It was 1969.
And a young, clean cut Archie Andrews was sitting in the rehearsal space of the band named for him.
He had his guitar on his lap.
The neck of a broken beer bottle was snug on his finger, like a wedding ring, as he ran it up and down the neck of his guitar, playing the blues.
‘Shit,’ he said after a spirited take on Love in Vain, ‘Johnson was badass.’
He took a swig from a bottle of JD.
‘What d’ya think I’d get for my soul?’
Several hamburgers deep into a late night snack, Jughead snorted, ‘a spoonful of blues.’
‘More like a spoonful of sugar,’ Veronica said, playing with her mascara.
‘Why don’t you come over here and pour a little sugar on me,’ Archie retorted, grabbing his crotch.
Archie started playing.
‘Pour a little sugar on me honey. Pour a little sugar on me baby.’
He leaned into the raw, bluesy licks, his tongue wagging lasciviously.
He laughed and set the guitar down.
Reggie spoke up.
‘Man, play that riff again.’
‘What that?’ Archie asked. ‘Man, that was just some clownin’.’
‘Nah, nah, play it again.’
This time, he mimicked Elvis, gyrating his hips for comedic effect.
‘You know, I think you got something there, if you cut out the bullshit and just play the damn song.’
Archie became tense.
‘Man, ain’t nobody gonna take it seriously.’ He took another swig. ‘You saw how our last single performed. People think we’re a cartoon.’
‘So we give them something a little different,’ Reggie countered.
Archie shrugged and made some adjustments to the tuning of his guitar.
Now, it sounded positively country blues.
He played for a bit and began stomping his foot.
‘Awww sugar. Awwww, honey honey.’
He leered at Betty, who had just joined in with her tambourine.
‘You were my candy girl, and you got me wanting you.’
Now he was really digging it.
‘Turn on the reel-to-reel,’ he yelled to Jughead. ‘I’m totally killing this shit.’
Veronica sat down at the piano and began to play barrelhouse boogie, with a New Orleans accent.
For a few minutes they sounded like the baddest roadhouse band you ever encountered, then it collapsed into paroxysms of laughter.
‘I’m going to play that for Pops tomorrow,’ Archie said of the band’s manager and financial backer, ‘see what he thinks.’
As it turned out, Pops liked what he heard.
‘Man, all the kids are going to wig out over this one. But you got to polish it up. Make it radio friendly. Otherwise, all that sexual innuendo is going to kill it.’
‘No way,’ Archie said. ‘This is the real folk blues. It’s got integrity to it. I’m not fucking with it.’
‘Look kid,’ Pops leaned in so the smoke from his cigar enveloped Archie’s face. ‘I’ve been putting money into this operation for a year now. I’ve had to draw into the profits from the soda shop to keep your little group afloat. I got you the record deal, I backed the sessions and I want to see some profit from this, okay? So you’re going to cut it exactly the way I say.’
Seeing Pops meant business, and knowing how he had handled other bands in Riverdale that had dared to defy him, Archie relented.
‘Okay, Pops. We do it your way.’
‘Good, good. I’m glad you listened to reason. So here’s what we’re going to do. I’m getting a group of studio ringers to play the track all nice and sweet, see? And then, I’m going to get those two chicks you hang with to sing all pretty like. And then, I’m going to play the marimbas on that track because people like all that Herb Alpert stuff. And it’s going to make you, and me, but mostly me, an assload of money.’
‘Don’t question me, kid,’ Pops replied. ‘I made men out of The Monkees, and I can make The Archies superstars.’
Well, Pops was true to his word.
The Archies hit number one on the charts with Sugar Sugar that year.
And the single stayed there for four weeks.
Becoming the biggest single of the year.
But the compromises the band made to create the song caused tension among the members that could never be reconciled.
It didn’t help that Reggie got drafted and the band had to soldier on with Moose in a wig, pretending to be Reggie.
And it didn’t help that Betty disappeared before a show in San Francisco, later resurfacing as a member of The Children of God.
Tours and albums followed with shifting personnel and a sound even farther removed from Archie’s vision.
Eventually, Archie became a recluse.
When he turned up in 1975 at sessions for Reggie’s comeback album produced by Phil Spector, no one recognized him.
He was overweight and balding.
Insisted on playing guitar with Reggie on a cut until Phil took out a pistol and told him to leave.
Veronica invested in some record labels using money from her father and made a lot of money off of one of the first ever rap hits.
Jughead went to work for McDonalds, dressing up as Ronald.
He figured it would keep him in burgers for life.
Eventually, he came out of the closet and he and Moose got married in Canada.
The last anyone heard of him, he was trying to sue Def Leppard for Pour Some Sugar on Me.
Rock and roll is a brutal and unforgiving game.