When I took an American popular music class years ago, the instructor talked about the two rock roads that came out of the British invasion. One road was the Rolling Stones. The other road was the Beatles. It was easy to see these two roads. However, over the years I have become very much aware of another road not springing from the garage skiffle bands of England. The third road springing from no one’s garage but from America and the producers’ casting call for music–like Don Kirshner’s promotion of plastic rock. This one is more pervasive and can be easily mistaken for the other British two roads in American popular music. I will speak more of this later.
Bubble Gum or plastic pop rock has it’s own rock road which leads to bands like Kiss, The Sweet, Def Leopard, Alice Cooper, The Bay City Rollers, Twisted Sister, Motley Crue, Poison, Guns and Roses, and more–yes, unfortunate music that many of us love. So how do we get from the Archies to Kiss, one might ask? Packaging to kids. One term used to describe much of this vein of pop music is Devils bubble gum which is like The Monkees or the Archies yet packaged just a bit differently to appeal to pre-teen and adolescent audiences.Thus, Kiss is seen as one of the Archies of Heavy Metal. It’s not bad music, but it’s just not great either. I do think it is important to keep Bubble Gum music in its own record pile separate from the music inspired by the Stones and The Beatles.
To clarify. There are other genres, like soul, jazz and country, and folk. However, within the rock genre in the late 20th century, popular music was made up, on one hand, of influences from the Rolling Stone (Yardbirds, Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, perhaps grunge in the 90s and others) On the other hand, the Beatles (Bad finger, the Mamas and the Papas, Beach Boys, The Hollies, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, The Byrds, Simon and Garfunkel, Harry Nelson, Fleetwood Mac, plus all those prog rock bands as well. Then we have something on the bottom of our shoe picked up on the pavement of these two roads– Bubblegum. Everybody with gum on their shoe goes down that road for a while. Maybe it’s not an honest to goodness real third road…but you got gum on your shoe.
Metal can be Bubble gum. Just because it’s not sweet and innocent like Donny and Marie doesn’t mean has no home in bubblegum. For example, here is a song from metal band Def Leopard where about all they did was to take the 1969 song “Sugar Sugar” and strip the sweetness out of it. The refrain is simply taken straight from “Sugar Sugar’s” “Pour a little sugar on me, honey.”
The Def Leopard lyrics go:
C’mon, take a bottle, shake it up
Break the bubble, break it up
Pour some sugar on me
Ooh, in the name of love
Pour some sugar on me
C’mon, fire me up
Pour your sugar on me
Oh, I can’t get enough.”
It’s the Archies.