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Oral histories



Bubblegum is here to stay
from Melody Maker
20 November 1971

Bubblegum, it seems, will always be with us. While styles of music change, groups come and go and the charts alter weekly, a good bubblegum single will continually outsell and reach a higher position in the charts than most 'quality' singles.

The current success of groups like Middle of the Road, Sweet, the Bay City Rollers and Jonathan King's masquerades prove that no matter how much the intellectual rock establishment may ignore it, bubblegum is here to stay.

Good bubblegum, that is - for every week countless bad bubblegum records are released by the ever increasing number of record companies in this country. It's the good ones that make it. 'Sugar Sugar' for example may have the most banal lyrics imaginable, but the tune itself stuck in the mind so much that it just had to catch on.

Bubblegum can be traced back a long way. Surely the early Beatles hits like 'She Loves You', 'Please Please Me' and 'I Want To Hold Your Hand' would be regarded as bubblegum if released today.

The market for bubblegum lies in the very young and the very old. Jimmy Young's captive listeners are as apt to buy the Sweet's records as are schoolgirls with a crush on Sweet's lead singer.

With these questions in mind the MM last week questioned various personalities from the bubblegum factory on their views.

NICKY CHINN, composer of the Sweet's two successful singles: 'Bubblegum keeps going because it's happy music and people will always want to be made happy. It's the sort of music that can bring you up if you are feeling down whereas progressive music can't.

'If you are in the right frame of mind progressive music can sound great, Bubblegum music is easy to identify with, It's incredibly simple and easy to whistle or song along with.

'It appeals basically to the kids and that includes anybody between the ages of four to sixteen. And the mums like it as well. It gives them something to sing while they are washing the dishes. I don't think it appeals at all to people between 18 and 24. They think it's a load of rubbish.

'It's here to stay. There will always be bubblegum, but it's got to be good bubblegum not any old rubbish. Three or four years ago some of the bubblegum was very rough, but today it is getting much better.

'Another reason why people will continue to buy bubblegum is because it is good to dance to. Bubblegum has always been played in the discotheques. It has the right kind of feel for it.

'The greatest bubblegum record ever was 'Sugar Sugar' by the Archies. I think that was one of the greatest pop records ever. 'Yummy Yummy Yummy' was another one. T Rex is almost bubblegum these days. It's a sort of heavy bubblegum, I think.'

BRIAN CONNOLLY, singer with the Sweet: 'Bubblegum appeals to people up to the age of sixteen, in fact every age group who don't understand things that are too complicated. The music in the top ten is very simple. Its appeal lies in the fact that it's not complicated.

'Also a lot of mums and dads feel like singing along to a simple melody, and they buy the records too.

'As long as there are kids between thirteen and fourteen who are not musically educated, bubblegum will keep going. There will always be a market for clever pop music though.'

And do the fans want to see the group live? 'I think at first they just want to buy the record and it doesn't matter who is performing it, but later there is an added interest in the group as well as the record. If you are continually having hit records, they'll want to see you out of curiosity.

'Gradually you will become faces, and then the faces will sell the record. Like the Tremoloes - when you get to their stage the group comes before the record. With us, the record comes before the group. We are working at it though.'

IAN LEWIS, guitarist with Middle of the Road: 'I don't accept that we are a bubblegum group. We are a commercial pop band, and we call ourselves Middle of the Road because we are taking a middle position.

'Bubblegum is a repetitive nonsense chorus lines, with no meaning and a very simple melody. We play commercial pop music because we like things with strong melody lines. None of us are outstanding musicians, but we are fairly competent. We just develop from a rhythm backing.

'To play professionally in any musical heading you have to be fairly competent. But generally the musicians who play progressive music are better.'

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