[Intro: chord progression over descending bass line] [A]I tried to follow all the trends Imitate all my friends Buy my gear just the same To find that they’ve all changed [A]I asked my friend, Bill, what’s the score He said man don’t worry more Just blow bubbles everywhere Then you won’t be square (oh no) [Instrumental bridge as intro] [B]Chorus: I wanna blow bubbles (x3) Blow bubbles everywhere (repeat) [C]I lent some cash from Railroad Sam Jumped into my hot rod pram Ran the engine to a roar Down at Henry’s candy store Felt the wind go through my hair Bubbles, bubbles everywhere What goes up must come down Thank you kindly Simon Brown [Bridge repeat] [D](Spoken) Yeah, this is the part So bubbly ... so greasy ... so sticky (Spoken) Yuck, so sticky, I can’t believe it Everywhere sticky, oh! [Bridge repeat] Repeat chorus [E](Double sticky guitar solo) [Bridge repeat] (Spoken) Here he comes again, yeah Repeat chorus Jim Pembroke 1969 Artist: Wigwam Line-up: Jim Pembroke, vocals, piano, vibes (?) Nikke Nikamo, guitar Mats Huldén, bass Ronnie Österberg, drums, percussion, backing vocals (?) Release: First released as single B-side, Love Records LRS 1021, 1969 Studio: Finnvox 'Supervision': Hasse Walli and Eero Ojanen Engineer: Erkki Hyvönen
The lyric: A strangely surreal take on American youth culture starts to seriously creep into Pembroke’s lyrics with this one. I suppose this is the USA viewed from a very long distance, a young boy growing up in North London or a young Englishman living in Helsinki. Apart from the song ‘I Ain’t Got You’ (which he didn’t write himself and which was only recorded for a broadcast with the group the Beatmakers in 1965) this is the first of several songs throughout Jim Pembroke’s career where motorcars play a certain role; remarkable for someone who doesn’t drive himself. But that is in fact typical for him – everything takes place in the mind, a kind of updated Lewis Caroll-esque universe for grown-ups where nothing is quite what you might think at first.
Around this time there was a musical direction in the United States known as Bubble Gum, which was hit-orientated pop songs for teenagers with a strong commercial feel. But Pembroke’s take on the issue is as wonderfully weird and complex as ever. As mentioned the images created are utilizing clichés taken from US youth culture, mainly from the late 1950’s and early 1960’s (e.g. the words ‘grease’ for ‘brilliantine’ and ‘square’ for ‘plain’ or ‘boringly normal’) and he mixes it with characters, imaginary or real, who come and go more or less randomly. Characters named Bill appear from time to time in Pembroke’s songs, here as a friend of the narrator advising him to ‘blow bubbles’. We also meet a certain Simon Brown and Railroad Sam plus Henry, yet another name that we shall encounter again soon, the owner of a ‘candy store’, another American expression (the English term is ‘sweet shop’). It is also worth noting Pembroke’s tendency to borrow from (or as he might say it himself: ‘lend from’) the English tradition of nursery rhymes, another feature known from Bob Dylan, who picked it up in London when he lived there for a while (‘It’s nothing/It’s just something I learned over in England’ he even states directly in one of his songs).
My daughter heard ‘hot rod pram’ in part [C], second line. Rick Chafen suggested ‘hot rod tram’, which would be wonderful if it were true, but it doesn’t sound as if Pembroke is saying that and ‘pram’ is great, too! Indeed, most of the lyric is sung in a slurred manner bordering on the incomprehensible, as if the singer is indeed blowing chewing gum bubbles during his delivery (or is slightly intoxicated).
The music: Again a remarkably anarchic structure for a pop song. Let’s look at the different parts one by one:
[introduction] This short instrumental bit, which is repeated several times throughout the song, seems lifted from the outro-riff on the Small Faces’ big hit ‘Sha La La La Lee’ from some four years earlier.
[A] A simple three-chord riff with a nursery-rhyme-esque melody line. Remarkably, there are two verses like this at the start of the song and that’s it – we do not return to the main theme later on. An almost deliberately anti-commercial way to write a song.
[B] That, however, is somewhat compensated for by the fact that the chorus is built over the same chord sequence as the verses, though the melody line is different. There is a poorly performed backing vocal and some annoying distortion.
[C] ... moves along a two two-chord riffs and, again, this is very simple stuff, with the melody line, if you can call it that, being kept mainly on the same note all the way through.
[D] This is by far the most adventurous part of the song, with unusual chord sequences, a descending bass line etc. Procol Harum springs to mind, always a strong influence on Pembroke’s music as declared by himself, though he tends to be less rigidly tied to the guide book on choral harmonization. In this, there are strong traces of what would four years later become a main feature on the Hot Thumb’s O’Riley LP. Also note the vibes; Pembroke seems to have a general affection for such percussion instruments but we don’t know if he is playing them himself on this track.
[E] The guitar solos over a series of chords reminiscent of part [C] but only to a certain degree. Two solos are mixed together (one seemingly played backwards in parts), perhaps to hide shortcomings on the player’s behalf, perhaps to sound ‘experimentive’. The distortion is horrendous, like cleaning your teeth with sand paper.
With its mix of different styles that nevertheless all melt into one, effortlessly, this was another largely undiscovered Wigwam gem until the release of the ‘Fresh Garbage’ 2CD. However, apart from section [D] (justifiably announced by Pembroke as: ‘This is the part!’) the song isn’t quite up to the quality of the A-side. Also, it is put down by the strange distortion during the choruses and the stereo mix, once again placing the bass quite far out to the right instead of integrating it with the bass drum, an approach that, unfortunately, was common at the time.
-- Claes Johansen (with thanks to Rick Chafen and Johanne), 2008