“Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies: Still sweet after 45 years

Sugar, Sugar - The Archies

It was forty-five years ago today—September 20, 1969—when The Archies‘ “Sugar, Sugar” reached #1 in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100. This was a remarkable feat for a group that had never toured or made personal appearances, mainly because the band was, well, animated. Yet this animated band managed to not only hit the top spot on the charts but to remain there for a solid four weeks, with “Sugar, Sugar” ultimately becoming the #1 song of the year and garnering a gold record from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

“Sugar, Sugar” was actually The Archies’ third single, preceded by “Bang Shang a-Lang” and “Feelin’ So Good (S.K.O.O.B.Y.-D.O.O.).” Like the latter tune, “Sugar” was composed by producer Jeff Barry and Andy Kim; and, as with all of The Archies’ recordings*, the lead vocals were provided by session singer Ron Dante (who, incidentally, went on to have an enormously successful career as a producer himself, working with Barry Manilow and Cher among others). Ron was kind enough to provide some details of the session, which he modestly referred to as “just another Archies session at RCA Studio C in New York.”

Ron Dante:

Jeff Barry and Andy Kim were working on the Sugar, Sugar track when I arrived to do vocals. Jeff was working with the band to get just the right feel for the song. Andy [played] guitar for the band to show them just the right tempo and pocket. Jeff worked especially long on the bass part with Chuck Rainey and it turned out to be perfect. … My good friend Ron Frangipane played the keyboards.

Of course, with studio time being a precious commodity—running just a minute over could result in being charged for another session—decisions needed to be quick, and allowances had to be made for slight mishaps. Ron continues:

Andy broke his guitar pick and had to use a matchbook instead. That’s the sound of the guitar that everyone loved.

Now that the backing track was laid down, it was time for Ron to begin work on the vocals:

I remember working a little longer than usual on the lead vocal. I had in my mind Donovan’s sound and it worked. I doubled tracked my voice and did a solo one with a harmony in the middle verses.

Singer-songwriter Toni Wine (who currently tours with Tony Orlando as a member of his band) provided female vocals for The Archies for the first two years of the group’s existence. On “Sugar, Sugar,” it’s Toni who sings the line “I’m gonna make your life so sweet.” Her voice was a perfect complement to Ron’s:

Toni Wine and I then did background voices. She had this wonderful street type of sound that blended with my voice so the backgrounds really took off. Jeff did a quick mix as he sat at the board and as usual it sound[ed] like a hit.

Which, of course, it was. “Sugar, Sugar” went on to be covered by many other artists, including Wilson Pickett, Tina Turner, Bob Marley, Jonathan King (under the name Sakkarin), Gladys Knight & The Pips, Micky Dolenz** (in 2012)—and even the song’s co-composer, Canadian singer Andy Kim, who recorded it in the early 1980s under the name Baron Longfellow. The original track by The Archies has not been absent from the airwaves since its 1969 release; it’s an enduring classic that has been featured in several TV shows and films, including The Simpsons, Cake Boss, From the Earth to the Moon, Now and Then, and Bee Movie. It has also been used in commercials and even greeting cards.

That “Sugar, Sugar” enjoyed such enormous success, reaching #1 during the psychedelic era (and a bare month after the festival at Woodstock) is a testament to its awesomeness. Or, putting it another way, good music is good music. The Archies’ “Sugar, Sugar” had just the right ingredients: A catchy tune, great hook, solid production, wonderful musicianship by studio veterans (in addition to those mentioned by Ron above, musicians on the session included Gary Chester on drums and Dave Appell on guitar), and fantastic vocals. “Sugar, Sugar” has become part of the planet’s DNA; regardless of age, millions of people are familiar with the song and can even sing along. Billboard has listed the Archies’ recording as #73 on its All-Time Top 100 Songs.

Thanks to the collective efforts of music supervisor Don Kirshner (1934-2011), producer Jeff Barry, Ron Dante, Andy Kim, Toni Wine, and a talented group of A-list session musicians, mankind was blessed with an upbeat tune that will endure for generations. Or, putting it another way, the world is a much sweeter place because of the events on a single day in 1969 at RCA’s Studio C.

Notes:

*Ron Dante sang lead on every Archies recording except the 1971 single “Love is Living In You,” for which lead vocals were provided by songwriter Bob Levine; why this track was released as an Archies record remains a mystery to this day. [This note was edited on 11/8/14 to change the name of the singer; it was originally thought that composer Richie Adams sang lead on “Love is Living In You,” but a comment on a YouTube video by Mr. Levine cleared up the confusion!]

**Although the rumor has persisted for years that “Sugar, Sugar” was offered to The Monkees before The Archies,  its songwriters have both refuted this claim: Jeff Barry stated in an interview that he did not remember this being the case, while Andy Kim has said that the song was written specifically with The Archies in mind.

Videos:

The Archies: Official video for “Sugar, Sugar”

Ron Dante: Video from c. 1971, featuring The Archies’ lead singer performing the song in triplicate

Andy Kim: Performing “Sugar, Sugar” as Baron Longfellow in 1983

The Simpsons: Brief clip of Homer Simpson singing along with The Archies’ “Sugar, Sugar”

A little Halloween fun: “Sugar, Sugar” Babies

Discuss: Has Archie Comics Gone Too Far?

Life With Archie #36

The following is from another one of my blogs (Laura Pinto, Writer and Author). This post can be read in its entirety by clicking on the link below the text. I would love to hear your opinion—what do YOU think? By deciding to kill off the (adult) character of Archie Andrews, has Archie Comics gone too far?

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Most people who haven’t been hiding under a rock for the past couple of days have heard the news about Archie Comics’ plan to kill off its namesake and flagship character, Archie Andrews, in a forthcoming issue of Life With Archie: The Married Life. For those not familiar with the series, Life With Archie: The Married Life, which debuted in 2010, is a comic magazine with two discrete story arcs, both of which take place in the future when the former teenagers from Riverdale are in their twenties. In one, Archie is married to Veronica Lodge; in the other, Betty Cooper is the lucky bride. This phenomenon, which is explained away as parallel universes, had its genesis in Archie #600-605, a six-part “fantasy” storyline which began in October of 2009. (This feature was followed by an epilogue in Archie #606 in which Archie is, once again, a high-school student in the present day.) Life With Archie: The Married Life was first published in August of 2010, with a frequency of ten (10) issues per year.

Read more here:

via Laura Pinto, Writer and Author: Has Archie Comics Gone Too Far?.

Back to the 60s

Laura's Ron Dante Fan Pages

Ron Dante of The Archies

On Sunday, April 22, 2012, Ron Dante will be appearing at BB King Blues Club & Grill in NYC as part of the Back to the ’60s show. Joining Ron will be the 1910 Fruitgum Company and Joey Levine. For info and tix, please click on the link below. This is going to be a great show and fun night!

B.B. King Blues Club & Grill – BACK TO THE ’60s ft. RON DANTE of THE ARCHIES, THE 1910 FRUITGUM COMPANY & JOEY LEVINE – Apr 22, 2012.

 

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New CD Release by Ron Dante

 

Favorites CD by Ron DanteThe newest CD release by Ron Dante of The Archies is now on sale. Favorites, originally released in 2000, is now available in an enhanced version with bonus tracks, including several brand-new, never-before-released cuts. To read all about it, please visit Laura’s Ron Dante Fan Pages where you will find a link to listen to sound samples and order your very own copy.