Thursday, January 7, 2010

Rock of Pages: Bubblegum: The History of Plastic Pop

Posted By on Thu, Jan 7, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Nick Brownlee's history of disposable popular music, also known as "bubblegum," is a treatise that gives its otherwise flippant topic a modicum of respect. However, at the same time, Bubblegum: The History of Plastic Pop is a bathroom read, simply because the subject matter is a litany of Svengalis and their proteges.

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Bubblegum is defined by The Rock Snob's Dictionary as a "reactionary lite-pop movement of the late sixties and early seventies instigated by record producers and songwriters who correctly deduced that there was a youthful pop audience not being served by the prevailing trends of psychedelia, power-trio blues revivalists, and nascent prog." Bubblegum songs are known for "their insanely catchy compositions of Teletubbies-level repetitiveness and simplicity."

There's not an act in this book that doesn't seem to have been manufactured in some way, shape, or form. Granted, because the book has its origins in the United Kingdom, there's a strong focus on acts who never made the slightest blip on the American charts (Take That, et al), but there's still a strong focus on the acts of the '60s, where one had groups that were so manufactured, they featured actors, as opposed to musicians, such as the Monkees (although Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork were actual musicians, Mickey Dolenz and Davy Jones were full-on actors, Dolenz having been a child actor in the fifties).

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Of course, manufactured acts would go even further as the sixties came to close, with the "ultimate manufactured pop band" the Archies. The Archies were taken from a comic book and turned into a cartoon equivalent of the Monkees, but with the added advantage that the band was animated, thus eliminating the necessity of having actors being able to perform live.

Bubblegum is probably more enjoyable for the pictures and factoids than any serious commentary on its subject, but it's certainly an entertaining read to have on one's bookshelf.

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