The Archies were the group that performed on the Saturday morning cartoon Archie
. The group itself was never seen, just the cartoon characters. The song was written by Andy Kim and Jeff Barry, and was performed by session musicians including Kim, Toni Wine, Ron Dante and Ellie Greenwich. Kim had a hit in 1974 with "Rock Me Gently"; Dante produced "Mandy
" for Barry Manilow and "Heartbreaker" for Pat Benatar. Greenwich and Barry, who were married from 1962-1965, wrote many famous songs, including "Be My Baby" and "Chapel Of Love"; Toni Wine wrote the hit songs "A Groovy Kind Of Love
" and "Candida
According to Jeff Barry, he and Andy Kim wrote this song with preschoolers in mind since that was the audience for the Archie TV show (Barry had children aged 3 and 4 at the time). The "You are my candy girl" line came from them thinking about what kids that age like (candy!).
Still, they wanted the song to appeal to adults as well, so they included a line with some weight: "I just can't believe the loveliness of loving you."
In our interview with Toni Wine
, she explained: "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.'"
This was the #1 song of 1969 in the US, according to Billboard's year-end chart, beating out songs by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Jackson 5, Elvis Presley, David Bowie, and Stevie Wonder. It logged more weeks on the Hot 100 (22) than any other song that year. "Sugar, Sugar" was also a huge hit in the UK, where it stayed at #1 for eight weeks.
The Archies group was put together by Don Kirshner, a prolific promoter and producer. Kirshner also created The Monkees, and wanted to do the same thing with cartoon characters because they are much easier to work with than people.
In a Songfacts interview with Andy Kim
, he said: "It wasn't written for anything other than to satisfy a Saturday morning animated show. 'Sugar, Sugar' was one of those songs that I kept humming. I kept loving it. It would not leave me. And with the magical mind of Jeff Barry, a great record was made. There was no time to analyze and to pontificate and to see if it made any sense. The writing and the recording and the euphoria of being part of it just excited me."
Wilson Pickett recorded an R&B version in 1970, which gave the song some adult credibility.
The Songfacts staff wondered if the lyrics contained some sexual innuendo. Toni Wine set us straight: "'Give me some sugar' is a very old-fashioned saying. It can refer to people kissing each other, that's sugar. Dogs licking you, that's 'Gimme some sugar.' Sugar is just a form of love."
A degree of mystery surrounded the identity of The Archies as this song rose up the charts. Says Wine, "It was a secret who we were. In fact, the New Year's Eve countdown of trivia, for years one of the questions would be 'What group never appeared together, never went on the road together, never interviewed together, as the group, and had a #1 song?' and people wouldn't get it. It was hilarious. But Ronnie and I, in the last few years we've actually done three performances as The Archies. We didn't do it for 30-some-odd years, but in the last three years we did for the MDA, the Jerry Lewis Telethon, which of course Tony Orlando hosts out of New York, and has been hosting since day one. It was very, very cool. And we also did it when I did a one-woman show at Genghis Cohen in West Hollywood. And then about a month ago (2007) we did a special part for David Gest. And we did it there. It was a hoot."
The song met with resistance at radio stations, which didn't want to play a cartoon band. According to Andy Kim, Don Kirshner hired an experienced promotion man to work the stations. His tactic was to visit the stations, play the song for the program directors, but not reveal the artist until they agreed to play it. In some cases, he could only get them to play it once, but that was all he needed because the phones would light up. Said Kim: "That was the best part of being in the music world then - you really had such an active audience response to what they hear. And you didn't have that many choices. So, if the audience loves it, you play it. And that started what became a wildfire all across this planet. When I toured, no matter where I was, I'd start the song and everyone would sing along."
According to Ron Dante, this is the personnel on "Sugar, Sugar":
Guitar: Dave Appell, Sal DiTroia, Andy Kim
Keyboards: Ron Frangipane
Bass: Joe Mack - bass
Drums: Gary Chester - drums
Hand claps: Toni Wine, Jeff Barry, Ray Stevens
Some of the artists who have covered this song include: Ike and Tina Turner, Tom Jones
, and Bob Marley. Andy Kim recorded his own version in 1980 under the name "Baron Longfellow."
This wasn't the first Archies song. The "group" released several singles in 1968, including "Bang-Shang-A-Lang," written by Jeff Barry, which went to #22. The follow-up to "Sugar, Sugar" was "Jingle Jangle
," which reached #10 and went Gold.
You might read about how Lou Reed said he wished he'd written this song. This is true. It happened in a 1973 interview with the famed music journalist Lester Bangs, who was goading Reed, mockingly asking him if he could give up the artsy stuff and write something banal... like "Sugar, Sugar." Reed answered, with apparent sincerity, "I would if I could... I wish I'd written it."
Ron Dante also sang lead on the novelty song "Leader Of The Laundromat" by the Detergents, and was the voice of The Cuff Links, who had the hit "Tracy
Neil - Skokie, IL
In 1999, a CD called The Very Best of The Archies
was released with two extended remixes of this song. In 1987, a 12" single with the "Candyfloss" remix was released.
Tom - San Francisco, CA
The line, "Pour a little sugar on me, baby" inspired the title for the 1987 Def Leppard hit "Pour Some Sugar On Me
A dance version by Olivia Newton-John appears in the 2011 movie A Few Best Men, where she plays the mother of the bride.