Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth edited by Kim Cooper and David Smay (Feral/Publishers Group West), 327 pages, $30.95 paper. Rating: NNN
Bubblegum Music has received a bad rap over the years. Trashed by critics -- except maybe Lester Bangs -- and reviled by serious music fans as teenybopper schlock, bubblegum is easily the least respected musical genre. In their highly informative and often hilarious book, editors David Smay and Kim Cooper seek to change this poor public opinion by driving home their thesis that bubblegum is the purest form of pop music around.
A large number of writers help define what bubblegum music is, and discuss the artists, producers and labels behind it.
Highlights include a hilarious discussion between Carl Cafarelli and Gary Pig Gold about whether or not the Monkees are truly bubblegum, Becky Ebenkamp's exploration of the sexual undertones of the genre's seemingly harmless lyrics and a truly bizarre bubblegum fantasy piece about the Partridge Family Temple.
Occasionally, the ultra-subjectivity gets out of hand, as when Elton John, Black Sabbath and even Sgt. Pepper are unmercifully dismissed while the writers gush over bubble acts like the Archies and the Turtles.
Nearly every passage shines a positive light on its subject, except for Greg Shaw's piece on the ego-ridden Don Kirshner -- the guy who insisted his name be part of the TV show title Don Kirshner's Midnight Special -- who, Shaw reports, gave him the runaround when he was supposed to be assisting the producer to develop a documentary about him.
This book serves best as an encyclopedia for music geeks rather than as a cover-to-cover read -- the producer and record label sections are far from essential. But as a recent argument between two of my teachers over whether ABBA are or are not a legitimate pop act proves, rock and roll needs defining statements -- and for bubblegum, this book is it.
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