Knowledge Waits is a feature where I just share some bit of comic book history that interests me.
I wrote a little bit about "Sugar, Sugar" in a Comic Book Legends Revealed installment many years ago, but I never actually got into the origins of the song itself, so I figured I'd write a little bit about it, since it is such a fascinating song. As one of the musicians on the song, Toni Wine, later recalled, "What group never appeared together, never went on the road together, never interviewed together, as the group, and had a #1 song?" That would, of course, be The Archies, the fictitious rock band from The Archie Show.
The Archie Show debuted in 1968 and the idea of the Filmation series was to take the Archie characters and adapt them to the concept of the Monkees by making them into a band. It is pretty funny how many of these shows were just, "Hey, why not make Licensed Character X into a pop group?"
Here's an interesting aspect of The Archie Show, the first single was a song called "Bang-Shang-A-Lang."
The significance of that song is that it was the only lead single that they released that was actually in the first season of the show. Yep, that's right, "Sugar, Sugar" was not even part of the first season of The Archie Show!
The concept of the Archies was conceived by Don Kirshner, a music manager who had gained a great deal of fame from being the guy that was brought in by the producers of The Monkees to manage the band itself. Kirshner was a big believer in the idea of studio musicians. He wanted to be able to control every aspect of the production of the song and with studio musicians, that was possible. That alienated The Monkees, of course, as they wanted to play their own instruments. Mike Nesmith, in particular, was a very talented guitar player but Kirshner would only bring them in after the fact to lay vocal tracks down on the songs that he acquired for them to sing.
Therefore, The Archie Show was perfect for him as he did not have to worry about managing the egos of a real life band. He could just use his studio musicians that he loved to use and that would be that.
The magicians on the song were Andy Kim, Toni Wine, Ron Dante and Ellie Greenwich. Dante and Wine sang lead on the track. It was written by Kim and Jeff Barry
Wine later recalled of the recording of the song, "It just was a very easy session. Donnie Kirshner wanted to bring The Archies to life, which he did. And Jeff Barry was going to produce this fictitious animated group called The Archies. We went into the studio. Jeff and Andy Kim, who had hits on his own as a writer and singer, Jeff and Andy wrote 'Sugar, Sugar,' Ronnie was Archie, and I was Betty and Veronica. We went in, we did the record. It was a fun session, it was a blast, and at the session we just knew that this was something, and something huge was going to happen. We didn't really know how huge, but it was huge. In fact, a friend of mine had been in town, Ray Stevens, who's an incredible songwriter, singer, producer, musician, and we were going to just grab a bite to eat, so I told him to meet me at the studio, pick me up, and then we'll go eat. And he wound up handclapping on 'Sugar, Sugar.'"
That leads to the most famous aspect of the song - was it really originally intended to be a Monkees song?