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Oldies Music Glossary: "Bubblegum"

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A typical bubblegum album

A typical bubblegum album

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Definition: The sub-genre of pop music known as "bubblegum" is one of the very few dominated by a specific production team: in this case, Super K Productions, the team of Jerry Kasenetz and Jeffrey Katz, who scored a major hit in 1968 with "Green Tambourine" on the Buddah label. That song, which kicked off the bubblegum craze, was merely an assemblage of studio pros put together for a one-off single. The method of using anonymous, interchangeable groups of session musicians was the key to bubblegum's success; other examples include "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" by Steam and The Archies' "Sugar Sugar," masterminded by bubblegum's other auteur, producer Don Kirshner.

While the term can and has been applied to any manufactured teen pop, the actual sound of bubblegum is specific: singsong melodies with high vocals (often harmonized), cheap organ solos, simple chords, and a childish lyrical hook, like schoolyard games (The 1910 Fruitgum Company's "Simon Says" and "1-2-3 Red Light") or junk food metaphors ("Chewy Chewy" and "Yummy Yummy Yummy" by the Ohio Express). The production is always very poppy, with the slightest bit of soul in the vocals and a bit of light garage-rock guitar. The groups are usually faceless and interchangeable, with post-psychedelic names, and some, like the Banana Splits and Josie and the Pussycats, are attached to cartoons or live-action children's shows. It is often confused with "sunshine pop," which is a more adult contemporary style influenced by show tunes and the British Invasion.

Several "real" groups entered bubblegum territory at times, like The Monkees' "I'm A Believer" and Tommy James and the Shondells' "I Think We're Alone Now"; the sound would go on to directly influence glam (especially early Sweet singles) and all future boy/girl bands (beginning with the Bay City Rollers and their hit "Saturday Night").

Also Known As: Bubblegum Pop, Bubblegum Rock, Sunshine Pop
Examples:
  1. "Yummy Yummy Yummy," Ohio Express
  2. "Sugar Sugar," The Archies
  3. "Indian Giver," The 1910 Fruitgum Company
  4. "I Think We're Alone Now," Tommy James and the Shondells
  5. "Dizzy," Tommy Roe
  6. "My Baby Loves Lovin'," White Plains
  7. "Beautiful Sunday," Daniel Boone
  8. "Love Grows (Where Rosemary Goes)," Edison Lighthouse
  9. "Gimme Gimme Good Lovin," Crazy Elephant
  10. "Tracy," The Cuff Links
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