25
Sep 06

THE ARCHIES – “Sugar, Sugar”

FT + Popular72 comments • 7,489 views

#279, 25th October 1969

How much sugar are we dealing with, exactly? Here’s an itemisation of the hooks in the last minute of “Sugar, Sugar”:

  • The main hook (“You are my candy girl”) and riff – we’ve been hearing this all through the song, but the sting of repetition gets drawn here by a well-judged key change.
  • The counter-hook from the male backing vox – “Pour your sugar on me!” – more spontaneous and joyful, more passionate, the backing guys throwing a wink or two at the girls behind the sweet lead singer’s back.
  • The female backing hook (“I’m gonna make your life so sweet!”) – this is lovely and I wish we heard more of it. The first time we get it tentative and shy, the second time more confident and delighted. I am guessing the first is ‘Betty’ and the second ‘Veronica’ but I have never knowingly read an Archie comic so I don’t actually know!
  • The “ba-ba-ba-da-da” third backing hook – this one is a real genius bit of popcraft, because you’ve had tiny snippets of it already leading into the chorus after the verses, so you’re primed for it and its injection of swing into the song.
  • The chanted “Honey! Honey! Sugar! Sugar!” that unites all these hooks before the fade – the whole party coming together. At no point is “Sugar, Sugar” a rave up – it’s always pretty sedate – but here it comes closest.

“Sugar Sugar” is magnificently well put together: the loading of all this stuff at the end of the track encouraging you to wind the record players arm right back to check it all again. It’s a bold way to structure the song and shows Jeff Barry and Andy Kim’s absolute confidence in the irresistibility of their main chorus – which is in some ways too irresistible, as I guess it’s all most adults remember and would indeed be dumb if it went nowhere else. (The verses flirt with inanity to an even greater degree, lyrically at least).

“Sugar Sugar”‘s craft is what makes me like it – I’m sure it was momentous to have a cartoon band at #1 but any controversy over the fact seems very distant given the procession of gimmicks, flukes, manufactures and novelties that have enthralled and apalled us since. There are other, more crazed and crude bubblegum records I thrill to more, and there’s a lot of pop I like better, but like a well-made wooden toy “Sugar, Sugar” is something anybody could deeply admire.

8

Comments

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  1. 51
    Mr. Snrub on 26 Nov 2006 #

    This song is best appreciated when mashed up with The Velvet Underground’s “I’m Waiting for the Man” on “Velvet Sugar” by Go Hme Productions (the 261st best single of 2006).

  2. 52
    Billy Smart on 18 Nov 2007 #

    Judge Dale’s verdict today: “A worthy chart-topper!”

    Billy says: Quite right, too!

  3. 53
    tim davidge on 8 Mar 2008 #

    “He plays it over and over again!” “Well, that’s what you do, when you hear a tune you like”. I can remember this conversation between one of my siblings and a great aunt a few weeks after having parted up with my eight-and-sixpence (still a year or so to go before decimalization) and bringing home my orange-label RCA copy of ‘Sugar Sugar’. It was my first-ever pop record purchase. It wasn’t so much a “tune” as a series of devices, as many, indeed, have said. The hooks, the strong underlying beat and the overall infectiousness just made me want to buy the thing and play it over and over again. Six million others, many of them probably younger than the average pop record buyer, fell for this one. But there was no ‘phenomenon’ beyond this one record. There was, I can clearly remember, a follow-up in the spring of 1970, but it sank without trace. I can’t even remember what it was called, and the Guinness book just gives the one title under “Archies” and then nothing else. Ever.

    “Sugar Sugar” was something of an exercise in cynicism. Don Kirshner, the man behind the Archies, was going to make sure his puppets wouldn’t up and run the show in the way his former charges the Monkees had done. Hence the cartoon. But a cartoon can’t generate the same kind of following that a ‘real’ pop act can. It can sell millions of records to school-age kids, but only once.

  4. 54
    Marcello Carlin on 8 Mar 2008 #

    Follow-up was “Jingle Jangle” and the one after that was “Who’s Your Baby?” which is fantastic.

  5. 55
    Lena on 8 Mar 2008 #

    “Time of the Season” isn’t bombastic.

  6. 56
    Marcello Carlin on 9 Mar 2008 #

    Unlike the current number one (at time of writing) which, um, borrows its riff…

  7. 57
    mike atkinson on 9 Mar 2008 #

    OK, OK, I’ve finally streamed “Time Of The Season”: and blimey, yes, total steal there from “Fluffy” Duffy…

  8. 58
    Doctor Casino on 4 Jan 2009 #

    Two things I’ll admit are absolutely fantastic in this song:

    1) The long “OOooooOOOooooHH!” that the male lead does maybe twice in the song to lead back to the “pour a little sugar on me” hook. There’s some actual non-cartoon DESIRE in that yell, it’s one of the few times it doesn’t actually sound like Archie Andrews is singing but in fact a real live HUMAN.

    2) The way the bass and piano come THROBBING back in, again just in a couple of places – there’s one around 2:13 or so. Pretty great, huge sound there.

  9. 59
    Waldo on 25 Oct 2009 #

    I don’t think anybody’s mentioned the girl in the kissing booth, a fairground attraction surely defunct in our more enlightened times. As Rosie mentions, the problem with this one was that it simply would not go away and I still don’t think is ever has. A giant of a pop song linked to a cartoon (I remember thinking, wrongly, that The Archies were the Scooby-Doo kids), it would have been a major surprise had it bombed. The only criticism I have is that it was far too American and that the overwhelming embrace we gave it here was perhaps something of a surprise.

  10. 60
    Dan Worsley on 30 Apr 2010 #

    One of Mark E Smith’s favourite records apparently, that alone’s worth a couple of points.

    Between an 8 or 9 for me, purely for the contrast between the earthy male vocal (pour a little sugar on it, baby) and the soaring female response (don’t I make your life so sweet).

  11. 61
    richard thompson on 15 May 2010 #

    I haven’t heard it since this morning, it was played on Sots, a very radio friendly song, liked it aged 7, I don’t even like sugar these days or bubblegum or sweets, when I do play serious rock albums, such as ummagumma I can’t listen to too much of that stuff on my own either, part of that LP was recorded at Mothers in my local high street in Erdington, albums outsold singles in 1969, sugar sugar was also included in one of these hopeless medleys in 1981.

  12. 62
    Sam on 14 Sep 2010 #

    Was this ever on a Sugar Puffs advert? The first time I heard it was in 1978, when my mum upped and went to live on a ‘commune’ in Wales, taking me with her. An older kid played me this record, claiming it was by the Honey Monster – this was obviously confusing as nothing on the disc sounds like the Honey Monster.

    The problem with it is simply that it’s far too long for what’s in it, it should clock in at under two minutes. The bubblegum ‘Hey Jude’.

  13. 63
    crag on 14 Apr 2011 #

    DESERT ISLAND DISC WATCH:

    Nigella Lawson, TV Chef(2003).

  14. 64
    Lena on 6 Mar 2012 #

    When is bubblegum not bubblegum? http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.com/2012/03/higher-love-lou-christie-im-gonna-make.html Thanks for reading, y’all!

  15. 65
    Lena on 8 Mar 2012 #

    Return of the Mac: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.com/2012/03/guiding-hand-fleetwood-mac-oh-well-part.html Merci for reading, everyone!

  16. 67
    Lena on 13 Mar 2012 #

    We had a dream: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.com/2012/03/end-of-era-stevie-wonder-yester-me.html Thanks for reading, everyone!

  17. 68
    Lena on 13 Mar 2012 #

    And so it ends?:http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.com/2012/03/turn-around-kenny-rogers-and-first.html Merci for reading, everyone!

  18. 69
    wichita lineman on 14 Mar 2012 #

    Re 62: Honey Monster did a cover of Sugar Sugar in 1977, part of an EP with Disco Doreen and The Honey Monster Story. It has “99p” printed on the sleeve. It’s on Warner Brothers. Bloody weird.

    This Is Love is my second favourite Archies song, a single in ’71 I think:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfFTxJkQK4c

  19. 70
    Ken Shinn on 30 Jul 2012 #

    Re 62: Honey’s cover of the song was definitely used on a Sugar Puffs TV ad. “Gotta have a breakfast that tastes so yummy…Don’t know what I’d do without my Sugar Puffs, MUMMEEEEEEE!” Ably assisted on dad-dancing back-up by his oddly male Mummy, Henry McGee.

  20. 71
    hectorthebat on 6 Jun 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Blender (USA) – Standout Tracks from the 500 CDs You Must Own (2003)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Dave Marsh & Kevin Stein (USA) – The 40 Best of the Top 40 Singles by Year (1981) 40
    Q (UK) – The 1001 Best Songs Ever (2003) 765
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  21. 72
    redhairkid on 15 Feb 2015 #

    Not a record I particularly care for. Sorry, guys.

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