The only thing I knew about Bloom was the song "Montego Bay". And, that was mainly because it had been covered by Australian ska band The Allniters in 1983 and that version was very popular when I was at university.
The internet won't offer you much on Bobby.
Well, it can't because he was dead from gunshot wounds at age 28.
Wikipedia: Robert "Bobby" Bloom (January 15, 1946 – February 28, 1974) was an American singer-songwriter. He is known best for being a one-hit wonder with the 1970 song, "Montego Bay", which was co-written with and produced by Jeff Barry.
In the early 1960s, Bloom had been a member of the doo-wop group, The Imaginations, and sang lead on "Wait A Little Longer, Son." Bloom received a big break in 1969 when he was awarded a contract to write and record a jingle for Pepsi, paving the way for his later success with "Montego Bay." Bloom also played a role as a songwriter connected to the Kama Sutra/Buddah group of labels. He also co-wrote the song "Mony Mony" and with Jeff Barry he co-wrote "Sunshine" by The Archies, their fifth hit single in 1970.
Bloom worked as a sound engineer for musicians such as Louis Jordan and Shuggie Otis. Bloom often recorded demos of his songs at the recording studio of MAP City Records, owned by friends Peter Anders and Vincent Poncia Jr., with chief engineer Peter H. Rosen at the controls. Early solo projects included "Love Don't Let Me Down" and "Count on Me."
The recordings that followed his success with "Montego Bay" in 1970, "Heavy Makes You Happy", which became a hit for the Staple Singers in 1971, "Where Are We Going" and The Bobby Bloom Album all used the same combination of pop, calypso, and rock.
Bloom suffered from depression towards the end of his life. Bloom died on February 28, 1974, at the age of 28. He apparently shot himself while cleaning his gun. Jeff Barry was surprised to find out afterwards that he was the sole beneficiary of Bloom's life insurance policy.
That's it …. and everyone else seems to crib from the wikipedia entry.
It's time to go back to the books.
Well, that was fruitless.
The Rolling Stone Record Guides, History of Rock and various other histories don't help either.
Yep, Luka Bloom and Mike Bloomfield are well covered.
It's google time.
Most of the wikipedia article details seems to come from a bubblegum website where they interview Jeff Barry (see trivia at the end)
Bits and pieces reveal that Bloom:
- Was in white doo wop band The Imaginations who formed in Long Island, New York in 1961 and recorded five singles and were quite popular regionally;
- Was in another white doo wop band (1962) when the Imaginations folded called The Ebonaires for one single;
- Was in yet another white doo wop group (1962), The Expressions who cut one single in 1963 (for the Parkway label) and backed Tommy Boyce in the studio;
- Did engineering work for a number of artists, including Louis Jordan and Shuggie Otis;
- Arranged, conducted or produced things for The #1, Bobby Mann, The Tymes, Jerry and Jeff, Jamie Lyons Group, Bo Gentry & Ritchie Cordell, 1910 Fruitgum Co., Zebra;
- Cut his first solo single in 1967;
- Was one of the singers in a (probable studio group) Captain Groovy and his Bubblegum Army who released one single in 1969;
- Worked on one of the later Monkees albums;
- Wrote songs that were recorded by the Bazooka Company, Tommy James and the Shondells, The Archies, Freddie Scott, Jamie Lyons Group, Jerry and Jeff, 1910 Fruitgum Co., Bo Gentry & Ritchie Cordell, Frankie Smith, Zebra;
- Was covered by the The Bar-Kays, The Staple Singers, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Jon Stevens and others;
- Died of a gunshot wound whilst either cleaning his gun, by an assailant (who was never found) in a fight over a girl, by an accidental shooting (after mentioning that he suffered depression), or by taking his own life.
He squeezed in a lot of the music business in his 28 years.
It would make a great film.
It's assumed, because of all the bubblegum acts he worked with that Bloom is bubblegum.
But he isn't.
Well not only bubblegum.
Wikipedia define bubblegum pop music as: "The chief characteristics of the genre are that it is pop music contrived and marketed to appeal to pre-teens and teenagers, is produced in an assembly-line process, driven by producers, often using unknown singers and has an upbeat sound. The songs typically have singalong choruses, seemingly childlike themes and a contrived innocence, occasionally combined with an undercurrent of sexual double entendre. Bubblegum songs are also defined as having a catchy melody, simple chords, simple harmonies, dancy (but not necessarily danceable) beats, repetitive riffs or "hooks" and a vocally-multiplied refrain. The song lyrics often concern romantic love, but many times are about just feeling good or being happy, with references to sunshine, loving one another, toys, colors, nonsense words, etc. They are also notable for their frequent reference to sugary food, including sugar, honey, butterscotch, jelly and marmalade".
Bloom's music has elements of this but more. His music is a "mature bubblegum" if that doesn't sound like a contradiction. This is music that does have some bubblegum motifs: the catchy choruses, the faux psychedelia, the chorused backing vocals, the melody with an emphasis on the beat …
this music is quite adventurous and very individual.
There is some blue eyed soul in there and some clever themes. The music is good time music but it is quite subversive. It's not dissimilar to Joe South in some ways.
Allmusic describe Bloom as "American singer/songwriter, producer and engineer, born May 22, 1946 and died February 28, 1974 (accidental shooting)".
And that probably is the best way to describe him except I would add "multi-instrumentalist". The guy did everything. I gather at these small labels, churning out songs looking for a hit or respectable sales, you have to do everything.
Bloom has skills. This album is a little erratic (and occasionally a little thin) but it is clear that he knows what he is looking for (and Jeff Barry his producer is at one mind with him)…they also play all of the instruments on the album with the exception of the guitar on Montego Bay which Jimmy Calvert of The Tradewinds provides.
All songs by Jeff Barry and Bobby Bloom except "Heidi" by Barry, Bloom, J. Levine, K. Resnick.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Careful Not to Break the Spell – a big mid tempo ballad with some funky touches
- Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom-Boom) – He sounds like Bowie here a little or rather (later) Bowie sounds like Bloom! Think Bowie singing The Archies covering Neil Diamond. I like it. A great track ….quite catchy.
- Try a Little Harder – trying for a little of the southern white soul here.
- Oh, I Wish You Knew – a beautiful ballad and reminiscent in it's sadness of David Ackles.
- Fanta – The chord progression at the start sounds like Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" (a year before them) before the song moves into Eric Burdon and War territory. This one grooves and works well.
- Heidi – More southern type soul …
- This Thing I've Gotten Into – a sort of Neil Diamond groove here with some "risqué" lyrics.
- A Little on the Heavy Side – more southern soul this time with some shades of 70s Blood Sweat and Tears.
- Brighten Your Flame – southern gospel soul and in Delaney and Bonnie territory.
- Give 'Em a Hand – quite a cynical song about a band in the music industry.
- Montego Bay – the hit… it's catchy and quite an interesting song. Perhaps the first time calypso was used in a mainstream pop rock song. Belafonte and Johnny Nash had used the beats in their music but not in this pop rock setting. And think about it – the tuba is used as a bass and one of the hooks is whistled. The song ends with a couple of lines from Oh What a Beautiful Morning" from Oklahoma! Specifically the "everything is going my way" line. It certainly was at that stage. Odd but endearing.
A total surprise and a not a great album but a greatly underrated album …. I'm keeping it.
1970 Montego Bay The Billboard Hot 100 #8
1970 The Bobby Bloom Album The Billboard 200 #126
1970 Montego Bay #3
1970 Montego Bay #42 (re-entry)
1974 Heavy Makes You Happy #31
1970 Montego Bay #47 (2nd re-entry)
Heavy Makes You Happy (Sha-Na-Boom-Boom)
Montego Bay –
Of the single
- An interview between Jeff Barry and Don Charles of bubblegum-music.com :
Don Charles: Then, later on in the ‘60s, you collaborated with Ron Dante, Andy Kim, and Bobby Bloom. Bobby Bloom is one of the most underrated artists of that period. What do you remember about working with him?
Jeff Barry: Bobby and I were really great friends. As a matter of fact, when Bobby died, I got a call from AFTRA, the musician’s union. I never knew it, but I was his life insurance beneficiary. Bobby was a real character! Just a great guy, really, really bright, and really, really talented. He loved to write, he loved to sing, and he loved being in the studio, but he really didn’t love performing. Not that he disliked it, but he’d just as soon not. It wasn’t like he had to perform. He wasn’t coming from that place, \ which was really unfortunate. He was a great-looking guy, and the girls just loved him.
Don Charles: And what a singing voice he had! The album you did with him (The Bobby Bloom Album, L & R 1035) is fantastic. What instrument did he play?
Jeff Barry: He played guitar. He could play keyboards, too, somewhat, and was good on percussion as well, but mainly guitar. Bobby was the kind of a guy . . . he had this house in the Hollywood hills, he had a motorcycle, and a Porsche, and a car called Excalibur. Sometimes, he got really crazy! He once drove his motorcycle into his pool. But the Bobby Bloomness of it was, he left it there. He never took it out. It was like The Titanic – you could swim down to the wreck!
Don Charles: How did he die?
Jeff Barry: Unfortunately, he died of a gunshot wound. Somebody shot him, in a fight over a girl. It was crazy! He kicked down a door, and ran into the room, and the guy reached for a gun. I don’t think they ever found the guy.