Much popular music has pretensions to art, and some of it is. But “pop” by its very nature is also marketplace-driven and disposable, designed primarily to capture people’s attention, and their money. If a particular piece of it is forgotten in a few weeks or months, it’s no big deal; the money it made is the point. But pop music can fool us that way — sometimes, music that was intended to be ephemeral lasts forever by accident. Exhibit A follows the jump.
In 1968, the long-running characters in Archie comics came to TV, and amidst all their other cartoon adventures, formed a garage band called [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]the Archies[/lastfm].
To perform their songs, mogul Don Kirshner assembled a group of studio musicians that included three who would pioneer the genre eventually known as bubblegum: [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Jeff Barry[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Andy Kim[/lastfm], and [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Ron Dante[/lastfm]. Barry and Kim wrote many of the Archies’ songs, and Dante sang them.
The path of the Barry/Kim composition “Sugar Sugar” is a little murky. It was either offered to [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]the Monkees[/lastfm] or it wasn’t; they either said “no” or “hell no.” (By 1969, Kirshner was fed up with the Monkees’ artistic pretensions and probably preferred dealing with cartoon characters.) The song ended up with the Archies.
“Sugar Sugar” bubbled under the Hot 100 for the first time in June 1969, crashed into the top 40 in August, and was #1 by September, where it reigned for a month. After falling out of the top spot in the United States, it reached the top in the UK and stayed there for eight weeks.
Is “Sugar Sugar” as Serious as the [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Rolling Stones[/lastfm] or [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Led Zeppelin[/lastfm] or [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]the Beatles[/lastfm] were Serious, in that most Serious of pop years? The answer is either “no” or “hell no.” Is it incredibly catchy and well-made enough to last forever? Oh yes. And if you can watch the video below without smiling, you need to lighten up.