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Sunday, April 08, 2012

Sugar Sugar, You Are My Candy Girl...

Good morning, blog followers, and HAPPY EASTER!!!

It also happens to be the final day of “Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This Week”. I hope you all enjoyed all of the delicious blog entries for the week. I know I had fun coming up with the various topics for this special week.

To conclude this special week, I have selected a song for the Sunday Jukebox that wraps everything up nicely in a big sugar-dusted bow.

Have you ever heard of a band known as the Archies? If you've ever owned an old issue of the “Everything's Archie” comic book that was printed between 1969 and 1991, then in all likelihood, you've seen them in action.

Yes, the popular comic book characters (who celebrated their 70th anniversary in late 2011) did have their own garage band. The line-up and instruments were always the same. Archie Andrews was the lead singer and guitarist, Betty Cooper played tambourine, Veronica Lodge played the synthesizer, Reggie Mantle played bass guitar, and Jughead Jones was the band's drummer.

And for some reason, Jughead's dog, Hot Dog, was the conductor. Go figure.

As the Everything's Archie title continued, the band's success grew and grew. Despite the fact that the band's median age was sixteen and three-quarters, they somehow found a way to balance schoolwork with gigs. Throughout the 1970s, they played at discotheques, amusement parks, concert halls, and even around the world. With the creation of MTV in the summer of 1981, the title evolved as the band started to make music videos for their hit singles.

Although “Everything's Archie” stopped production at issue #157, this did not mean that it was the end of the Archies. You can still find them making appearances in the various Double Digests that are still being published. And new stories featuring the band can usually be found in the “Archie” title, currently at issue #631.

Now, here's the kicker.  Did you know that although the band was fictional in nature, they managed to score a #1 hit single in the fall of 1969 in the real world?  How could such a thing happen?  Was it magic?

Not really.  All it took was the work of two men to bring the Archies out of the pages of comic books and onto record players and radio stations all over the world.

Enter Jeff Barry and Don Kirschner.

TRIVIA:  If the name Kirschner sounds familiar, it's because he was a key player in creating the band known as "The Monkees".  In fact, an urban legend stated that today's song feature was offered to The Monkees first, but they turned it down!

Berry produced the record that would eventually become the Archies debut album, recorded by a group of studio musicians and singers assembled by Kirschner.  Using a process called multitracking (which takes separate recordings of multiple sound sources to create a cohesive whole), the album was quickly released.  However, fan reaction to the Archies at first was lukewarm.  The first single off of the album "Bang-Shang-A-Lang" just missed cracking the top twenty.  It wasn't a bad song, and for a debut single, it was a modest performance.  Still, with "Bang-Shang-A-Lang" not doing well on the charts, both Berry and Kirschner were a bit reluctant to release the follow-up single.  They had believed that if people discovered that the song was recorded by a cartoon band, they wouldn't take it seriously, and it wouldn't sell.

So, it was decided that when the Archies second single was ready to be released in the summer of 1969, they sent out a promotional team to play the song for radio station executives, keeping the identity of the band a mystery.  They figured that the mystery would entice radio stations to play the song more frequently, making the song a bigger hit.

That gamble ended up paying off.  Once disc jockeys were clued into the fact that the Archies had recorded the song, it quickly rose up the charts, and quickly became one of the biggest bubblegum hits of all time.  The timing was absolutely perfect as well, due to the fact that at the time of the song's release, the Archie cartoon show on CBS was one of the network's most watched Saturday morning programs, increasing the popularity of the song further.

This is the song that made the Archies famous.

ARTIST:  The Archies
SONG:  Sugar, Sugar
ALBUM:  Everything's Archie
DATE RELEASED:  July 26, 1969

"Sugar, Sugar" became one of the most well known songs of the late 60's.  It was so popular that it was named the most popular single of 1969.  Canada was the first country to recognize the song as a number one hit, as it topped the charts there the week of September 13, 1969.  The song would hit the top of the Billboard Charts just one week later.  The song also peaked at #1 on the British charts and stayed at that position for eight weeks there.  "Sugar, Sugar" made the list of Billboard's Greatest Songs of All Time, landing at the sixty-third position.

And, why wouldn't the song be a success?  It's a fantastic song!  I might be a little bit biased on that opinion, mainly because I have been a fan of Archie comics for a quarter of a century now, but "Sugar, Sugar" is one of the greatest pop songs I've ever heard.  The first time I heard it was probably right around the same time that I started reading Archie comics, and whenever it came on, I always had to crank it full-blast.  And, when I was a kid, I actually tried to picture the Archie characters singing on the song.  When the line "I'm gonna make your life so sweet" came on, I said to my parents, "That's Veronica singing that!"

Of course, we all know that the real musicians that sang on the album didn't have checkerboard hair, nor did they wear crowns on their heads.  However, the musicians who sang on the album ended up having brilliant careers in music all on their own.  There was some real talent behind the cartoons.

Take Toni Wine for example.  She was the gal who really sang the lines of the song that I believed Veronica was singing.  She ended up writing songs for other artists that became huge hits.  She wrote for The Mindbenders ("Groovy Kind Of Love"), Tony Orlando and Dawn ("Candida"), Elvis Presley, and Checkmates Inc.  She also sang back-up for several artists as well.

TRIVIA:  Toni Wine sang back-up on Willie Nelson's classic "Always On My Mind".

Andy Kim was another huge player in the Archies.  He sang back-up vocals on "Sugar, Sugar", but he ended up having a huge career as a solo artists.  He had some modest hits throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s, but perhaps most people will remember Kim for this 1974 classic, which became a #1 hit.

TRIVIA:  Due to Andy Kim being born in Quebec, Canada, his contribution on "Sugar, Sugar" helped get the song inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in February 2006!

And then there's the lead singer of The Archies, Ron Dante.

A lot of people don't realize this, but Ron Dante's contributions to the world of music didn't stop with the Archies.  He released quite a few solo albums beginning in 1970 with differing styles from pop to disco.  He also had a long-running musical partnership with legendary singer Barry Manilow, with each one producing the other one's albums.  Did you know that Ron Dante actually sang back-up on Barry Manilow's 1974 hit, "Mandy"?  That's quite the list of achievements for Mr. Dante, wouldn't you say?

At any rate, the song "Sugar, Sugar" has made its mark on the world of pop music.  Former U.S. President George W. Bush has stated that "Sugar, Sugar" is a favourite of his, and that it played at the wedding reception of his daughter.  The song has appeared in the soundtrack to the film "Now and Then", and it is used as the theme song for the TLC show "Cake Boss".  The song itself has been covered by a few artists over the years including Jonathan King, Stars on 45, Wilson Pickett, and Count Baysee.

(Mind you, I've only heard of two of those artists, but still, it's worth noting.)

I really couldn't think of a better song to conclude "Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This Week", and I hope that you all enjoyed it.  I'll be having another theme week coming up for you sometime in the next couple of months, so be on the lookout.

Have a happy and safe Easter, and may all your eggs be filled with chocolate.

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