How much sugar are we dealing with, exactly? Here’s an itemisation of the hooks in the last minute of “Sugar, Sugar”:

  • The main hook (“You are my candy girl”) and riff – we’ve been hearing this all through the song, but the sting of repetition gets drawn here by a well-judged key change.
  • The counter-hook from the male backing vox – “Pour your sugar on me!” – more spontaneous and joyful, more passionate, the backing guys throwing a wink or two at the girls behind the sweet lead singer’s back.
  • The female backing hook (“I’m gonna make your life so sweet!”) – this is lovely and I wish we heard more of it. The first time we get it tentative and shy, the second time more confident and delighted. I am guessing the first is ‘Betty’ and the second ‘Veronica’ but I have never knowingly read an Archie comic so I don’t actually know!
  • The “ba-ba-ba-da-da” third backing hook – this one is a real genius bit of popcraft, because you’ve had tiny snippets of it already leading into the chorus after the verses, so you’re primed for it and its injection of swing into the song.
  • The chanted “Honey! Honey! Sugar! Sugar!” that unites all these hooks before the fade – the whole party coming together. At no point is “Sugar, Sugar” a rave up – it’s always pretty sedate – but here it comes closest.

“Sugar Sugar” is magnificently well put together: the loading of all this stuff at the end of the track encouraging you to wind the record players arm right back to check it all again. It’s a bold way to structure the song and shows Jeff Barry and Andy Kim’s absolute confidence in the irresistibility of their main chorus – which is in some ways too irresistible, as I guess it’s all most adults remember and would indeed be dumb if it went nowhere else. (The verses flirt with inanity to an even greater degree, lyrically at least).

“Sugar Sugar”‘s craft is what makes me like it – I’m sure it was momentous to have a cartoon band at #1 but any controversy over the fact seems very distant given the procession of gimmicks, flukes, manufactures and novelties that have enthralled and apalled us since. There are other, more crazed and crude bubblegum records I thrill to more, and there’s a lot of pop I like better, but like a well-made wooden toy “Sugar, Sugar” is something anybody could deeply admire.

Score: 8

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