Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Another Serving of British Bubblegum Sunniness

While going through my massive piles of CDs that I haven't had time to listen to yet (at least not very much), I came across a release called The Best of Vanity Fare. I spotted this band on a bubblegum website several months ago and decided to give it a try.

Vanity Fare, originally called The Avengers, were a lot like the other British 70s bands like Edison Lighthouse and anything else connected to Macaulay and Macleod - sunny, soft-sounding, baroque-tingled, melodic, and often absolutely gorgeous.

This band released some really wonderful melodic pop singles such as I Live for the Sun (a minor hit for a Murry Wilson-managed American band The Sunrays) and Early in the Morning already in the late 60s. Vanity Fare actually hit it big with I Live for the Sun – it was a huge hit especially in America. Vanity Fare wasn't just a cover band, though. The band also wrote original material right from the start. For instance, check out You Made Me Love You from 1969, written by keyboardist Barry Landeman.

To be honest, one of the reasons I am writing this is to get myself to listen to this band more. Music with such great harmonies, lovely melodies and optimism is always a winner – and so is anyone who listens to it.

Enjoy Hitchin' a Ride, from Top of the Pops, 1970! The band is understandably misspelled by the uploader here.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Ultimate Guidebook

I would like to introduce you, readers, to my bible. And, with its help introduce many great bubblegum artists and phenomena. I bought this book about two years ago to satisfy my enormous curiosity towards bubblegum music. The book is called Bubblegum Music Is the Naked Truth. The Dark History of Prepubescent Pop, from the Banana Splits to Britney Spears (Feral House, 2001), edited by Kim Cooper and David Smay.

Well, yeah, Britney Spears being mentioned in the book title is somewhat unappealing. However, the writers of this book surely couldn't know what was going to happen in the near future. Don't worry! This book is mostly about considerably older stuff than just late 90s and the 00s.

Bubblegum Music Is the Naked Truth is exhausting even for a bubblegum maniac like me. It is 300 pages long – and believe me, the pages are large and the font small. There are lots of black and white photos and pictures but they are mostly very small. The book, with its numerous writers, goes to great lengths describing, reviewing, criticizing, and, of course, admiring and advertising dozens and hundreds of bubblegum hitmakers and bubblegum-related things.

The book contains loads of detailed descriptions of obscure and well-known bubblegum acts, real bands and the imaginary ones, too. Just browsing the book is entertaining and every time you find yourself amazed of the incredibly detailed work that doesn't leave one rock unturned. There are articles about artists, record labels, related genres, the international aspects of bubblegum, people reminiscing about the subject, bubblegum merchandise... This book deals with even the most questionable, money-thirsty, x-rated aspects of bubblegum music.

I went crazy reading this book.. It is well-written and interesting and really not just about bubblegum music but also lots of other things that have something to do with bubblegum. Although sometimes things don't even seem to have a relation to bubblegum and are more like descriptions of obscure and/or great 60s/70s pop records or something similar. It seems that a lot of things are somehow connected to the bubblegum scene..

So, what is the essence of bubblegum music? It varies, of course, especially through different time periods. In its original meaning bubblegum music is music made for children in the purpose of selling records, breakfast cereals, toys, anything, but bubblegum music is at its best also so catchy and well-written music that it appeals to children as well as adults. A real bubblegum song is something happy that plays in your head all day – and the next day too. A piece of cheerfulness stuck in you head... Things could be worse, don't you think?

Soulful Disney Bubblegum

Now, some reminiscing! That coming from a twenty-something (me) tends to deal with childhood, which is no surprise, I think. I was just watching Nostalgia Critic (fun show, check it out) and came across an episode of the catchiest children's TV theme songs from of the 80s and 90s. Number one on that list was DuckTales.. At that point, I got really excited because I had not heard the song for over 15 years. Gee, it was so good I had to listen to it many, many times.

The DuckTales theme is basically soul music.. With lousy drums and great horns – and an impeccable melody! Being a theme song written for a children's Saturday morning cartoon it is of course bubblegum music too, a wonderful addition to the collection of excellent bubblegum TV themes.

If I remember correctly, when I was a kid DuckTales was also my favorite cartoon. The whole show with 100 episodes even seems to be on YouTube. Now I know what to do with my spare time... In addition to all this, I suddenly got really interested in cartoon music and other great TV tunes (for children). There isn't probably a collection of “most fabulous children's TV themes” but Disney soundtracks may be a good place to start...