I got a copy of the 1910 Fruitgum Company’s first album, Simon Says, over the winter break. Despite my obsession with all things bubblegum, specifically Kasenetz-Katz, I’d always been more of an Ohio Express guy. Joey Levine’s got such a great, smarmy voice, and the Fruitgum boys just don’t have any singers of that caliber. But after listening to this album all the way through, I’m willing to give these guys the credit they deserve for being a great hybrid (and not just because they shared the same session dudes) of the Lemon Pipers’ rock-band-playing-pop-rock approach and the Ohio Express’s gum-punk. There’s lots of Beatlesy trumpet around some of these songs, an often Sam the Sham approach to keyboards and song structure, and even a tune about Flipper (the dolphin, not the band) that sounds like America sang it.
One of my favorite songs on this, that’s not on the greatest hit comps I’ve had for years, is “Magic Windmill.” It’s about a windmill at the foot of this guy’s bed that has the power of forgiveness, is all about love, and which protects him even though his friends say it’s just a thing made out of wood. Sounds to me a whole lot that this “windmill” is actually a cross, and that the song is addressing a child’s view of Christianity! If the Fruitgum Company’s crossed eyes in one of their rare television appearances is a sign, these guys had a cynical view about their music and their place in rock, and would be just the types to try to warp young minds into doubting Jesus icons.
Actually, the B-Side of Simon Says, “Reflections From the Looking Glass,” should have let me know well in advance that these guys had the power of psychedelia on their side. And it looks like the state fair version of this band can still dose it out when they want to.