Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Pour: Sugar, Sugar

The Archies: Sugar, Sugar

A couple of years ago, I wrote about how my love of music began in the summer of 1969. That summer saw the release of “Sugar, Sugar,” a classic “bubblegum” rock song credited to The Archies, a fictional band of cartoon characters from the comics, and specifically, from The Archie Show, a cartoon series that began airing in 1968 on CBS. As a 7 year old, I was directly in the target demographic, and remember watching the show, and its various later incarnations and spin offs. The Archies, of course, were an attempt to piggyback on the success of The Monkees, a fictional group of actual humans which remarkably turned into a real band, themselves created to piggyback on the success of The Beatles, an actual band of legendary humans.

“Sugar, Sugar” was written by Jeff Barry and Andy Kim, and features the lyrics ‘Oh, sugar, pour a little sugar on it honey/Pour a little sugar on it baby,” making it theme-appropriate. Because Archie, Betty, Veronica and the gang were fictional, the song featured a crew of studio musicians managed by Don Kirshner (who had originally supervised The Monkees’ music), including Chuck Rainey, who played with Quincy Jones and Steely Dan, on bass, and drummer Gary Chester, who appeared on tons of hit records. Lead vocals were performed by Ron Dante, accompanied by Toni Wine, who multitracked their voices to create the full Archies sound.

Ultimately, “Sugar, Sugar” was the number one song of 1969, and its influence cannot be underestimated. You find its DNA in the power pop that arose in the 70s and 80s, and even in punk bands like The Ramones. Not to mention Def Leppard. Since I love that music (other than Def Leppard), I have to believe that constant repetition of “Sugar, Sugar” during the summer of 1969 somehow imprinted in my brain a susceptibility to poppy, hooky music. Remarkably, the song became a hit again the next year in a cover by Wilson Pickett, a very different artist. It has been covered often, by artists as diverse as Alex Chilton, Bob Marley, The Germs, and Homer Simpson. There are also German, two Czech, and Spanish covers. Recently, it was featured on Riverdale, a noir live action version of the Archie comics, played not by some modern version of The Archies, but by Josie and the Pussycats. (All of a sudden, this is turning into a Cover Me "Five Good Covers" piece....)

Flash forward from the summer of 1969 to the summer of 1978. That was the summer that I graduated from high school, and as a graduation present, my parents sent me to Europe on a multi-week teen tour. It was an incredible experience. We flew to London, took a ferry to Holland, and then bussed south to Italy—I’ll never forget waking up in the middle of the Alps for the first time—then north to Paris before I somehow was trusted to lead a small group of my fellow teens back to New York while the rest of the group continued on without us. We had a good group of kids, mostly from the New York area, and I very quickly became closest with two other guys, Larry and Keith. We spent an enormous amount of time together that summer, riding buses, touring and just hanging out.

It turned out that Larry’s father was Don Kirshner’s partner, and he joked that The Monkees and Archies were going to put him through college. At the time, though, their big act was Kansas, and after we returned from the trip, we all saw the band play Madison Square Garden together. As things happened, we grew apart as our lives turned to college, careers and families.

Flash forward to 2011, about a year after I joined Facebook. I had reconnected with Keith and Larry, and another woman, Nancy, who had been on the trip. We met for dinner in New York, and had a great time, but although we promised to do it again, we haven’t. I’ve been in touch, on and off with Larry, on Facebook and off, have had a little contact with Keith on Facebook, and it appears that Nancy has unfriended me. That’s sort of the way life is, I guess. It is difficult to keep in contact with people when your social circles really don’t overlap, your relationship is based on a short, intense period decades in the past, with a long eventful gap and considering the amount of effort that it takes to rekindle a friendship.

The other day, I was lucky to attend a speech at Princeton Alumni Day by Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Alphabet (the holding company for Google). He talked about how his belief was that technological innovation would solve the world’s problems. In response to a question about the effect of social media on human interaction, he observed, essentially, that we may have more relationships, but that those relationships are not as deep. And that does seem to be the case in the Facebook era.

Personally, I’m not complaining. I’ve always been somewhat introverted with a small number of close friends at any given time. Through Facebook, I’ve been able to create a larger circle of friends, some who I haven’t spoken to in years and some of whom I’ve never even spoken to in person, and enjoy interacting with them comfortably in the ether.

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