3 March 2024

The Bunch - Red Rover Red Rover/ Happy Like This


Label: Beacon
Year of Release: 1969

"Happy sounds are really happening and Red Rover Red Rover is right in today's idiom, a stomping "bubblegum" number with driving bassline and a catchy sing-a-long chorus.

Of course, the heart of the "bubblegum movement" is in New York and that's where The Bunch come from.

They're a talented foursome who generate a great feel both on record and in live performance. Discovered in their home city by the forward-thinking Sire Records company, this lively group are sure to win a powerful British following too with this strong chart challenge".

Thus spake Beacon Records on their press release for this 45, but can you spot the deliberate mistakes, readers? Firstly, there was never really a "bubblegum movement" as such, with neither kids storming city hall demanding more frothy pop discs, or groups of teenagers swanning around the town centre dressed up as members of The Archies. 

Secondly, there was to be no strong chart challenge either here in the UK or the USA for this one. In fact, Beacon getting their mitts on it is a bit of a mystery - they certainly weren't picking up a track with a proven success rate, so we can only assume they bought the rights for it cheaply, crossed their fingers and hoped it would take off here as an exotic and of-the-moment North American disc. 

Thirdly, even if it had been a chartbound sound Stateside, Sire Records weren't directly responsible - rather, the track saw its release on the Candy Floss label across the pond, and far apart from that, the group weren't actually called The Bunch in America but The Puddle. It's not altogether clear why Beacon changed their name for the British market, especially as there was already a group called The Bunch operating here of "We're Not What We Appear To Be" fame; were they ignorant of the other band or hoping to potentially cadge a few of their sales from confused fans? Your guess is as good as mine. 

Hopefully the above facts can serve as a statutory lesson as to how unreliable press releases are as historical documents. Naughty Beacon Records. 

Leaving all that nitpicking aside, "Red Rover, Red Rover" is a strong enough example of bubblegum, though. It's the merry-happy sound of fruity, tangy nonsense, lyrically simple yet also meaningless, and pushing itself forward with a juddering urgency. It won't soundtrack your latest romance or cause you to ruminate with regret on the current state of global politics, but it's a quick audio pick-me-up. 

As for who the group were, it appears that Barry Thomas Goldberg was a key member, who also served in other here-today-gone-tomorrow sixties acts such as The Batch, The Shambles and Eric Marshall and The Chymes. Over and above those, Goldberg is probably most known and respected for his 1974 folk album "Misty Flats" which was reissued in 2015. 

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