Vol. 1, Issue #6 April 14th - April 27th, 2006

Tiger Beat From Hell
By: Wilhelm Murg

Bubblegum: Plastic Molded Blues

A few people have asked me why this column is called “Tiger Beat From Hell.” First of all, even though I’ve never actually read a copy –I understand there’s not that much text to begin with - I have great respect for Tiger Beat magazine, the premier Teen Idol magazine that’s been around since the mid-1960s. Tiger Beat has effortlessly remodeled itself for each successive generation, from fans of The Dave Clarke Five to today’s fans of Fall Out Boy. I actually consider it a far more respectable magazine than, say Rolling Stone, because it’s apolitical, as opposed to jumping the fence from left to right with the times. But most importantly, Tiger Beat has never tried to be anything other than what it is; brash, commercial PR for young actors and pop stars that teenage girls scream over. It’s basically prepubescent screaming material before sexuality kicks in.

I also like that it has “Beat” in the title, originally, no doubt, to connote The Beatles or the Mersey Beat Sound which was popular when the magazine was founded, but I connect it more to Lester Bang’s Creem ramblings (The Philip Seymour Hoffman character in Almost Famous) which were influenced by the Beat writers, like Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs.

And make no mistake about it, every other music magazine, from Rolling Stone and Creem to Downbeat and Mojo is basically the same formula, they are just more pretentious about it. You might not be attracted to David Gilmour, but if you are a fan of Pink Floyd, you’ll check out a magazine with his name on the cover – you are lured in not by physical attraction, but mental attraction. We are all Tiger Beat to some degree, Tiger Beat is just brasher about it.

Like Tiger Beat, the music that originally seemed to be a product of the magazine’s PR arm, Bubblegum Rock, also doesn’t get the respect it deserves. I think it’s a matter of sophistication. For example, I’ve heard people put down films because they were too “slapstick,” yet if you ask any film student, early slapstick comedy is actually one of the crowning achievements in film, often emulated, but seldom duplicated. It’s just not “serious.”

Bubblegum is the crowning glory of pop music. It is catchy to the point that you can’t get it out of your head, like “Yummy Yummy Yummy” by the Ohio Express, meticulous in production to points of indulgence that prog-rock never though of, like “Green Tambourine” by The Lemon Pipers, and filled with hooks that make you want to learn to play guitar, like “Cherry Cheery” by Neil Diamond. As sheer pop craftsmanship, bubblegum is nothing to sneeze at.

What most people don’t realize is that while bubblegum started as a place for Beatlewannabees, it soon became a product molded by the garage punk and psychedelic movements that were going on around it. For example one of the most disturbing psychedelic tracks you’ll ever hear is “Turn to Straw” on the Ohio Express’ eponymous album, where the band was allowed to perform their own music as oppose to following the producer’s attempt to create a hit single. The Express seem almost as acid drenched as The Banana Splits - which were four guys in animal suits created by Hanna-Barbera for a cartoon show – in their classic “(I Enjoy) Being a Boy,” a record you could only purchase by sending in cereal box tops (“I live in a purple plum mansion on the bank of a strawberry sea…”) Rhino Records, on one of their reissues, dubbed “Green Tambourine” as “Paisley Gum”. I think that also described Prince’s homage to the period, Around The World in a Day, which begat “Raspberry Beret”

The Monkees, the group that was the ultimate statement of bubblegum, were famous for such drugged out masterpieces as “The Porpoise Song” from their truly brilliant film Head –I highly recommend it – and the theremin driven “Daily Nightly” - after they performed it on their TV show Mickey Dolenz looked at the camera and said “psychedelic.”

Bubblegum went on to influence Glam, and you can hear bubblegum catchiness in T.Rex’s riffs, convicted-child-molester Gary Glitter’s stomps, and the Chapman-Chin production of The Sweet, like “Blockbuster,” and Suzie Quatro’s “Can the Can.”

Garage punk from the sixties was made up of teenage boys who wanted to be The Rolling Stones (who are still being censored in China!) The nasty delivery and three-chord structure of “Yummy Yummy Yummy” clearly puts it in the “Dirty Water” camp of the garage band. When you start categorizing some of the other music of the time, like The Troggs’ “Wild Thing,” Love’s “Little Red Book,” or Syndicate of Sound’s Dylanesque delivery of “Little Girl,” it’s hard to tell where punk ended and bubblegum began.

The Ramones thought they were a bubblegum band. Patti Smith went on to create angst filled poetry built on songs like “Land of a Thousand Dances,” and “Gloria.”

Bubblegum went on into the seventies, with The Osmonds and The Partridge Family and continued on through the boy bands and up to the current day. The thing that is fascinating is that bubblegum, like some strange virus, attaches itself to whatever musical style happens and morphs itself into that style. The Venga Boys’ “Boom Boom Boom Boom (I Want You in My Room)” is techno, it’s gay, it’s club, but everyone knew the second they heard it that it was bubblegum; it had to be bubblegum, it was that annoyingly catchy.

I have a friend who used to play with the late, great Phil Seymour, a true disciple of “The Tulsa Sound.” Seymour is best remembered for his new wave, top ten, bubblegum hit “Precious To Me,” from the eighties. According to my friend, Seymour was obsessed with bubblegum music; new wave never really crossed his mind. Seymour considered true bubblegum to be timeless and eternal.

I am not convinced that Tarantino’s soundtracks are as Ironic as everyone thinks.

And speaking of bubblegum, this piece is dedicated to the memory of the great pop poet Gene Pitney, who just passed away. Pitney’s music was a marvel to discover, and highly under rated. It hurts to be in love, only love can break a heart, heartbreaker, a town without pity, the man who shot Liberty Valance, he’s a rebel…

“And so I cry a little bit…”

Tiger Beat From Hell Main Page

©2006 NONCO Media, L.L.C.