The money men behind pop culture trends have always invested in the dichotomy between siblings. They know older siblings might be into the cool things, so they market something completely different to their younger brothers and sisters. This tactic often serves to consolidate profits. Case in point: when The Beatles and rock music in general started getting heavy and psychedelic, the industry gave the world The Monkees. While older kids might have sneered at the television band, they were given just enough of a Beatles flavor. Why? So that younger viewers would transition into new Beatles fans. It’s lucrative, if done right. Bubblerock Is Here To Stay!, a fantastic and exhaustive 78-track box set, explores the British AM pop world of the early 1970s.
A caveat, if you will: much of the music here is terrible. Not necessarily bad, mind you; these sounds are very much of the era. But let’s not kid ourselves, either; mediocrity runs rampant here. You’ll hear knockoff baroque pop bands. You’ll hear bands being wild and crazy for the sake of being wild and crazy—and falling short thanks to self-awareness. You’ll find lots of aping of other songs that happened to be hits. All par for the course when it comes to bubblegum music; a sweet and sugary experience meant to offer a brief rush of enjoyment, only to be forgotten and discarded once the pleasure fades.
Listening to the music in this unlikely treasure chest, a few trends emerge. First, a lot of these bands aren’t really bands. Like American bubblegum, many of the groups were studio creations of session musicians trying to make a quick buck by exploiting the current trends. Secondly, controversial impresario Jonathan King looms large, either through protégées of his, or simply King himself under various aliases. Finally, covers abound; considering the bubbling under nostalgia for pre-psychedelic era rock and pop, it isn’t too surprising to hear covers of Leslie Gore and The McCoys.
Bubblerock Is Here To Stay! offers some lovely little jewels by names quite obscure. The baroque pop of White Plains‘ “When You Are A King,” Stormy Petrel‘s “Hello Hello Hello,” and Crush‘s “Today’s A Tomorrow” offer up sugary-sweet confections with gorgeous harmonies. Mungo Jerry’s “Lady Rose” is a fine, countrified song that makes you realize “In The Summertime” wasn’t the only good thing they had to offer, and one wonders why Kincade‘s “Dreams Are Ten A Penny” wasn’t a bigger hit. Songs by Design, Touchwood, Ricky Wilde, and Gumm Baby also satisfy one’s sweet tooth.
What makes this set really interesting is just how damn weird some of these songs were. Even weirder is how damn futuristic some of this stuff sounds. Of course, one expecting weirdness from a song called “Harry The Earwig” won’t be disappointed in its Syd Barrett-ness, until you notice how it sounds like XTC. Then you get “Who’s The Doctor,” an amazing Dr. Who anthem that sounds like the KLF but in fact is Jon Pertwee, who portrayed the third doctor. The Angelettes’ cover of The Murmaids “Popsicles and Icicles” brings to mind Dolly Mixture and The Marine Girls. The title track, “Bubblerock Is Here To Stay,” by Bubblerock, could easily pass for a Go-Kart Mozart single.
So maybe…just maybe…this otherwise disposable and forgettable era of British music was much more influential than one might have expected. Sure, some of Bubblerock Is Here To Stay! might be cringeworthy, but one can’t deny the overall enjoyment factor. It’s all a matter of taste, of course, but for an American such as yours truly, this collection serves as a nice little sampler of obscurities from a moment in music long (and wrongly?) forgotten.
Purchase Bubblerock Is Here To Stay!: Grapefruit