Few creative entities enjoyed the phenomenal success that the Archie gang enjoyed in 1969, when they topped TV ratings and even beat The Beatles on the charts.
Kirshner/Calendar Records KES-103 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Stereo)
CD Reissue: RKO/Unique Records RKO-1024 (1999)
Released in 1969. Musical Supervision: Don Kirshner. Producer: Jeff Barry. Engineer: Mike Moran. Vocalists: Ron Dante, Toni Wine. Recorded in RCA’s Studio A, New York. Running Time: 30 minutes.
Songs: “Sugar, Sugar,” “Feelin’ So Good (S.K.O.O.B.Y. D.O.O.),” “Inside Out, Upside Down” by Jeff Barry, Andy Kim; “Melody Hill,” “Kissin’,” Circle of Blue,” “Bicycles, Roller Skates and You,” “Hot Dog” by Mark Barkan, Richie Adams; “Rock & Roll Music,” “Don’t Touch My Guitar,” “You Little Angel, You,” “Love Light” by Jeff Barry.
No non-existent group ever reached the heights of The Archies, just as no other teenage-themed comic book series has endured as long. After 75 years, the world of Archie and his friends continue to pop up in one form or another (most recently on CW’s Riverdale, a prime time mystery/soap). But 1969 was special.
Pop culture icons were on the rise in the late ’60s, as the baby boomers formed a strong consumer base (and still do, as recent TV ratings for look-back specials and numerous retro TV channels are proving despite stubborn adherence to outdated methods of judging demographic sales potentials). Peanuts was also at its peak, with Charlie Brown and Snoopy becoming such superstars that NASA was preparing to launch moon modules named for the characters.
Everything actually was Archie, in the sense that the public sought a fun, colorful respite from the horrors they saw on the evening news, fractured ideologies splitting the nation and growing disappointment with authority figures. Hmmm…
Escapist TV comedies, goofball movies and bubble gum music countered the counterculture and succeeded mightily. Not only was The Archies’ Sugar, Sugar the number one hit song of 1969, the biggest theatrical movie of the year was Disney’s The Love Bug. These were far from flukes. The the entertainment industry has a long history of success in offering –in addition to popular culture of social relevance–a huge amount of escapist options in times of social and economic strife.
The Archie Show was being watched by almost half the country. Kids could not have been the only viewers. Filmation managed, despite the limited animation, to capture some of the comics’ appeal for TV after others with bigger budgets had failed. Don Kirshner had the best in the music business at his fingertips—and now he had a cartoon rock band he could control. The musical talent behind The Archies was so top-drawer, it’s unfair to dismiss the results, artistically, as mere bubblegum or kiddie fodder. And yes, it is very definitely a form of art.
We explored Archie music and records in Spin posts here and here, so please take a look for additional histories and musings. The two albums featured today represent Archie at his 20th century peak. The Archie Show, during Fred Silverman’s ascendency at CBS, became The Archie Comedy Hour, bringing Sabrina The Teenage Witch to television. The music on Everything’s Archie appeared on both the 1968 and 1969 programs, while Jingle Jangle’s songs were featured on the hour.
Everything’s Archie is a curious album in several ways. It opens with The Archies’ second single, “Feelin’ So Good (S.K.O.O.B.Y. D.O.O.),” a tune about a down-to-earth love based on the simple things. There is no indication of what “S.K.O.O.B.Y. D.O.O.” stands for, unless I’ve been missing something over these many years. It is certainly not at all related to Hanna-Barbera’s Scooby-Doo. The venerable cartoon Great Dane made his “ray-rue” in Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? in the same 1969 CBS Saturday morning lineup that included The Archie Comedy Hour. No one could have predicted the success of Scooby. The Archies’ music was written and produced on the East coast, making it even more clear that the matching names was a mere coincidence—but it sure confused fans like yours truly, and it probably was one reason the song fell off the charts.If those involved knew what a hit they had with “Sugar, Sugar,” surely it would have been the title of the LP, but it actually was tucked away on side two (after the song was a hit, stickers were added to the album cover to proclaim its presence). The UK issue of the same LP was renamed “Sugar, Sugar” and there may have also been a US reissue with that title as well, since it is pictured on the back cover of The Archies’ 1970 LP, Sunshine.
Another odd item is the song, “Hot Dog,” which can also be confusing. The words “hot dog” would be weird if they were referring to Jughead’s pet, or any person for that matter. Instead, the words are used as an exclamation. The character of Hot Dog was a Filmation creation that subsequently became a comic book favorite. The music people on the East coast may not have realized (or might have forgotten) that there was a Hot Dog character created on the West coast.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Feelin’ So Good (S.K.O.O.B.Y. D.O.O.)”
Apparently either Archie and/or the lovely S.k.o.o.b.y. are Catholic and enjoy picnicking and listening to Mama Cass records on one of those plastic, battery-powered phonographs. This has all the assets of a potential Archies hit, including a great hook, bouncy music and catchy lyrics (love that “wompa-pow-pow”). It wasn’t to be.
Kirshner/Calendar Records KES-105 (12” 33 1/3 RPM / Stereo)
CD Reissue: “Archie’s Party” RKO/Unique Records RKO-1029 (1999)
Some of the finest songs on Jingle Jangle were written or co-written by the singing voice of Archie himself, Ron Dante. Still under wraps as the mysterious lead vocalist, Dante’s talents were getting additional exposure even if his identity was not. This album was also a showcase for singer/songwriter Toni Wine, who can be heard throughout as both Betty and Veronica.
Released in 1969. Musical Supervision: Don Kirshner. Producer: Jeff Barry. Engineer: Mike Moran. Vocalists: Ron Dante, Toni Wine. Recorded in RCA’s Studio A, New York. Running Time: 28 minutes.
Songs: “Jingle Jangle,” “Nursery Rhyme,” “Get On the Line,” “You Know I Love You” by Jeff Barry, Andy Kim; “Everything’s Alright” by Ron Dante; “She’s Putting Me Through Changes” by Ron Dante, Kim Milford; “Justine,” “Whoopie Tie Ai A,” “Senorita Rita,” “Archie’s Party” by Jeff Barry; “Look Before You Leap,” “Sugar and Spice” by Ron Dante, Gene Allan.
Both the Everything’s Archie and Jingle Jangle album covers seems to signify that RCA Records, (the manufacturer and distributor for Kirshner records) was gradually minimizing the comic book look “disguising” the albums to look more like mainstream pop records. Everything’s Archie depicted young models wearing Archie sweatshirts. Countless young listeners must have thought the people on the cover were the singers on the record. A line drawing of Archie, by veteran artist Dan DeCarlo, appears on the back cover.
An extreme close-up of colorful plastic building pieces appears on the cover of the Jingle Jangle album cover. They bear a resemblance to Parker Brothers’ “Deelie Bobbers,” which were little flower power-era pieces. Sold in little drawstring bags, they could be assembled in peaceful abstract ways and appealed to groovy folk of all ages. It was a clever way to combine the concepts of pop art, bubblegum music and playthings.
From this point on, there would be no drawings of the Archie characters on the Kirshner albums (except for some cutouts on the Greatest Hits LP). The liner notes on the back cover of Jingle Jangle are keenly indicative of the era: “It’s sunshine, love—the sparkle of young, spirited voices creating clean pure fun with their music… as American as baseball, as popular on the international scene as jet travel and still as uncomplicated as a frisky puppy…”
The notes near their conclusion with: “This has been the year of the Astronauts landing on the moon, the Mets, and The Archies. Not only are all three sensational but each holds a promise of things to come.”
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
This is the only song other than The Archie Show TV theme song that mentions the characters. By the way, does anyone know what Wine says to Dante after he says “Gimme, gimme, gimme!” to her during the bridge?