Monday, January 10, 2011

Horror bubblegum

You've probably never heard of this genre. But believe me, bubblegum songs with horror-themed lyrics do exist, and there is in fact one group that specialized in it.

It all began during bubblegum's heyday: 1968. The obscure bubblegum/psych-pop group October Country released their sole self-titled album in '68, which included the song "My Girlfriend is a Witch", a somewhat surf-y and appropriately dissonant song about the strange behavior of a young man's girlfriend, including flying on a broom.

The next year, the series Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? premiered, and although none of the songs sung by Danny Jannsen have horror lyrics, there would be an association with bubblegum and chases through haunted houses.

Also in 1969, the Hanna-Barbera creation The Cattanooga Cats released their only album, which- because the songwriter(s) of October Country did the songs- included a version of "My Girlfriend is a Witch".

Beginning in 1970, Filmation came out with the series Groovie Goolies, which was a spinoff of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. About two-thirds of their songs had horror-themed lyrics, with few straight songs in between, making them the only pure horror bubblegum group.

Closely related is the music of The Chan Clan, as part of the series The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan starting in 1972. The association of bubblegum and teenage mystery-solving is made stronger here, because the songs use detective work and espionage as metaphors for love and relationships. The vocals were in fact sung by Ron Dante, best known for his work for The Archies.

The genre more or less ends there, but it is survived by the horror punk genre, which likely had its beginnings with The Ramones songs "Chainsaw" and "I Don't Wanna Go Down in the Basement" (who, mind you, loved the 1910 Fruitgum Company). The most obvious link between horror bubblegum and horror punk is the band The Groovie Ghoulies, who named themselves after The Groovie Goolies.

Horror bubblegum had one last gasp in the Johnny Bravo episode "Bravo Dooby Doo" from 1997, where Johnny meets Scooby and the gang. In contrast to the original series, the song that plays during the chase scene is actually horror-themed, called "Happy Haunted Sunshine House". The middle also shows a clear Beach Boys influence.

As we can see, it's inescapable to say how closely related pop punk and bubblegum are, even when they're singing about zombies. I don't who The Misfits listened to, but I don't see any reason that they shouldn't have known about The Groovie Goolies.

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