When I was a little kid in the late 60s there were two things I really liked in music: The Beatles and Bubblegum music.
And guess what? I still love them both!
There’s a pretty clear path between those two influences and what became known as power pop in the 70s and 80s. Take the elegant sounds The Beatles crafted, mix it with the 1960s A.M. radio pop confections such as The Archies and The Ohio Express, and you may find yourself squarely in the neighborhood of Big Star, The Cars, 20/20 and Marshall Crenshaw.
One of the frustrating parts about that era of music, however, is that once you’ve got the good stuff, you kind of hit a brick wall.
You can get started with a good Archie’s Greatest Hits album and all the key singles by The Ohio Express and The 1910 Fruitgum Company are readily available. They have a number of albums out for sure which document their joys — look for one of my all time favorites, a deep album track called “Firebird” by The Ohio Express, which was the B-side to their smash hit “Chewy Chewy.”
Most bubblegum records were “one hit wonder” singles, so you’ll have to dig deeper if you want to collect albums by The Flying Machine (“Smile A Little Smile For Me”), The Banana Splits (their TV show theme song), Mouth & MacNeal (“How Do You Do?”). Groups like Edison Lighthouse (“Love Grows Where Rosemary Grows”) and many others in the universe of Tony Burrows- related productions didn’t really make albums but there are some such as The First Class’ debut album with the Top 10 mega hit “Beach Baby” which shows up quite regularly in used music shops inexpensively.
Along the way, I’ve been fortunate to find some really great paisley-drenched sunshine-y pop obscurities which I considered bona fide lost psych bubble gum proto-power-pop classics such as The Glitterhouse (a group which I’ve written about several times, click here)
Anyhow, all this build up is to tell you about an album which I was quite excited to learn about when I was poking around on the Sundazed Records website recently. It is a compilation issued for the first time in America by a bubblegum assemblage dubbed: The Matchmakers.
From England, I’d never heard of them before. Apparently they released a number of singles back in the day in Europe and around 1970 Vogue Records compiled an album known as Bubble Gum A Go Go. Sundazed has done a fine job bringing this lost music back from obscurity. From their website we learn:
“Produced by wunderkind producer Mark Wirtz (Tomorrow, the mythical Teenage Opera, and guy who decided not to produce Syd Barrett era Floyd) and co-written by Kris Ife who called on his old bandmates from The Quiet Five for these studio creations. Most of these pieces of psychedelic bubble gum were packed as The Matchmakers some chipper chiclets were initially issued under monikers such as Astronaut Alan & The Planets (“Fickle Lizzie Anne,” “Cellophane Mary Jane”) and The Guards (“Fantastic Fair”). This final pack of bubble blowers were finally issued together in 1970 by Vogue Schallplatten in Germany and a few other territories shortly after.”
So for the first time on vinyl in the US we get to hear The Matchmakers’ universe in all its sugar-coated glowing glory. It comes to you wrapped in a lovely pink wrapper — the LP is pressed on standard weight, limited edition, opaque bubblegum colored vinyl! The disc actually sounds pretty great and is happily quiet — but remember, Dear Audiophiles, this is bubble gum pop designed for A.M. radio in 1969-70, not Dark Side Of The Moon. The album reproduces the original liner notes and design of the German Vogue LP.
Now, lets get to the songs on Bubble Gum A Go Go. I advise starting with the very last track on the album which is my favorite called “Cellophane Mary Jane” — which feels sort of like The Small Faces on an Oreo Cookie sugar-buzz bender — and then go back to the beginning with “Baby Make Me Happy” (which is kind of like what might happen if The Archies tried playing Lou Reed’s “Vicious”)
You can just get a feel from the titles of the songs on Bubble Gum A Go Go that the composer’s sense of rhyme and playfulness are perfectly on target. Just try to not sing along to the slightly ska-i-fied “Fickle Lizzie Annie,” the strummy Sugar-Sugar-esque “Gently Baby Gently” and the Mighty Quinn-like groove of “Goody Goody Goody.” “Woolly Woolly Watsgong” sounds like what might have happened had The Partridge Family tried to write a song for Weezer’s first album.
Bubble Gum A Go Go even comes with some peppermint chewing gum by a company called Glee (which is apparently one of the only plastic free gums on the marketplace).
If you love bubblegum music and power pop, you really need Bubble Gum A Go Go because you’ll find yourself getting all sorts of new earworms… for days!
And isn’t that what bubble gum music is all about?