“I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum.” Like Rowdy Roddy Piper, wrestler turned actor (wasn’t a huge transition, granted), I may be all out of bubblegum, but I’m certainly not out of bubblegum wrappers and packaging, especially those jaw-troublers that came wrapped in mini-album covers.
I write, of course, of one of the greatest examples of kick-ass confectionary that the Eighties ever produced – Chu-Bops! Umm, I mean… Chu-Pops! Hold on, I think I think was meant to type… Hit-Pops! Wait, I’ve even confused myself here. Hang on while I tip a can of Top Deck Lemonade Shandy into my Lay-Z-Spa and attempt to blur the lines between fantasy and reality and Axl dance my way home sweet home to the 1980s… Hitting the aisles of U.S. retail outlets at the dawn of the Eighties, Chu-Bops were created by Amurol Products Company, operating out of Naperville, Illinois.
The premise of this most badass of products was pretty simple: a big hunk of pink bubblegum made to look like a hit album from a variety of the (then) biggest musical acts on the planet. Measuring 3” by 3” and featuring an exact replica of the album cover in question, Chu-Bops came with the lyrics to one of the featured band’s greatest hits on the back “cover” and featured a tear-away flap that offered dedicated bubble-blowers the opportunity to purchase a Collectors Display Album that housed eighteen of the mini-covers in a 12” gatefold sleeve-sized piece that “hangs on your wall or stands on a shelf.” Nine series of Chu-Bops were released in the U.S. between 1980 and 1983, retailing at a very decent 29 cents each. The first series featured ABBA, Rush, The Knack, Pat Benatar, Billy Joel, The Spinners, Robert Palmer, and, erm, the Pat Travers Band. Okay, I may have been squinting my typing fingers a little when I typed “biggest musical bands on the planet” earlier. Actually, Series Six of the Chu-Bops line featured all Elvis Presley albums; Series Seven all Beatles; and the final releases, Series Nine, all Rolling Stones; but across the other series acts as diverse as Judas Priest, The Brothers Johnson, Blondie, KISS, David Bowie, Foghat, Commodores, Steve Winwood, Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, Journey, Little River Band, The Isley Brothers, Heart, Neil Diamond, The Police, ELO, Meat Loaf, and the mighty Loverboy all got the bubblegum treatment.
Amurol test marketed Chu-Bops in Japan and several European countries, including Norway, Denmark, Finland, Holland, and the United Kingdom. This is where the variations on the product name came into play: the brand name changed to Chu-Pops in some countries, becoming Hit-Pops when launched with a whimper in Britain. Sales, sadly, didn’t match the downright awesomeness of having record-shaped bubblegum inside a quarter-sized copy of Judas Priest’s ‘Point of Entry’, and, as soon as the limited numbers that made it onto shelves in their new territories were exhausted, the product was quickly phased out. I am, for my sins, a complete hoarder (damn autocorrect – I tried to type “cultured collector”) and even I only have five of these little packets of pink pop power in my collection… but what fine examples! I’ve got ‘Moving Pictures’ by Rush (a favourite of the editor here, I’m led to believe) with the lyrics to ‘Vital Signs’ on the back; David Bowie’s ‘Scary Monsters’ with ‘Fashion’ lyrics; ‘British Steel’ by Judas Priest with the sheer poetry of ‘Living After Midnight’ on the reverse; ‘Light Up The Night’ by The Brothers Johnson with the words to their classic (possibly) ‘Stomp’ – all branded as Hit-Pops – and ‘Unmasked’ by KISS, complete with German KISS logo, ‘Shandi’ lyrics, and Chu-Pops branding.
They really are cool little collectables and I really should have more: I frequently see sets or part-sets on eBay (going for some tidy sums of money, as it happens) but, y’know, I get a little cautious when buying forty-year-old foodstuffs.
I’m not cautious about reminiscing, however, and, damn, I can almost taste the powdery gloop of half-chewed bubblegum record that resulted in a clicking jaw and a small piece of memorabilia for music- and pop-culture-obsessed kid like myself. I’m not sure which long-lost local shop I bought the things in, though… and that bugs me.
I keep thinking of Davies & Harding’s (now a pizza shop) where I got an incredible Starsky and Hutch vinyl sticker once, and also Ethyl’s, a beloved retail hovel that looked derelict and completely out of date even then, that stood next to The Mount, the birthplace of infamous Welsh music/mayhem festival, Slugfest. Both establishments, sadly, now architectural ghost lands. Then again, I could have got them in John’s – home to spinner racks full of highly sought after U.S. Marvel and DC comics – or Ted’s, the greatest newsagents ever, where my sister bought her Matchbox ABBA dolls… but that’s a story for another time… I came here to write about Rush bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum…