
“I had done some recording for the musical director on that particular record, a guy called Lou Warburton,” Burrows told Pop Entertainment. “I was doing backing vocals, in actual fact, for Tony Macaulay, who was recording a lot of his titles. I happened to have a tape of a track, which Lou wanted to hear. So I asked everybody, ‘Would you mind if I play the track in the studio for Lou? They said, no, go ahead, which I did, and he listened, and after he did, he came up and asked would I like to sing lead on ‘Love Grows.'”
“Love Grows” topped the charts in 1970 and again meant a touring band had to be formed. Macaulay chose the Greenfield Hammer. Burrows, however, was tired of touring and is not seen in the song’s videos. “That was because I still refused to tour while the groups all continued to record and do television,” Burrows explained in Rebeat. “I wasn’t around. Once the song became a hit, they wanted to do an album and book these groups for concerts, but I wasn’t going to do that. So what they’d do is find someone to lip sync the song and film it so the listeners would recognize that person as the lead singer when they were on tour.”
“Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” by Edison Lighthouse
- “My Baby Loves Lovin'” by White Plains
Before he became the anonymous voice of bands like Edison Lighthouse and the Brotherhood of Man (“United We Stand”), Tony Burrows was a member of the Flower Pot Men, a British pop band. Burrows explained in Rebeat how that led to his recording “My Baby Loves Lovin'” as the band White Plains.
“What actually happened was [the Flower Pot Men] did that song, but then I quit because I didn’t want to tour anymore. I got a call that the record company wanted to release some of our unreleased tracks, and I said that that was fine. The song was released as being by White Plains – and it was a hit, so the group got back together again. But not me; I’d had enough of touring. I sang on the first couple of records, but that was it. I just wasn’t going to do it. I was just going to concentrate on studio work.”
Written by Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway, “My Baby Loves Lovin'” reached No. 13 on the Billboard chart in 1970.
“My Baby Loves Lovin'” by White Plains
- “Little Willy” by the Sweet
The Sweet‘s “Little Willy” was written by Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, who had a string of bubblegum and glam rock hits in the UK. Chapman exerted tight control over the bands in his stable. “We were a pretty heavy band when we started and then, unfortunately, one had to pay the rent,” bassist Steve Priest told the Phoenix New Times. “That’s when Chinn and Chapman came along.”
Chinn recalled in AllMusic that the band members hated the song. “Michael and I were definitely autocratic with our bands, and I became aware of that when we were told [by Sweet] that ‘Little Willy’ was a piece of rubbish and had no right to be released. It wasn’t exactly a symphony, of course, but … it was a hit, and we told them it was going to be released whatever they thought of it.”
Chinn and Chapman delivered another hit for the Sweet with “Ballroom Blitz” but as the band began to write their own songs with a harder edge, they left the songwriting duo. “As soon as we wrote ‘Fox on the Run,’ Chinn and Chapman were over,” said Priest. “Little Willy,” however, remains the Sweet’s biggest hit, reaching No. 3 when it was re-released in 1973.
“Little Willy” by the Sweet
- “Yummy Yummy Yummy” by the Ohio Express
The Ohio Express was another of the Super K bands produced by the Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz team, made up of a confusing mix of band members and studio musicians. Rare Breed, a New York City-based band, was the first to release a record as the Ohio Express. Super K followed by hiring Sir Timothy & the Royals, an Ohio group, to tour as the Ohio Express.
The Ohio Express moved to Buddah Records, the mecca of bubblegum, in 1968. Writers Arthur Resnick and Joey Levine came up with “Yummy Yummy Yummy” for the band. Levine sang on the demo accompanied by studio musicians. Katz and Kasenetz liked the demo so much that they released it without the Ohio Express playing a note.
Levine’s version hit No. 4 on the charts in 1968. Though he didn’t tour with the band, Levine also took the lead on the band’s second big hit, “Chewy Chewy.”
“Yummy Yummy Yummy” by the Ohio Express
- “Beach Baby” by the First Class
Tony Burrows was asked by John Carter, his former bandmate in the group Ivy League, to sing lead on a song he’d written with his wife, Jill Shakespeare. “He called me and told me he had a song he wanted me to do and said, ‘I’ve got a feeling about this demo,'” Burrows told Rebeat. “The demo was just John and a guitar, and he was singing the song, but I could tell there was something there.
“So we went into the studio and recorded it. There were basically about 18 different tracks, and John and I did all of the backing vocals as well as the lead. I heard that when Brian Wilson first heard ‘Beach Baby’ he said, ‘I don’t know who it is, but it’s definitely West Coast America.’ Which I took as a great, great tribute – I really did.”
In 1974, “Beach Baby” reached No. 4, the only hit the First Class would have. Again, another singer appeared in the video, lip syncing to Burrows’ vocals.
“Beach Baby” by The First Class
- “Tracy” by the Cuff Links
“Tracy” was a No. 9 hit in 1969 for the Cuff Links, a studio band built around Ron Dante’s vocals. Dante was also the voice of “Sugar Sugar” by the Archies. “‘Tracy’ received airplay while ‘Sugar, Sugar’ was still on the radio,” Dante told Goldmine. “With overdubs, I recorded a dozen voices on it to make it sound like the Association and the Turtles. I did all the voices in about two hours, with different parts, drawing on the doo-wop music I grew up with. It had a magical sound and Decca released it as the Cuff Links.”
“Tracy” was written and produced by Lee Pockriss and Paul Vance. Dante promised the duo that he would record an album of songs if “Tracy” became a hit. “It was the quickest album I’d ever done,” Dante recalled in Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth. “I think I did the entire background vocals and leads in a day and a half – for the entire album. I remember doing at least four or five songs in one day.”
“Tracy” by the Cuff Links
- “Sugar Sugar” by the Archies
Producer Don Kirshner hoped to parlay his success with the Monkees with a cartoon group, the Archies. Ron Dante told Pop Entertainment how he landed the gig as the Archies’ lead singer. “I was a studio singer. I had developed into a singer of commercials. So I did tons of jingles. Every week I would do ten or fifteen commercials. I did backgrounds for all the record companies that were doing their records in New York City at the time. When I heard about the Archies sessions, a friend of mine was playing on it. He said they don’t have the voice of Archie yet. They don’t have the lead voice for all this music they’re doing for this new TV series based on the cartoon.
“I went up and auditioned for my old friend Don Kirshner, who was the music supervisor. My other buddy, Jeff Barry, was the line producer. I kind of gave them a few different sounds, and they locked into one specific sound that I made and said you’ll be the voice of Archie.”
Dante told Cosmik that the voice of Archie’s girlfriend, Veronica, was Toni Wine. “She got the job to do the ‘I’m gonna make your life so sweet’ lead on ‘Sugar Sugar.’ All the backgrounds are just her and me together, multi-tracking our voices.”
“Sugar Sugar” by the Archies
“Sugar Sugar” became a No. 1 hit in 1969.
March 3, 2021