Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday Dance Party: Sugar Redux

Anybody remember the Archies? They were a fictional (in fact, two-dimensional) pop group of the late 60s and 70s, created in the studio to add music to their corresponding cartoon series, The Archie Show, which was in turn based on the Archie comic books. It was a pretty awful series, but appealed to an audience which would today be called "tweens," as the characters were all high school students who spent their time annoying adults, causing hijinks, and occasionally solving crimes. Well, if you want to know more about The Archie Show, pick up a comic book.

In 1969, Sugar, Sugar was introduced on the program, and shot to number one on the Billboard chart, remaining there for four weeks, and in fact becoming the number one selling single of the year. Not bad for a band that did not actually exist. The music was played by studio musicians, and became so successful that several albums were released, as if The Archies were an actual group. The series spawned a television genre which included Josie and the Pussycats, Scooby Doo, and Sabrina the Teen Aged Witch, all of whom included musical numbers in their Saturday morning programs.

Before being recorded by The Archies, Sugar, Sugar was offered to The Monkees, who were struggling to break free from the "Bubblegum Pop" genre and be recognized as serious rock musicians (I wrote a bit about that struggle here). Record producer Don Kirshner remembers that Mike Nesmith, the Monkee in the wool hat, rammed his fist through the wall of the Beverly Hills Hotel while refusing to record the number. Anyway, Sugar Sugar did all right for the non-existent Archies, and has been covered by other singers as well.

Here, it's sung by one of the biggest Disney stars of the 1960s and 70s (I should say, one of the biggest Three-Dimensional stars), Kurt Russell. Didn't know he could sing? Well, he really can't, but that didn't stop Uncle Walt from placing him in a few musical situations. He played a supporting role in one of my favorite Disney musicals of the period, The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (I bet a clip from that boffo classic will show up in these pages one day), and below, our clean-cut stud puppy sings at Disneyland (who knew Kurt had dimples!). As you can see, he is singing the song as a duet with an actual professional singer, cuz somebody has to carry the tune. The program was called "Disneyland Showtime," and aired in 1970 on the Wonderful World of Disney (back when the show was Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color).

So, enjoy this week's Dance Party, celebrating Sugar, Sugar, which turns forty years old this year. Sadly, we must mourn the passing of bubblegum music, turtle neck sweaters, double breasted jackets, and Kurt's cutiepie haircut (which I still wear today...go ahead, make fun).