A young, clean cut Archie Andrews sits in the rehearsal space of the band named for him.
He has his guitar on his lap.
The neck of a broken beer bottle is snug on his finger, like a wedding ring, and he runs it up and down his guitar, playing the blues.
‘Shit,’ he says after a spirited take on Love in Vain, ‘Johnson was badass.’
He takes 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 snorts, ‘a spoonful of blues.’
‘More like a spoonful of sugar,’ Veronica says, applying mascara.
‘Why don’t you come over here and pour a little sugar on me,’ Archie retorts, grabbing the crotch of his pants.
Archie starts playing.
‘Pour a little sugar on me, honey. Pour a little sugar on me, baby.’
He leans into the raw, bluesy licks, his tongue waggling lasciviously.
He laughs and sets the guitar down.
Intrigued, Reggie asks him to play that riff again.
‘What that?’ Archie replied. ‘Man, that was just some clownin’.’
‘Nah, nah, play it again.’
This time, he mimicks 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 becomes tense.
‘Man, ain’t nobody gonna take it seriously.’ He takes another swig. ‘You saw how our last single performed. People think we’re a joke. Some cartoon.’
‘So we give them something a little different,’ Reggie counters.
Archie shrugs and makes some adjustments to the tuning of his guitar.
Now, it sounds positively country blues.
He plays for a bit and stomps his foot.
‘Awww sugar. Awwww, honey honey.’
He leers at Betty, who joins on tambourine.
‘You were my candy girl, and you got me wanting you.’
Now Archie is really digging it.
‘Turn on the reel-to-reel,’ he yells to Jughead. ‘I’m totally killing this shit.’
Veronica sits down at the piano and begins to play boogie woogie, with a New Orleans accent.
For a few minutes they sound like the baddest roadhouse band you have ever encountered, then it collapses into paroxysms of laughter.
‘I’m going to play that for Pops tomorrow,’ Archie says, bringing up the band’s manager and financial backer. ‘Let’s see what he thinks.’
As it turns out, Pops likes what he hears.
‘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 says. ‘This is the real folk blues. It’s got integrity to it. I’m not fucking with it.’
‘Look kid,’ Pops leans in so the smoke from his cigar envelops Archie’s face. ‘I’ve been putting money into this operation for a year now. I’ve had to draw on 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 moolah from this, okay? So you’re going to cut it exactly the way I say.’
Seeing Pops means business, and knowing how he had handled other bands in Riverdale that dared to defy him, Archie relents.
‘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 shit. And it’s going to make you, and me, but mostly me, an assload of money.’
‘Don’t question me, kid,’ Pops replies. ‘I made men out of The Monkees, and I can make The Archies superstars.’
Well, Pops remains true to his word.
The Archies hit number one on the charts with Sugar Sugar.
And the single stays there for four weeks.
Becoming the biggest single of the year.
But the compromises the band make to create the song cause tension that would never be reconciled.
Reggie gets drafted and the soldiers on with Moose in a wig, pretending to be Reggie.
Betty disappeared before a show in San Francisco, later resurfacing as a member of a religious cult.
Tours and albums follow with shifting personnel and a sound even further removed from Archie’s vision.
Eventually, Archie becomes a recluse.
When he turns up in 1975 at sessions for Reggie’s comeback album produced by Phil Spector, no one recognizes him.
He is overweight and balding.
He insists on playing guitar with Reggie on a cut until Phil takes out a pistol and tells him to leave.
Veronica invests in some record labels using money from her father an makes a fortune off of one of the first-ever rap hits.
Jughead goes to work for McDonalds, dressing up as Ronald.
He figures it will keep him in burgers for life.
Eventually, he comes out of the closet and he and Moose get 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.