No Bones About It or A Double Dose of Sunshine
Most pop music experts will undoubtedly cite The Association and The Fifth Dimension as two principal purveyors of pop of the sunshine variety. That isn’t at all surprising when you hear the likes of Windy (Association) or Up, Up and Away (Fifth Dimension)… both major hits for the groups in 1967. If you check the credits, however, there is an underlying similarity. The recorded sound of both groups was very much the product of Dayton Burr “Bones” Howe. Howe had been a recording engineer for early hits by the Mamas and Papas. He was production assistant on the Dimension‘s first album, co-producer with Jimmy Webb on the second (also out in 1967) and sole producer/engineer of the group’s subsequent recordings. He produced The Association‘s very successful Insight Out album in 1967 and its follow-up, Birthday, in 1968. His final product for both groups was a very shiny, polished and highly refined sound which helped to define the (later-applied) moniker “Sunshine Pop”. Today’s submissions for our collection include two selections from each group.
This one is taken from the group’s second album, The Magic Garden. Howe is here working alongside Jimmy Webb who wrote virtually all the songs on the album including this one… Paper Cup.
Terry Kirkman (of The Association) had already achieved considerable fame for his number one hit Cherish from 1966. For the band’s 1968 album Birthday he saw another of his compositions, Everything That Touches You, enter the top ten on the charts.
Fast forward to 1969. The album is The Age of Aquarius and it’s The Fifth Dimension‘s most popular recording (#2 on the charts). This time around Howe is firmly in charge of production and the group pulls from a wider stable of songwriters- including Laura Nyro and Neil Sedaka (who co-wrote this next track) as well as from the immensely popular musical Hair (hence, the album’s title). This song is Workin’ on a Groovy Thing (and it made it into the top twenty on the Billboard charts).
The Association did not have quite the same extended relationship of “The 5th” with Bones Howe and, in 1969, they opted to produce their own album with some help from John Boylan. He contributed one song (as songwriter… Yes I Will) to the album which would certainly qualify as a “sunshine” nugget. The album reached #32 on the charts and would go on (as so many albums do) to receive significant critical praise but spawn no major hit singles.
The songs of the album are a fascinating eclectic mix including pop, rock, soul, psychedelic, country, folk and novelty… and for that reason The Association is (arguably) my favourite from the band’s catalogue.
Howe also played a role in producing a group we’ll look at in the next post… who is it? Here’s a hint…